‘Sense of belonging’ feeling lacking among city denizens

‘Sense of belonging’ feeling lacking among city denizens

KUALA LUMPUR: Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan will commemorate Federal Territory Day on Monday, Feb 1 amid muted celebrations due to the Movement Control Order.

In the midst of unstinted efforts to combat the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and adapt to the new normal, the three federal territories – which come under the purview of the Ministry of Federal Territories – have continued to enjoy infrastructure and socio-economic development.

Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL), for instance, has laid out its Kuala Lumpur Structure Plan 2040 to realise its vision of making the federal capital a world-class “city for everyone”, with special focus on creating an urban community that emphasises inclusiveness and equality.

Meanwhile, Putrajaya, the federal administrative capital, has made its mark as an iconic city while Labuan, an international offshore financial hub, has earned itself a reputation as a tax haven.

Although the respective administrators have done a good job of developing the three federal territories, the “sense of belonging” feeling among the city residents still leaves much to be desired.

Change mentality

Gulam Muszaffar Gulam Mustakim, who is chairman of Batu Parliamentary constituency’s Residents Representative Council, said developments to enhance the well-being of the people not only lies in the hands of the city administrators but also require the cooperation of the residents who, as the beneficiaries, play a role in ensuring the success of any development agenda.

“When it comes to development projects, many of them (residents) don’t have the courage to come forward to contribute their ideas to the local authorities as they feel the projects have nothing to do with them.

“And then when something happens and they are not happy with it, they will start pointing the finger and blame the local authority concerned for not caring about the people,” he told Bernama.

Gulam Muszaffar said more often than not, local authorities are labelled as inefficient by residents who claim that their services are not up to the mark when it comes to repairing potholes on roads, maintaining cleanliness and attending to flash floods.

“Residents must change their mentality and develop a sense of belonging, considering that community issues such as the lack of cleanliness, vandalised infrastructure and flash floods arise from their own behaviour.

“When they come across acts of vandalism, litter, potholes or clogged drains, they quickly put the blame on the elected representative or local authority. But, whether they are aware of it or not, as city dwellers, they too are responsible for the development of their city and must do their part to create a more comfortable environment for all,” he said.

Public contribution

Institute of Strategic Analysis and Policy senior researcher Dr Noor Hashimah Hashim Lim, meanwhile, said it is crucial for the public to be involved in the urban planning process because any plan drafted by the authorities is for the benefit and well-being of the residents.

She said while the power to formulate policies and make decisions is vested with the local authorities and the federal government, the process, however, can involve the public in the form of Focus Group Discussions.

“Although residents are invited to contribute their ideas to (city and town) planning and development plans, the final decision is subject to the state and federal-level administrators who would take into consideration the views of experts and residents,” she said.

Noor Hashimah said the local authority and elected representative concerned should make use of their good rapport with the local community whilst planning any development in an area.

“This calls for the idea of decentralised governance, where empowerment of the local authorities provide them with opportunities to better leverage the competitive advantage of their own localities and mobilise resources specific to their own physical, economic, cultural and political capacities, and address critical persistent issues in their areas more efficiently and in a timely manner.

“I believe this will help our government to deliver better public services and indirectly increase institutional efficacy and responsiveness to spatial ailments specific to their areas, thus satisfying taxpayers’ expectations towards their living environments,“ she said.

Noor Hashimah also said that the government should provide more avenues and platforms for the public to voice out their concerns “to the right ministry or government department”.

“The government should be the one that is proactive in getting to know the people they are serving. Because if there is no proper channel or process for the public to give their opinions, and which eventually reach the right ministry or government department, it will be lost in translation,” she added.- Bernama