Posted: 13 Nov 2013 12:37 PM PST
Being a JB born and bred, I am utterly disgusted with the state JB is in.
Charity begins at home
1. It has always been said that charity begins at home and hence the popular Malay proverb "Kera di hutan disusukan, anak di rumah kebuluran", to remind us of this. This proverb explicitly describes the dilemma faced today by the populace of Johor Bahru in the face of development. Another Malay proverb, "Beri betis nak peha" means that there is no end to a man's greed. Generally in yesteryears, it would seem that this proverb reflected the attitude of the working class and not the employers nor the aristocracy. But in today's context, I believe the syndrome applies otherwise i.e. it is the people in power like corporate giants, politicians and royalty whose greed knows no bounds, at least from what I observe in Johor Bahru.
I notice of late that almost all available vacant land in Johor Bahru has been earmarked or has already been developed. There is no denying that development is good for a society but it must be proportionate and in tandem with the development of the wellbeing and welfare of the society itself. The availability of essential infrastructure like hospitals, utilities, schools, places of worship, recreational areas and parks as well as a clean, safe and disease-free environment. But alas all these seem to be but an illusion for the people of Johor Bahru.
Land and property acquisition by state government
2. A drive through of greater Johor Bahru as I would like to refer to JB and its suburbs up to the areas of Plentong, Ulu Tiram, Skudai and Geylang Patah would reveal the immense concrete jungle that seems to be sprouting all over the place. It can be concluded that the declaration of the Iskandar Development Region (IDR) contributed much to this rapid urban expanse. Vast tracts of land belonging to kampong folk, orang asli, palm oil plantations and also secondary jungle and wetlands have fallen prey to the state government's land acquisition plan. Local folks seem to be given a raw deal and are on the losing end of this plan. The people who are benefiting from this are the property developers. The only other people who have benefited from this so-called progress are Singaporeans who have the means to fork out money to acquire land and property at exorbitant prices by Malaysian standards. Has the state government become as "kiasu" as the property developers, the Singaporeans and the mainland Chinese? A few examples of "kiasuness" on the part of the forces in power in Johor are as follows:
a. The government staff quarters along scenic Jalan Kolam Air was demolished and developed into shop lots with a McDonalds at the doorstep of a premier secondary school, i.e. Maktab Sultan Abu Bakar. Thanks to this sort of unscrupulous and unethical means of doing business, it's no wonder that we have an obese generation of youngsters on our hands today!
b. The Istana gardens is probably the only decent park in central Johor Bahru. Entry to the park is free. The park was closed in late 2011 so that it could be upgraded in what was initially supposed to take a year. Sadly it is 2 years now since the Istana Gardens was closed to the public and no sign of it being completed soon. Now I gather that once completed one has to pay to enter since it will now be a botanical garden and no longer a park!
c. The Johor Cultural and Sports Club (JCSC) premises was acquired by a unknown force a few years ago. The club was given an alternative site to relocate which is a far cry from its previous location. Passing by the club's original location recently I was shocked to see a KFC banner declaring the opening of a KFC outlet soon! It also horribly reminded me that atop a hill opposite this location where a 5 star hotel now stands, there once stood an eloquent government Rest House.
d. Majidee Camp which holds a garrison and 2 battalions and which has been around since the British were here was also acquired and is being developed into a "mega city'. While the Malaysian Army is pushed out of the city limits, the new camp of the Johor Military Force (JMF) is being built within the city limits. Talk about double standards!
e. The Astroturf hockey pitch belonging to the Majlis Bandaraya Johor Bahru (MBJB) is now being scrapped and I assume another complex of some sort will sprout up on the site.
3. These are but a few examples. It seems that slowly but surely all the endearing landmarks, public amenities and recreational facilities of the "rakyat" are being taken away in the name of development. The state government doesn't seem to care two hoots about the rakyat nor the environment. And as usual politicians turn the other cheek to all these injustices because maybe they too are reaping without sowing. It is no wonder that the opposition PR has made tremendous inroads in Johor and will continue to make further gains because of the Napoleonic trends and vested interests of the forces in power.
Foreign investments and interests
4. A random survey of property ownership in Johor Bahru would reveal that a good proportion of the city's properties are already in foreign hands. Property developers build properties that are custom-made for foreigners' pockets and well beyond the reach of locals particularly in the city area. So the locals are slowly being driven away from the city as it is near impossible to get a decent home within city limits if you can't service a RM400K housing loan. Mainland Chinese seem to be the main players both as buyers and investors followed by Singaporeans. The burgeoning of the mainland Chinese super rich and the strong Singapore dollar must be the key factors to this. Not wanting to miss the action, big Malaysian players from Kuala Lumpur have also moved down to Johor Bahru. Billions of dollars of investment are being poured in from China and believe it or not the developers themselves are mainland Chinese. It only goes to show that even if you are a Communist, no worries you are welcome because money talks! If the late Chin Peng had been rich they would probably have allowed him to return to Malaysia!
Social and economic problems
5. The influx of mainland Chinese will create a cultural problem. Most of them don't speak a word of Malay and will have to deal with local government agencies in their everyday life. And for Singaporeans they are fast becoming a pain to the people of Johor Bahru. Parking spaces, increased traffic, soaring house rentals and prices are the main concerns. All these add to the existing woes of the locals which mainly stems from an unreliable public transport system, high crime rate, an inefficient Majlis Bandaraya Johor Bahru, PDRM and other enforcement agencies. Take a walk along the main artery of Jalan Wong Ah Fook and you will know what I mean! In Johor Bahru, illegal night spots, bars, massage parlors and karaoke lounges have mushroomed resulting in increased drugs and crime related incidents. No wonder that Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic, famed for his Penang street murals recently painted on a Johor Bahru suburb wall a mural of a knife wielding masked man about to pounce onto an unsuspecting woman with her fancy handbag. A picture paints a thousand words they say and he couldn't have been more apt!
Riding the bandwagon
6. As the opportunities increase so too the bandwagon. Many who have not been involved in property now seem to have joined the bandwagon including the palace. The state royalty seem to have a finger in most of the pies. The main reason for this is probably to fund and finance personal projects like the renovation of the Bukit Serene palace, Pasir Pelangi palace, Muar palace, and the construction of a brand new wood or log palace in Mersing for which builders have come from as far as South Africa! Not to mention, these days it costs a bomb to maintain personalized air transport, yachts, and a fleet of luxury and sports cars. A recent surge in the royal ownership of petrol stations, fast food outlets, fashion outlets, condominiums and a host of others interests has set the 'rakyat" tongues wagging.
Stopping the rot
7. I am not anti-establishment nor am I against development. I am all for development provided the 'rakyat" benefits. But I cannot tolerate the plunder and decadence of Johor Bahru in the name of development and at the expense of the 'rakyat"! I appeal and call on all fellow "Johor Bahruites" to make a stand and stop this detrition before it is beyond recall. The people of Johor Bahru must move to change things before we literally end up as "The Shithole cum Anus of Peninsular Malaysia"! A man once asked his neighbor why he was planting durian seedlings in his garden when he would probably be long dead and gone by the time the trees bore fruit. To this the man answered, 'I am planting them not for myself but for my children and grandchildren". Maybe those in power must think of the "rakyat" as their children if they want to remain in power.
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