The Fiefdom of Taman Pekaka

Someone asked me why I got an apartment on the twentieth floor when I am on a wheelchair. It would have been easier to be evacuated had I stayed closer to ground. Being severely paralysed, I will always need assistance. When Peter and I decided to get our own abode, we chose to stay close together so that he could help me should the need arise. The only units left were on the high floors. That is the why to it.

That is beside the point anyway. People living in high floors do get old. People staying on the twentieth floor do get into accidents and become disabled. I am not the only person in the four apartment blocks here using a wheelchair. There are aged residents here who have problems with mobility too.

With two temblors occurring back to back in recent months, there is an urgent need to have proper contingency plans to evacuate people living in high rise buildings. We all breathed a sigh of relief when cursory inspection did not indicate that the structural integrity of these buildings was compromised. Nevertheless, how certain are we that the next earthquake may not bring some of these skyscrapers down?

High rise fire is a real danger too. Several have occurred here. What infuriates me most is that fire engines were not provided with quick and easy access into premises. Cars and motorcycles were allowed to be parked in such ways that they obstructed the free movement of these heavy vehicles. The access to the pump house is obstructed by a motorcycle shed that was built without approval by the MPPP.

Verbal complaints to the building manager cum developer fell to deaf ears. Written complaints garnered no response either. What recourse do the residents of high-rise buildings have? We certainly can draw up our own contingency and evacuation plans. However, without the cooperation of the building manager we can achieve little.

It is difficult to comprehend why such important aspects of safety are overlooked and ignored while large sums of our sinking fund money were invested in unit trusts without our knowledge. I do not want to speculate whether this is legal or they have the right to utilise the sinking fund for such purposes. Police reports have been made. The Pengarah Tanah dan Galian has been notified. No action has been taken by either.

It is truly disgusting to see the building manager disregarding pertinent issues like these while at the same time do things that are only beneficial to themselves. They treat the premises here as if it is their fiefdom. They reserve car parks in the common area for themselves. They construct structures without the approval from the relevant authorities. They utilise large amounts of common funds without seeking the approval from apartment owners. It makes one wonder who the building manager is serving. In the meantime, all we can do now is to pray that nothing unpleasant will happen here that needs evacuation.


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Mack Zulkifli, after listening to my plight, has taken up the cause. Today he posted Malaysia, do we care enough? in his blog to highlight my problems in getting the building manager to draw up an evacuation plan. He has made a banner to support this effort in getting the people concerned to draw up an proper evacuation plan for the disabled. It is heart-warming to know that I am not alone in this fight. This fight is not for me alone. It will benefit a lot of other high-rise dwellers who are in need of assisted-evacuation. Do we need to read news about people like me dying before someone in position of authority decides to do something?

Below is the letter that I sent to the building manager cum developer dated March 30, 2005. It was copied to Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Khoon, Chief Minister of Penang, YB Goh Kheng Sneah, State Assemblyman for Batu Uban, Pengarah Jabatan Bomba dan Penyelamat, Pengarah Tanah dan Galian, Pengarah Bangunan-Bangunan MPPP and the Chairman of the Residents Association here who incidentally is my cousin Peter.

I am disappointed to note that you have not seen it fit to ensure the safety of all the residents of Block 31A, B, C & D. I have not received a reply to my letter dated 10 August 2004. It was only after a follow-up letter from the Persatuan Penduduk-Penduduk dated 17 September 2004 that you replied asking them to liase with the relevant authorities to organise fire drills and such.

We have suffered two earthquakes within three months. On both occasions your guards were at a loss at what action they should take. Without a proper plan for evacuation, all lives staying within the premises here were at risk. Yet, you still refuse to take proactive action in drawing up proper procedures for your guards and all residents to ensure that they know what should be done in a situation like this should it happen again.

I understand that most of the structures here were built according to the plan approved by the relevant authorities. However, your maintenance of essential equipment leaves much to be desired. I point to the incident on 27 April 2004 when the emergency generator failed to kick in during a power failure leaving the whole of Taman Pekaka Block 31A, B, C & D in total darkness. Residents were trapped in elevators and most importantly without electricity the wet riser and all the Lif Bomba for the three blocks of apartment failed to function as required during a power failure.

What is the point of informing us that the fire fighting equipment is properly serviced every month when they cannot be operated without electricity to power them? You have been negligent as the building manager and your failure to ensure that the emergency generator is functioning at all times had put lives at risk.

I also refer to my letter dated 9 December 2004 where I complained nozzles and couplings of fire hoses at the riser room were missing on most levels. A properly maintained equipment without a working set of fire hose is as useless as using a garden hose to put out a major fire.

You do not even have the courtesy to apologise to parcel owners for the danger and inconvenience that you had caused and explain the steps you had taken to ensure that such incident will not happen again.

I am truly aghast that you as the building manager have never given a thought about the safety of parcels owners and residents here. What I am suggesting does not need to be a comprehensive plan if all that extra work of drawing such a plan is beyond your capability. Firstly, you can at the very least, train the security guards to inform residents in an organized manner in the event of an emergency. Secondly, you must remove obstacles in the form of parked vehicles along the driveway to allow emergency rescue vehicles full access to the premises at all times.

I am also fully aware that the Jabatan Bomba dan Penyelamat is the competent authority in fighting fires but are you aware that in case of emergencies, the security guards are our first line of defence? Every second counts should a major fire break out since we do not have the benefit of living next to a fire station.

Those are the minimum that you can do yet you have not made an effort to implement them. Instead you have the effrontery to suggest that the Persatuan Penduduk-Penduduk liase with the Jabatan Bomba dan Penyelamat to organise fire drills. What is the point in suggesting that when you have not made any effort in fulfilling the minimum requirements on your part for such contingencies?

You had asserted that you are the sole member of the Management Corporation as registered proprietor of all the parcels and possesses specific powers and is responsible for managing the buildings and also the common property. You have contradicted yourself in suggesting that the Persatuan Penduduk-Penduduk organise fire fighting drills when you have so audaciously stated that they do not represent the interests of all the 544 parcel owners. Why should, in your own words, an Association representing the interest of its members only, carry out the functions that rightfully should be your responsibility?

Therefore I will hold you to your words and ask again that you draw up a Contingency Plan for Fires and Emergencies and furnish that to all parcel owners. If there is a need to liase with the Jabatan Bomba dan Penyelamat and other agencies or even the parcel owners and residents, it is you who should be doing it. I am sure the RM4,500.00 in monthly management fee that you are currently charging us includes maintaining security and safety.

Were you mandated by the parcel owners to build structures in the premises which have been deemed illegal by the MPPP? You were not but you built them anyway. Did you get approval from all parcel owners to spend RM633,233.10 of the sinking fund to buy unit trusts? You did not but you went ahead and purchased the unit trusts without us knowing it. Why do all those that parcel owners absolutely object but refuse to do something positive instead especially one that will benefit all residents here?

Stop passing the buck around and start getting proactive for the sake of all the 544 parcel owners and residents. It will be a real tragedy should fatalities occur because you as the party responsible in managing the buildings and common property do not bother to draw up even a simple contingency plan and educate the security guards on the proper emergency procedures. If you have even the slightest interest in the safety of all those residing here, there would really be no necessity in exchanging mails like this. It would have been initiated by you long ago and put in place already.

Arrogance and unduly exertion of clout will not solve problems. What I wish is a win-win situation for all parcel owners and the Management Corporation. This can be achieved if only you care to stop and listen to the legitimate complaints of residents and not simply brushing them off and continue wielding your “authority” with impunity like it is a God-given right.

I trust that, in your wisdom, you will be sensitive to the problems that had been put forward to you and act in a responsible manner in resolving them. After all, you are an agent acting on our behalf and it is only proper that you look after our interests first and foremost. I urge you to act immediately and draw up the mentioned plan without delay before anything untoward happens and lives are lost.

Related category:
Building Manager from Hell

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Doin’ my bit ~ THE SOLBOURNE IDENTITY
A little goes a long way ~ Narcissism is Necessary
Too late is not early enough ~ Brand New Malaysian
Making a difference ~ What’s in my head
Crickets Cricketting / Helping the disabled ~ reality really bites
show some consideration ~ mental jog

Author: Peter Tan

Peter Gabriel Tan. Penangite residing in the Klang Valley. Blissfully married to Wuan. A LaSallian through and through. Minion to three cats. Wheelchair user since 1984. Columnist of Breaking Barriers with The Borneo Post. Principal Trainer at Peter Tan Training specialising in Disability Equality Training. This blog chronicles my life, thoughts and opinions. Connect with me on Twitter and Facebook.

16 thoughts on “The Fiefdom of Taman Pekaka”

  1. Peter

    I did ask for the Chief Minister’s official or private email address some time back. Including his Exco members.

    They definitely have an email address each, if not their personal/political secretaries.

    Your problem must be flooded daily onto Koh Tsu Koon’s emailbox until he or his bunch of govt administrators address the problem or bring the building manager to face the issue.

    There are enough bloggers and surfers to flood his email box on a daily basis.

    My experience is that writing letters or fax has little effect on politicians.

    There are Penang bloggers who visit Jeff’s Screenshot. They should be brought on board too.

    How about letting us know the Building Manager’s name, or the company that owns the building.

    Time to take the gloves off. And be less polite to these characters

  2. here is the CM’s private email address, taken from the gerakan website (http://www.penanggerakan.org.my/elected_candidate.htm):
    ktk@penang.gov.my

    the penang’s govt. website is http://www.penang.gov.my. other info (like email of others) may be found there.

    i applaud mack for creating a banner link for us to use. you bet i’m going to put it up in my blog, and i will also blog on this matter later on.

    peter, as i stated last time, you can count on me for any help, ok.

  3. peter, i made a comment yesterday in which, among other things, i informed the personal email of our CM. the comment did not appear.

  4. Lucia

    thanks. Will fire off an email( and a series of them from now on) to Koh Tsu Koon on Peter’s problem.

    I hope all of you chaps in Penang should do the same thing.

    Call your friends in politics, even your MP and State Representative, call everybody you know and raise the issue. Tell them the Malaysian blogosphere is up in arms defending Peter’s rights as one living in an apartment.

    Tell Gerakan political apparatchiks in Georgetown that as a political party, if Gerakan does not address this issue, Gerakan is another TOWKAY political party and does not deserve another Govt for the ordinary small people, the next time around. They should be voted them out, and let others, even MCA or UMNO to run the state.

  5. Peter,

    Not meaning to suggest defeatism but — in all practicality, and for safety’s sake, consider alternative dwellings eg. a (landed) house or at least town-house dwelling.

    All the same, good luck in this difficult endeavour and keep safe always.

  6. Frank&Honest,
    Lets wait for what the authorities plan to do or are not doing first before moving to the next phase of action. As for the address of the developer cum building manager, Mack has a a copy of the letter linked here: http://www.brandmalaysia.com/movabletype/archives/naiseng-30032005.doc

    lucia,
    Thank you.

    percolator,
    If only I can afford a town house. But as I said, that is beside the point. There are other people with disabilities similar to mine that are living in high-rise. What are your suggestions for them?

  7. peter,

    I hear and understand your frustration and bitterness.

    Again, let me say I believe this to be an extremely difficult endeavour.

    Clearly, with bureacracy, there has been/is or will be a great deal of obfuscating and stonewalling.

    Honestly, I haven’t lived long enough in this country to know, much less suggest what it takes to break through.

    My suggestion for alternative dwelling (whether or not perceived to be practical or helpful) was made in good faith, out of safety concerns esp for the disabled. Call it a reflex (wise or otherwise) if you like.

    Good luck and meantime, take care.

  8. Pardon my ignorance, but i stay in a high rise development too. If I understand it correctly, the building manager is appointed by the residents. In the event that the resident committee has not been formed yet, the developer will appoint the building manager first, but once the residents have formed their committee, we can choose to replace the building management. This is the situation at my place anyway. I am not a lawyer, but I believe this is provided for under the law. I would suggest approaching the developer first, failing which the residents should get together and write a petition. Just my thots.

  9. percolator,
    Thank you for your concern. This issue is not about me but people who are in a similar situation as mine. Something must be done and I hope it is done soon.

    MrsT,
    Thanks a lot. Will do.

    Curious,
    Unfortunately, the developer is also the building manager and we have not got our strata titles yet. That is why we are unable to take over the management.

  10. I do agree with you Peter. The whole issue have to be raised to the relevant authorities. Not juat your apartment area, in fact you just have to go round the other few blocks near your area, you can see the same thing happening, all routes in and out blocked.

    I was just on the line ( 3 May, 12.15 pm ) with the Political Sec. to the Penang’s CM – Mr. Mark Ooi and related your problem and your blog site to him and i think he is scrooling thru it now and promise to look into the matter.

    We are also gonna blog this matter on our blog site of kasih.org to highlight this long withstanding problems and hope that the authorities WILL do something about it.

  11. percolator,
    😀

    Raja Munir Shah,
    Thank you for highlighting this issue to the people who can make a difference. This should be looked into by the authorities and a plan devised. Even if one life is saved, it is worth all the effort. Thank you again.

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