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Come to the negotiation table, ADUN urges landowner of Sea Park Apartments

Immediately after publishing The Apartments With No Entrance, we reached out to Kampung Tunku ADUN Lim Yi Wei for a response to the story. We interviewed her at the DAP service centre in Taman Paramount on 17th Oct, immediately after a meeting at the Commissioner of Buildings (COB).

Key points:

  • Lim Yi Wei advises residents to unite to maintain Sea Park Apartments, even as the land dispute continues.
  • While it is important to bring back a functioning management council, she suggests the residents’ association can play a role in maintaining “welfare, safety, and cleanliness”.
  • The disputed lands within Sea Park Apartments is zoned as a “Low-density Residential Area”, so at the moment, the current landowner cannot conduct any parking business nor redevelop it into high-density apartments.
  • She urges the developer and current landowner to negotiate with authorities and the residents for a win-win solution.

Below is the full interview transcript. To watch the video interview, scroll to the end of the page.

Q: In the story The Apartments With No Entrance, Dr Suraya Ismail from Khazanah Research Institute mentioned that Sea Park Apartments could turn into an urban slum, if its common areas and facilities remain out of the control of residents. What are your thoughts on this?

In the absence of an MC (management council), yes, it is possible. But we have been communicating with the MC, and my office has managed to provide some payment for the bills, especially for the electricity supply to the common areas. Earlier this year, we provided fees for the cleaners as well, so that helps keep that (the threat of the apartments turning into an urban slum) at bay.

Moreover, one of the good things about Sea Park Apartments is that residents actually take care of themselves. So we don’t have cases like in the PPRs (social housing schemes) where rubbish is everywhere, and people are throwing things out from the upper floors, and so on and so forth. Also MBPJ (the local council) is still able to enter the apartments to collect the rubbish.

But of course, we want to have a functioning MC back as soon as possible. That’s the ideal situation – a functional MC that can manage the apartments as a whole.

But in the interim, we are trying to pull the residents together, and also to support the residents’ association (RA) that is there. Because the residents’ association can conduct activities that are beneficial to the residents’ welfare or well-being, safety, and even cleanliness. So think of it like any other residents’ association, in any other taman. They collect monthly fees for security guards, so on and so forth.

So we are encouraging residents to support the residents’ association, to be able to maybe collect some small contributions, and to tackle matters that pertains to residents’ well-being and safety – everything short of maintenance. Because maintenance is under the jurisdiction of the MC and it cannot be conducted by any other party.

Q: What can residents of Sea Park Apartments do to resolve this land dispute, or to improve their neighbourhood?

I would say that the solution is maybe out of bounds for individual residents, but each Sea Park Apartment resident can assist the MC, which is non-existent now, and the RA which is still operational, in keeping the place clean – maintaining cleanliness and what not.

And those who are interested to help out in this, I would really encourage them to approach the RA and find out more about the journey that they’ve been through. They’ve through the courts, and we also directed them to the Strata Tribunal Court about a year ago. There are a lot of twists and turns to this story.

And why do I call for people to be involved, is because people like Gary and Annie and Elvira have been shouldering the burden for almost 20 years, since they found out. Even if we come to a solution later on, which I hope we do, they are also tired. Any good organisation, whether it’s an RA or MC, needs to have some kind of succession planning. So those who are maybe in their fifties or early sixties, or those who have time to contribute, I would really encourage you to step up and support the RA.

Q: What would you be doing next to find a solution to the apartment’s land dispute?

We are tackling the problem from multiple angles. The first, of course COB (Commissioner of Buildings) has always been with us through the journey of this case, reporting back to us and also advising on the current status where the MC is not present. I’ve actually also conveyed the residents’ wishes to meet and discuss this with YB Nga Kor Ming, the Minister of Local Government Development.

But of course because of the case’s complexity, the ministry is actually consulting the different relevant government departments. So from what I know, they have been consulting the Strata Unit (at the Land Office) and also the Legal Unit, and also getting feedback from COB and MBPJ.

So we hope that that information can be brought together soon, and the ministry may be able to point us towards a way out (of this land dispute).

I would also like to respond to some of the comments that I saw, you know, on the video (online), about digging up old documents (as a solution). For example, the building plans that were approved.

Unfortunately, I have to share that we have exhausted all avenues to obtain those documents. The first place we went to was MBPJ (Majlis Perbandaran Petaling Jaya). They did not have those documents.

So, we went to the Land Office. We didn’t find anything there either. The only thing the Land Office had was the distribution of the land plots.

The same applies with JUPEM (Department or Survey and Mapping).

In 2021 or early 2022, we filed a case with the Strata Management Tribunal, basically to compel SEA Housing Corporation (the developer of Sea Park Apartments) to release the original building plans that were approved, with the its terms and conditions, which we hoped would have included parking lots as one of the conditions.

But the representative from SEA Housing Corporation at the time said that they did not keep those records.

The Strata Tribunal cannot force SEA Housing to hand over those documents, nor can it issue a search warrant. That would have to be done by the courts. But every other process, outside the courts, has been exhausted.

At the same time, I also think that those documents might only be a consolation to residents. It still doesn’t really solve the problem going forward.

That’s why we are tackling it with the ministries and all, because ultimately we want to find a solution to this.

But one piece of reassurance that residents can have is with regards to the zoning of the area, of the whole Sea Park Apartments. Under the PJ local plan (Rancangan Tempatan Petaling Jaya), it is zoned as “Kawasan Perumahan Berkepadatan Rendah” (Low-density Residential Area).

This means that, number one, (the landowner) cannot operate a carpark business there at this moment in time. Because that’s a commercial activity (and wouldn’t be allowed in a residential zone).

Number two, if he wanted to build something on the disputed lands, he cannot either. Because there is a density restriction. So technically, he’s also at a deadlock.

But I just wanted to address that all avenues to find the original documents have been exhausted, outside of starting a new (legal) case. At that time, the MC was not willing to start a new legal case.

Q: Why do you say the original building plans would not be able to help the situation?

One thing is because it’s gone through the whole court process – High Court, Appeals Court, Federal Court – so we probably cannot bring back the same case.

The most I can see from this, but I could be wrong because I’m not a lawyer, is that it could be used to demand compensation for misleading advertising.

I am not sure if it can compel the current landowner to return the land to the apartment (residents).

The strength of such documents is, I would think, still limited. That’s why I say, as far as we can go, it could be to demand compensation.

And we actually did ask at the tribunal. I said (to the tribunal), since no one can produce the documents, not even SEA Housing – who cannot prove it doesn’t have the documents either, and since the tribunal does not have the power to order them to produce documents, could we instead ask for compensation?

And then they (the tribunal) said you have to do this through the courts.

So even maybe having that plan, at most, would allow us to ask for compensation. But that still doesn’t solve the issue of ownership of the land.

Q: What would your message be to the original developer and the current landowner?

I would say: “Look, this issue has been going on so long, and I don’t understand what you have to gain by just holding on like that.”

If they (the developer and current landowner) are waiting for people to grow old and move out, I think that’s a very nasty game to play.

This neighbourhood could have been very nice – low-density housing with enough space, a little playground. But because of this dispute, there are  residents who are really affected by it. Not just by the value of their homes going down, but actually physically affected, health-wise. For example, Annie has been unwell and has been going to hospital for treatment.

So I would urge them to come to the negotiating table once again, and let’s start afresh. Let’s see where we can negotiate for a mutually beneficial outcome.

I think it’s been too long, and I don’t want it to drag on further.

In fact, when I came here a lot of people advised me not to get involved with this case, because I wouldn’t be able to solve it.

But I think if all parties can come to the table, maybe we’ll be able to get some movement.

WATCH: Kampung Tunku ADUN Lim Yi Wei responds to The Apartments With No Entrance

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