Gated community, or not?

yeak's picture

Is God with us? I think so. Suddenly all this gated community thing is everywhere. See this article from Malayaiskini.

Gated community, or not?
Sim Kwang Yang
Oct 29, 09

I moved into a brand new housing estate at the top of a hill in Cheras more than five years ago, and have seen how the area develops into a very pleasant neighbourhood, with shops, an Econsave, a pasar malam on Sunday, and even a wet market in the morning every day.

Then, the usual crimes crept in, the usual personal assaults, the snatch thieves, and the break-ins. My neighbours had their houses broken in a few times. Strange looking people used to walk up and down the back lane. Cars with tinted windows and idle motor-cycles drove up and down the lane in front of my house everyday.

I was getting a little worried about security in the neighbourhood. A few private companies offered to provide security, but looking at the so-called security guards, I did not know whom to fear more, the guards or the criminals.

Over a year ago, the Resident Association (RA) was formed, and they hired their own guards to man two check-points. Over 90% of the residents joined in, paying RM50 each month, for the salary of the 11 guards. Every hour or so, the guards would patrol the lanes on their motor-cycles.

The guards are mostly Sabah natives; they wear smart uniforms, and are always courteous to residents and visitors alike.

Immediately, the crime rate dropped down to zero. It is a rare success story, as far as I know, of community effort in ensuring security in their own neighbourhood.

Even so, not all people are satisfied. A local business person is in the process of suing the RA for blocking the roads and checking her customers' cars.

I am aware that a raging debate is going on in the Klang valley about whether such gated communities should be allowed. There are the inevitable grouses that such RA that put up the gates are committing an illegal act, because the roads within every housing states belong to the State of Selangor and they are under the jurisdiction of the local council, the MPKJ in my case.

Amoeba-like growth invites woes

Even if the local council has given their blessings for these RAs to block up their neighbourhood, some residents still complain about the legality of such a move, because the job of public security belongs to the police.

Personally, in theory at least, I support the idea of the gated community.

Klang Valley is developing like a giant amoeba, and there are simply too many housing estates even in the Cheras area, for the few policemen to ensure their safety around the clock.

With the Rakan Cop scheme in place, the police have assured citizens that police personnel would respond to calls for assistance within 10 minutes of a phone call. The police station nearest to my home is at Cheras Batu 9, and indeed on the two occasions that I called them in the past, policemen arrived at the scene within minutes.

But the setting up of road barricades in the neighbourhood RA has eradicated my need to call the police station altogether.

The local residents who take the initiative to form RAs and hire their own guards are actually model citizens who have shown their sense of civic responsibility for their own safety.

The presence of ther guards alone is often an effective deterrent against petty thieves from invading into their area.

RAs add value to society

The RAs are also the civic organisation of citizens at the grass-root level that promote the spirit of public engagement for their mutual benefit. They are the very instrument that makes neighbourhoods out of mere collection of lonely houses. In sociological terms, they are the vibrant civic societies that accumulate social capital for a good cause.

Recently, the RA in my neighbourhood organised a Mid-Autumn festival on the park, and 1000 residents turned up to eat moon cakes and watch performances on the stage.

Of course, we know that a RA is as good as the spirit of co-operation, honesty, integrity, dedication, and diligence of its committee members. They must be registered with the ROS, have regular meetings and their AGMs, with properly audited accounts and meeting minutes passed at these meetings.

I know that sometimes, a RA can be paralysed by factional fights, personality conflicts, or people having their fingers in the till. Selfishness is often the cause of collapse of any local community. Sometimes, party politics also sour the neighbourhood spirit of any RA.

But properly run, the RA offers the best solution towards ensuring public and personal safety in the numerous housing estates throughout Klang Valley.

There is another strong basis for this sort of neighbourhood watch organisation. Many house-buyers have invested large sums of money in the purchase of their expensive houses. If their neighbourhood is crime-infested, it would affect negatively the re-sale price of their property and their rental earnings. The government has the moral authority to encourage the RAs in their effort in protecting their own investment.

As for the argument that the RAs have acted illegally in blocking up public roads, it is a matter of amending the relevant laws, either for the state government and the local councils to find the legal instrument to empower and entrust the RAs with some kind of authority over the roads in their jurisdiction, or simply to lease the roads out to the RAs.

Land is under the state's jurisdiction, and so the Selangor PR state government should look into this aspect of the problem, so as to settle this long-standing dispute about the legality of the gated communities. (Will someone send this article to the office of the Selangor MB Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim please?)

If a law is good for the people, then it must be kept. If a law is bad for the people, then it must be repealed or amended. That is the principle of good jurisprudence according to the natural law theorists anyway.
SIM KWANG YANG can be reached at

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