Illegal Church

Mak Khuin Weng

Would you believe it that we have visited this issue before with the Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC) back in 2011?

Mak Khuin Weng

Barely 24 hours after the initial uproar over the public protest against a church in Kampung Medan, has the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) declared the place was being used illegally as a church.

Would you believe it that we have visited this issue before with the Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC) back in 2011? It was a time when Muslims were caught having dinner at the premises and there were allegations of conversion attempts and all that.

Shortly after that incident, there were rumours that MBPJ would shut down the church because it was operating illegally. As an MBPJ councillor then, I had explained why we would not shut down DUMC and those reasons are still applicable for this church in Kampung Medan.

Land Code

All land titles have what you call “express conditions” which state what the land can be used for. The term is described in detail under Sections 103 to 108 of the National Land Code.

The National Land Code further prescribes that the land cannot be used for anything other than what the express condition permits. Since the church is located in a commercial lot, it should technically be used for commercial activities and nothing else.

That said, if the council were to enforce the land code strictly, then the houses in SS2 in PJ that have been converted to bridal shops should also be shut down. The properties there are strictly for “residential use” only.

The same action would also apply to quite a number of commercial buildings that have sprung up in Section 13 in PJ. All those commercial projects should be shut down as well.

If the authorities want to impose the land code effectively, they must do it fairly across the board. But in doing so, they might just facilitate a small-scale economic collapse within PJ.

Town Planning Mess

The reason why we have this mess in the first place is because MBPJ is notoriously bad at town planning.

In the development of any township, 10% of the land space must be set aside for recreational parks while another 20% of the space must be set aside for public use. This includes space for police stations, fire stations and places of worship.

Under the Selangor State Planning Standards and Guidelines Manual, the rules are further defined whereby a piece of land should be set aside for a population of 5,000 persons and that site would be reserved for the religious denomination with at least 2,600 worshippers in that area.

The plot size is defined as “not more than 0.5ha, with the building no more than 40% to 60% of the land size.”

So we have government rules that ensure land would be set aside for religious purposes and depending on who moves into the area, the worshippers ought to be able to apply for and develop the piece of land into their respective house of worship.

Petaling Jaya has a population of 638,516 as of 2010, of which slightly more than 50% are non-Muslim. Let’s just take 319,000 as the cut-off figure, and divided by 5,000 persons, there should be around 64 plots of such land for non-Muslim houses of worship. So, what happened to all the land that SHOULD have been set aside for non-Muslim religious purposes?

We are in this mess because MBPJ has been approving commercial and residential development projects (which increase the population density) without ensuring the corresponding facilities needed by the community to function are implemented.

This isn’t limited to religious institutions as facilities like police stations, public hospitals (Universiti Malaya Medical Centre is under Kuala Lumpur) and public parks have not been planned for many years now.

The council is the one responsible for creating the demand and failing to ensure sufficient supply. If MBPJ wants to declare the church illegal, it should be fair and declare all the corresponding developments in Section 13 illegal.