Noraini Roslan: Madam President | Selangor Times
Issue 118


Noraini Roslan: Madam President
Writer: Basil Foo
Published: Fri, 17 Jun 2011

Kuala Selangor District Council’s (MDKS) newly minted president, Noraini Roslan talks to Selangor Times about being the first woman to helm a local government.

The former Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) town planning director relates her feelings about the “surprise” appointment, her experiences with local government so far, and what she plans to bring to the table at her new job.

Can you tell us about your appointment as MDKS president and how you felt about it?

I was personally offered the MDKS president job by Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim. The offer definitely surprised me because I don’t come from an administration background. I don’t have a degree in public administration.

What was your career in local government like?

I was in MBPJ since Sept 1, last year. I started my career in 1989 in the Klang Municipal Council (MPK) as a Graduate Services Officer. You probably haven’t heard of it before. At the time of the economic crisis, they didn’t have new positions, so for purposes of training and getting experience, government departments opened new posts. They only paid RM500 a month!

I took the post for a year, then was contracted as a town planning officer before being absorbed as a permanent staff. I then became the town planning director in 1992.

I also held the same position in MBPJ. My experience has mostly been in town planning. But if my past 21 years of experience in public office is taken into account, all the issues, problems, advantages and disadvantages of local government – I’ve been through it all.

Do you think your gender was a factor in your appointment?

You might have to ask the Menteri Besar why he chose a woman to be the president (grins). I think he wanted someone who has technical qualifications, in the hopes that they could do better at the job by knowing its technical aspects.

In my opinion, God made men and women with their own strengths. We can’t say men think more rationally and women think more emotionally. I find that after working for more than 20 years, the balance of rational and emotional has been harmonised.

For me, a leader should have intelligence, integrity, and emotional maturity. The benefits of appointing a woman, however, could be in the aspect of sensitivity and thoroughness of work. But mostly it depends on the individual.

What is your vision for Kuala Selangor, or the direction you plan to steer it in?

Every region in Selangor has its own role to play, and different regions can’t overlap each other’s roles. Kuala Selangor can play a complementary role in Selangor’s development. We have to look at its unique strengths such as tourism, farming, fishing, wetlands, historical areas, and new housing developments. I foresee it would be a balancing act between environmental conservation and new developments.

We could focus on the development of tourism, farming, and fishing; basically the economic aspects. In the area of township developments, I can see some areas with potential to be new growth areas, for example Puncak Alam and the southern areas; more so if the West Coast Expressway, which is now still in the tender stage, is completed.

I believe most developments will be focused along coastal corridors and another corridor which connects east and west: from Bukit Jelutong to Ijok and Batu Arang, bordering Sabak Bernam. The Kuala Selangor local plan has also been amended to include more areas for development compared to the previous plan, which was more limited.

What are some of the challenges you foresee as MDKS president?

I was given early notice that the financial resources might not be enough to sustain expenditure. I was made to understand we have a shortage in resources for domestic waste management. So maybe my challenge will be to balance expenditure.

If expenditure for management already covers a large part of the budget, not enough will go to development. So I would have to look for new sources of income to sustain management expenses and increase development.

Even at state level, we have broken the waste-management duties into two. Alam Flora will focus on domestic waste, while each local council will take over cleaning contracts like cutting grass, and cleaning drains and parks, which they can do in-house if they have the [human resources], or appoint contractors if it is more economical.

So apart from taxes, we should look into development. If more industrial areas are planned, we have to see what kind of incentives we can give for factories to move in.

We could also look at Kuala Selangor as a pro-environment and tourism district and generate revenue from that. There are many different ways to generate income.

What will be your first order of business? What do you aim to achieve in your first six months on the job?

When anybody comes into a new place, first is housecleaning. I want to see if the existing objectives and KPI have been achieved, or how far away we are from the target.

Secondly is financial management, if the money we have is used in priority areas, even if we don’t have enough. The important thing is to do what people expect local councils to do. People don’t care about frills. Then we have to look for other sources of income like development. Since it is my expertise, my aim will be focused development, too.

What projects were you involved in previously that could be useful in preparing you for your job as MDKS president?

When I was in Klang, I was in a project committee that dealt with integrated coastal management, which is a programme the state established together with an arm of the United Nations – Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia, whose headquarters is in Manila.

What this programme tries to achieve is firstly, on the legislation side, to coordinate among the agencies that have interest in coastal management to work together. People have to work together and see to the interest of all stakeholders in the coastal areas.

In coastal areas, there are ports, fisher[folk], ships, and tourism activities. As a large part of Kuala Selangor are coastal areas fronting the sea, there would be the same issues.

Right now, who’s taking care of the mangroves, the small fisher[folk]? What will happen to areas open for development, and how much area will be conserved? If we are looking into economical benefit, how would we balance that with environmental sustainability? Those are the lessons I learned from Klang that I can bring to Kuala Selangor.

Other than that, as a town planner, looking at the long-term strategic plan for the district, I would earmark areas for development, and reserve areas for environmental conservation. This was part of my previous job which I can easily adopt to my new job. I would say those two are my strengths.

Can you tell us a little about your background?

I was born and raised in Klang. My parents and grandparents were also from the same area. My higher education was in the United States.

It’s different from the usual town planner training. Since we can be said to be a Commonwealth country, town planners usually receive their training in Britain and Australia. But I was among the first batches to be sent to America. That has changed my perspective in a lot of things.

The conventional town planner training is usually focused more on design. But in the US, we were trained to be all-rounded, with an emphasis on the environment. The design component is left to the architect to do. What we learnt was to integrate environment and economic planning.

I majored in housing for my Bachelor’s degree, and in economic and community development for my Master’s.

Do you have any parting words?

I’ve been given two weeks for my transition to go to MDKS. I’ll probably spend a few days communicating with the officers there before moving in to my new offices.

I loved being in PJ. I came across many challenges, learnt a lot of things, and hopefully imparted useful things here. I’ll handle the transition on my own time. Till my last day, I’ll still be working in PJ.


 Selangor Times



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