Damian S. L. Yeo & L. C. Goh (DSLY)
No. 2007, Lorong Sidang Omar, off Jalan Penghulu Abbas, Bukit Baru, Hang Tuah Jaya, 75100 Melaka

Tel : 06-2347011
& 06-2347012
Fax: 06-2347022


Saturday, May 12, 2007

Towards a Better Local Government - Organised by the Malacca Bar Committee

Friday, 11th May 2007 at Legacy Hotel Malacca, the Human Rights Committee of the Malacca Bar organised a forum titled "Towards a Better Local Government" with such a title, the Committee invited four distinguished penal of speakers representing a wide spectrum of society with Datuk Shahrir Samad (MP for JB and PAC Chairman, representing the government), R. Nadeswaran aka Citizen Nades (editor of the Sun Newspaper), Lim Guan Eng (secretary General of DAP, representing the opposition) and Dr Lim Teck Ghee (academician & former Research fellow of Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (ASLI)). The talk was moderated by none other than Mr. R. R. Chelvarajah, former Bar Council Chairman of the Malaysian Bar and the current state Bar representative to the Bar Council. Emceed by Nizam Bashir and cameraman + projectionist MYSELF. We had two reporters / rapporteur namely Miss Ting and Pierre, a chambie.

Attendance was close to 400 people with a quick start from Datuk Shahrir who touches on local government as to what the government thinks and how should the people respond to calls for an elected local government. He also felt that the problem is within the system itself and that he has the role to play in the system so as to demand a more transparent, integrity of the civil services

Next come Citizen Nades started of by explaining the dangers of certain section in the Local Government Act and also who gave examples of corrupted local government through his handling and exposing of the many cases in Klang Valley such as Datuk Z's Istana and the Sport Club's approval which unncessary saw the abuse of power by those in authority and the bias conduct of such local councillors. He even gave prove through letters of such transaction being done in the open through his presentation.

Lim Guan Eng, with his witty political moves exposes further the local council's corruption and using unnecessary spending of local councillors tours which spend hundreds of thousand ringgit using tax payer's money. He also felt that the only way is to restore the Third Vote and to give this authority back to the people instead by the street gangs of the current Local Councillors.
He felt that local authorities have been called "secret societies" because of:-
• Lack of transparency and accountability,
• double-standards in enforcement of laws where poor hawkers have their stalls torn down for not having building approvals whilst BN leader have full exemption;
•wastage of public funds on overseas junkets under the pretext of study tours,
•Poor service in basic amenities
•approvals for deforestation of land causing untold damage to the environment,
•bribery and corruption in local townships.
•Abuse of power
•Issuing parking summons, hawkers’ summons, health summons or even banning or shooting dogs indiscriminately. And yet no summons are issued for illegal telecommunications towers.
He also cited examples of democratic countries allow local elections of councilors and Mayors, including regional neighbours Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Cambodia. Even in so-called dictatorial systems like China, village elections were first introduced in China as early as 1978 and subsequently conducted on a trial basis from 1988 onwards. China’s 1998 Organic Law on Villager Committees institutionalizes local democracy in China by allowing competitive elections of directly elected villager committees by secret ballot, including the Village Head. So if country like China is practising elections of local authorities, what about country like Malaysia. Are worst of compare to a communist state?
Isn’t it ridiculous that Malaysians can select and decide on our Prime Minister at the Federal level and Chief Minister at the State level but have no right to elect our municipal councilors?

Last come Dr Lim, who gave a chronology as to the demise of local government election in Malaysia. He recalled that Local Government elections was suspended on March 2, 1965 due to the Indonesian Confrontation but that the Alliance Party had promised its restoration at the very moment peace is declared and the emergency regulation are withdrawn. This promised was not honoured. He also noted that the Royal Commission Report (Nahappan Report) had also recommended the principle of elected representation to be extended to all local authorities. Unfortunately this recommendation was hijacked by a minority report which decided otherwise.
He felt that the Government needs to reopen this important but little known chapter of Malaysian history and to correct the injustices and distortions that have been perpetrated.
Local Government forms the underpinning of democratic values and public accountability at the grassroot. It s a factor in determining the quality of urban life for the two thirds of the country's population. As such there must be accountability, transparency and integrity of each level of civil services in the Local Government or else there will be abuse of powers, corruption in every level, inefficient, wasteful and poorly managed urban authorities and its services to the people. Badly run local authorities adversely affect everybody's consumption of environment, health, social, cultural and other goods. They also hit our wallets and act as a key constraint to a better future.
In conclusion, there is a need to revamp the current system and as suggested by Dr. Lim to have a second Royal Commission on it or as what Lim Guan Eng says that there should be an interim tribunal for local government before the actual setting up of the third vote i.e. Local Government elections.

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