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Moving at ‘rocket’ speed on local govt polls

 | May 5, 2012

If Parliament can pass an unprecedented number of Bills, so too can the Penang State Legislative Assembly, or so it appears.

GEORGE TOWN: The Penang government, which has taken a bold initiative to restore the local government election by enacting a law, aims to hold the third vote process in “rocket speed”.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the bill was a bold attempt by the state government to implement local government election via an enactment.

The enactment bill – Local Government Elections (Penang Island and Province Wellesley) Enactment Bill 2012 – is expected to be tabled next week at the on-going State Legislative Assembly sitting.

It will be the first such bill in Malaysian history, aimed at reviving the local government election.

“It’s a historical document,” said Lim, showing a copy of the bill at a press conference after the official opening of Penang DAP new headquarters building in Jalan Rangoon here today.

He said Pakatan Rakyat policy was to restore the suspended local government election.

But he was unsure as to when and whether or not the other Pakatan states of Selangor, Kedah and Kelantan would hold their local polls.

“As for Penang, we are committed and moving fast on it, at rocket speed to hold the polls,” said Lim.

Also present was Penang DAP chairman Chow Kon Yeow, who said the DAP-helmed state government would even seek a court judicial review on its imminent enactment if the Election Commission (EC) were to disregard the state’s repeated request to hold the third vote.

“We intend to seek a court declaration to uphold the legitimacy and validity of the new enactment,” said Chow, who is also the state executive councillor in charge of Local Government Affairs.

Local council polls possible

In a statement posted on Penang DAP’s official website, Chow said, given the unprecedented enactment, the EC would not face the dilemma of whether to act in accordance with the federal suspension of local elections or to accede to the state’s jurisdiction over the matter.

Acting upon legal advice on its constitutional position, he said the state government was convinced that local council polls can be held without going against the Federal Constitution.

He said the the tabling of the bill should pave the way for the EC to administer balloting process to elect councillors for both Penang’s island and mainland municipalities – the MPPP and MPSP.

In keeping with this, a half-day public forum titled: “Restoring Local Government Elections in Penang,” will be held tomorrow at the MPPP’s Town Hall in Esplanade beginning at 9am.

Apart from Chow, other speakers were lawyer Tommy Thomas, Community Communications Centre (CCC) director Jerald Joseph and Aliran president Prof Dr Francis Loh Kok Wah.

Chow said the third vote process was part of state Pakatan government’s efforts to encourage greater citizen participation in the democratic process at local level.

He expressed regret that the Barisan Nasional federal government had always frustrated Pakatan’s efforts to revive local elections.

“If our federal and state governments have to be elected, why can’t local governments, which make laws and policies at the local level, be similarly elected?

“The argument that local elections have been suspended holds no water because there simply is no valid, legitimate, or believable reason behind the continual suppression of the people’s right to a third vote,” said Chow.


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