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Penang passes local polls law

 | May 9, 2012

Local government elections must be held in Penang within 180 days from the day the enactment has been enforced.

GEORGE TOWN: Penang Legislative Assembly has unanimously passed the Local Government Elections (Penang Island and Province Wellesley) Enactment 2012 here today.

Hence, barring any legal challenges from the Barisan Nasional federal government or the Election Commission, local government elections must be held in Penang within 180 days from the day the enactment has been enforced.

State executive councillor in charge of local government and traffic management affairs, Padang Kota assemblyman Chow Kon Yeow has said that the state government would attempt to obtain a pre-emptive court declaration that the enactment was not ultra vires the Federal Constitution to compel the EC to conduct the local polls.

The bill was not opposed by the 11 Barisan Nasional opposition members from Umno, who were all not present in the House when it was passed. Neither were they in when the bill was up for debate in the first, second and third readings.

With the legislation, the DAP-helmed Pakatan Rayat state government has taken a giant step forward to restore third vote process as promised during the last general election.

When talking about the bill to the press after the opening of the party new state headquarters, Wisma DAP, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has that DAP also stood for ‘delivery as promised.’

In his winding up debate on the enactment, Chow suggested for both the island and mainland councils – MPPP and MPSP – to be restructured, transformed and reformed to streamline the power dynamic between the state and federal government.

“This would ensure the people benefitted whichever political alliance forms the federal or state government,” he told the House.

DAP’s Komtar assemblyman Ng Wei Aik has suggested that the current  RM1,300 allowance for municipal councillors was not proportionate with their heavy workload, responsibilities and high number of meetings.

To this, Chow said that the state government hoped to fix a better rate to enable candidates elected to be full-time municipal councillors.

On a question by DAP’s Jawi assemblyman Tan Beng Huat on why candidates needed to be locals, Chow explained that the state government wanted municipal councillors who knew well about local area’s “in-and-outs”

Chow concurred with DAP’s Padang Lalang Tan Cheong Heng that the local government elections should be held despite the possibility of Pakatan not securing a 100 per cent victory.

“It’s our stand to respect the spirit of the elections despite not being guaranteed of win every time,” he said.

Progressive step

Meanwhile, Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) said the enactment was a progressive step to pave way for the return of third vote.

Its Penang branch coordinator Lee Hui Fei said the EC, which previously turned down Penang’s request for local elections, can no longer ignore and escape from its responsibility to administer elections.

“The enactment removes questions on whether local elections can be held legally and constitutionally,” she said in an e-statement.

Noting that the legal obstacles regarding a federal suspension since 1965 no longer applies for Penang, she stressed that the EC must respect the state’s right to exempt its local councils from the anti-democratic Section 15 of the Local Government Act 1976.

“Suaram hopes that the EC would accede to Penang’s request,” insisted Lee.

She said the Pakatan government should now intensify its commitment in the democratisation of local governments and empowerment of local communities.


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