PETALING JAYA: Penang social activist Lim Mah Hui does not believe that problems such as inefficiency, abuse of power and corruption in local councils will be solved by having elections to local authorities.
“We need people with integrity and who are qualified to do the job, not merely politicians,” he told FMT in response to calls for the new federal government to open the way to local council elections.
“I am all for local council elections. But electing a councillor is not enough to prevent abuse or corruption,” he said.
Lim, an economist, is a member of the Penang Forum steering committee and a former appointed member of the Penang Island City Council.
He said it was more important for people to elect the right councillors when local council elections are in place. He pointed out that the Local Government Act provides for councillors who, although appointed, must have experience in local government affairs, and who are not merely political appointees.
“Even in Pakatan Harapan states, they appointed people with political affiliations, and not those qualified people to serve the community,” he said.
Bukit Bintang MP Fong Kui Lun had recently called for elected local governments to improve transparency.
Fong was recently caught in a controversy over a Ramadan bazaar in Kuala Lumpur when his name was allegedly misused by PPBM member Noorhisyam Abd Karim to obtain support for licensing approval by City Hall for a Ramadan bazaar.
The chairman of a coalition of Petaling Jaya residents’ associations, Jeffrey Phang, said the councillors in the city were not really qualified individuals.
“It is the councillor’s job to check on what contributes to issues like clogged drains and verify whether it was due to the drainage construction or structure that is not suitable. But what these appointed councillors do was to only act on the complaint by cleaning up the clogged area,” he said.
Phang added local council elections would allow residents to vote out councillors. “We lack check and balance now. And some of them are here because of political connections,” he said.
He urged the Pakatan Harapan federal government to carry out local council elections in Penang, Selangor, and KL.
“They can pass the law in Parliament first and then we can sit down to talk about what is the best mechanism to conduct the election,“ he said.
Save Kuala Lumpur deputy chairman M Ali said candidate for councillors should come from all walks of life, and not political background.
“In that way, they do not need to be answerable to their political masters.”
The minister of housing and local government, Zuraida Kamaruddin, has said that local elections could be restarted in three years. However, lawyer Derek Fernandez, a former PJ councillor, said PH could restore council elections within 100 days in power, by tabling amendments to the Local Government Act.