PETALING JAYA: The Save Kuala Lumpur (SKL) coalition has urged the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government to look beyond the “supposed racial conflicts” that could occur should local council elections be brought back.
SKL deputy chairman M Ali said bringing back local council elections would help curb “alleged corruption” in the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL), said to be the cause of “dubious” land deals.
Since PH took over the federal territories ministry, its minister Khalid Abdul Samad has set up a special task force to investigate 97 dubious land deals which were approved under the former Barisan Nasional administration.
Critics allege that these deals could only have been carried out with the involvement of DBKL officers.
“That is why we need to elect not only the mayor but also the DBKL board of directors and, if possible, the DBKL officers as well.
“Only then can corruption be dealt with. We have been pushing for this with the minister (Khalid), and he told us that he will continue to look into it.
“All of a sudden now the prime minister says this (possibility of racial conflict). We hope that the studies to bring back local council elections will continue,” he said.
Ali added that it was important for civil society to be represented in local councils to ensure that the public is well represented.
“Appointments to local councils have been abused and invariably the selections have been politically based.
“The representatives sit on local councils at the whims and fancies of their political masters or political parties. This is all the more reason to eradicate such abuse by having local council elections which focus on local issues. It will allow ratepayers to vote out corrupt councillors.”
He said this was why the group previously suggested that local councillors include professionals who are not politicians as well as individuals like single mothers and disabled persons.
“Now that the prime minister has made this announcement, it has given us the opportunity to revive the topic of local council elections. We hope to pursue this matter with the FT minister soon,” he said when contacted.
Ali said if local council elections were to be brought back, there would be no need for a federal territories minister, who previously played the role of middleman between DBKL and the people.
It was reported in June that NGOs had called on the PH government to honour its promise to revive local council elections.
The NGOs – MyPJ (Petaling Jaya Coalition), Penang Forum Coalition and SKL – also demanded that the roadmap for local council elections include:
- Election of city mayors for the cities of Petaling Jaya, Penang and Kuala Lumpur to be carried out by June 2019;
- Election of councillors for the cities of Petaling Jaya, Penang and Kuala Lumpur to be carried out by December 2019; and,
- Election of council presidents and councillors for the rest of Malaysia to be carried out within three years.
Since then, however, there has been little talk about pursuing local council elections.
The former opposition MPs prior to the May 9 polls were among those who were vocal about bringing back local council elections.
Meanwhile, Suara Rakyat Malaysia adviser Kua Kia Soong said the country was rich enough to hold local council elections.
This follows statements from both Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin and Khalid that the government could not conduct local council elections at the moment due to its weakened financial position.
“We are a nation that has reached a GDP per capita of USD$10,000 (RM41,733), and you still say you cannot afford it?” Kua said.
“I have mentioned many times that it is important for so many other aspects of our lives. Local council elections help decide what schools to be built, security, and housing, especially public housing, to be managed by the local council.
“It can solve so many problems faced at local government level, including de-racialising education.”
He urged electoral watchdog Bersih 2.0 to champion the matter, and to “take it to the streets” if the government continued to drag its feet.
In May, Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah said she would table a bill at the first sitting of the new Parliament to seek for the return of local council elections.
In the recently concluded general election, Maria ran as an independent candidate on a PKR ticket. One of the promises she made to voters was that she would push for the return of local council elections.
She has been pushing for local council elections since her days in Bersih, saying it is only right for citizens to choose their mayors, local council presidents and councillors.