Group says ‘no’ to MPs in FT minister’s council but expert says ‘yes’

The six MPs in the FT minister’s council will handle portfolios currently assigned to DBKL executive directors.

PETALING JAYA: A pressure group has questioned the appointment of six Kuala Lumpur MPs as members of the Federal Territories minister’s council, saying the MPs’ role should not include interfering with “city matters”.

M Ali, deputy chairman of Selamatkan Kuala Lumpur (SKL), said the MPs should focus on issues at the national level instead.

“The role of MPs is to look at problems at a macro level.

“This is a micro level management system which does not need the involvement of MPs. Why would you want to burden the MPs by getting them to look after the drains, sewage problems and what not?” Ali asked.

On Monday, six Kuala Lumpur MPs who do not hold government posts such as minister, deputy minister or special envoy were presented appointment letters as members of the minister’s council to assist the federal territories ministry and Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL).

The MPs and their portfolios are Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad (Setiawangsa) for education, Fong Kui Lun (Bukit Bintang) for tourism, arts and culture, P Prabakaran (Batu) for youth and sports, Dr Tan Yee Kew (Wangsa Maju) for health and women’s affairs, Lim Lip Eng (Kepong) for traffic and infrastructure, and Fahmi Fadzil (Lembah Pantai) for social and economic development.

Federal Territories Minister Khalid Samad, who announced their appointments, said this would provide the MPs with experience to be involved in government administration as part of efforts to groom a new generation of leaders.

“Otherwise, they will remain as just MPs. We are worried that if they do not understand their roles as government lawmakers, they will act more like opposition MPs,” he said.

Ali told FMT that these portfolios, currently assigned to DBKL executive directors, should remain the directors’ responsibilities.

“Otherwise, what are these executive directors there for? Is the minister trying to replace them with the MPs? It does not work that way.

“The DBKL governs Kuala Lumpur city. Why are MPs roped in to help the mayor? What role will the mayor play now?

“Worse, the MPs may end up intimidating and interfering with the role of the executive directors,” he said.

Ali also said the FT minister should not interfere with DBKL matters, as previously proposed by several former opposition MPs.

“That is what we have been asking for because it was the interference of the former FT minister that had resulted in the mess DBKL is in today. We don’t want this to repeat with the current minister,” he said.

However, planning and local government expert Derek Fernandez said the appointment of the six MPs was overdue as the minister’s council was set up some time ago.

“But I hope the minister agrees to abide by a democratic decision-making model during the council meetings and uphold the decision of the council on matters of policy even if he may sometimes hold a different view.

“To do otherwise would render the council nothing more than the DBKL advisory board, whose advice does not have to be followed.

“This will defeat the purpose of appointing elected Kuala Lumpur MPs to the council,” he said.

Derek urged all six MPs to speak without fear or favour on matters of public concern and correct the wrongs of the past.

“They must never lose sight of the pre-election promises they made and their duty to uphold and honour these promises and the principles of the Pakatan Harapan government.

“The minister must also be reminded that this council cannot be taken as a replacement for local government elections which he must push to restore.

“This council is just a temporary step taken in the absence of a local government election. It must not be used as an excuse to delay such elections,” he said.

Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh, who has been vocal in bringing up issues on behalf of her constituents, in particular the Taman Rimba Kiara development project, said while she welcomed the council, the minister must not forget to fulfill the calls for local government elections to be brought back.

“We are still pushing for local government elections. This council is temporary and it is a good way for the MPs to voice their constituents’ concerns.

“As for those of us who are not on the council, don’t worry. We are quite creative in finding ways to get our voices heard,” she told FMT.

Yeoh also hoped that Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin would lead the way in pushing for local government elections.

“I believe the citizens of Kuala Lumpur are ready for it,” she said.