FT ministry needed until return of local polls, says MP

Kepong MP Lim Lip Eng says the abolition of the FT ministry will take away an important check-and-balance mechanism.

PETALING JAYA: A call for a review of the federal territories ministry’s relevance has prompted a Kuala Lumpur MP to argue that the portfolio is necessary until local council elections are reinstituted.

Speaking to FMT, Kepong MP Lim Lip Eng said the abolition of the ministry would take away an important check-and-balance mechanism.

He was commenting on remarks recently made by lawyer Derek Fernandez, who specialises in local government laws.

Fernandez said last Tuesday the ministry was redundant since its functions overlap those of local authorities. He also accused it of weak governance, citing problems with the 2020 Kuala Lumpur City Plan.

Kepong MP Lim Lip Eng.

Lim said the ministry would become irrelevant only with the fulfilment of Pakatan Harapan’s promise to restore local elections.

“With the election of mayors and councillors, there will be no need for any federal or state ministry to provide oversight for local councils,” he said.

In the case of Kuala Lumpur, he noted, the mayor is not appointed by a state government. “So, the FT ministry is there to provide checks and balances.”

He said ministers, being MPs, had to answer to voters. “If the people are not happy with the FT minister, they won’t vote him or her in.

“Many years ago, when we were in the opposition, a former KL mayor told a few of us that he did not have to face voters. It was his way of saying he could do what he wanted.”

Mumtaz Ali, the deputy chairman of pressure group Save Kuala Lumpur, called for a quick fulfilment of the promise to restore local elections so that the FT ministry could be disbanded.

He said this would result in a leaner bureaucracy, increased efficiency and substantial savings of public money.

He alleged that politicians would invariably interfere in every aspect of KL City Hall management, adding that this happened with other local councils as well.

“An elected mayor and elected councillors would have to report to the people of KL,” he added.

Abdul Hafiz Abu Bakar, who heads the Taman Tun Dr Ismail Residents Association, said he was in support of Fernandez’s call.

He said democratising city councils through elections would help nurture a compassionate council leadership and ensure transparency and democracy in decision making.