PETALING JAYA: Two NGOs have come to the defence of Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin, who was accused by a DAP MP of not working hard enough in pushing for local council elections.
MyPJ chairman Jeffrey Phang said stakeholders had been working with Zuraida to prepare a paper that was supposed to have been presented to the Cabinet last month.
“We were trying to rush that but were hampered by her inability to get the budget for us,” he said.
Phang said efforts to move forward with the proposal had also become stuck after the change of government in February and the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said local council NGOs in Petaling Jaya, Kuala Lumpur and Penang had been fighting to become the first few pilot sites for local government polls under Zuraida’s initial plan.
“We want things to settle down and we want to continue,” he said, adding however that the current government’s stand was unclear.
“We want to know whether the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government supports Zuraida.
“We also want to know who in Pakatan Harapan (PH) actually support it (local council elections) because the messages that are coming out are very inconsistent.”
Gabungan Demokrasi Tempatan (DEKAT) secretary-general Thomas Fann agreed with Phang, saying the NGO had also held several working meetings with Zuraida and her officers.
“The goal of the meetings was to assist her in producing a proposal for the implementation of local council elections,” Fann said.
However, he said Zuraida had not contacted stakeholders since her reappointment as the housing and local government minister under PN.
“We have no idea if she is still interested in pushing for the restoration of local council elections,” he said, adding that NGOs were ready to collaborate once more since these elections would make councils more accountable to ratepayers, and be more efficient.
Yesterday, Zuraida said in the Dewan Rakyat that none of her former PH colleagues had stood up for her when then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad shot down her push for local council elections.
She said there were no plans for local council elections for now but that the matter was being studied by the government.
“The study will cover a three-year period with the findings brought to the cabinet and Parliament for approval by mid-2021,” she said.
Her statement prompted DAP’s Seputeh MP and former primary industries minister Teresa Kok to say that throughout her entire term as a cabinet minister, she had never come across any cabinet paper or presentation on local council elections by Zuraida.
“Instead I had only read her verbal statements on this subject in the media a few times,“ she said.
Kok noted that Zuraida had held the post of housing and local government minister since PH won the elections in 2018 and that she had “had ample time to plan and prepare a comprehensive policy on local council elections in Malaysia”.
She hoped Zuraida would speed up her proposed policy on local council elections now that Mahathir was no longer prime minister and not let it drag until mid-2021.
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