No to local government elections, says Zuraida

Local government minister Zuraida Kamaruddin says local elections might be too drastic a move at present.

KUALA LUMPUR: Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin today said Perikatan Nasional is not going ahead with local elections, in the wake of objections from Umno MPs a few weeks ago.

She said local councils should take smaller steps towards opening up, before the question of local elections is dealt with, as elections might be too drastic a move at present.

Several Perikatan Nasional MPs recently made objections towards holding local elections, which Zuraida has long proposed, after she said she was preparing a paper on the matter.

Noh Omar (BN-Tanjong Karang) had said local government elections were part of the PH manifesto and it was not part of PN’s policy.

PAS and several MPs from Sabah and Sarawak had also opposed the move.

Earlier today, she told the Dewan Rakyat that local councils assessment rates were last raised 20 to 30 years ago, which had led to the councils having limited funds to carry out more programmes.

They could do more if they were allowed to raise assessments every 5 years as listed in their terms and conditions, she said.

“Some state governments have offered loans with interest to local councils,” she said during Ministerial Question Time.

She said the Ipoh City Council raised local taxes 30 years ago, and the same in Kuala Terengganu.

However, the Kulai council had raised assessment rates in 2008 which brought additional income of over RM80 million while the local council in Kuala Pilah saw an increase of income by RM3 million after raising taxes in 1985.

She was replying to Hasan Arifin (BN-Rompin) who asked whether local council meetings would be opened to the public and the media.

He asked whether the ministry intends to increase the publicity to encourage local authorities to publicise the notice of these meetings.

However, Zuraida said at present her ministry encourages local councils to carry out live streamings which is being carried out in phases, and from 2017 to 2020 only 16 local councils had live streaming.

She said it will cost RM80,000 to set up the system for live streaming, adding that it will depend on state governments to allow this.

Other issues involved the size of the meeting halls where the full board meetings are held as it may not be able to cater for all.

To this, Hasan said the local councils should allow stakeholders to take turns to attend the meetings.

Zuraida agreed with the idea, stating that local councils could carry this out but it needs the approval of their state governments as it is attended by chief ministers or menteris besar.