updated at 5.20pm
This morning, I attended a panel discussion on local council election live on Ai FM radio together with Human Rights Activist Ng Chong Soon.
In principal, it is good to have local council election since citizens can exercise their rights to elect their own councilors.
Hopefully this will make councilors more committed and in their work. Same goes to local authority that it could be more democratic, transparent and fair in dealing with the public.
The local council is the third tier in the local government and closest to the rakyat.
Restoring local council election will obviously generates a lot of excitement and hopefully we will have a more efficient local council.
However, the reality may be slightly different. I’m talking from the point of view of serving 3 terms as an EXCO and hence have intimate dealings and knowledge of the running of local council.
The local council’s duty is basically to provide services to rakyat and serves as a facilitator of economic growth within the local council.
However, local council have very limited financial resources and growth of revenue is unable to keep up with the rise of the council’s enormous number of staffs.
Besides that, the technical know how of local council is very limited.
These breed inefficiency, corruption and poor delivery system. The ‘tidak apa’ attitude of some staffs is prevailing because of the closed system of services.
Hence, having local election will not solve the problem until the system of service is open up and the inherent structural problems are rectified. There should be increased financial resources and technical know how before it could function effectively.
This cannot be achieved by local council election. There may be even a constitutional amendment that requires cooperation of the state government. Often state government is unwillingly to give up their power. It is what they regard as Federalisation of a state institution.
In short, it will require a total revamp of local council authority before a local council election can serve its purpose of a more effective, functioning local council.
Since local council’s financial sources are very limited, they are often dependent on state government or federal government for grants for development expenditures.
When different political parties run the local council and state government as well as federal government, one can imagine the amount of politicking, the lack of common objectives and more of arm-twisting.
The BN federal government will not be so helpful to PR state government and PR state government may not look favorably to a local council dominated by BN councilor. In the same way, the reverse may be true.
The PR promised in their election manifesto to resume local council election. If the state government is committed to have local council election, they can still do it despite the federal government not agreeable to it.