April 21, 2008 by YB M. Kulasegaran
I was the representative for the sate government of Perak and spoke at the Forum orgainsed by the Ipoh City Watch.
My speech is as follows.
A new era is beginning for local councils in Malaysia, at least in five states won by the opposition [Pakatan Rakyat] in the March 8 general election. It is an era where the arrogance of power and the lack of transparency and accountability in local councils under the BN government will be erased and a new ethics of sharing with the people and community leaders will be inculcated.
It is also a new era because the councilors will be picked for their expertise, knowledge and level of commitment for the community.
Gone are the days when just political loyalties were the only criteria. Today’s society is more knowledgeable and demanding and to succeed we must deliver high quality local council decisions based on society’s needs.
Local council are virtually government’s in itself and in today’s world of decentralization of political authority, local councils is where the people have their biggest say in how to manage their affairs.
It is in local government where political parties and their agendas are made or broken. The people and watching and they will make or break any political parties that fails to deliver.
That is why the Peoples Alliance face a daunting task make local council work. Before we criticised, protested, demanded and condemned. But now we have to deliver, it is a heavy burden.
The task now is to:
# review and reassess all service, organisation and methods of local council activities in all Pakatan ruled states.
# set up new best principles to speed up delivery, efficient and curb waste and improve quality.
# get local communities, NGOs, civil society involved in the activities of local councils.
A totally new approach to local government is needed in the light of the peoples verdict that showed their anger and dissatisfaction with the BN methods. We cannot use BN methods anymore, these have been discredited and rejected by the people.
My views on possible changes to be brought in the interim until direct elections to local councils are as follows:
1) all meetings of the local council should be held after office hours as the common complain is that local government officers are difficult to get because they are perpetually "in meetings."
2) All local councilors meetings should be held after office hours and the meetings be open to all citizens. Also attire at these meetings by rate payers should be relaxed to allow an informal atmosphere.
3) All sub-committee meetings to be open to public. All this meeting be recorded and put on the Internet to get feed back from the rate payers.
4) The address and contact telephone numbers of local councilors should be easily made available in addition to having a mobile office at the markets. In fact notices must be put in zones for which the local councilors are responsible and all meetings with the rate payers should be recorded and put in the website which has to be up dated every 15 days
5) All meetings must be notified to the public with sufficient notice so that they can attend and the witness the deliberations.
6) Sufficient notice and information should be provided to enable the public to have a say in the decision making process in particular the Local Agenda 21 process.
7) All road signages must be in Bahasa, Mandrin and in Tamil.
8) All tender awards and appointment of officers in charge of tender must be transparent.
9) All senior officers must publicly declare their assets
From now on it is not that we lord on you but you and we together are partners to better manage our local government. We are partners with local community, leaders and NGOs who all play an important role in local society.
Ultimately the future of local government is best left in then hands of the people themselves, not political parties appointing local councilors.
A true workable and viable local government is one that is elected, not appointed. Until local government councilors are elected by the rate payers themselves we will not have a local government that is truly representative of the peoples will.
We look forward to that day.