April 28, 2008 By BARADAN KUPPUSAMY
A TUSSLE has erupted over who should be the new mayor of Ipoh, the third largest city in the country, and the contenders are incumbent BN appointee Datuk Mohamad Rafiai Moktar, whose term expires on June 6, and DAP MP for Ipoh Barat, M. Kulasegaran.
While the DAP is backing its national vice-president, Ku lasegaran, a lawyer of 26 years, their partners in Perak’s Pakatan Rakyat coalition government, PKR and Pas, want to maintain the status quo by keeping Mohamad Rafiai.
Last month, the coalition squabbled over the Mentri Besar’s post which eventually went to Pas member Datuk Mohamad Nizar Jamaludin even though Pas only has six seats compared to the DAP’s 18 in the 59-seat State as sembly.
The coalition also had disputes over the State executive commit tee posts, which delayed the swearing in of the new govern ment.
“We want to avoid another round of infighting, this time over the Ipoh mayoralty,” said a senior PKR leader, who declined to be identified.
“That’s why we are suggesting the incumbent continues for an other term.”
Kulasegaran, however, has other ideas.
“I want to serve, to better the performance of the current mayor if selected for the job,” he said yesterday.
“The 650,000 rate-payers de serve better than what they are getting now.”
Kulasegaran, 50, also wants to do better than brothers S. P. and D. R. Seenivasagam, who turned the city into a national icon for public-spirited management, cleanliness and transparency dur ing their time.
The DAP has given him the greenlight to vie for the post and is openly backing his candidacy, sources said.
Kulasegaran said his strength is that, as the two-term Ipoh Barat MP, he knows the city, the people and the problems they face “in side out.”
“I will be able to better address them as the mayor,” he said.
Mohamad Rafiai could not be reached for comment but an aide said he would be “happy to serve” if selected.
“He has the people’s welfare at heart,” the aide said.
The State government, espe cially Menteri Besar Mohd Nizar, will have a major say in who gets the job, a retired Perak politician said.
“After the speaker’s post went to an Indian last week, there is some reservation about the may or’s post also going to another Indian.”
If Kulasegaran wins the nom ination, it would be a significant boost for the Indian section in the DAP in Perak, which already has lawyer, A. Sivanesan, as a State exco member and Tronoh assemblyman, V. Sivakumar, as speaker of the State assembly.
“It will be a major boost for the Indian community,” the retired politician said.
“The community have never had it this good before.”
The Perak-born Kulasegaran said his priorities, if selected, would be to keep the city clean, im plement people-oriented policies and re-introduce elections for loc al councils.
Of the 650,000 ratepayers in Ipoh, 65 per cent are Chinese, 17 per cent are Indians and the rest Malays.
Under the Seenivasagam broth ers, both lawyers, the city gained a national reputation as the best-managed in the country, with S. P. Seenivasagam dominating the Ipoh Town Council as pres ident from 1960 until his death on July 4, 1975.
Although S. P. was the pres ident, D. R. was said to be the brains behind the council’s land mark decisions which favoured hawkers, the poor and the home less with liberal legislation, cheap urban housing and nominal rent als.
The brothers are remembered today through two roads named after them and the D. R. Seenivas agam Park (formerly Coronation Park).
Ipoh city encompasses two par liamentary constituencies and nu merous outlying suburbs and town.