Lim Guan Eng (Ballot box image by Miguel Angel Salinas / Dreamstime)
PETALING JAYA, 9 June 2009: Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng needs to make local council elections a priority as promised by his elections manifesto, Suaram Penang said today.
“The process in which the Penang state government appoints its local councillors now is problematic. The people don’t have a say,” Suaram Penang co-ordinator Shushi Lau said.
Lau noted in a statement that the boycott of new Majlis Perbandaran Seberang Perai (MPSP) council president was clear evidence that the current appointment system was flawed.
On 4 June, eight of nine PKR councillors refused to attend the swearing-in ceremony of new MPSP president Mokhtar Mohd Jait. The boycott was held to protest the appointment of a civil servant to head MPSP.
According to the PKR whip Johari Kassim, it had been previously agreed that a PKR politician would be at the council’s helm.
Following the boycott, Lim and other DAP state leaders called for Johari’s resignation.
“With this issue, it seems as if PKR and DAP are competing to strengthen their own party’s power,” Lau told The Nut Graph in a phone interview.
“It isn’t benefiting the people,” Lau added, expressing disappointment.
Lau explained that Suaram Penang and other groups have been petitioning the Penang government to restore local council elections since the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition won the state in a landslide victory.
“When he was sworn in, restoring local council elections was one of (chief minister Lim)’s promises,” Lau said.
Local council elections, the so-called “third vote”, were suspended throughout Malaysia in the 1960s by the Barisan Nasional government.
Short of local council polls, Lau noted that the state could institutionalise alternatives, such as putting in place a process where candidates for the council have their credentials publicly scrutinised.
“We have made this suggestion before,” Lau said, revealing that the Penang government had appointed a working group to study the matter of local council elections.
However, little action has been taken since.
“The state government has to work harder. Local government is very important,” Lau said.
Lau said that the Penang government’s failure to address issues, such as local council elections and the declaration of its politician’s assets, made the state’s policy of competency, accountability and transparency (CAT) “merely a slogan”.