ON 1 Oct 2012, Petaling Jaya mayor Datuk Mohamad Roslan Sakiman was transferred out of his post to a new post by the Public Services Department (PSD) without warning. A day later, the Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim ordered the mayor to stay put.
On 3 Oct, the PSD agreed to postpone the transfer to 1 Dec, but said that the transfer was agreed to by the Selangor government.
On 4 Oct, the Selangor government responded by saying that while there had been a discussion on the appointment of officers, no agreement had been reached on the subject. The state government insisted that the position of mayor is the prerogative of the state authority and not the PSD.
Both sides have not budged from their position. When 1 Dec comes, who shall Mohamad Roslan obey? And what are the long-term solutions if such transfers were to be repeated in the future?
Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) councillor Derek Fernandez has rightly pointed out that Section 10 of the Local Government Act 1976 allows the state authority the sole and exclusive power to determine the mayor’s tenure.
“PSD cannot override a statutory appointment. So, he has to report for duty and perform his function as a mayor,” said Fernandez, as reported in The Star.
What Fernandez failed to mention however, is that the PSD also has the jurisdiction to direct where their officers serve. In the event there is a conflict of orders, who should Mohamad Roslan obey?
Indeed, as an officer who draws his salary from the federal government and with a pension programme to look forward to when he retires, it would seem unlikely that Mohamad Roslan would even dare disobey the PSD.
All this could be resolved if the state government would just appoint a politician to the post of mayor, as nothing in the Local Government Act stipulates that the mayor must be a PSD officer to begin with.
So why is the state authority fighting so hard to keep Mohamad Roslan on the job?
An excuse often used by the Pakatan Rakyat government when the MBPJ does not perform its duties properly is that they are being internally sabotaged by their own officers.
For example, when multiple copies of the Petaling Jaya Local Plan 2 (RTPJ2) were discovered, councillor Fernandez went on air on TV3 to say that this was an internal act of sabotage. At the MBPJ September full board meeting where the audit report on this fiasco was presented, however, the council could not pinpoint who was at fault and the decision in the end was that the council would file a police report on the matter. This matter clearly happened under the tenure of Pakatan Rakyat.
In an email that a resident wrote to complain about the long response time it took for officers to acknowledge and reply to residents, the resident asked why the officers were not held accountable and removed from office if they could not perform. This email was forwarded to many individuals, myself included.
In her reply to the resident, MBPJ councillor Tiew Way Keng said, “All the non-contract civil servants are under [PSD], fall under Federal Government. Unless we take over Putrajaya, to change the entire system, we are still struggling with the same system that already exists before PR take over Putrajaya.” (sic)
This same message was repeated by councillor Richard Yeoh at a public forum on 14 July 2012 when residents asked if there was a way to remove government officers from the council.
Local government elections
Whatever the real reason for this ridiculous tussle, the ones that are caught in the middle are the ratepayers who may not be getting the best person for the job of running the fair city of Petaling Jaya.
For a local council to allow multiple copies of the RTPJ2 to be produced and have investigations that failed to uncover the person(s) responsible means that the residents of PJ have to continue being wary of anything the council does.
The present system provides for only council members from the political coalition that gains power at the state government level. This allows all the members to close ranks and collude among themselves if need be.
Local councils need to have the check and balance of having a ruling council and an opposition voice to ensure that everything is above board. The only way that can happen is through local government elections, with particular emphasis for the mayor’s post to be an elected position.
Former MBPJ councillor KW Mak believes the best interim measure on this issue is to have Pakatan Rakyat appoint one of their own politicians to the position of mayor or advertise the position and allow the public to scrutinise the successful applicant’s résumé.