GEORGE TOWN,. The torching of a parking payment booth in Melaka is a reminder that local government elections need to be reinstated soon, PKR’s Gooi Hsiao Leung said.
The Bukit Tambun assemblyman said the torching of the payment booth in an apparent protest against privatised parking collection in Taman Nirwana last week sends a clear message that bringing back the third vote will ensure transparency and accountability on the part of local governments.
“Local government elections will also ensure they are answerable to the residents whom they serve,” he said in a statement issued today.
Gooi said the Melaka state government had to curb the powers of four local councils from implementing projects that involved collection of money from the public after the parking row last week.
He said curbing the powers of the local councils may be a necessary temporary measure to abate the parking issue in Malacca but it was not a long-term solution.
“We have to tackle the core issue of non-elected local councillors and mayors in the country,” he said.
He said there are now 95 district councils, 41 municipal councils and 14 city councils in Malaysia, making up a total of 150 local authorities in the country.
“All 150 local authorities are with unelected councillors who are not answerable to their constituents except for the people who appointed them,” he said.
He said the Pakatan Harapan election manifesto had promised to strengthen the role and powers of the local authorities by amending the Local Government Act 1976.
“Following GE14, it was decided on June 7 last year by the Housing and Local Government Ministry, that a committee will be established to conduct a comprehensive study on the laws and mechanism for implementing local elections and the costs involved,” he said.
Since then, Gooi said two workshop meetings have been held by the ministry in July and October with various stakeholders including the Election Commission, various city councils and non-governmental organisations to discuss in detail the basic structure and direction on reinstating local elections in future.
He called on the ministry to push forward and complete its study on local government elections.
“We do not want to delay local government elections anymore for the sake of grass root level democracy, accountability, transparency and greater efficiency of municipal services,” he said.
In 1957, there were 289 local authorities in the then Malaya and there were over 3,000 elected local councillors then.
George Town was the first city council in Malaya to hold local elections in 1951.
Local council elections were suspended in 1965 and despite a Royal Commission of Inquiry recommendations in 1968 to continue with local government elections, it was rejected by the government of that time.