No transparency in picking councillors

Selangor DUN

There is no transparency in the appointment of local councillors and most of them are from political parties

Jerffrey FK Phang, FMT

The people in Selangor are beginning to feel like pawns in the chess game of politicians. It was anticipated that the appointment of local councillors will be delayed as in all previous years. What is disconcerting is there is no transparency and public engagement in this exercise.

This is the Year of the Horse in the Chinese zodiac and true enough political parties are in their annual “horse trading” exercise of selecting local councillors.

Not that the best horse wins because the councillors nominated are those favoured by the politicians. In this intense lobbying, merits are not as important as blind loyalty and support. Politicians lobby hard for “deserving members” for the limited quota allocated to their party.

Local councillors’ quota are divided into four parts – three to political parties and one to the NGOs. However, the NGO quota is also taken up by the parties as they nominate people from their own political NGOs.

Non-political NGOs are completely ignored in the appointment of councillors. In 2008 executive councillor for local government Teng Chang Khim announced with certainty that local council elections will be held in 2014 as stated in Pakatan Rakyat Election Manifesto. He also acknowledged the NGO quota.

Unfortunately, it is evident now that in the appointment of councillors, feedback of the people is ignored and the consolidation of political power tops the agenda.

This time official guidelines were in place for the appointment of councillors. The guidelines were sanctioned by state executive council but surprisingly, no notification were sent to NGOs. Even existing NGO councillors were not aware of the guidelines or the form that needs to be filled.

Official letters from NGOs to the relevant state departments requesting for the guidelines and forms were not replied.

It was only when a group of NGOs met the exco member for local government did he give a copy of the guidelines and forms.

However, the NGOs were only given a week to submit the forms. It was also suggested that NGO nominations from political parties will be given priority over others.

It is difficult to understand why NGOs and the guidelines were not notified through the website or the press instead of being shrouded in secrecy.

Weak reasons

The reason given for the delay in appointing councillors is that political parties have not sent in their nomination lists.

It would be more acceptable if the delay is caused by checking the background and qualifications of the nominated councillors. The longer the delay the stronger the indication that there is too much political lobbying for position of councillors.

With no councillors since the beginning of this year, a vacuum has been created and residents cannot have their problems solved.

The reason given is that all public services are still being provided as all councils are running normally. But public is still having trouble with the services provided.

The new selection criteria for councillors is even more illogical. Good councillors who have just been awarded and recognised by the Selangor government are the ones likely to be left out.

A case in point is Petaling Jaya city councillor Derek Fernandez, a lawyer skilled in local council laws, and the one who highlighted the discrepancies in the RTPJ2 local plan.

The presence of NGO councillors is just like independent directors on the board of all listed companies.

Companies are required to name the independent directors in their reports. The purging of non-political NGO councillors and replacing them with political nominees can be equated to Selangor turning it back on good governance.

Without independent NGO councillors, the public will now be even more fearful of councillor-developer collaboration which can now be easily hidden from public view.