‘Stalling of local govt polls a terrible setback’

Cynthia Gabriel

Jaqueline P’ng, fz.com

The bombshell dropped by Datuk Teng Chang Khim yesterday about Selangor’s Local Government Election Bill, has given rise to strong reactions from advocates of local government elections.
A councillor representing the non-governmental organisation (NGO) and a former local councillor urged Pakatan Rakyat to honour the promise it made in the 2008 general election and proceed with the proposed law.
Petaling Jaya City councillor Cynthia Gabriel called on Pakatan to show its commitment to bring back the third tier of the government, as failing to do so will affect its articulation of better governance.
“I’m troubled and disappointed to learn of this latest development. It is a terrible setback. Local government is an incredibly important pillar of democracy and they must bring that back,” she said when contacted by fz.com.
She stressed that local elections will free municipal councils from cronyism, prevent yes-men from sitting in the board and minimise interference from both the state and federal government.
“Local governments are close to the grassroots. They have their own mandate to operate independently. A local council election will get rid of political patronage in the board. This is the bedrock to promote accountability and transparency in governance,” she added.
Gabriel noted that the promise to bring back local elections was included in both the manifestos of DAP and PKR, the two parties that form the majority of the Selangor State Legislative Assembly.
Asked if the disagreeing party could be concerned about not being able to win in urban areas, she said there is already an understanding to keep a balanced racial ratio in the board.
Thus, that should not be in Pakatan’s consideration when looking at this matter, she said.
“The Local Government Act we have now is very vague and lacks clarity in spelling out the council’s relations with the state and federal government. So, we need Pakatan to make a decision immediately to push forth the bill,” she stressed.
Fernandez: I don’t understand why the bill can’t go through
Similarly, former Petaling Jaya City councillor Derek Fernandez said there is no reason for the bill to take a U-turn.
“If they believe in democracy, there’s no alternative but to hold local government elections. Nothing less than this. Public have the right to choose who represents them in local council,” he said.