Enough with excuses, restore third vote, Umno man tells Putrajaya

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(Malay Mail Online) – The Barisan Nasional (BN) government should revisit its pledge to practise genuine democracy which includes holding local council elections, Umno’s Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said today in his call to restore the third vote.

The former education deputy minister bluntly told the federal government to quit stalling and to move with the times by letting residents choose their town councillors, adding to the growing debate on the subject first ignited by the public spat between DAP and its ally PAS.

“My take is that we have to have a clear worldview on politics and democracy which are in sync with contemporary thoughts and demands.

“Not having local government elections is an archaic view. We should be working on how to have it again, not finding excuses not to do it,” Saifuddin told Malay Mail Online in a text message.

The chairman of the Global Movement of Moderates also reminded the government that Malaysia in its inception had pledged to see through a three-tier democracy that included local council elections.

The former Temerloh MP said that though the government was forced to suspend the system at one time, Putrajaya must now review the suspension to show its commitment to democracy.

“We used to have elections in all three tiers… But some issues were raised and interpreted as factors that warranted local government elections were to be suspended… today, the principle of a three-tier administration still stands,” Saifuddin said.

The local council elections were suspended in 1965 because of the Indonesian Confrontation and the then-prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman had promised the Dewan Rakyat that local elections would be restored once the Confrontation was over.

The Confrontation ended in 1966, but local government elections were never restored.

Seen as one the few progressives in conservative Umno, Saifuddin said he has “always been for local council elections”, which put him at odds with his party colleague, Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan who yesterday said the third vote could potentially deepen the existing racial polarisation in the country.

The debate on the issue resurfaced after DAP Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng suggested that Pakatan Rakyat-controlled states like Selangor and Kelantan try to restore local government polls.

In August last year, the Federal Court decided that DAP-ruled Penang may not hold local council elections, which were held between 1951 and 1965.

PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, however, rejected the idea outright and argued that local council polls could spark racial animosity and potential violence similar to the bloody 1969 May 13 racial riots.

DAP then retaliated by saying the excuse was merely Hadi’s way of distracting voters from his party’s controversial hudud bid in Kelantan.