Follow Penang:- BN Must Explain Why They Refuse To Restore The 3rd Vote(en/cn)

SPEECH BY CHIEF MINISTER OF PENANG AT THE FORUM ON LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS AT THE TOWN HALL, ESPLANADE, 6 MAY 2012

Local government elections are a feature of practically every democratic country in the world. Even countries which are not democracies such as communist China hold local elections of one kind or another. Malaysia finds itself in a most peculiar position in that the Federal Government considers elections to be suitable for the Federal and State levels, but refuses to allow elections to be held at the local level.

In the 19th century, the French scholar Alexis de Tocqueville, in his seminal work, Democracy in America, referred to local democracy as a “fertile germ of free institutions”. He wrote:

The strength of free peoples resides in the local community. Local institutions are to liberty what primary schools are to science; they put it within the people’s reach; they teach people to appreciate its peaceful enjoyment and accustom them to make use of it.

In our country, the first partially-elected local council was established by the British colonial authorities here in George Town in 1857, but were discontinued due to colonial apathy. After the Second World War, with the increasing public demand for independence and self-government that led to Merdeka, local elections were then introduced in local councils across our country, with the first local elections held again here in George Town, in 1951.

In 1956, the Municipal Council of George Town became the first local council in Malaya to be fully elected, and the following year was elevated to the status of a City Council as a mark of royal and official esteem. Subsequently, Penang became the first and only State in Malaysia to have the whole territory of the State under the government of five local councils that were 100% elected.

Unfortunately, those in power in the Federal Government were not so pleased by the successes of local councils run by opposition parties at the local level. In 1961, the Federal Government abolished the elected Kuala Lumpur Municipal Council, and in 1965 issued an Emergency Regulation suspending local government elections throughout the States of Malaysia, using the excuse of the Confrontation with Indonesia.

The Prime Minister at the time, Tunku Abdul Rahman, promised the Dewan Rakyat that local government elections would be restored once the Confrontation was over. He said:

As soon as this peace and quietness has returned we would make haste with all proper preparations for the local council elections … The very moment peace is declared I can assure this House that the elections will be held.

However, although the Confrontation with Indonesia ended in 1966, local government elections were not restored as promised by the Alliance Government. In 1968, a Royal Commission on Local Government headed by Senator Athi Nahappan recommended that local government elections be restored, but this was rejected by the Federal Government.

Although the existing Proclamations of Emergency in Malaysia have now all been revoked, sections 10 & 15 of the Local Government Act 1976 prevent the holding of local government elections under Federal law. To-date BN cannot give any reasonable explanation why Malaysians can elect their State and Federal governments or can select their Prime Minister and Chief Minister, but is denied to elect their own Councillor or Council President.

Restoring the “third vote” has long been a fundamental demand and commitment of the DAP, and in 2008, the Pakatan Rakyat Penang State Government was elected on manifesto commitments to implement local government elections, in order “to ensure accountability and efficiency” and “to create greater accountability at every level of government”.

On 14 July 2009, YB Chow Kon Yeow, the Penang State Exco for Local Government and Traffic Management, wrote to the Federal Government to ask for local government elections to be put on the agenda of the National Council of Local Government, but this request was refused.

Subsequently, on 11 August 2009, the Penang State Assembly passed a resolution calling upon the Federal authorities to take action to reinstate local government elections, but this resolution was again met with refusal.

A three-man legal panel consisting of Dato’ Yeo Yang Poh, Mr Tommy Thomas and Mr Malik Imtiaz was then retained by the State Government, and it advised that the reintroduction of local government elections was within the powers of the State.

On 4 March 2010, I wrote to the Election Commission asking it to conduct local government elections to the MPPP and MPSP, but the Election Commission refused. On 12 March 2010, I also wrote to the Prime Minister offering to meet with him to discuss the State Government’s position but again received no response.

The State Government has been advised that local government is a State matter under the Federal Constitution, and the State Authority has the power under section 1(4) of the Local Government Act 1976 to exempt any local government area from any or all of the provisions of the Act.

On 18 January 2012, the State Government therefore decided, 45 years after the end of the Confrontation, to exercise its powers to exempt both the MPPP and the MPSP from section 15 of the Local Government Act 1976, which had rendered inoperative all legal provisions relating to local government elections. This was gazetted on 12 April 2012.

The State Government has now tabled a bill in the State Assembly, entitled the Local Government Elections (Penang Island and Province Wellesley) Bill 2012, which will provide for the Election Commission to hold local government elections to the MPPP and MPSP under State law. The text of this bill is now open for your comments at this forum, and we intend to pass this bill in this sitting of the State Assembly.

At the same time, we do not expect that the Federal Government and the Election Commission will give up on their obstruction and refusal to conduct local government elections so easily. It is the intention of the State Government, once this bill is passed into law, to refer this dispute with the Election Commission to the Courts, so that the Election Commission will be compelled to conduct local government elections in Penang.

The State Government’s desire to restore local government elections is based on our belief in democracy, in a system of government of the people, by the people, for the people. We believe in particular that the past 18 years of neglect and even financial scandals in MPSP suffered by Penang can be blamed in part on the system of political appointment of councillors by the BN State Government whose abilities were always secondary to their political loyalties to BN.

A clear case of financial wrongdoing by BN was the extraordinary loss of RM230 million by MPSP in 7 years causing MPSP, or Majlis Perbandaran Seberang Prai, to be practically bankrupt when PR took over in 2008. Adapting stringent rules and severe cost-cutting measures, PR managed to turnaround MPSP in the first year of government, reversing years of deep deficits and losses with the first profit in 2008. Ever since MPSP has recorded surpluses every year. There is a distinct possibility that Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang would have met the same fate if BN had continued in power in 2008.

Under the present Pakatan Rakyat State Government through appointing competent councillors who were willing to defer to the authority of the Council President, who is a government civil servant, many of these misdeeds are now being unravelled, and both local councils have been restored to financial health. By stressing on CAT governance of competency and accountability, we have managed to turn around both local councils that are now providing better public services together with growing financial surpluses.

With growing financial surpluses,both MPPP and MPSP have been able to provide better infrastructure in terms of cleanliness, better roads and drainage system. At a time when many cities in Malaysia faces flash floods, the well-administered MPPP and MPSP see significantly reduced flooding as compared to before.

This is part of the real political transformation of Penang. Where people can live with dignity by enjoying basic freedoms – Freedom of speech, Freedom of information, Freedom of peaceful assembly, Freedom to worship, Freedom from corruption, and Freedom to choose their own Local Government.

We are the first State to have passed a comprehensive Freedom of Information Act. We have made Penang relatively corruption free with open tenders, full disclosure of contracts and public declaration of assets by EXCO members and Chief Minister. Today, we take another milestone by passing the Penang Local Government Enactment. If BN is genuine about political transformation, can they not do what Penang has done.

Although we currently have full powers to appoint all 48 local councillors in the MPPP and the MPSP, this is a power which the Pakatan Rakyat State Government will willingly return to the people of Penang to be elected by them in the interests of the aspirations of the people of Penang.

On Merdeka Day, Malaysians had 3 votes to exercise the right to elect their Federal govt, State govt and local councils. Let us therefore restore the 3rd vote.

Thank you.

——-Mandarin Version —–
槟州首席部长在2011年5月6日在地方政府选举论坛上发表演讲,重点如下:

国阵必须解释,他们为何拒绝恢复民主第三票

在我国,英国殖民地首次于1857年在乔治市推动的地方议会选举。1956年,乔治市市政局成为马来亚第一个地方政府。

由于联邦政府不满地方政府由在野党占据。1961年,联邦政府废除吉隆坡地方政府选举,并在1965年,以马印对抗为理由,发出紧急条例撤销全国各地地方政府选举。

当时的首相东姑阿都拉曼在国会中承诺,一旦马印对抗结束,政府将恢复地方议会选举,他说:
“只要和平与宁静的时刻到来,我们会即刻筹备地方政府选举… ..一旦和平到来,我向国会保证,我们将重新举行地方政府选举… …”

马印对抗于1966年结束,但是,当年联盟(后来的国阵)所承诺的地方政府选举至今还没有恢复。1968年,由上议员阿迪纳哈班所率领的地方政府皇家委员会曾提议恢复地方政府选举,但是联邦政府却拒绝他的建议。

虽然现存的紧急条例已经被废除,但是,1976年地方政府法令的第10及15条文依然阻止我们在联邦法令下执行地方政府选举。直到今天,国阵都还无法提供任何合理的解释,为什么马来西亚人可以选州政府、联邦政府,可以选首相或首长,但是不能票选自己的市议员或市政局主席。

“还我第三票”一直以来是行动党的基本诉求,2008年,民联州政府把恢复地方议会选举列入我们的竞选宣言,以确保政府的每一个阶层的透明度和效率。

2009年7月14日,槟州行政议员(地方政府兼交通管理委员会主席)曹观友已经就此致函房屋及地方政府部(国家地方政府理事会秘书处),但是,这项要求被拒绝。

2009年8月11日,槟州州议会动议并通过,要求联邦政府恢复地方议会选举。但是,当局再一次拒绝将有关动议列为讨论事项。
州政府也找来三名律师拿督杨文波、汤米汤姆斯、玛力英迪亚斯,他们建议我们行使州政府的权力,重新根据1960年地方政府法令(1991年修正),举行地方议会选举。

2010年3月4日,我代表槟州政府写信给选举委会员,要求选委会执行槟岛市政局及威省市政局的地方议员选举,但是选委会却拒绝这项要求。2010年3月12日,我再次致函首相,要求与他见面阐明州政府的立场,依旧是石沉大海。

我们被告知,在联邦宪法底下,地方政府属于州管辖事务,而州政府有权力在1976年地方政府法令第1(4)条文下,免除地方政府遵从上述法令中的任何一项或所有条文。

2012年1月18日,槟州行政府决定,马印对抗已经结束45年,我们将行使州政府的权力,让槟州槟岛和威省两地的地方政府可以免于实施1976年地方政府法令第15条文,并于2012年4月12日在宪报上颁布通令。

州政府已经在州政会提呈地方政府选举(槟岛和威省)2012年法案,这将让选举委员会可以在州法令下举行槟岛及威省市政局选举。这项法案现在在论坛收集大家的意见,我们希望能在这次州议会通过这项法案。

我们也预料,联邦政府和选委会不会那么轻易地让我们执行地方政府选举。这是州政府的用意,一旦这项法案变成法令,我们将可以上庭解决与选委会的歧见,选举委员会将会被迫在槟州举行地方政府选举。

州政府基于我们对民主的信仰,希望可以恢复地方议会选举。我们相信,过去18年发生在威省市政局的财务丑闻,部分原因是由于市议员的政治委任制,国阵州政府往往重视他们的效忠胜于他们的能力。

最明显的是国阵在威省七年内造成2亿3000万的损失,2008年民联接管时濒临破产。我们实施严谨的理财及开源节流措施,得以在民联执政第一年改善威省市政局的财务状况。在2008年第一次取得盈利。此后威省市政局年年有余。如果国阵继续在2008年执政,槟岛市政局也可能面对同样的局面。

民联州政府通过委任有能力的市议员,他们愿意遵从市政局主席,很多不良做法已经被纠正,两个地方政府的财务恢复健康状况。我们秉持能干、公信及透明原则,我们改善了两个地方政府的运作,为公众提供更好的服务和财务盈余。

随意财务盈余增加,两个地方政府也能够提供更好的卫生基础建设、更好的道路及排水系统。当马来西亚全国各地不断地面对闪电水灾,我们可以看到在两个地方政府的管理下,两地的水灾情况有所缓解。

这是槟州的真正政府转型。人民活得有尊严,享受基本自由- 言论自由、资讯自由、集会自由、宗教自由、免于贪污、选出地方政府的自由。

目前,虽然我们有权委任槟岛及威省的48名市议员,但是我们为了槟州人民的利益,我们愿意还政予民,让他们选出市议员。

我国独立时,马来西亚人民曾经拥有三张票,选出联邦政府、州政府及地方政府。现在,让我们恢复地方议会选举,还我民主第三票。

林冠英

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