To elect or not elect mayors of City Councils of local government?


THERE are three levels of government in most countries – a federal government, state government and local authorities.

Although Malaysia is generally seen as a democratic country, only the federal government and the state governments are elected.

In other words, members of parliament are elected and they elect the prime minister. State assemblymen are also elected and they in turn elect the mentris besar or chief ministers.

However, the local authorities are not elected. The mayors or presidents and councillors are appointed by the state government.

It is time to bring back elected local governments.

There were elected local governments in the past. As early as 1951, when Malaya was a colony of England, elections were held to elect councillors in George Town.

For example, Goh Guan Hoe, more popularly known as G. H. Goh, a lawyer and an MCA leader, was chosen as the president of George Town in 1956. Although he was often addressed as “mayor”, technically, he was the president of the municipality.

George Town was declared a city by Queen Elizabeth II on Jan 1, 1957. By that time, the Labour Party was in control of the municipality and D. S. Ramanathan, a leader of the Labour Party, was elected as the first mayor of George Town.

Since then, local government in Penang Island has gone through considerable changes. Local government elections were suspended in the 1960s. The reason given by the federal government was Indonesia’s declaration of “Ganyang Malaysia”.

The City Council of George Town was amalgamated with the rest of the island to form a municipality of Penang Island. The local authority of the island became a municipality.

Since then, the president and councillors have been appointed by the state government. It is fair to believe that the appointments were the prerogative of the chief minister of Penang.

There has been a tendency to appoint government officers as mayors or presidents of the local authorities. For example, the mayor and president of Penang Island and Seberang Perai were government officers.

There are good reasons for appointing senior government officers largely because they have the experience and expertise in the working of the local authorities.

On the other hand, this practice is not ideal. Senior government officers have been trained to abide by the General Orders and are expected to look to the chief minister or mentri besar as their superior.

Hence they tend to implement what their superior officers want. Since they have been appointed by the chief minister or mentri besar, it is difficult for them to ignore his preferences.

There were days when presidents of local councils were appointed from among the politicians of the ruling party. For example, the president of Penang Island Municipal Council, Tan Gim Hua, was a leader of Gerakan.

Unfortunately, there have been no books written about the days of Penang Island Municipal Council when Tan was the president of the Penang Island Municipality.

It is not necessary to appoint only government officers as mayors or presidents of the local authorities. Hopefully, in the near future, chief ministers or mentris besar will take the trouble to appoint other prominent personalities to be local council presidents or mayors.

Better still, the federal government should review the Local Government Act. It has been long overdue to bring back local government elections.

Meanwhile, it may be interesting if the Penang state government appoints non-government officers to be the heads of local councils.

For instance, Dr Lim Mah Hui is a good example. He has just announced that he would resign as a councillor of the Penang Island City Council. He is a suitable person to be appointed a mayor of Penang Island.

He is familiar with Penang Island as he was a lecturer in Universiti Sains Malaysia and was a local councillor in Penang Island for six years. He spent a considerable amount of time in the disbursement of funds at international level.

Although he is rich enough to buy an expensive car to go around Penang Island, he has made good use of a bicycle as a mode of transport.

Being vocal and full of ideas, it will be interesting and good for the residents of the city to appoint Dr Lim as the mayor of the island.

By Datuk Dr Goh Ban Lee who is interested in urban planning, housing and urban governance. He is also a friend of Dr Lim. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

Related articles

Related posts:

THE Penang Island City Council (MBPP) and the Seberang Prai Municipal Council (MPSP) see 10 new faces among the list of councillors who swo…
Stepping down: Dr Lim giving a speech at the council meeting at City
Hall, Penang. Dr. Lim tells why he walked GEORGE TOWN: The only …
Advertisements

Penang Island City Council, MBPP councilor Dr Lim fed up change not happening in Penang


Stepping down: Dr Lim giving a speech at the council meeting at City Hall, Penang.

Dr. Lim tells why he walked

GEORGE TOWN: The only city councillor here who dared to go against the state government does not want to continue after his term ends on New Year’s Eve because he is disappointed with the Penang Island City Council (MBPP).

Dr Lim Mah Hui (pic) said he no longer wanted to serve because “the change in Penang that we want doesn’t seem to be happening”.

“I will remain active as a Penang Forum committee member. I will still speak up on public issues.

“I believe people in public offices should serve for limited terms. Perhaps it will take a fresher mind with new ideas and approaches to make things happen for the better,” he said.

Dr Lim, who has served as a councillor since 2011, also believed that the council should allow the public to observe council committee meetings.

“The committee meetings are where decisions are made. If people are watching the deliberations, then public scrutiny can help temper political interests,” he added.

The press and the public are allowed to witness full council meetings, but Dr Lim said these were formal meetings to confirm matters that had been decided upon.

Dr Lim is the sole city councillor out of 24 with no political ties. A former professor and international banker, he was nominated to MBPP by Penang Forum, a loose coalition of numerous NGOs in the state.

His appointment stemmed from the current government’s 2008 move to swear in councillors representing NGOs. Four such councillors were initially appointed but since 2012, although the official NGO councillors still stand at four, only Dr Lim is known to come strictly from civil society.

He made his maverick nature clear less than a year after being a councillor when he joined a group of 30 people to publicly protest against his own council outside City Hall months after being appointed.

In March this year, he was involved in a heated exchange with Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng during an NGO dialogue session over parking woes, road-widening projects and the council enforcement’s car-towing figures.

In July, Dr Lim criticised the state’s Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) and suggested an alternative better, cheaper, faster transport master plan.

A month before that, he sent a letter to Unesco expressing fears that the PTMP would jeopardise George Town’s World Heritage Site status.

Throughout his tenure in MBPP, Dr Lim has been called a liar, back-stabber and betrayer of the state government by local politicians. NGO members, however, hold him in high regard.

“Nobody can live up to Mah Hui’s standard as an example of integrity and representing public interest without fear or favour.

“He had been talking about stepping down for some time.

“Maybe he needs to take a break and we hope he will accept the post again,” said fellow Penang Forum member Khoo Salma Nasution, whom the group has nominated to take Dr Lim’s place.

Former DAP member Roger Teoh, who was initially at loggerheads with Dr Lim over the PTMP, said it was a shame that local politicians had painted him in a negative light.

“Something was not right about how the state was reacting to Dr Lim’s Unesco letter. I felt he was unfairly labelled as treasonous. If his concerns were heard internally, would he have needed to write to Unesco?” he asked.

Teoh had initially supported the PTMP and openly criticised Dr Lim.

He changed his stand after doing a Masters thesis research on car use in 100 cities around the world, which led him to resign from DAP recently.

Sources: Arnold Loh The Star/Asian News Network

Dr Lim Mah Hui to make way for new blood 

                                                                          GEORGE TOWN: Outspoken Penang Forum member Dr Lim Mah Hui (pic) will not seek another term as a Penang Island City councillor.

“I have declined to be nominated for the reappointment as a councillor next year. I have served six years.

“I think I have served long enough and we need new blood and new people to take up the cause,” he said at the council’s monthly meeting yesterday.

He later told a press conference that Penang Forum suggested Khoo Salma Nasution, the forum’s steering committee member and Penang Heritage Trust vice-president, as his replacement.

“We have nominated Khoo as the representative for Penang Forum and NGOs. We will have to wait for the state executive council to decide on the nominations.

“Nobody told me to step down. It was my own decision. Penang Forum wanted me to continue but I told them I had done more than my share.

“I will remain in the Penang Transport Council,” he said.

Dr Lim, however, said he would continue to be vocal and speak out.

He urged the Penang Island City Council to open its meetings to the public to promote greater transparency and participation.

“Section 23 of the Local Govern-ment Act 1976 gives the local council the power to do so.

“Members of the public can also be invited to sit in, possibly as observers, at the council’s committee and sub-committee meetings where decisions are made.

“This is the challenge I put forward. If they are truly taking about change and a new type of government, then they should do that,” said Dr Lim.

Dr Lim has raised various concerns during his stint as a councillor and forum member on issues related to hill clearing, land reclamation, heritage conservation and the proposed Penang Transport Master Plan. – The Star

Developers unafraid of Penang authorities, says activist group

 

CHANT cited the demolition of the 19th century Khaw Sim Bee Mansion and illegal hilltop clearing of Bukit Relau as examples of the developers’ fearlessness. — File picture by Bernama – See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/developers-unafraid-of-penang-authorities-says-activist-group#sthash.muMUgaNa.dpuf

GEORGE TOWN, March 16 — Developers in Penang no longer fear flouting the law as the authorities seem to be “toothless” in taking punitive actions, an activist group claimed.

Referring to the latest hill-clearing incident on Bukit Gambir and similar past incidents, Penang Citizens Awareness Chant Group (CHANT) coordinator Yan Lee said the developers knew they could easily get away with illegal earthworks or structural demolitions.

This was because the state government and the municipal council were not prepared to take stern punitive action against them, he said in a text message yesterday.

The council has come under fire in the past few days after a developer defied a stop-work order to carry out earthworks on the hill slope of Bukit Gambir in Gelugor.

CHANT cited the demolition of the 19th century Khaw Sim Bee Mansion and illegal hilltop clearing of Bukit Relau, commonly referred to as “Botak Hill”, as examples of the developers’ fearlessness.

Yan Lee claimed that the developers were fearless because they knew a contribution to the state heritage fund (SHF) “can do magic”.

A check by Malay Mail yesterday showed the developer had stopped work for two days on the hill slope, located behind the Gambier Heights apartments.

The council had issued the stop-work order on Thursday.

The hill was cleared to build a temporary 500m-long access road and fencing for a housing project site on the hill slope.

Trees were chopped down to make way for the road, while a lorry and an excavator were parked at the construction site.

According to some residents, the earthworks began early this month.

The residents also complained of pollution caused by dust, and noise caused by the frequent movement of vehicles.

Traffic management and flood mitigation committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow called on the council to take stern action against the developer for “jumping the gun”.

He said the developer should have waited for the council to issue a commencement of work certificate.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia urged the state authorities to stop the developer from clearing the hill, and to implement firm policies to protect the hills and greenery in the state.

It warned against a repeat of the “Botak Hill” incident.

An MPPP councillor also said the developers had no respect for the authorities.

“Even if the council were to haul them up for violating the law, they know they will get away with a token fine,” the councillor, who asked not to be named, said.

He cited a previous case where a developer completed a housing project despite the case for carrying out illegal earthworks pending in court.

Sources: Athi Shanka, MalayMail online

Related posts:

Hopelessness among public after rampant fraud & corruption cases, says Auditor-General

Penang Forum tells Chief Minister: the unmitigated disasters on hill projects 

Hills clearing in Penang: NGOs not impressed with mitigation work at Botak Hill 

Penang Forum concerns over hill clearing and floods; the Declaration & Recommendation 

Save Penang Hill from the greedy 

Corruption among the privileged rampant! Graft probe in Sabah almost done

 Let us do more against graft, bring corrupt culprits to court fast !

https://en.wikipedia.org

 

 

“First of all, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) can only compel someone to declare his assets. Once the assets are d…

%d bloggers like this: