Cabinet should reprimand and repudiate Abdul Rahman’s stand that local government elections could worsen racial polarization as it is not only untrue but opens the dangerous door for future suspension of State Assembly and Parliamentary elections
The Cabinet meeting today should reprimand the Minister for Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government, Datuk Abdul Rahman and repudiate the stand he has taken that the restoration of local government elections could worsen racial polarization as it is not only untrue, but opens the dangerous door for the future suspension of State Assembly and Parliamentary elections.
This is the first time in 50 years that any Barisan Nasional (previously Alliance) Government Minister has taken the ridiculous and outrageous stand that the holding of local government elections would lead to greater racial polarisation – or even risks the repeat of May 13 race riots, as stated by the PAS President, Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang which has received the support of top UMNO leaders.
In March 2010, the Penang and Selangor state governments wrote separate letters to the Election Commission asking for local government elections to be conducted in their respective states.
Their reason for doing so were to strengthen democracy by having local representatives elected and not appointed, which would enhance accountability, transparency and good governance.
In an immediate reaction, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak rejected this, stating that reviving local government elections would only give rise to politicking at the local government level and would not improve services for the people.
He said the focus should be on improving services to the people and not the process involved in selecting councillors who would serve.
There was no reference to problems of “racial polarisation” or “imbalanced racial representation” in the past 50 years as the reason why there should be no restoration of the third vote!
The Cabinet must not only take cognisance of the dangerous line taken by the Urban Well-being, Housing and Local Government Minister linking the abolition of local government elections to problems of “racial polarisation” for the first time in 50 years, it must act boldly to reprimand Abdul Rahman for such a statement and dissociate the Cabinet from it.
Abdul Rahman’s argument that local government elections would promote “racial animosity and distrust” must be slapped down hard by the Cabinet today, as local government is not about racial politics but about promoting a better quality of life for all ratepayers with safe, efficient and pleasant living environment for all, regardless of race or religion.
It is an open secret that the real reason for the 50-year suspension/abolition of local government elections has nothing to do accountability, efficiency and good governance of local government but because the Barisan Nasional politicians have no confidence that in a democratic elections, despite the many flaws in the electoral system, they can win the trust and mandate from the local electors to get elected to the various local councils.
It is most shocking that 50 years after the suspension/abolition of local government elections, the issue of race has now been injected as a new factor as to why there should not be a restoration of the third vote.
If such a reason could be accepted, then it could be extended to the uspension/abolition of State Assembly and Parliamentary elections, resulting in the death of democracy in Malaysia!
The de facto Minister for National Unity, Tan Sri Joseph Kurup hit the nail on the head when he said yesterday that it was the extremists who played up racial and religious issues who are the “public enemy number 1” - culprits responsible for the worsening of racial and religious polarisation in the country.
Unfortunately, Kurup in his speech to the 17th Malaysia Strategic Outlook Conference 2015 was not prepared to name these “public enemy number 1”, detracting considerably the effect of his admission of these “extremists” – who are “instilling fear in our society, jeopardising our painstakingly built unity and trying to hijack the Malaysian way of life” and “trying to implement their extremist and sectarian agenda in the garb of religion” which could “fuel violent extremism”.
The spectre of May 13 and race politics with the restoration of local government elections must not be allowed to rear their ugly heads again.
I strongly believe that if Pakatan Rakyat has no confidence that it could achieve great victories if local government elections are restored, PR must return to the drawing board as this does not bode well for PR’s grand design to win Putrajaya in the 14GE.
Based on the 2010 Census, out of the 148 local authorities in Malaysia (comprising three City Halls, nine City Councils, 37 Municipal Councils and 99 District Councils), only two per cent or three of the local authorities have Chinese majorities, namely Sibu (Chinese 63.4% Malay/bumiputra 35.7% Indians 0.4% Others 0.5%); Kuching Selatan (Chinese 62.5% Malay/bumiputra 36.4% Indians 0.6% Others 0.5%) and Pulau Pinang (Chinese 56.4% Malays 33.7%; Indians 9.5% Others 0.4%).
Local authorities with Malay majorities of over 50% of the population number 132 or 89.2% of the 148 local authorities, with the balance of 13 having a plurality of races with seven Chinese dominant and six Malay dominant.
The Pakatan Rakyat Election Bureau should make a study how many of these 148 local authorities PR could win if there are local government elections.
The 148 local authorities in Malaysia are made up of:
|State||City Hall||City Council||Municipal C||District C||Modified|
If local government elections are held, can Pakatan Rakyat win the overwhelming majority of the local authorities in Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang and Kedah?
There are a total of 12 local authorities in Kelantan, ranging from the lowest of 92% Malays in Kuala Krai to the highest of 99.7% Malays in Dabong.
Terengganu has seven local authorities, ranging from the lowest of 95.2% Malays in Kemaman to the highest of 99.7% Malays in Setiu.
Pahang has eight local authorities. Apart from Cameron Highlands which has a plurality of races with Chinese 42.8%, Malays 33.7% and Indians 22.8% and Others 0.6%, the other seven local authorities range from the lowest of 57.3% Malays for Bentong, to 63.1% Malays for Raub, 67.2% Malays for Bera, 75.7% Malays for Temerloh, 78.5% Malays for Kuantan, 84.7% Malays for Jerantut, 85.3% Malays for Lipis, 95.7% Malays for Maran, 95.8% Malays for Rompin and 96.9% Malays for Pekan.
For Kedah, the 11 local authorities range from 63.6% Malays for Kulim, 66.2% Malays for Sungai Petani, 76.9% Malays for Alor Setar, 82.1% Malays for Bandar Baru, 88.3% Malays for Kubang Pasu, 89.7% Malays for Pendang, 90.9% Malays for Baling, 92.5% Malays for Padang Terap, 92.6% Malays for Langkawi, 92.8% Malays for Sik and 93.2% Malays for Yan.
The Pakatan Rakyat Election Bureau should study whether PR is capable winning the majority of the 41 local authorities in Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang and Kedah where local authorities with more than 70% Malays constitute 92% while local authorities with more than 90% Malays comprise 67%.
All political parties and Malaysians should take note of the ringing declaration for democracy in the1968 Athi Nahappan Royal Commission Inquiry report on Local Authorities which recommended the restoration of local government elections:
“Nominated advisers cannot effectively voice the interests of the ratepayers because they are not answerable to them. Nomination is no real substitute for elective representation. If anything, nomination is an anachronism and a relic of colonialism. It is antithetic to democracy.": (Athi Nahappan 1968: 99)
The issues at stake in the restoration of third vote is about democracy, accountability and good governance and has nothing to do with race.