Restoration of local government elections was a DAP issue in the Oct 1968 Segamat Utara by-election where Musa Hitam was first elected MP
A commentator Hafidz Baharom in his article “On Local Council Elections” in The Malaysian Insider yesterday asked:
“Why is the DAP suddenly asking to call for local council elections. Have they run out of friends in the NGOs to place on the local councils?
“To be frank, the timing for the call for local council elections is highly suspect particularly at a time when half the country is trying to recover from floods; an economic ‘non-crisis’; and a government trying to reduce spending”.
I will fully agree with Hafidz that at a time when “half the country is trying to recover from floods; an economic ‘non-crisis’; and a government trying to reduce spending”, it would be highly suspect for the DAP “to suddenly…call for local council elections”.
Except that the DAP had not been “suddenly calling for local council elections” at a time when the country was trying to recover from the worst floods catastrophe within living memory.
The restoration of local council elections to return the third vote to the people of Malaysia had been the objective of the DAP since the DAP’s establishment close to five decades, but in recent months, DAP has not made an issue of the restoration of third vote, which only returned to the national limelight after the controversial statement by the PAS President, Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang that the restoration of local government elections could lead to May 13 race riots.
The restoration of local government elections had in fact been a DAP issue in the Segamat Utara parliamentary by-election in Johor in October 1968 where Tun Musa Hitam was first elected as Member of Parliament – later to rise up the political ladder to become Deputy Prime Minister before becoming the first scalp collected by Tun Dr. Mahathir, forcing Musa out into the political wilderness.
Looking at my old records, this is what I said at a Segamat Utara by-election rally in Buloh Kasap on Oct. 15, 1968:
“When the government suspended local council elections in March 1965, in the midst of Indonesian Confrontation, the Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman gave a categorical assurance to Parliament and the nation that once peace conditions had been restored, local council elections would be held.
“The Tunku and the Alliance have broken their word to the nation.
“The Indonesian Confrontation has ended for about three years but local council elections are still suspended.
“To justify the continued suspension of local council elections, the government said it was waiting for the report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Workings of Local Councils headed by Datuk Athi Nahappan, MIC Vice President.
“When this Commission was announced, everyone suspected it was meant to delay the return of local councils to the democratic control of the ratepayers. The government has succeeded in doing this for about three years and no one knows for how long more.
“The public was promised, variously through the Tunku, Khaw Khai Boh and even Datuk Athi Nahappan himself, that the report would be out, at first, in December 1966, then early 1967, then mid-1967, then end of 1967, then early 1968 and so on.
“But to date, the report is still a mystery.
“The Alliance government should seriously consider setting up a Commission of Inquiry to inquire what happened to the Athi Nahappan Report.
“There is no doubt that the delay is motivated purely by political considerations – the Alliance is afraid of having local council elections, because they know in towns like Segamat the Alliance will suffer a terrible defeat in Opposition hands.”
I made that speech on restoring the third vote 47 years ago, and not just recently.
In fact, during my speech to the Pantai DAP Branch in Selangor on 7th May 1968, I called for a five-point democratisation, including “DEMOCRATISE local government by immediately holding local council elections”, stressing that “The suspension of elections stifles grass-roots democracy, the fountain of democratic education for all villages and townspeople on the meaning and workings of the democratic process.”
My arguments for the restoration of the third vote, to promote grassroots democracy in the towns and kampongs remain valid today.
At present, there are 148 local authorities in Malaysia, comprising three City Halls, nine City Councils, 37 Municipal Councils and 99 District Councils.
Assuming each local authority has 25 elected councillors if the third vote is restored, this would mean there would be a total of 3,700 elected councillors in the country.
If Pakatan Rakyat is to have any hope of capturing Putrajaya in the 14 General Elections which would be held in less than three years, PR should have confidence of winning 60-70% of the seats, which means electing some 2,200 to 2,600 PR Councillors – or each PR party having from 740 to 900 elected councillors, who will gain useful experience as grass-roots leaders and, who knows, among them will be future leaders of the country like Jokowi of Indonesia, Erdogan of Turkey or Ahmadnejad of Iran.
The 2010 Census reported that out of the 148 local authorities, 89.2% or 132 have Malay majorities of over 50% of the population, only two per cent or three of the local authorities have Chinese majorities, while the balance of 13 having a plurality of races with seven Chinese dominant and six Malay dominant.
From the table of breakdown of the 148 local authorities, Johor, Malacca and Negri Sembilan are states where the three Pakatan Rakyat parties will be main beneficiaries to have local government elections.
Eleven of the 15 local authorities in Johor have Malay majorities, namely Pasir Gudang (91.4%); Mersing (77.5%), Kota Tinggi (74.6%), Tangkak (59.8%). Pontian (58.7%), Yong Peng (56.7%), Simpang Renggam (55.9%), Johor Bahru (54.1%), Muar (54.0%) and Kulai (50.2%).
Four local authorities have a plurality of races, with two Malay dominant, namely Kluang (Malays 47.1%, Chinese 42.6%,Indians 9.9%, Others 0.5%) and Segamat (Malays 49.9%, Chinese 43.1%, Indians 6.6%, Others 0.4%) while two are Chinese dominant,Johore Bahru Tengah (Chinese 47.2%, Malays 38.8%, Indians 13.4%, Others 0.6%) and Labis (Chinese 42.4%, Malays 39.2%, Indians 18.2%, Others 0.2%).
Seven of the eight local authorities in Negri Sembilan have clear Malay majorities – Rembau (81.1%), Kuala Pilah (72.7%), Nilai (63.2%), Jempol (58%), Jelebu (59.5%), Port Dickson (52.4%) and (Seremban (50.9%). Tampin is the only local authority in the state with a plurality with Malay dominant, namely Malay 49.6%, Chinese 31.8%, Indians 18.2%, Others 0.3%.
Both of Malacca’s local authorities have Malay majorities – Alor Gajah (77.5%) and Melaka Bandaraya Bersejarah (60.6%).