Sunday, November 15, 2009

Coalition for Good Governance(CGG) Media Statement on Local Council Elections

Coalition for Good Governance (CGG)
c/o The Secretariat, Empower (Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor)
13  Lorong 4/48E,  Seksyen 4,  46050 Petaling Jaya, Malaysia.
Tel : 03 – 7784 4977 / 016-2208784   Fax: 03 – 7784 4978

13 November 2009


The Coalition for Good Governance is disturbed and disappointed with the statement made by YB Ronnie Liu, Selangor State Executive Committee and Pengerusi Jawatankuasa Tetap Kerajaan Tempatan, Kajian dan Penyelidikan, which appeared on 11 November 2009 on the online news portal Merdeka Review.

At this press conference, the CGG wants YB Ronnie Liu to clarify what he has said during and after the State Legislative Assembly session, as reported in the as follows:

"According to the finding of the study group, the State Government cannot hold local council elections. Even if the state government wants to hold elections, they can only be conducted by the Election Commission."

1. 根据地方议会研究小组的研究结果,州政府无法举行地方议会选举,就算州政府要举行选举,只有马来西亚选举委员会有权举行选举。

"The study group consisting of scholar(s), lawyer(s) and NGO members, has two opinions. One view holds that the state government cannot implement local council elections without the federal consent; while the alternative view believes that the Local Government Election Act has not been repealed and the [state] government may resort to this act to restore local council elections."

2. 这个由学者、律师和非政府组织成员组成的研究小组,共有两种意见,一是指州政府不可以落实地方议会选举,须得到联邦同意;另一种声音则认为,《地方议会选举法令》并没有被废除,政府可援引此法,恢复地方议会选举。

CGG believes that his statement seriously contradicts the facts of the study on local council elections, which was carried out by CGG and submitted to the Selangor state government in July 2009. The truth of the matter is as follows:

1. the study group has only one position, that it unanimously wants the state government to hold elections as soon as possible.

2. the study group proposes:
(a) a long term solution which requires federal leadership and/or consent;
(b) a short term solution which involves the Election Commission but requires no federal consent;

(c) an immediate short term solution which achieves the effect of local elections but does not involve the Election Commission.

Attached is a copy of the CGG press statement which was issued when we launched our study to the media on 6 July 2009. The statement, too, clearly spells out the three options for local council elections to happen. Nowhere in the text did we indicate that there were two opinions.

While the state government or any of its members may hold different opinions other than ours, it would be an act of utmost dishonesty to put words in our mouth.

CGG asserts that we are committed to advocating for the local council elections and we urge Ronnie Liu to clarify his statement to the media and for the Selangor state government to state when it will implement its commitment to conduct local council elections.

CGG takes this opportunity to call upon the Federal and state governments to reinstate local council elections and to enact a Freedom of Information Act. State governments need to also establish an ombudsman for check and balance and to actively revive and/or implement Local Agenda 21 to promote public participation.

Maria Chin Abdullah
Coalition for Good Governance

6 July 2009      PRESS STATEMENT
Will Selangor Lead the Way?

The Selangor State Government is expected to announce new local councillors today to replace some of those appointed last year who have underperformed. Since the indefinite suspension of local council elections in 1965, councillors have been appointed and appointees are mostly politically affiliated. The public are neither informed nor able to participate in the appointment process as decisions are made by the respective state governments.

Following the March 8 2008 General Elections, the newly-elected Selangor State Government, like its Pakatan Rakyat counterparts in other states, had also followed the appointment system.  However representatives from non-governmental organisations were also appointed.

The Coalition for Good Governance (CGG) believes that the election of local councillors is still relevant and necessary to put into place as it will contribute towards the positive trajectory of greater democracy and accountable governance. The CGG recommends a multi-stage process of implementation to ensure its reinstatement, including immediate and short-term recommendations.  The CGG has also envisaged preparatory steps which will help pave way for the long term reinstatement of  local government elections at the national level.

During the campaigning for the March 8 2008 General Elections, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and Parti Islam Malaysia (PAS), now forming the Pakatan Rayat coalition, had individually and collectively promised local council elections in various campaign documents. They were as follows:

  • PKR's Manifesto 2008 promised in item 9 of its vision for a constitutional state, to “reinstate with immediate effect local elections for municipal and local councils to create greater accountability at every level of government.”

  • DAP, both through its campaign on “The Third Vote: Restore Local Government Elections” and its 2008 Election Manifesto, reiterated its call to “implement local government elections to ensure accountability and efficiency”.

  • The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH), whose membership includes all three Pakatan Rakyat component parties, promised: “The need to re-introduce elections for local authorities at city, municipal, district and village levels with an electoral system which is free and fair, and [which] enables Malaysians to participate actively.”

  • The People’s Declaration, which all three Pakatan Rakyat component parties endorsed during the 2008 elections, also upheld the principle of local elections.

The recommendations of the CGG are as follows:

Long term (before the end of the 13th Parliament):

In the long run, CGG recommends a more comprehensive and thorough reform of local government in Malaysia. This, CGG believes, is the role and responsibility of the National Council for Local Government (NCLG). The reforms will have to seriously consider the following issues:

  1. reforming local government in terms of policies, laws, structures, processes and administration to uphold human rights principles and democratic governance
  2. synchronising administrative and electoral districting within the existing single member plurality system. This means aligning the electoral boundaries at all three levels of government so that the interests of citizens are  served by a  local councillor, state assembly person and  member of Parliament.
  3. reviewing alternative electoral systems as opposed to Malaysia's present first-pass-the-post election option.
  4. Introducing elected mayors or presidents

The CGG recognises that the long term strategy for law reform will take time and, therefore, recommends that a Royal Commission on Local Government be set up to effect a comprehensive review and reform of local government, especially introducing nationwide local elections to have functioning three-tier governments everywhere. The CGG believes that state governments committed to local democracy can take the lead by collectively pushing this into the agenda of National Council for Local Government. This can force the Federal Government to set in motion the reform of local government so as to better reflect the aspirations and interests of the citizens, instead of merely passing a motion at the state assembly to call upon the Federal Government to initiate local government elections.

Short term (within the term of the State Legislature and Executive)

Alongside the long-term strategy, the CGG proposes  an “opt out” approach by State Governments.  State Governments should use  their powers to effect an “opt out” ofSection 15 of the Local Government Act 1976 (LGA) by evoking the provision under Section 1(4) of the LGA.

By utilizing the provision of section 1(4) of the LGA, a state government has the discretion to exclude any area within a local authority from the provisions of the LGA, in particular the cessation of local council elections.

Once the “opt out” exercise is carried out, the Local Government Elections Act  1960 (LGEA) can be used to conduct local elections.  A state government would need to take some steps to follow up on the “opt out” process.  It would need to enlist the assistance of the Election Commission to administer the local elections in accordance with the provisions of Section 4(1) of the LGEA.

Immediate (within one year) – People-oriented selection process
Running concurrently with the long-term process and the short-term “opt-out” exercise, the Selangor State Government should conduct a “people-oriented selection process” (POSP). This POSP will have the effect of by-passing the Election Commission (in the event that EC chooses not to co-operate) whilst still giving some measure of legitimacy to the wishes of citizens.

The POSP would operate like an election, whereby candidates are “nominated” by communities at their constituency levels, and a selection is held. Once selected in this manner, a state government would then proceed to appoint those chosen as councillors for the specified constituency.

This method avoids any legal or political disputes with the Federal Government and Election Commission and can be carried out in the shortest possible time frame, i.e. within 12 months.

The idea of the POSP is for citizens to reclaim their rights to the third vote.  Continuing with the appointment system or proposing the setting up of an  independent selection committee, be it partisan or non-partisan, does not help to resolve issues of governance and concerns of political deference as opposed to fulfilling citizens' interests.

Some of the POSP’s key features are as follows:
  • Setting up a Selangor Local Government Selection Commission (SLGSC), which is made up of state staff, non-partisan activists and academics who can take on the role and responsibilities similar to that of the Election Commission to administer the elections.

  • Eligible voters will be determined by the address as stated in their MyKad. The areas of local authorities will be divided into wards (24 zones of each local authority in Selangor) such that all local councillors will be appointed after winning in the selection process. Candidates in the selection process may compete as independents or under party banners.

  • Costing of POSP depends on the timeframe required. If the POSP for Selangor is done over a timeframe of 12 weeks, it would cost approximately RM 4million.

If the timeframe is four weeks to complete the POSP in Selangor, it will cost approximately RM5million.

The CGG calls upon state governments, especially the Selangor State Government, to conduct the POSP  for the  year 2009-2010 while waiting for the completion of legislative and administrative works necessary to have state-wide, if not nationwide, local elections.

Efforts to carry out the long and short term initiatives need to take place concurrently. This means:

  • pushing the local council elections into the agenda of National Council for Local Government at its next seating.
  • Initiating the exercise to “opt out” of Section 15 of the Local Government Act 1976 (LGA) by evoking the provision under Section 1(4) of the LGA within the next two Parliament seatings.

In taking the lead in reintroducing local council elections, state governments can show their sensitivity towards the changed political realities in Malaysia.
In particular, the Selangor State Government has taken the first step by commissioning a study on reintroducing local elections as a means to give recognition to citizens' rights to assert their fundamental liberties.

We applaud the Selangor State Government for its genuine interest in investigating into the subject matter and now look forward to its determination in realising local democracy and governance.

6 July 2009

Maria Chin Abdullah
Chairperson, Coalition for Good Governance

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