Friday, June 03, 2011

Finally, the start of democracy in PR Selangor's kampungs....

Finally, after more than 3 years have lapsed, the Selangor Pakatan Rakyat government has started bringing democracy to the people at the lowest community units - the kampungs, kampung barus, kampung orang aslis and taman perumahan. They are starting with three(3) Chinese villages. Better late than never.

Perak, on the other hand, did democratic elections almost immediately after the Pakatan Rakyat came into power in that state, and that democratic elections happened in over 800 Malay kampungs and several kampung barus (predominantly Chinese new villages).

Malaysians, to a large extend, is not at all democratic especially at the local community levels, local council [local government] levels - and only do have the chance to democratically elect State Legislative Representatives and Members of Parliament once every 5 years. We still do not give the people the right to even democratically elect Senators.

Leaders of the local community levels have been always chosen/appointed by the State governments - the people had no choice but to accept who the government decides is the ketua kampung or community leaders. It was feudal - not democratic. All this was done, allegedly for the 'good of the people' so that they will get the 'best representatives/leaders' which will facilitate efficient transfer of benefits/development, etc. but really, I believe, the main reason is to keep the rakyat passive and powerless, totally dependent on MPs and ADUNs.

If there is democracy at the lowest levels, people will certainly be more involved - there will be questioning and even criticisms when there are failures and other inefficiencies. Democracy also will give people more power - and certainly elected leaders will then have to focus their attention on serving the people effectively and efficiently - if not, they will face 'hell' at community meetings and annual general meetings, and bad leaders will just be rejected and voted out in favour of better persons. With the current system of appointing, much attention of these current community leaders would be the staying in the good books of the influential politicians and political parties that govern the State. These appointed leaders certainly would do very little (or almost no) complaining about government failures with regard the people. After all, we have too often been told that 'government knows best' and people should just accept what the government gives (or does not give) and be happy with that as that is how things are. [Neighbouring Thailand has elections for every levels of the community - and elected reps/leaders tend to serve the people better - and that really is where the people get 'powerful', more critical and more vocal on various real issues. 

There must be a greater effort in restoring democracy at all levels...of the community. There must be greater education about democratic structures and rights - including freedoms. 

Democracy is dangerous for the ruling Federal and State governments - for then the power to choose leaders at local government  and local community levels goes back to the people - and they may not choose an existing State/Federal government's crony or party member/friend as their leaders, and that is the biggest worry. What happens in  BN constituency, when the people chose PAS members as local community leaders... What happens in a Pakatan Rakyat ruled State when they choose an MCA member (or pro-BN person) as the ketua kampung baru? That is the worry of these politicians, but if you do truly respect democracy and the people, you must be willing to allow the people to choose who they want...and then deal with the person chosen as community leaders, irrespective of what party they are from or who they are. 

In any elections, various persons offer themselves as candidates - and there are heated debates and issues between candidates and their supporters but after elections, that is it - and all have to accept those democratically elected and those elected must treat all without discrimination - and certainly no favoritism for those who support them. That is democracy. 
There has been nothing stopping State governments to conduct kampung and local community elections, and it is sad that Selangor is only going to do this now more than 3 years after 2008 GE - but better late than never. After kampung elections, leaders in different areas could be  put in local area committees - and then, it could be left to these different local area committees to chose from amongst themselves or some other from the area as persons to sit in Local Councils - and until we have Local Council Elections, these persons selected by the community could have been elected into the Local Councils. [Even if the ruling State government is so worried that they will lose control of local councils, people chosen by this process could be just a certain number...]
Pakatan Rakyat talks about 'reformasi' - and, I certainly hope that this does not just mean changing BN chosen persons in Local Councils, and now inserting PR chosen people. What we want is no more for BN or PR to choose and appoint their own cronies - but for the people to be given back the right to choose their own leaders/representatives at all levels of community.

Pakatan Rakyat's response have been that they needed more time ...and it has been more that 3 years now. At the very least, let us get a firm commitment that they will restore full democracy at all levels of community and return the power to the people to choose their own reps/leaders.

We wonder why just 3 Chinese villages - why not more. Surely at least 3 could have been held for each of the constituencies that has a PR ADUN. 

Electoral roll - a simple walkabout visit to each of the houses in the kampung/kampung baru/taman could have listed all those living there above 21 years (18 years) that are eligible to vote. That list could have been placed on community notice boards - so that people can check and add names missed out or strike out names of persons not from that kampug (1 week for that). Then, there could nominations in 1 week (and to encourage participation, there should be token deposit of say RM10, RM500 is excessive as we know that at least 1/3 of Malaysian workers earn about or less than RM700, and RM500 is 'big money' for some). Then, there would be the day the people come out and cast their votes... it is that simple. 

I am sure that we do not need RM60,000 for 3 kampung elections - all we may need is really about RM500 per kampung - for printing notices, ballot paper, water and lunch for those looking after the balloting process for a day - explain why RM60,000 for 3 kampung elections,.. a bit excessive - could have made 2 low-cost homes. A bad precedence - a it will cost just too much to have elections in the thousands (maybe tens of thousands) of kampungs/kampung barus/tamans in the State.

The first pilot local election for three Chinese villages in Selangor is set to be held starting July 31, the first step by the Pakatan-ruled Selangor state government to revive local council elections which were suspended 46 years ago.

According to an exclusive report by Selangor Times Chinese edition published by the state government today, the three villages are Kampung Baru Sungai Jarom in Jenjarom, Kampung Bagan in Pulau Ketam and Kampung Baru Pandamaran.

The nomination days and polling days are July 24 and 31 for Kampung Baru Sungai Jarom, July 31 and Aug 7 for Kampung Bagan, and Aug 7 and 14 for Kampung Baru Pandamaran. Each village has a one-week long campaign period.

NONEState executive councillor in charge of new village development and illegal factory settlement Ean Yong Hian Wah (right) told Selangor Times that the state cabinet had approved the initiative and allocated RM60,000 for it.

Although the exercise is not legitimate under the current election law, the state government will follow the current Local Government Act and issue appointment letters to the winners for them to begin their two-year tenure.

Only those above 21 who have resided in the villages for at least two years with their MyKad bearing local address are eligible to contest by placing a deposit of RM500.

However they can only contest in their individual capacity instead of representing political parties, said Ean Yong.

He announced that nomination time is between 9am and 10am while polling time is between 8am to 4pm. The results are expected to be out around 8pm on the same day.

These pilot elections will be held according to the general election model except that they will be conducted by local council officials.

“All three polls are directly handled by the state government because police and the Election Commission refused to cooperate. Therefore they will be conducted by local councils,” said the Sri Kembangan assemblyperson.

The elections will use the latest electoral roll updated until June 30, 2010. 

Local government elections were suspended in 1965 by the then-Perikatan government at the height of the Confrontation with Indonesia.

After the Confrontation ended, civil society and the opposition have been calling on the federal government to restore it in order to ensure accountability and democracy of local governments.

This formed part of the opposition's manifesto for the 2008 general election. The previous Perak state government under Pakatan was the first to restore it, electing all 817 Malay village chiefs in the state. However, they were later sacked after BN wrested back Perak. - Malaysiakini, 3/6/2011, Selangor village chiefs election starts on July 31

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