Comment from Minister of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government, Abdul Rahman Dahlan last week that local government elections is not the only solution to improve the performance of local governments is a regressive statement that reflects the lack of commitment of Najib Razak’s BN-led government to bring transformation.
He has failed to understand one of the many basic concepts of democracy – “no taxation without representation”.
Although I acknowledge that local government elections will not resolve the problems that local governments are facing in the blink of an eye, it is a democratization process that is very important for Malaysians as this is where the voters are given an opportunity to choose and vote for their representatives at the local level.
By continue to support the current appointment system, Abdul Rahman Dahlan’s statement also seems to suggest that he is still believing that “government knows all” although that is an outdated concept.
There is no doubt that the government could set stricter terms and conditions in the selection of councillors, head of local councils or Mayors but at the end of the day, it is the people, not the political masters, who have to decide who is the best person to represent them at the local level. Moreover, local government elections have been held before in Malaysia.
Without local government elections, Malaya would not have achieved its independence in 1957. In 1970, the Royal Commission of Inquiry In the Running of Local Governments led by the late Tan Sri Athi Nahappan recommended to the Federal Government to revive local government elections and not by appointment. The Commission also mentioned that “democracy with efficiency is always more desirable and better than efficiency without democracy”.
This means, the Commission had as early as 1970 expected that there will be parties objecting the revival of local government elections using the same reason as presented by Abdul Rahman Dahlan. Thus the Commission emphasized that democracy with efficiency is always more desirable and better than efficiency without democracy. That further highlights the importance of democracy in the running of local governments. In addition, Malaysians are much more mature politically in which they do not vote their representative according to race or religion. The fact is clear that in GE13, there were Indian DAP candidates received support from Chinese voters and Chinese DAP candidates received supports from Malay voters.
The same goes for a candidate who is Malay, from PAS and won at non-Malay areas. We should not forget the fact that there are more and more non-Chinese voted at urban areas nowadays, as well as there are also Indian and Chinese voters voting in rural areas. Voters demographic in Malaysia is becoming more and more homogeneous.
Abdul Rahman Dahlan also took the overseas’ low turnout rate as an excuse that local government election will not necessarily include all of the people nationwide. This comparison is not made on the same basis because the countries quoted, such as United Kingdoms, New Zealand and the Netherlands are countries with mature democracy. People from these countries are becoming more and more disillusioned with partisan politics. Not only the local government election turnout rate are low but even the turnout rate of their general elections are also not encouraging.
Thus, I hope Abdul Rahman Dahlan will stop giving lousy excuses on this matter. The more he flip-flops, the more voters will feel the insincerity of BN in their transformation program.