Sunday, December 20, 2009

Struggle for Local Government Elections To Continue

The following is the Malaysian Insider report on the Pakatan Rakyat Convention yesterday with regards to the contentious issue of local government elections. Malaysiakini has also got Karpal Singh and Hannah Yeoh's comments.

DAP’s Hannah Yeoh (pic) emerged as the only speaker that critically debated the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) common policy framework, urging the coalition to restore local government elections.

“The local governments collect millions in tax revenue every year, but the public has no say in electing their members,” said Yeoh at the PR’s inaugural convention here.

“Local election will also improve the quality of local councillors, the best candidate will win,” she declared.

In the coalition’s common policy launched earlier today, it is stated that PR is committed to “strengthen local government democracy and democratically enhance the competency and effectiveness of the delivery system and guarantee transparency at all levels.”

Such a choice of words was made to appease PR leaders who are opposed to restoring local government elections. The Malaysian Insider understands that Malay leaders from both PAS and PKR are worried that local governments would be dominated by the non-Malays should councillors are elected openly.

“If local elections is restored, councillors will be more hardworking, thus improving efficiency in the local authorities,” said Yeoh.

She also urged PR leaders not to worry about the outcome of local elections.

“The Chinese and the Indians have voted for PAS, the people have moved away from their fears... We should not be fearful of the third vote,” she added.

Earlier, when opening the convention, DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng admitted that the party had to compromise on its commitment to restore local elections.

DAP has been known to be a staunch advocate for the restoration of the local council election while PAS are known to oppose it and PKR are internally frayed on the issue despite having promised to restore the local council vote in its 2008 General Elections manifesto.

Since the suspension of local government elections in the 1960s, councillors have been appointed directly by the state government and this has since been turned into a political reward for ruling party officials.

The restoration of local elections is one of the demands made by electoral reforms coalition Bersih, which also comprise PR parties.

In November 2007, the group organised the largest street demonstration in Kuala Lumpur in a decade, mobilising some 60,000 protesters to demand for free and fair elections.

The coalition’s effort in mobilising support contributed to Barisan Nasional’s worst electoral performance in Election 2008, which was held just four months later.
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