Local democracy at work

There is no guarantee that those elected as civil society nominees in the Penang Forum elections on 14 November will be appointed municipal councillors come January. But it would be a major mistake for the state government to ignore the results of the poll, says Goh Ban Lee.

The winning candidates acknowledge the crowd

On 14 November, Penang Forum, a coalition of more than 40 civil societies, held Penang Forum 3 to select five nominees for each of the two municipal councils. It was not a local government election that many civic leaders have been clamouring for, but it did show that those pushing for elected representatives in the local authorities can do something besides campaigning for local government elections.

Despite some criticism in some blogs, it was a success. Besides the exercise to select potential councillors, there were also talks on the roles of the councils and issues they face.

However, the event does pose a dilemma for the state government. What should it do with the successful candidates?

To appreciate the significance of Penang Forum 3, it should be noted that since coming to power in Penang in March 2008, the Pakatan Rakyat government has been appointing three representatives from non-governmental organisations (NGO) to be councillors in the Seberang Perai Municipal Council (MPSP) and four in the Penang Island Municipal Council (MPPP). There are 24 councillors in each council.

Although the number is smaller than the expected one-third and three out of the seven NGO representatives in the councils have been from chambers of commerce and a manufacturer’s organisation, which some civil society leaders do not see as part of “them”, it is still seen as a progressive step.

The leaders of the civil societies could have just nominated themselves and be appointed councillors. The fact that they took the difficult path to organise and conduct an election and allowed anyone, as long as they were not leaders of political parties or chambers of commerce, to stand as candidates is a commendable act.

A total of 24 nominations were received, 15 for MPPP and nine for MPSP. In terms of age, nominees ranged from a 20-year-old part-time student to a 71-year-old retiree. All ethnic groups took part, although the distribution did not reflect the overall pattern in the state. The occupational backgrounds of the candidates were also varied with many involved in civil society work.

All residents of Penang, including foreigners, were eligible to take part in the voting although each participant had to pay a RM10 fee to cover costs and lunch. The fact that more than 300 participants took part on a Sunday was testimony that there were many who cared.

The five candidates for MPPP with the highest votes were Teo Lee Ken, Lim Mah Hui, Chin Khuan Sui, Loh Swee Heong and Dalbinder Singh. Those with the highest votes for MPSP were Tiun Ling Ta, V. Sivagurupatham, Teng Kim Chew, S. Krishnan and Ung Teow Hong

Many of those elected have excellent credentials to serve as councillors. For example, Chin Khuan Sui is a retired teacher and is active in the Women’s Centre for Change, Penang. Dr Lim Mah Hui is a former banker and professor and is involved in Aliran and the Consumers’ Association of Penang. Loh Swee Heong is a mechanical engineer. Since retirement, he has been active in community and development work.

Dr Tiun Ling Ta is a university lecturer and is active in Persatuan Orang Cacat Anggota Malaysia and Sustainable Independent Living and Access. Sivagurupathan is a lawyer and involved in social work, including pesticide control.

There is no guarantee that those elected on 14 November will be appointed municipal councillors come January. The decision-makers to appoint councillors are the state executive councillors and the chief minister.

It is not possible to appoint all the 10 successful candidates as councillors unless the state leaders reduce the number of appointees from the Pakatan Rakyat coalition parties. Furthermore, will the state government replace all the representatives from the business organisations with the successful candidates of Penang Forum 3?

It would be a major mistake for the state government to ignore the results of Penang Forum 3. The steering committee of the event comprises leaders of Aliran, Malayan Nature Society, Penang Heritage Trust, Persatuan Orang Cacat Anggota Malaysia, Suaram Penang, Women’s Centre for Change and Tanjong Bungah Residents Association. They are influential people not only in grassroots movements, but also in academic circles and the cyber world.

While these leaders are basically “helpful and friendly” people, it would be a big mistake for the state government to ignore their attempt at reintroducing local democracy.

Datuk Dr Goh Ban Lee is a senior research fellow of Seri and interested in urban governance, housing and urban planning.

Source: http://www.sun2surf.com/article.cfm?id=54289

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Well, we will agree to disagree with Mr/ Madam Agree to Disagree. Your emotional outburst has certainly attracted attention, which you obviously are craving.
    Anyway, on the bright side, without getting too obsessed with numbers, it was a really admirable effort of Penang Forum NGOs and locals in cooperation with the Penang State Govt. to give Penang residents (even if the number was small to begin with) a chance to experience having their say in who they want as local councilors rather than having to put up with govt. appointees who may merely like the name and a little side income, BUT NOT THE WORK!
    The crux of the matter was not so much how many bothered to freely exercise their right to vote but the very fact that they were allowed to do so and did use this opportunity.
    Mr/Mdm Agree to Disagree has completely missed the point of the whole exercise and probably has not realized that if this initiative had not been taken, local elections might remain a thing of the past or only a theory, not a reality.
    Still, Aliran has been fair enough to allow you space to be irate. This in itself is being democratic and recognizes your human right to free expression (Art. 10 Fed. Constitution/ Art. 19 UDHR)
    Similarly, Goh Ban Lee, has every right to reply to your claims and is welcome to do so, if he feels it worth the trouble.
    All in all, such an outburst might just be the result of “sour grapes”, due to being ignorant that everyone has the right to vote and the right to choose.
    So, Mr/Mdm A2D, hope you are feeling much better now, after getting that off your chest…

    • *** QUORUM *** is worth the trouble.

      Being entrenched harms the people. Anyone with any sense of ethics will not allow such entrenchment or justify and gloss over of a lack of effort.

      Feeling better will come only when people who cause and justify such failures are dropped by the right minded voters as is just.

      This is the crux of the matter and your projection of ‘sour grapes’ upon the truth presented in my comment. Do not imagine DAP won anything, it is the people who voted and who will judge on such carelessness that could easily turn into another abuser of the Rakyat.

      SO upon this exchange, let the voter judge for themselves and be aware, also beware of who they deal with and to vote accordingly!

    • Power always will fall against truth and righteous treatment of issues. Heres a better response.

      1) ” Anyway, on the bright side, without getting too obsessed with numbers, it was a really admirable effort ”

      There is no ‘bright side’. And there is nothing admirable at all about NGOs that endorse such theft of the right to vote from other citizens.

      2) ” The crux of the matter was not so much how many bothered to freely exercise their right to vote but the very fact that they were allowed to do so and did use this opportunity.”

      Quorum is something that is an integral part of elections, the VERY CRUX of the matter, what do you mean ‘that they were allowed to do so’? You think they or you were doing us a favour? Allowed?!? Use this opportunity? 300 out of 1.5 million is not an election but an act of theft from the sheer lack of effort or conscientiousness.

      3) ” has completely missed the point of the whole exercise and probably has not realized that if this initiative had not been taken, local elections might remain a thing of the past or only a theory, not a reality. ”

      Missed the point? The point is to make sure people vote. Not allow them to vote, but keep quorum at 66.6% and not accept a 0.0002% quorum as the people’s voice.

      4) Still, Aliran has been fair enough to allow you space to be irate. This in itself is being democratic and recognizes your human right to free expression (Art. 10 Fed. Constitution/ Art. 19 UDHR)

      Think you to shut everyone out and pretend that allowing me to speak here is a form of largesse? If you imagine you do anyone a favour by allowing them space to warn others, or labelling those who warn others of the wrongs you inflict upon others as emotional outbursts ‘which have certainly attracted attention, which we obviously are craving’ then I fear that you, likely speaking for DAP are exactly like UMNO.

      5) Similarly, Goh Ban Lee, has every right to reply to your claims and is welcome to do so, if he feels it worth the trouble.

      Every right? Ban Lee has LIED and GLOSSED over QUORUM and DEMOCRACY here. He’d better retract his promotion of this ‘democratic failure’, if he thinks the PEOPLE are worth the trouble. It is I who has wasted time on someone who by his endorsement of such terrible practices. Are you this insulting and arrogant to the people around you? Age and entrenchment, possibly wealth speaking for certain. The voters had better be aware of people like you who damn them with defense of such rubbish.

      The condescending tone as you display here imagining that you and your ‘clique’ are somehow more entitled to the political system by your endorsement of this slipshod and undemocratic election, shows what DAP is potentially like. Only those conscientious and willing to admit mistakes deserve to administer. Those who defend bad actions are no better than those carrying out such bad actions.

      If you speak for DAP or have any sense of ethics and fairplay, then better retract this defense of Goh Ban Lee’s fetting of BAD PRACTICES and insulting of the voters. Your insulting attitude by extension insults everyone who knows what QUORUM means. Common sense will now dawn upon others that you what you are pushing is more of the same UMNO style b.s.. A DAP cybertrooper no less and a propaganda minister in the making, well we all learn new things everyday don’t we?

      Suffer not fools and tyrants among us readers and voters . . .

  2. ” But it would be a major mistake for the state government to ignore the results of the poll by Penang Forum 3, says Goh Ban Lee. ”

    Absolute RUBBISH. Some DAP insiders pull together a bunch of NGOs and a mere 300 people and expect US TAXPAYERS to come under the purview of and pay the allowances of these 300 out of 1.5 million vote? What vested interested interests do you represent Mr.Goh???

    Look here, just admit that Local Council Elections have not been implemented and that the 42 NGOs here are merely trying to obtain and profit off the various powers available to councillors.

    This is a mock election that was carried out in a most shameful and slipshod way and by your and the NGOs’ endorsement, makes you and all NGOs behind this undemocratic farce ‘Murderers of Democracy’ as well. The Malaysian Nature Society and Aliran as well? WWF should do an audit on committee bearers MNS. UN should do an audit on committee bearers in Aliran.

    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

    ” It would be a major mistake for the state government to CONSIDER the results of the poll by Penang Forum 3.

    DAP, just admit it, there are no local council elections in Penang, DAP has not put it’s shoulder to the wheel in achieving this, and that the 42 NGOs involved or even those who stood for election do not know what QUORUM or DEMOCRACY means. Out of protest or shame they should have stepped down as nominees, the fact that they chose to ACCEPT their supposed ‘elected status’, shows the quality of persons involved in the entire face and the sense of ethics that anyone or NGO involved has.

    How about trying to hold those again as I earlier suggested in APANAM2020’s blog?

    300 out of a 1.5 million vote . . . Goh Ban Eng, do you even know what you support? How dare you neglect the choice or even nominees of the other 1.5 million Penang residents? Just pitiful the lack of sense of ethics and fair play.

    ***QUORUM*** & ***PARTICIPATIVE DEMOCRACY*** (look up these words). Then even when QUORUM is met, Participative Democracy structure are present, there is SPIRIT OF LAW to consider in any implementation of any laws (such as not indulging in Malicious Compliance and re-writing by-laws that are Maliciously Complaint in nature) as well . . .

    Goh Ban Eng, how about a retraction of the rubbish you spew in this shamefully negligent article, and writing another?

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