The Penang Forum Steering Committee has officially written to the Penang Chief Minister informing him of the outcome of the polls to select civil society’s nominees to serve as local councillors.
Penang Forum announced today that it had written to YAB Tuan Lim Guan Eng, the Chief Minister of Penang and to YB Chow Kon Yeow, the Penang state government exco for Local Government and Transportation regarding the appointment of civil society representatives to MPPP and MPSP.
On 14 November, it had organised Penang Forum 3 at the Penang Chinese Girls School Alumni Hall, Jalan Bagan Jermal, to elect five nominees each to the MPPP and MPSP.
In the letter to the Chief Minister, Penang Forum Steering Committee spokesperson Dr Francis Loh had expressed the group’s gratitude that civil society representatives had been appointed to the MPPP since the Pakatan Rakyat government first assumed office in April 2008. It further appreciated and supported various initiatives that the Penang government had taken to bring back local government elections since then.
However, he also stated that the public remains unclear about the state government’s procedure of selection of Councillors and was disappointed that the vast majority of the appointees had come from the political parties. Moreover, the majority of the seven to eight so-called NGO councilors had also come from specific interest groups like the various Chambers of Commerce.
‘We strongly believe that it will enhance good governance and the greater realisation of CAT principles of Competence, Accountability and Transparency if the number of civil society representatives in the local councils was increased.
By civil society representatives, we mean those who will advocate the wider interests of the entire society, especially the poor and marginalised, the disabled and elderly, women and children, rather than the particular interests of specific interest groups, say developers, businesspeople and/or manufacturers.
We are also concerned about issues like public transportation, protection of the environment, cleanliness and public health which the interest groups are less interested in.
It was in the spirit of bringing back elected local government on the one hand, and increasing the number of civil society representatives who fully support CAT principles and advocate for the wider interest of the entire Penang society on the other, that Penang Forum 3 was held.’
On 14 November, ‘mock’ elections for civil society nominees to the MPPP and MPSP were held. Penang Forum also used the opportunity to inform those present about Local Government issues. Each of the candidates was given time to address the floor which was followed by Q and A. In this manner the audience got to know the candidates and what they stood for.
All in all, more than 300 people attended Penang Forum 3. Fifteen Penangites ‘contested’ for nomination to the MPPP and another nine for nomination to the MPSP. The entire day’s proceedings ran smoothly and turned out to be a lesson and exercise on how civil society could help to deepen democracy in Malaysia.
In the event, the top five contestants for each of the Councils were:
For MPPP: Teo Lee Ken, Dr Lim Mah Hui,, Chin Khuan Sui, Low Swee Heong and Dalbinder Singh Gill.
For MPSP: Dr Tiun Ling Ta, Sivagurupatham A/L S. Vadivelu, Teng Kim Chew,
Krishnan A/L Samiah and Ung Teow Hong.
‘We also intend to monitor the performance of these civil society appointees by calling them to meetings with the Penang Forum at least every six months.
It is our hope that the Penang state government will walk hand-in-hand with Penang civil society and show the rest of Malaysia how to move forward. In this regard, we would like to remind you that we would appreciate meeting with you at least every six months , as you did agree when we first consulted with you in 2008.’
(Penang Forum is a coalition of more than 40 Penang-based civil society organizations who first came together in April 2008. The steering committee comprises representatives from Aliran, Malaysian Nature Society, Good Governance and Gender Equality (3Gs), Penang Heritage Trust, Persatuan Orang Cacat Anggota Malaysia, Suaram Penang, Tanjung Bungah Residents Association, Taman Sri Nibong Residents Association, Sembang-Sembang, SERI, Women’s Centre for Change, etc).
Dr Francis Loh Kok Wah
(on behalf of the Penang Forum Steering Committee).
10 Dec 2010