Restore local council elections by 2021, urge civil society groups

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Voters casting their ballots enthusiastically at the Penang Forum 3 experimental local council poll in 2010

Sixty-two civil society groups, along with three coalitions of dozens of residents’ associations, say such elections will provide checks and balances within local councils.

Pakatan Rakyat (later Pakatan Harapan) manifestos in 2008 and 2013 have always strongly advocated restoring local council elections.

In its 2018 manifesto, Pakatan Harapan used instead the broad term “strengthen local democracy” (Promise number 25).

We also note that in 2008, a quota for civil society and community representation was given in every council in Pakatan states as a form of checks and balances to ensure that political interests did not override the rakyat’s interests.

By 2011, it was evident that all the rakyat’s representation in the councils was hijacked by the political parties. The lack of independent representation in the councils has resulted in abuse of power and inefficient management in the local councils.

Under the leadership of the new Pakatan Harapan government, there should no longer be any excuse or delay in giving the rakyat the third vote simply because Pakatan Harapan is now the government of the day.

We were encouraged that the housing and local government minister, just after her appointment, specifically said that the government would work towards local council elections within three of taking office.

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It is therefore with much dismay that we heard the prime minister publicly declaring on 10 December 2018 that local council elections would not be pursued because it might potentially cause racial divisiveness and disturbance.

We firmly believe local council elections will be able to restore accountability and public confidence in the local council system in Malaysia.

Secondly, the implementation of local council elections will allow our state and federal representatives to focus on drafting good laws that will benefit society at large.

Having an accountable local council authority will ensure checks and balances against undesired policies of the state and federal authorities.

By implementing local council elections, the system will enable representatives to have more empathy and greater engagement with residents on local issues.

Finally, local council elections will add more vibrancy and allow greater competition in a multi-party system.

We, the undersigned coalitions, non-government organisations and residents’ associations reject the reason that local council elections will cause divisions and racial conflict. This is evident in the recent federal and state elections, which did not result in any racial disharmony. Conversely, we see a display of solidarity, across the racial and religious divides, against corruption.

Lastly, local council elections are necessary as we believe political appointees will always have a conflict of interest as they struggle to serve the people or their political mentors. Local council elections will remove this conflict.

We therefore firmly insist that the Pakatan Harapan government should no longer put up excuses or distractions to avoid bringing back local council elections. Any delay will also give the public an increased concern that the government intends to exploit a weak system of checks and balance, thus eroding the public trust.

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We expect the government to bring back local council elections by 9 May 2021, which is within three years of forming the new federal government.

Meanwhile we expect:

  • politicians not to use local council elections as a political tool by linking it with racial divisiveness
  • MPs to individually declare their stand on local council elections clearly
  • local councils to provide citizenship education to prepare the people for the third vote
  • local council elections to be held separately from general elections
  • the Ministry of Housing and Local Government to involve and keep civil society regularly updated as it carries out its study and discussions to bring back local council elections
  • village elections to start immediately to showcase that local democracy benefits all races

Endorsed by civil society groups:

  1. Agora Society (AS)
  2. All Women’s Action Society (Awam)
  3. Angkatan Warga Aman Malaysia (WargaAMAN)
  4. Association of Toy Libraries Malaysia (ATLM)
  5. Challenger Malaysia (CM)
  6. Childline Malaysia (CLM)
  7. Diversity Malaysia (DM)
  8. Engage
  9. Federation of Malaysian Indian Organisation (Prima)
  10. Federation of Chinese Associations Malaysia, Youth (FCAM, Youth)
  11. Federation of Chinese Associations Johor State, Youth (FCAJS, Youth)
  12. Federation of Pahang Chinese Associations, Youth (FOCA, Youth)
  13. Gabungan Pembebasan Akademik IPT (GPA-IPT)
  14. Pergerakan Tenaga Akademik Malaysia (Gerak)
  15. Green Friends Sabah (GF, Sabah)
  16. Islamic Renaissance (IRF)
  17. Kedah Chinese Assembly Hall, Youth (KCAH, Youth)
  18. Kelantan Chinese Assembly Hall, Youth (KCAH, Youth)
  19. Kumpulan Aktivis Mahasiwa Independent (KAMI)
  20. Knowledge and Rights with Young people through Safer Spaces (KRYSS)
  21. Kuala Lumpur & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH)
  22. LINC Foundation (LINC)
  23. LLG Cultural Development Centre (LLG)
  24. Malacca Chinese Assembly Hall, Youth (MCAH, Youth)
  25. Malaysian Indians Progressive Association (MIPAS)
  26. Malaysian Indians Transformation Action Team (Mitra)
  27. Malaysian Youth Care Association (Prihatin)
  28. Monsoons Malaysia (MM)
  29. Muslim Professional Front (MPF)
  30. Negeri Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, Youth (NSCAH- Youth Section)
  31. Oriental Hearts and Mind Study Institute (OHMSI)
  32. Pacos Trust, Sabah (PT, Sabah)
  33. Penang Forum (PF)
  34. Penang Chinese Town Hall, Youth (PCTH, Youth)
  35. Penang Heritage Trust (PHT)
  36. Perlis Chinese Assembly Hall, Youth (PCAH, Youth)
  37. Persahabatan Semparuthi, Johor (PS, Johore)
  38. Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran Negara (Aliran)
  39. Persatuan Rapat Malaysia (Rapat)
  40. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita, Selangor (PSWS)
  41. Pertubuhan Pembangunan Kebajikan dan Persekitaran Positif Malaysia (Seed)
  42. People Like Us Support Ourselves (PLUsos)
  43. Pusat KOMAS (Komas)
  44. Sabah Women’s Action Resource Group (Sawo)
  45. Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM)
  46. Selangor and Kuala Lumpur Hokkien Association, Youth (SKLHA,Youth)
  47. Sisters in Islam (SIS)
  48. Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham)
  49. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram)
  50. Sustainable Development Network Malaysia (Susden Malaysia)
  51. Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy (TBHTD)
  52. The Center to Combat Corruption & Cronyism (C4)
  53. The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas)
  54. Tindak Malaysia (TM)
  55. United Chinese School Alumni Associations of Malaysia (UCSAA, Malaysia)
  56. Women Development Organisation of Malaysia (WDO, Malaysia)
  57. Women’s Centre for Change (WCC)
  58. Youth Era (YE)
  59. University of Malaya Association of New Youth (Umany)
  60. Research For Social Advancement (Refsa)
  61. Justice for Sisters (J4S)
  62. North South Initiative (NSI)
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Endorsements by coalitions of residents’ associations:

  1. Persatuan Penduduk Petaling Jaya (MyPJ) (comprising 40 residents’ associations and Rukun Tetangga groups)
  2. SaveKL/Selamatkan Kuala Lumpur (30 residents’ associations)
  3. Penang Forum (30 non-government organisations and residents’ associations)
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