Start village elections to allay Malays’ fear

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

Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia (GBM) calls upon state governments that support local elections, such as Selangor and Penang, to begin with village elections, to showcase the benefit of local democracy to Malays.

Contrary to the anti-Malay framing, the absence of local elections is harming the interests of Malays, who now make up the majority in most cities and towns let alone rural areas. Without elected local governments, ordinary Malays are paying the price of red tape, inefficiency, wastage and corruption.

GBM stresses that if rural folks especially Malays can reap the benefits of representation and accountability from elected village development and security committees (JKKK), urban Malays will clearly demand democracy for local councils, which control greater power and resources.

The idea that having the power to choose their local administrators will undermine Malays is absurd. Pro-democracy Malaysians should respond by making local democracy not just a “Malaysian cause” generally, but also a “Malay cause” specifically.

GBM sees Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s decision – after the rally to oppose the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination – not to have local elections for fear of ethnic conflicts as a call for more effective advocacy efforts.

GBM cautions that the possibility of ethnic conflicts will always be used by anti-democracy forces to stop political reforms but the fear will fade away with persistent and targeted advocacy. The best success story of fear-busting indeed happened on 9 May 2018. Just seven months ago, many Malaysians were fearful that changing the government would cause riot.

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GBM commends Local Government and Housing Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin’s commitment to continue study options for local elections for the government’s considerations.

To allay the fear that Malays would lose out in a democracy, she can consider proposing to start with local elections in Malay-majority cities and towns such as Kota Bahru, Kuala Terengganu and Pekan.

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