Speech by M.Kula Segaran  at the swearing in ceremony of local councillors on Thursday, 31st July 2008: 

Local councils - new approach needed

Ladies and gentleman: We thank the Perak state government for nominating us as local councillors for the City Council of Ipoh.

It's a great honour and we take our duties very seriously and we hope we will never let down the confidence and hope placed in us all by the state government and the rate payers of this great city. We will endeavour to discharge our duties in the best possible manner and in accordance with all the rules and laws governing our position.

As we all know Malaysia has a three-tier government and local government is one of it. Local Government is not a department of the state government but are local authorities in their own right. They manage their own finances and being bodies corporate, are given specific responsibilities.

In the urban areas like Ipoh the main complaints of the people are related to clogged drains, uncut grass, traffic jams, potholes, mosquito's, uncollected rubbish , illegal hawkers and lack of a safe environment - in short problems of daily live. Peoples want to live safe, quality and hassle free lives and as local councillors, it is our job to make it happen for them.

Thus the local council should be on its toes at all times failing which we would be punished and rejected by the voters in the next election.

It is also time to restore local government elections

The local government elections which were abolished in the 1967 is urgently needed to be restored. The last local elections were helped in 1963. All the City councillors here would be proud if we were elected instead of being appointed as city councillors.

In this respect we urge the Federal Government do amendment the necessary provisions of the Local Government Act to allow for direct elections of councillors. The present process of appointment does not go well at all with the Democratic process we all want.

Although the Pakataan Government is in power in 5 states, local government is still the most important aspect that can give the people the attention they want and need.

The Athi Nahappan Report of 1968 clearly recommended the restoration of local elections. But the Federal government is unwilling to restore local elections. the most reason case of this denial of justice is the announcement by Minister for Local Government and Housing Datuk Ong Kah Chuan who rejected local government elections immediately after the General Elections March 2008.

There is also a new school of thought that the State Government it self can institute changes by degazzeting certain provisions of the Local Government Act thus allowing for the reintroduction of local government elections.

I urge the Perak State Government to re look at the Act and if possible make the changes and bring back local government elections.
Below are some suggestions that need to be seriously considered by the council for implementation.

review and reassess all service, organisation and methods of local council activities in Ipoh .

set up new best principles to speed up delivery, efficient and curb waste and improve quality.

get local communities, NGOs, civil society involved in the activities of local councils. My views on possible changes to be brought in the interim until direct elections to local councils are as follows:

1) All meetings of the local council should be held after office hours as the common complain is that local government officers are difficult to get because they are perpetually "in meetings."

2) All local councilors meetings should be held after office hours and the meetings be open to all citizens. Also attire at these meetings by rate payers should be relaxed to allow an informal atmosphere.

3) All sub-committee meetings to be open to public. All this meeting be recorded and put on the Internet to get feed back from the rate payers.

4) The address and contact telephone numbers of local councilors should be easily made available in addition to having a mobile office at the markets. In fact notices must be put in zones for which the local councilors are responsible and all meetings with the rate payers should be recorded and put in the website which has to be up dated every 15 days

5) All meetings must be notified to the public with sufficient notice so that they can attend and the witness the deliberations.

6) Sufficient notice and information should be provided to enable the public to have a say in the decision making process in particular the Local Agenda 21 process.

7) All road signages must be in Bahasa, Mandrin and in Tamil.

8) All tender awards and appointment of officers in charge of tender must be transparent.

9) All senior officers must publicly declare their assets
From now on it is not that we lord on you but you and we together are partners to better manage our local government. We are partners with local community, leaders and NGOs who all play an important role in local society.

Need to implement the CAT

The city council must discharge its duties withot fear or favour. All partners of the present system (councillors, civil servants and rate payers) must work towards a higher standard compared to the privious local council. Bottlenecks in the system must be curbed and we must head for zero corruption.

Thus unless local councils adhere to the Competency, Accountability and Transparency princilpes we all will be caught with the same disease as that which brought down the BN

A totally new approach to local government is needed in the light of the peoples verdict that showed their anger and dissatisfaction with the BN methods. We cannot use BN methods anymore, these have been discredited and rejected by the people.

* M. Kula Segaran, National Vice Chairman & MP for Ipoh Barat