Attorney-General opposes Penang State Government’s application for leave proves again that BN opposes local government elections and democracy

Attorney-General opposes Penang state government’s application for leave to allow 1.6 milion Penangites to choose their own councillors proves again that BN opposes local government elections and democracy.

The Attorney General’s Chambers, representing Najib’s Government, turned up to the Federal Court to object to the leave application of the State Government of Penang and former Aliran President Mr P Ramakrishnan Both of us are petitioning the Federal Court to declare that Penang State Legislature has the right to allow the voters of Penang to elect their local councillors, in accordance with the Local Government Elections (Penang Island and Province Wellesley) Enactment 2012, which was passed by the State Assembly in May 2012.

Malaysians had the right to elect their local councillors for over a decade between 1951 and 1965, when elections were suspended because of the Indonesian Confrontation. The then-Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, promised the Dewan Rakyat that local government elections would be restored once the Confrontation was over. He said:

“As soon as this peace and quietness has returned we would make haste with all proper preparations for the local council elections … The very moment peace is declared I can assure this House that the elections will be held.“

The Indonesian Confrontation ended in 1966. For 47 years, we have been waiting for this promise to be fulfilled and for the Federal Government to allow local elections to be held.

On 29 May 2013, a single judge of the Federal Court will hear the State Government and Ramakrishnan’s application for leave under Article 4(4) of the Federal Constitution to file a petition challenging sections 10 and 15 of the Local Government Act 1976, which prevent the holding of local government elections. If successful, the petition will be heard before a bench of the Federal Court, exercising its original jurisdiction under Article 128(1), on a later date.

Because of the Attorney General’s objection, the Federal Court has fixed 29 May 2013, after the 13th General Election, for the hearing of the leave application. If Pakatan Rakyat wins a majority in the Federal Parliament in the General Election, we will immediately withdraw the Federal Government’s opposition to this case and take steps to reintroduce local democracy in Malaysia by repealing the Federal prohibition on local government elections.

The Penang PR State Government’s desire to restore local government elections is based on our belief in democracy, in a system of government of the people, by the people, for the people. We believe in particular that the past 18 years of neglect suffered by Penang can be blamed in part on the system of political appointment of councillors by the BN State Government, which saw the MPSP become practically bankrupt after losing RM230 million before 2008.

Penang Chief Minister
Media statement by Lim Guan Eng in Komtar, George Town on Thursday, 4th April 2013