The Third Vote: Bukit Cahaya incident shows the need for the restoration of local government election

Media Statement
by Ronnie Liu Tian Khiew

(Petaling Jaya,  Wednesday): When the hills were found barren around the Bukit Cahaya Seri Alam Agricultural Park, the Selangor Menteri Besar Dauk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo puts the blame on the Dewan Bandaraya Shah Alam (Shah Alam City Hall). He said the local government should be held responsible for giving out approvals to various developers without proper monitoring.

While one may argue that the MB cannot put the blame squarely on the local government, it does demonstrates that the local government is indeed holding a lot of power in many areas.

Many people may not realise that the local government actually holds a lot of powers in their hands. They are in-charge of roads and traffic, sewage and drainage, street lights, gardens and fields, stadiums and sports complexes, hawker centres and markets, parking and rubbish disposals, development projects and licensing. Local municipality has become the most corrupt government agency according to a survey conducted by the Transparency International Kuala Lumpur Chapter not without a good reason. Many local government officials were on the takes simply because they have so much power at their disposal.

At times, it’s a matter of life and death when the local government fails to provide clean and efficient governance. Some 25 people have died of dengue this year simply because the drains were clogged and the rubbish and containers were not collected in time by the local governments.

The Highland Towers tragedy was another classic example of local government failure. The tragedy would have been avoided if the MPAJ have strictly followed the guidelines set out for hillsides development.

This incident shows that things can go very wrong in the local government without any checks and balances. It also shows that no one can depend on the State Government leaders to provide checks and balances. They are only good at pointing fingers when things have gone sour and rotten.

It also demonstrates the need of returning political power and democracy to the people through the restoration of local government election. So long as those officials at the helm were appointed by their political masters and not elected by the people, they will not think that they should be accountable to the people. They will continue to move with the hands that feed their stomachs, instead of listening to the woes and grievances of the ordinary people. Projects such as the Broga incinerator, the landfill in Carey Island, the Desaria apartments in Petaling Jaya Selatan, the housing projects around the Templer Park and so many others will not get the approvals if the local government chieftains believe that they must also be accountable to the people.

Forty years have past without local government election. Most of the local councils were rotten to the core. The DAP has started a nation-wide awareness campaign to demand for the third vote, i.e. to restore elections for all the councils- from the cities and towns, and right to the districts and villages. These will certainly help to return power to the men in the streets and push the overall democratization of our nation to a greater level.

It’s time to stop the rot.


* Ronnie Liu Tian Khiew, DAP International Secretary and NGO bureau chief