Restoration of local government elections can provide a solid foundation for democracy, good local governance, rule of law, financial accountability and transparency

Opening Speech
At The “Restore The Third Vote” Forum
Lim Guan Eng

(Kuala Lumpur, Sunday): Democracy is that system of political governance whose decision-making power is subject to the controlling influence of citizens who are considered political equals.  A democratic political system is inclusive, participatory, representative, accountable, transparent and responsive to citizens’ aspirations and expectations. Clearly democracy is the only form of government consistent with all human freedoms and human rights.    

The campaign to restore the third vote is inspired by democracy and driven by the deprivation caused by 4 decades of dictatorship. For forty long years since 1 March 1965, appointed local governments have been one of continuous failure. 

This fundamental flaw of denying local democracy has resulted in the continuous failure in provision of basic services, breakdown of facilities and poor provision of amenities, disreputable and corrupt management as well as ineffective and inefficient administration. Good local governance and delivery systems are the exception rather than the rule whereby:

  • Environmental services such as rubbish collections and disposal of wastes, grass cutting, proper drainage and beautification programmes are generally poorly conducted.

  • Public amenities such as street lights and transportation are lacking with the long-suffering public enduring both petty theft and traffic jams;

  • Public health and cleansing is a failure as demonstrated by the deadly dengue epidemic menacing 25 million Malaysians;

  • Social functions such as child-care centres, clinics and ambulances are almost non-existent;

  • Budgetary decisions functions solely to prevent ratepayers, who provide the source of funds, from participating in spending decisions; and

  • Developmental functions are more a source of abuse of power and malpractices and even corruption than meeting the socio-economic needs of the people

Allow me to cite some examples of some of the deprivation and excesses of dictatorship where the local authority in Melaka paid 6 kiosks for RM 488,000 at RM 81,000 each; 20 rubbish bins at RM 17,600 at RM 880 each; 20 benches for RM 35,200 at RM 1,760 each a small fountain at RM 250,000; a man-made waterfall for RM 1.7 million and a arch for RM 2.7 million. Such poor governance has resulted in a waste of public resources by spending money on failed projects such as the one where the drain is higher than the land, as if water can climb upwards! 

Appointed councilors seem more interested in enjoying the perks of office such as going for overseas junkets at public expense rather than serving the people such as the RM 100,000 spent on a junket to Australia in December 2003 or appointing bankrupts such as the Jasin District Council Secretary in November 2003.  

Datuk Mohd Khir Toyo Must Not Only Sack The Top Management Of PKNS And Shah  Alam City Council But Also Explain How He Can Be Ignorant Or Innocent of The Wrongdoings Of PKNS When He Is PKNS Chairman

Or worse, destroy the environment in its blind pursuit of shady profits as shown by PKNS on the Bukit Cahaya Agriculture Park. Despite being a government subsidiary company, PKNS showed its contempt and complete disregard for the law by developing land without approval from the Shah Alam City Council.  

And the Shah Alam City Council can not escape responsibility for gross neglect and failing in its monitoring duty. The fine of RM 330,000 is grossly inadequate because it is not paid by those responsible but by the people of Selangor who has suffered the double loss of the destruction of the environment and yet having to pay the RM330,000 for their mistakes. It is outrageous that the people and nor those responsible have to suffer not once but twice from one crime. Further how can RM 330,000 cover the loss of tens of millions in environmental damage?  

Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Mohd Khir Toyo’s statement that he will only take action against PKNS after conducting a probe is most shocking when PKNS had had pleaded guilty and was fined for the offence. What more evidence and what type of probe is still required when PKNS had already admitted it is wrong? The time of probes and investigation is over, now is the time for the Selangor MB to take action by sacking the top management of both PKNS and the Shah Alam City Council.  

Datuk Mohd Khir must also explain how he can be ignorant of PKNS misdeeds as wrongdoings when he is also the Chairman of PKNS. Malaysians will not believe that Datuk Mohd Khir is either ignorant or innocent when he has to chair meetings that approve such development projects. Further how can he not see the destruction of the environment when his office is facing Bukit Cahaya? 

The late Datuk Athi Nahappan, who headed the Royal Commission of Inquiry to Local Governments in 1968, was correct. Local councilors must be elected by the people or else those not qualified or with questionable backgrounds get appointed. There is no excuse when a communist country such as China and an Islamic country such as Saudi Arabia allow direct democratic elections of village heads and municipal councils.  Neither is it logical that we can elect our Prime Minister and Menteri Besar but not our local councilors. 

For forty years, Malaysians have been denied their freedoms and their democratic right to choose their local representative. Forty years is a long time to correct a wrong, but such continuous failure can not be allowed to persist. Reclaiming our democratic right is a worthy cause that deserves the support of all Malaysians regardless of race and religion. For those who have braved arrest to restore local government elections such as National Treasurer and Bukit Bintang MP Sdr Fong Kui Lun, Perak State Chair and Sitiawan ADUN Sdr Ngeh Koo Ham, Perak State Organising Secretary Sdr Teh Hock Kee, DAP Researcher Sdr Liew Chin Tong, Sdr Ning San and Sdr Low Wai Hong; let me salute you as the Malaysian heroes for democracy.  

Restoration of local government elections can lead to a solid foundation for democracy, good governance, rule of law, financial accountability and transparency. Let us use the democratic power of all for the good of each. Democracy, pro-poor growth policies and equitable expansion of social and economic opportunities can improve our lives, ensure good local governance and take back the community that belongs to us.


* Lim Guan Eng, DAP Secretary-General