Media statement by Lim Guan Eng in Komtar, George Town on Wednesday, 18th January 2012:
The Penang State Government has instructed the State Legal Adviser to issue a gazette notification exempting Local Authorities in Penang from Section 15 of the Local Government Act 1976
The Penang State Government has Instructed the State Legal Adviser to issue a gazette notification exempting local authorities in Penang from section 15 of the Local Government Act 1976 as a precursor to seeking a court declaration to compel the Election Commission to conduct local government elections.
The Minister for Housing and Local Government, Datuk Seri Chor Chee Heung, is reported to have said yesterday that the Penang State Government should consult with the National Council on Local Government (NCLG) before issuing a gazette notification exempting the local authorities in Penang from the provisions of section 15 of the Local Government Act 1976. Section 15 of the Act provides that all laws relating to local government elections are of no force and effect.
The Minister should be fully aware that the Penang State Government has already attempted to consult with the NCLG on the issue of restoring local government elections. On 14 July 2009, YB Chow Kon Yeow, the Penang State Exco for Local Government and Traffic Management, wrote to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, as the secretariat to the NCLG, on this matter, but was informed on 3 August 2009 that the Federal Government had no plans to reinstate local government elections.
On 11 August 2009, the Penang State Assembly passed a resolution calling upon the Federal authorities to take action to reinstate local government elections. YB Chow again wrote to the Ministry on 24 August 2009, communicating the resolution of the State Assembly and asking for the matter to be tabled and discussed at the 62nd meeting of the NCLG. However, by its letter dated 14 September 2009, the Ministry again refused to list the topic for discussion.
A three-man legal panel consisting of Dato' Yeo Yang Poh, Mr Tommy Thomas and Mr Malik Imtiaz was retained by the State Government, and advised that the reintroduction of local government elections was within the powers of the State, in accordance with the Local Government Elections Act 1960, which was revised in 1991.
On 4 March 2010, I wrote to the Election Commission asking it to conduct local government elections to the MPPP and MPSP, but the Election Commission also refused. On 12 March 2010, I also wrote to the Prime Minister offering to meet with him to discuss the State Government's position but again received no response.
Between 1951 and 1965, Malaya/Malaysia practised a system of local democracy whereby local councillors were elected by local residents. In 1961, the Federal Government abolished the elected Kuala Lumpur Municipal Council, and in 1965 issued an Emergency Regulation suspending local government elections throughout the States of Malaysia, using the excuse of the Confrontation with Indonesia.
The Prime Minister at the time, Tunku Abdul Rahman, promised the Dewan Rakyat that local government elections would be restored once the Confrontation was over:
"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 Confrontation with Indonesia ended in 1966, but local government elections were not restored as promised by the then Alliance (BN) Federal Government. In 1968, the Royal Commission on Local Government headed by Senator Athi Nahappan recommended the restoration of local government elections, but this was rejected by the Federal Government.
At the end of 2011, both Houses of Parliament passed resolutions annulling the existing Proclamations of Emergency in Malaysia, but because of sections 15 of the Local Government Act 1976, local government elections cannot be restored.
Local government is a State matter under the Federal Constitution, and the State Authority has the power under section 1(4) of the Local Government Act 1976 to exempt any local government area from any or all of the provisions of the Act. The Penang State Government has decided that 45 years after the end of the Confrontation, it is time for it to exercise its powers to free Penang and the MPPP and MPSP from the anti-democratic provisions that prevent the holding of local government elections.
As such, the Penang State EXCO has decided today to issue a gazette notification exempting the local authorities in Penang from the provisions of section 15 of the Local Government Act 1976. The Penang State Legal Adviser has been instructed to effect this gazette notification and also to issue a fiat appointing Mr Tommy Thomas to represent the Penang State Government in court. After the gazette notification, the State Government will refer this dispute with the Election Commission to the Courts.
*Lim Guan Eng, Penang Chief Minister