Think-tank: We need local council polls, start with Kuala Lumpur

A local think-tank has come out to support calls for local council elections to be held for Kuala Lumpur, saying it was the way of the future.

“While we must continue to fight COVID-19, we should not allow ourselves to be deluded with the idea that ‘Government knows everything’.

“As voters we must know our rights and prepare to rebuild our nation. This includes rethinking the future of Kuala Lumpur,” said Research for Social Advancement (Refsa) adviser Wan Hamidi Hamid, in a statement.

On Jan 20, electoral watchdog Bersih 2.0 said the belief that non-Malays will dominate local council should the third vote is restored was false.

In a research report, entitled “Reintroduction of Local Government Elections in Malaysia”, Bersih 2.0 said that many Malays are a majority in cities and other urban areas.

“Most of the councils in the Peninsula are actually dominated by Malays,” its author Danesh Prakash Chacko was reported saying.

Touching on Kuala Lumpur specifically, Wan Hamidi said that Refsa has been calling for a “state government of Kuala Lumpur” for years, even to the extend of holding a forum on Feb 1, 2015, called “Beyond Local Government: Making Kuala Lumpur a State”.

“Why do we need this very important change? Simple. With disastrous urban planning outcome caused by interventions by former Federal Territories Minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor who has been convicted for corruption, it is high time we review the existence of the Federal Territory Ministry.

“Plus, the ministry is not directly accountable to the people of Kuala Lumpur. The real power in charge of Kuala Lumpur is Putrajaya,” he said.

Cities should be run by elected officials

Citing examples, Wan Hamidi said that the US (Washington DC), India (New Delhi) and Australia (Canberra) are city governments represented by elected officials despite being national capitals.

He added that the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Government and New Delhi Government are equal to state governments.

“Even our neighbouring Asean countries have elected capital city Governments. Cities like Jakarta, Bangkok and Manila have their capitals’ governors and assemblies elected by the people,” he stated.

Wan Hamidi also said currently, the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) runs a budget that is the highest compared to the state governments in Peninsula Malaysia, with RM2.97 bil last year and RM2.65 bil allocated for this year.

Wan Hamidi remarked that in terms of population, with 1.78 million people in 2019, Kuala Lumpur is larger than the states of Perlis, Melaka, Negeri Sembilan and Terengganu.

On that note, he also hurled brickbats on arguments that local council elections would allow non-Malays to monopolise municipalities, adding Kuala Lumpur’s Malay population stood at 47.5% as of last year.

“The Chinese community make up 41.1% of the Kuala Lumpur population while Indians at 10.1%,” Wan Hamidi remarked.

Before the previous general election, Pakatan Harapan’s included restoring the third vote as part of its election manifesto.

After winning federal powers, Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin tried to implement the measure but received backlash from PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang and even her own coalition boss, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Hadi also held to the argument that non-Malays would dominate local councils, adding it may trigger a racial discord akin to May 13.

However, it is to note that local government elections were suspended in 1974 due to Confrontation with Indonesia, not the racial riots in 1969. – Jan 31, 2021.

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