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Monday, March 15, 2010

Guan Eng wants to meet Najib to discuss ‘third vote’

By Shazwan Mustafa Kamal

KUALA LUMPUR, March 14- Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng is prepared to meet with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to argue his case for restoring local government elections, following the Penang state government’s recent decision to reintroduce the third vote which has not been practiced since 1965.

Lim, in an official letter to the prime minister dated March 12, informed Najib that he would be “willing to meet the Prime Minister at any given time” to explain the stand adopted by the Penang state government.
“It is our pleasure to inform you that the Penang state government has decided that local government elections are held to select City Council members. Article 113 (4) of the Federal Constitution stipulates that state governments are empowered to allow the Elections Commission (EC) to conduct other elections besides the general elections,” said Lim in the letter.
Lim, who is also DAP secretary-general, argued that although Najib may disagree with local government elections, but democratically elected councils were more effective than the current system of appointments.
“We realise that Datuk Seri may have differing views and are not agreeable to local government elections but allowing the practice of democracy at its roots has been proven to enable transparency, effectiveness and accountability as opposed to a system of appointment. This trend is currently being practiced overseas with 101 of of 192 countries in the United Nations practicing local government elections,” said the Penang Chief Minister.
Lim’s statement comes days after Najib said local government elections was not necessary as it created further politicking.
“We find that as the local government elections have been abolished a while ago, there is no need to restore it as it creates more politicking at the local level.”
“The candidates will use the campaigns as a key point and the local council services might not actually improve,” said Najib, who is also Barisan Nasional chairman.
In the letter, Lim also informed the PM that he had  already written a letter regarding this matter to Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof, the Election Commission chairman, on March 4 and is now awaiting the reply.
In the letter to Abdul Aziz, the Penang government had urged the commission to hold local government elections for the Penang Municipal Council and the Seberang Prai Municipal Council.
The state was invoking its powers under Article 113(4) of the Federal Constitution, which states that Federal or state law may authorise the EC to conduct elections other than parliamentary or state elections.
However, EC chairman Abdul Aziz had pointed out that the commission had no experience in conducting such polls and will make its decision after consulting their legal advisers.
The PKR-led Selangor government has also followed suit while other Pakatan Rakyat-ruled states of Kelantan and Kedah said they are serious considering following the footsteps of its counterparts in Penang.
Local government elections were first held in 1951 before Merdeka but abolished in 1965 during the Confrontation with Indonesia.
Then Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman promised it would be restored after the situation improved.
The Federal government under Tun Abdullah Badawi had in 2007 turned down a demand by DAP to restore local elections.
Since the suspension of local elections, council seats have been used as a political reward to loyalists of the ruling party.


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