KUALA LUMPUR, April 2: Pokok Sena MP Mahfuz Omar has rubbished a claim by a federal government minister that local council elections would cause 'racial imbalance', arguing if that was true then the nation should not carry out any general election or by-election whatsoever.
“This is quite a nonsensical excuse. We really cannot see how 'racial imbalance' can be created because even in the urban cities, the majority is still Malay,” Mahfuz, who is also PAS vice president, told Harakahdaily.
“But let’s give Umno-BN the benefit of doubt and assume there are really pockets of over-concentration of a particular ethnic group in some parts of the country. That’s still no excuse to turn down the proposal because there are other solutions available. Why not consider and just outright reject?“
Make Penang, Selangor the pilot states
According to Mahfuz, who heads his party's recently-formed special committee on local council elections, state governments could draw and allocate local voting boundaries in the same way that the federal government delineated boundaries for state and parliamentary constituencies.
He also challenged Prime Minister Najib Razak to make the Pakatan Rakyat-run Penang and Selangor the pilot states for the revival of the third vote. Malaysia first held local council elections in 1951 but suspended them in 1965 amid a crisis sparked by the Confrontation with Indonesia.
“Allowing the rakyat to elect their own municipal and local councilors can bring great improvement to the daily lives of the people. They stand to gain from improvement in road maintenance, rubbish collection, drainage and the whole gamut of services,” Mahfuz said.
“If Najib is unsure, why not let Penang and Selangor be the states to pilot the practice? It is not something new. It was discontinued because of a historical event not because it was a bad policy.”
Upsetting the Umno warlords
Indeed speculation is rife that it is the Umno warlords who have voiced the greatest objection against local council elections. Currently most councilors derive their positions from top government leaders in the tradition of political patronage.
There is fear that many such appointees may lose their benefits if the third vote – which seeks to inject transparency and democracy into the lower levels of administration – was restored.
“Definitely there is truth in many of these allegations. But this is why the people get trapped with lousy services and there is so much corruption. Even in waste disposal services, people talk of commissions and kickbacks,” Mahfuz said.
Earlier on Thursday, Deputy Minister Of Housing and Local Government Lajim Ukin said the current system was adequate and did not hinder democracy. He reiterated that the government had considered all social and economic factors before rejecting the appeals from Penang and Selangor .
“Most non-Muslims live in the cities while the bumiputras (Malays and indigenous folk) are in the outskirts. There will be an imbalance in racial representation in local governments, if elections are held,” Lajim told reporters.
(Edited by Wong Choon Mei)