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Monday, 26 January 2015

We need local councillors who can do the job

I REFER to the article “Local govt polls may cause racial polarisation” ( Sunday Star, Jan 25) and would like to share my views on matters.

The core functions of local government is to look at matters that are closest to the people.

Both the state and federal governments are too far from the people for them to have good understanding of the needs of the people at the micro level. Today the local authority has become a government agency and the councillors have been a rubber stamp of the decisions made by the local authority. Many who were appointed to the post lacks quality and knowledge in functions and power of a councillor.

Appointed councillors are political party nominees. The council seats are shared according to an agreed ratio among the component parties. They are not independent. Appointments are given as part of political rewards to grassroot party leaders.

At times decisions made by the council are not in the best interest of the people as for the councillors, party interest comes first. There are clear professional conflicts of interest between political parties nominees and between those meeting the needs the people.

In my area, the appointed councillors do not understand their role as councillors. They have been turned into “complaint centre” for people to bring their issues to the local authority.

These councillors have been assigned certain zones and have been tasked to look after drainage, rubbish collection and grass cutting.

They have very poor knowledge of the local authority by-laws. They fail to function as a “Board of Directors” of the local authority and provide the much needed check and balance between addressing the needs of the people and the local authorities.

While we can accept the point of maintaining the current system but we cannot accept the fact that the powers-that-be failed to nominate “independent people with strong knowledge on the governance of local authority” as specified under Section 10(2) in Act 171.

The law says that the state authority must appoint councillors who have wide experience in local government affairs or have achieved distinction in any profession, commerce or industry, or are otherwise capable of representing the interests of their communities in the local authority area.

Unfortunately the state government appoints party members who are grassroot leaders who in most cases do not meet the requirement of the law.

In Petaling Jaya, the capable ones were removed as councillors and replaced with mediocre group of people. In Ampang, we have unemployed party members and people with poor education background serving as councillors. They do not meet the requirement of the Local Council Act.

The question remains which political parties in power will be the first to push forward the agenda that focuses on the people and not their respective parties.

By Dr Mohamed Fafick Khan Ampang The Star/Asia News Network

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