Time to bring back council elections (Posted on 09.54am Feb 12, 2003 )

An appointed councillor in Klang, Selangor has claimed trial at the Klang Magistrate's Court to a charge of assault, under Section 323 of the Penal Code.

At the e-savvy Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ), it is rumored that one councillor is busy lobbying to secure a "Lawatan Sambil Belajar" (educational trip) ticket to attend an international IT conference in Germany.

All this while, his counterpart indulges in political rhetoric and theatrics to force MPSJ to change its present logo, as he claims it depicts green - the official colour of PAS, an opposition party. (Umno councillor dreads green colour, wants MPSJ logo replaced).

He is not at all bothered that it would cost the council over a further RM500,000. After all, it is not his father's money.

He can say and demand whatsoever, as he is not accountable to the ratepayer, except perhaps his "political masters", and they rarely interfere unless their own positions are threatened by the intervention of the federal government.

Some when exposed play the race and religion card - pretending to be religious and a "wira bangsa dan agama" (champion of the race and religion) - when they are a disgrace to both party and religion for their hypocrisy and Jekyll and Hyde political tantrums!

COUNCIL ELECTIONS


To prevent such rogue councilors and ministers from continuing to take office, the Consumers Association of Subang and Shah Alam, Selangor (Cassa), with the assistance of the civil society, grassroots organisations, women's, youth and religious groups will lobby the incoming federal administration under the leadership of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to bring back council elections and to initiate stringent scrutiny of candidates nominated for positions of political power.

However, there has been no other position as "abused and raped" in the political arena as the appointed councillor's position where suspect candidates - ones who are indisciplined, have no grassroots work experience, neither academic qualifications nor strength of the language or issue discussed at length - are repeatedly selected by political parties to fill their respective party quotas.

Like the quota positions filled for state assembly representatives, members of Parliament, for senators, the federal government machinery does not screen the candidates proposed in by respective Barisan Nasional component parties, so as not to "rock the boat".

Of course, I am aware that the Special Branch will give their report on the candidates, but, how persuasive can their report be, if individual "power brokers and gatekeepers" of respective component political parties want their candidate nominated at all costs?

After all, as one senior politician told me at Health Minister Chua Jui Meng's recent Chinese New Year open house celebrations, right in front of deputy premier Abdullah, that there is an unwritten understanding for decades between component parties in the Barisan Nasional to not question each others' nominee for government positions, even if there is a better candidate - academically qualified, has the grassroots support and strength, a proven record and good family background.

WINDS OF CHANGE

Against this backdrop, one cannot expect a drastic change as local political power brokers act as gatekeepers to keep out better suited candidates in order to protect their own agenda and political interests.

But I want to sound optimistic that there can be all-round changes in the Malaysian political system when deputy premier Abdullah takes over the nation's leadership.

I believe that there will be a drive to replace ageing politicians and various political leaderships and appointment with young qualified candidates, religious, family man, candidates with a proven track record, transparent, accountable and free of corrupt practices.

I believe that the 'winds of change' to this end will begin after October 2003 and those few who have abused their respective positions and accumulated questionable wealth and gains will be told to go quietly as it is in their interest to do so.

Dr. Jacob George
Subang Jaya
Tel: 012-3664444
Dr Jacob George is president and legal adviser to the Consumers Association of Subang and Shah Alam (Cassa) and chairman of the MIC Subang Jaya Town Centre (MICSJTC).

This opinion piece has also been published in Malaysiakini, February 11, 2003