Local Councils Are Tied To Civil Service Bureaucracy
The legislation of Local Authorities Elections Ordinance in 1950 entrusted local councils to organize elections for the office of the councilors, who are the people who govern local area. Subsequently amendments were made to this legislation to empower residents to establish more local councils in their area. The government in 1965 formed a Malaysian royal commission to investigate the local government system with the aim of abolishing it. The local government elections were abolished on 2nd March 1965.
The uncertainties and insecurities during the ‘konfrontasi’ era with Indonesia were cited as a primary reason for abolishing local government elections. During this period of time the opposition parties were very critical towards the national policies and they had very dominant influence in several local authorities. The alliance government to cut off the opposition influence on local authorities and to regain its control of the government frontline formed the Malaysian royal commission to justify the abolition of local elections. There was considerable opposition to the abolition of local government elections later. This led to the preparation of Nahappan report which was well received by many community leaders, but the government used the May 13th incident to do away with local government elections for good.
By July, 1972 all local government elections had been entirely abolished and a new temporary provision of the Local Government Act was implemented. A new Local Government Act was finalized in 1976 to empower state governments to integrate old local authorities and thus create new local authorities which were large enough to make it effective unit from both the administrative and financial perspective.
This third level government is fundamentally a municipality management unit that caters for basic services such as city and town planning, licensing and its control, city landscaping, health and cleanliness services, controlling contagious diseases, constructing and regulating road and drainage systems, managing traffic systems and providing and maintaining public amenities. To provide these services cost effectively and satisfactorily the municipal councils collect assessment taxes and other non assessment revenue through the provision of services mentioned above. Therefore residents have a direct interest in the management of local councils.
The existing management of local council is highly bureaucratic with no accountability, transparency and competency in the provision of services to residents. The BN government use councils to appoint its own cronies and appointees to manage the local councils. The local councils are not answerable to residents for poor quality of services. Heads of local councils are civil servants who want to be in the good books of fellow government servants and therefore avoid making hard and unpopular decisions. They prefer to manage with little if possible no public participation in formulating the policies. To improve the services and governances of local councils, the mayors and councilors must be elected. The current federal government is out of touch with the ground feelings and reality. The pakatan rakyat should include reintroducing local government election as an election issue in the 13th general elections. It’s high time that local residents manage their own neighborhood and do away with all divides and segregations.