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Thread: Proposal for "Elected" Local Government

   
   
       
  1. #1
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    Proposal for "Elected" Local Government

    How we can have elected Local Government without "elections"?

    Elected Local Authorities were active in Malaya from independence in 1957 until 1963. Most of the local authorities were dominated by the opposition parties and this was a major irritant to the ruling Alliance party at the time.

    On 16 Sept 1963, Malaysia was formed followed immediately by the declaration of Confrontation by Indonesia. The Malaysian government took the opportunity then to suspend elected local government. A Royal Commission was set up to study the need for elected local government. As events later will show, it was a charade to play for time and to look for reasons not to have elected local government.

    There have been several forums and news articles published that calls for the restoration of local government elections:

    1. How local govts can be elected, Wed 30 Apr 08, The Sun, by Derek John Fernandez
    Part 1: http://www.malaysianbar.org.my/opini...e_elected.html
    Part 2: http://www.malaysianbar.org.my/opini...uncillor_.html

    2. Conference on the Roadmap to Local Government Elections 28 Jul 08
    http://www.malaysianbar.org.my/bar_n...elections.html

    And yet, we keep on hearing the same old excuse why local government elections cannot be held - http://tindakmalaysia.com/tm_forums2...pic,149.0.html

    a. The Local Government Act 1976 stipulates that only the Elections Commission (SPR) is authorized to conduct elections.
    b. The SPR is under the control of the Federal Government and they will not agree to conduct local government elections
    c. It costs a lot of money to conduct such elections.
    d. We don’t have the electoral roll.
    e. We are not sure that Derek Fernandez’s arguments will stand up in court. Our legal adviser tells us that our chances are not good if we were to sue the Federal Government over the issue.

    What is very disappointing to the people who supported the PR parties because of their promise for elected local government is that there is no real demonstration of political will to have a local government selected by the people. So far, all they have done is to give excuses not to have elected local government so that they can continue to appoint their party members to the councils. The next thing they did is pass a State Resolution asking the Federal Government to permit the conduct of local government elections. These are mere posturings.

    To test the sincerity of the PR State Governments, we wish to make a proposal that will overcome their problems (and objections) with respect to the Federal Government and the Federal Laws related to Local Government. It does not need a degree in Rocket Science to figure this out. All the political parties have been conducting their own elections for years without the help of the SPR.

    Method 1 Current situation
    : State Government appoints local councillors without any significant input from the public.

    Method 2 Full local government elections
    : The Federal Government agrees to the conduct of local government elections and instructs the SPR to proceed accordingly. PR claims that BN will not agree to it.

    Method 3 Opinion Poll
    : Conduct an opinion poll of all rate-payers and the State Government undertake to abide by the results of these opinion polls.

    Objections:
    These are the common objections we have heard so far from the State Government.

    Objection: The Local Government Act 1976 does not allow the State Government to conduct local government elections. Only the SPR is authorized to conduct elections

    Answer: This is not an election, merely an opinion poll. So we don’t need the SPR’s involvement.

    Objection: We don’t have the electoral roll.

    Answer: We don’t need the electoral roll. All the local councils have the rate-payers rolls. There are about 1 million land titles in Selangor. The owners represent more than 50% of the voting population registered with the SPR. (Selangor has 2.048 million voters, GE13 Electoral Roll)

    Objection: What if a person holds 5 titles – he gets 5 votes?

    Answer: Yes. What is the objection to that? Surely that is better than the current system where no one gets to vote.

    We are sure there will much more objections to come but basically it is just a measure of the State Government’s will whether they are sincere in fulfilling their election pledges.

    How to conduct the polling exercise?


    Voter Roll:
    Use the local council rate-payers rolls. This is not a problem since every local council will have a roll from which they extract the information to prepare their assessment notices.

    Undertaking by State Government:
    The State Government undertakes to abide by the results of the poll and appoint the successful candidates for a 3-year term.

    Vetting Committee: Set up a vetting committee to pre-qualify the candidates. The criteria for acceptance of a nomination for councilor are to be set up and established beforehand. They may include:
    a. Local residency qualification
    b. Professional qualification relevant to the requirements of running a local council. Eg Professional qualifications in Architecture, Engineering, Government Service in Local Councils at Management Level, Land Surveying, Law, Management, Political Science, Quantity Surveying, Social Science, Town Planning, etc.
    c. Or successful business entrepreneurs/local councillor experience.
    d. At least 10 years experience in the relevant profession or business.
    e. Other criteria as decided by the committee and approved by the State Exco.

    Who is eligible to vote:
    Only rate-payers who are current in the payment of their assessment are eligible to vote.

    Timing of poll:

    a. Calling for nominations of candidates for vetting by the vetting committee: 31st Dec 2008
    b. Committee announces the list of eligible candidates: 31st Jan 2009
    c. Campaign by candidates commence: 1 Feb 2009.
    d. Polling slip prepared for posting to rate-payers: 5 Mar 2009
    e. Last day for payment of assessments by rate-payers for first half 2009: 28 Feb 2009.
    f. Local councils post polling slip to rate-payers who are current with their payment of assessment: 7 Mar 2009.
    g. Rate-payers submit their ballot slips to the local council ballot box from 24 to 31 Mar 2009.
    h. 1 Apr 2009: Ballot counting commence in presence of authorized voting agents of the candidates.
    i. Top 13 candidates are selected to be local councillors. The number of local councillors should be adjusted to match the population and revenue of the local council. Eg 13 full-time councillors for MPSJ is adequate while it may be too many for Kuala Selangor. The candidate with the highest number of votes shall be selected to be the Council President or Mayor.
    j. The current batch of local councillors will have their contract expiring by end Jun 2009. So the polling programme above will fit in nicely.

    Renumeration of Councillors:
    RM 5,000 per month with revision every 3 years. They are executive councillors and are required to serve full time. So, they should be adequately compensated.

    They are to be provided with 2 full-time assistants paid by the local council to assist them in their duties.

    They shall have the power recommend the hire and fire of staff in the local councils.

    Remarks:

    There will be a lot of other details that need to be addressed and one thousand and one reasons why it cannot be done.

    But the fundamental issue is: Does the State Government have the sincerity and willpower to let the people have their voice in selecting their local councillors. This will be used as a benchmark to assess the PR Government on their other promises.

    Conclusion:
    Local government elections can be held through a polling system using the rate-payers rolls. It does not need to follow the format used for state or federal elections. To get round the restrictions of the existing Local Government Act 1976, we can conduct a “popularity” poll to get the views of the rate-payers. This poll can be conducted very cheaply and easily. The State Government shall then appoint the councillors based on the results of this poll.

    This is a very important step to promote grass-roots democracy and protect us from moving back into the regressive regime of the past.
    Attached Files Attached Files
    py

  2. #2
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    Malaysian Local Authorities for Dummies

    Thanks to Bob Kee for this article. He did great work in researching it.
    Attached Files Attached Files
    py

  3. #3

    Re: Proposal for "Elected" Local Government

    My primary objection to this proposal would be disenfranchisement. While the proposal looks like a good interim measure in view of the current deficiencies, it potentially opens up a Pandora's box of negative possibilities:

    • The legitimisation of the practice of poll taxing - ie. you may be old enough to vote but you may not have enough money (to be a rate payer) to qualify to vote
    • The reduction of the right to vote into a privilege
    • Further delay to any initiatives; current or future; to reintroduce local elections based on the principle of universal suffrage


    Historically, the poll tax had been used in the southern United States as a method of denying ethnic minorities the vote, even after Emancipation. This continued until the 24th Amendment was passed in 1964. More recently, Margaret Thatcher lost her Prime Ministership because of the introduction of poll taxes in the last few years of her administration resulting in the massive Poll Tax Riots of 1990. While the British poll tax (technically known as the Community Charge) didn't effect the right to vote, it did deny access to certain essential services if a person did not have the privilege of being a rate payer.

    This is one slippery slope that I do not want to even provide a toe hold for.

    The line between what is an inherent right and what is a privilege; and whether an inherent right remains inherent for a citizen only or does it apply to all human beings; remains a difficult philosophical and practical question to answer. Malaysia's record, however, is already quite abysmal, whereby we throw in the factor of ethnicity and privilege of birth as additional criterias. The last thing I would like to see occur is to throw in another wrench into the equation.

  4. #4
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    MT Article

    Article posted in Malaysia-Today here:

    http://mt.m2day.org/2008/content/view/14467/84/
    py

  5. #5
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    Re: Proposal for "Elected" Local Government

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob K
    My primary objection to this proposal would be disenfranchisement.
    Bob, If you can come up with a better proposal without having to go to the Federal Govt or the SPR, I am all ears. :)

    We are tired of listening to excuses why it can't be done and hearing about the State Assembly passing a resolution demanding that the Federal Govt allow local govt elections. This is just a sandiwara.

    We want action!
    py

  6. #6

    Re: Proposal for "Elected" Local Government

    A fundamental principle of democratic governance is check and balance. This helps prevent what is known as the "tyranny of the majority". I am, therefore, less inclined to bypass any one branch of government, even if an existing branch is temporarily ineffective. It's the facilitation of short cut measures like these (in the name of efficiency), particularly during the Mahathir administration, that has resulted in the extremely stunted and "lip-service" variety of parliamentary democracy that we have today. Not sure if this is one slippery slope that we want to experiment with again.

  7. #7
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    Re: Proposal for "Elected" Local Government

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob K
    A fundamental principle of democratic governance is check and balance. This helps prevent what is known as the "tyranny of the majority". I am, therefore, less inclined to bypass any one branch of government, even if an existing branch is temporarily ineffective. It's the facilitation of short cut measures like these (in the name of efficiency), particularly during the Mahathir administration, that has resulted in the extremely stunted and "lip-service" variety of parliamentary democracy that we have today. Not sure if this is one slippery slope that we want to experiment with again.
    Bob,

    I think you are arguing yourself into a corner. In the first place, local govt elections was a state right. A Federal law was passed which took the State's rights away. Now you are arguing that we should comply with this law in spirit even though it is an unjust law from the point of view of the state and the locals. Where's the logic.
    py

  8. #8
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    Re: Proposal for "Elected" Local Government

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob K
    My primary objection to this proposal would be disenfranchisement. While the proposal looks like a good interim measure in view of the current deficiencies, it potentially opens up a Pandora's box of negative possibilities:

    • The legitimisation of the practice of poll taxing - ie. you may be old enough to vote but you may not have enough money (to be a rate payer) to qualify to vote
    • The reduction of the right to vote into a privilege
    • Further delay to any initiatives; current or future; to reintroduce local elections based on the principle of universal suffrage


    Historically, the poll tax had been used in the southern United States as a method of denying ethnic minorities the vote, even after Emancipation. This continued until the 24th Amendment was passed in 1964. More recently, Margaret Thatcher lost her Prime Ministership because of the introduction of poll taxes in the last few years of her administration resulting in the massive Poll Tax Riots of 1990. While the British poll tax (technically known as the Community Charge) didn't effect the right to vote, it did deny access to certain essential services if a person did not have the privilege of being a rate payer.

    This is one slippery slope that I do not want to even provide a toe hold for.

    The line between what is an inherent right and what is a privilege; and whether an inherent right remains inherent for a citizen only or does it apply to all human beings; remains a difficult philosophical and practical question to answer. Malaysia's record, however, is already quite abysmal, whereby we throw in the factor of ethnicity and privilege of birth as additional criterias. The last thing I would like to see occur is to throw in another wrench into the equation.
    Indeed, one may call the disenfranchisement relative to those who can vote in this plan a slippery slope.

    But on the flip side, one can call the enfranchisement of a large bloc of citizens in terms of their bargaining power in deciding the allocation of more governmental positions another slippery slope, one that bodes well for cause of wider enfranchisement.

    The Jim Crow-related laws in the American South were explicitly framed in the context of taxation to be a prerequisite to vote. It endured, because subsequent debates were similarly framed. However, we can avoid this, by keeping the reference point of the argument as having this as a step towards eventual suffrage for all residence of a local council's jurisdiction.

    Furthermore, it must be emphasised that policies of disenfranchisement in the US South encompassed all stages of government, right up to federal elections, since state governments had complete authority over electoral matters. Thus, the disenfranchised were virtually denied all route for dissension. This temporary workaround, however, does not deny the right to vote in SPR-managed elections, giving a virtual check against any grievances produced by the lack of a vote in local elections.

    I also find your argument that if ever there is a system that disenfranchised any segment of society, it should not be implemented as somewhat stymieing. There will always be arguments that any one law disenfranchises a number of people. It's why even in the West, electoral laws are always up or debate.

    First-Past-The-Post systems, for example, disenfranchises by per capita. Proportional Representation systems disenfranchise regions of lower population density to a degree. But in both cases, it does not immediately follow that these electoral system should not have its place, as it dilutes certain people's right to vote relative to some of their fellow citizens.

    Thus, viewed in the context of being a relatively enfranchising policy (relative to the current system) instead of a relatively disenfranchising policy (relative to the system present should this be implemented), it is a step forward IMHO, disregarding the rigidity of narrow principles.

    cheers

  9. #9
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    Re: Proposal for "Elected" Local Government

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob K
    A fundamental principle of democratic governance is check and balance. This helps prevent what is known as the "tyranny of the majority". I am, therefore, less inclined to bypass any one branch of government, even if an existing branch is temporarily ineffective. It's the facilitation of short cut measures like these (in the name of efficiency), particularly during the Mahathir administration, that has resulted in the extremely stunted and "lip-service" variety of parliamentary democracy that we have today. Not sure if this is one slippery slope that we want to experiment with again.
    Contrast between ad-hoc measures of the Mahathir era and this one must be drawn.

    Mahathir's quick and dirty solutions were precisely doable because they were helped on and they helped on the centralisation of power in the hands of the Feds. This is not even taking into account the fact that the neutering of state governments began long before that and was already present in the first constitution. His was not the tyranny of the masses, but the whims of a few men.

    As for stemming the tide of the potentially regressive "tyranny of the masses", I would add that it is not only the presence of checks and balances that aids against this, BUT also the presence of checks by bodies with very little or minimal input from the masses.

    Taking the US as an example, it is why Senators are elected for long, 6-year terms: they are less affected by fickle and ever-changing public opinion. In fact, senators used to be simply appointed by state governments. Next, there are the various federal judicial appointments, that are for life and not directly selected by the electorate.

    Now, in our context, the tyranny of the masses is far from encroaching our political system. There are only two elections a voter can partake in, reducing their effect. One of the election they to take part in is of minimal consequences (the state government), and the other is affected heavily by gerrymandering and various other mechanisms of apathy.

    Thus, in the greater scheme of things, adding another election, one for local elections, will not endanger our democracy in the form of putting our government in the hands of popular fervour, the "tyranny of the masses".

    cheers

  10. #10
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    Re: Proposal for "Elected" Local Government

    Welcome, whodhK to Tindak Malaysia. Heavy stuff here. From your postings, I can see that if Bob and you get together, I better get out of the way.

    I take it you basically agree that the proposal for "elected" local govt using an opinion poll of the rate-payers is better than nothing. This is meant to be a temporaty measure until the 1975 Local Govt Act can be over-turned.
    py

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