Restore municipal elections

The photo shows the Kuching South City Council building at Jalan Padungan. Councilors should be elected, not appointed, in all local authorities in Sarawak, the columnist says.

I have been following the reports on local elections in the UK with some interest. What is the attitude of Malaysian politicians, especially those in Sarawak, when it comes to resuscitating local government elections in that country?

In Sarawak, these elections were abolished in 1981, for some reason I did not understand, and we have not heard of the rationale for the abolition since then.

I have written and spoken about the importance of local elections for Malaysia because I consider them necessary to maintain our parliamentary system of government.

Wasn’t that a condition of Sarawak’s entry into Malaysia?

Has the Special Committee on the 1963 Malaysia Agreement (MA63) ever discussed this subject?

They talk about the loss or erosion of the rights of the states of Sabah and Sarawak.

Since their deliberations are kept secret, we can only assume that the members of this committee are doing the right thing.

I would like these committee meetings to be open at least to representatives of political parties, as the Cobbold commission did 70 years ago.

A wishful thinking on my part?

Now suppose that many of these points agreed in the Special Committee meeting room on MA63 were not what the people of Sarawak had actually wanted their government to fight for. Suppose the people want the repeal of the Territorial Act 2012 and the National Petroleum Act 1974, or even an amendment to the Petroleum Act 1974 which would include provisions recognizing and thereby restoring to Sarawak its oil and gas rights in its former territorial waters. , back to the original boundaries set in 1954.

Wishful thinking perhaps, but we have a right to know what is being discussed on our behalf.

For your manifesto

Let us now return to the municipal elections.

The political parties are probably looking for documents to include in their respective manifestos as policy proposals or measures to be implemented, if they come to power, or in the case of the return to power of the incumbent government.

However, in looking through a number of these documents over the past two general elections, I have not seen any special mention of local council elections.

Why? Sometimes I think mine is the only voice in the desert, referring to the topic at hand until nauseated.

Is there an effective way to reach politicians and make them understand the importance of resuscitating local government elections?

Although elements of local government were introduced in 1921 by the Rajah, local government in Sarawak was not properly organized until 1948 (see Local Authority Ordinance 1948). Elections to choose councilors were held regularly – everyone had a blast!

But now, local councilors are appointed by the political parties in power. Advisors’ allegiance is to the parties who appoint them, not necessarily to the payers of rates and dues.

When Sarawak agreed to be a founding partner of the Federation of Malaya in 1963, one of the conditions was the maintenance of the local government system as well as the power to hold elections so that the ratepayers choose their spokespersons in each country. advice.

While the system is maintained and effectively recognized by the federal constitution, Sarawak’s council elections have been abolished.

For the manifesto

This news of recent local council elections in Britain has given me ideas on how to rekindle interest in our own local elections. I hope those concerned with reclaiming Sarawak’s rights after more than half a century of inaction would pick up and share my thoughts. Together, we will send a synergistic message to politicians who aspire to be statesmen.

Local parties that intend to participate in the next general elections should include in their manifestos written commitments to restore local elections and respect them when they are able to implement them.

At least local elections can be used to “test the temperature” of the population, politically speaking!

Importance of local elections

It seems that only Penang is interested in local government elections. This does not mean that Sarawak cannot continue to grant the wishes of those of our founding fathers who represented Sarawak in the negotiations with Malaysia!

Section 95E of the federal constitution provides for the exclusion of Sabah and Sarawak from national local government plans.

The Electoral Commission does not have to worry about the holding of our municipal elections. It is the job of the Commission to conduct elections.

It is therefore up to the people of Sarawak, through their government, to restore these elections as soon as possible – for the sake of good governance in this state.

The question of the costs of elections is quite another matter; to avoid significant expense, simultaneous polls can be held on the same day.

The exercise would only require three boxes: one for parliamentary seats, another for state seats and the third for local council members.

No additional workers would be needed to equip the polling stations. Jeeps, boats and helicopters can carry three sets of boxes; the same police personnel would guard the three ballot boxes; the same clerks would take care of the voting booths—three for the price of one!

I repeat, local government council members should be regularly elected, not just appointed as a “reward” for being “good old faithful party activists”. They must represent the people of their neighborhood, not the political parties!

For what they are worth, these are my humble opinions – they are my contribution to any party working on the manifesto for the next general election.

It’s around the corner, mate!

* Comments can reach the author via columnists@theborneopost.com.