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Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Folk speak out against mayor's gag order on councillors making press statements

Flashback: The StarMetro article which appeared on page 3, March 31, 2014.

Flashback: The StarMetro article which appeared on page 3, March 31, 2014.

DATUK Bandar Datuk Harun Rawi’s move banning Ipoh City Council councillors from making press statements on matters affecting their respective zones has not gone down well with the people.

Businessman TK Loh, 40, said he was surprised by the gag order issued by Harun.

Loh, from Chemor, said city councillors should be allowed to highlight issues in their respective areas so that the public will know what was happening.

“At one time, councillors used to inform the public on certain issues and make recommendations to the city council to resolve them.

“If not, how am I to know whether the council is doing its job or not?,” he asked.

“At least, with their statements made public, they are responsible for the things they said they would do,” he told The Star.

He added that the city councillors were the mayor’s eyes and ears and helped to ease the latter’s workload, by highlighting the matter publicly and providing solutions.

Loh also said that Harun should go down to the ground often to check on problems affecting the areas in the city centre.

“If the city councillors cannot highlight problems, I suggest that the mayor goes down to the ground himself, just like what his predecessor used to do,” he said.

Harun, during the council’s full board meeting last week, issued the gag order on city councillors not to publicise issues affecting their areas.

He explained that the move was to avoid any contradictions or confusion, adding that councillors could only bring these issues up at the council committee meetings.

Lim Garden Residents Association secretary K. Sagadevan, 68, said he was against the gag order, noting that the city council should be transparent when it comes to highlighting problems faced by the people.

“We must be kept informed of what’s going on in our respective areas.

“We need to know whether a problem is being fixed as well as be given any other information or updates regarding our areas,” he said.

“The councillors should be able to make statements to inform us through the media,” he added.

Sagadevan also said that by allowing the councillors to make public statements, the councillors would also be kept on their toes.

“I know of several hardworking councillors who are very helpful and do their best to resolve issues affecting their areas and also of some who are doing nothing but warming their seats,” he said.

He added that the mayor, the councillors and residents associations should work together and meet regularly to highlight issues and problems in the respective areas.

“In fact, I have yet to meet the new councillor in charge of my area,” he said.

“I was hoping the city council would provide us with a booklet with all the city councillors’ names and contact numbers soon but have yet to get this,” he added.

Freelance writer Bruce Tang, 30, who faced problems when he had to deal with city council staff regarding issues in his housing area in First Garden, said it was not a good idea to issue a gag order on the city councillors.

“I understand that there are standard operating procedures to follow but I feel the councillors could also be our voice.

“There were times that I was really frustrated with the city council staff as I could not get any answers from them regarding my problems,” said Tang.

“I was told that my complaints have been noted but no action was taken.

“The councillors, however, could at least provide me with some solutions,” he said.

Tang also suggested that the mayor sets up his own hotline so people could get answers straight from him if the councillors are banned from speaking.

“I am sure that this will not materialise and as such the mayor has to rethink his stand,” he said.

However, clerk LF Leong, who is in her 50s, said it was fine as long as problems were resolved by the city council.

“I don’t see any problem with the gag order. As long as the councillors are doing their job, it does not matter whether they can issue any statements or not.

“What matters at the end of the day is that the councillors are doing their job,” she said.

Leong, from Taman Saikat, said councillors, like most civil servants, have a responsibility to serve the people.

Tags / Keywords: Northern Region , Family Community , Harun


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