KLANG Municipal Council (MPK) president Datuk Mohamad Yasid Bidin’s move in banning councillors from making press statements on their respective zones has not gone down well with community leaders.
Abdul Razak Ismail, who is part of an activist group called Otai Reformasi, said the council’s new policy was akin to a gag order.
“Councillors are the people’s representative and link to the local council. Most of them are politically appointed, and tasked with engaging with the people and dealing with the media to resolve issues.
“For some twisted reasons, Mohamad Yasid has decided to stifle the people’s reps,” he added.
Last Friday, in a unilateral move, a two-page letter backdated to March 25 was issued prohibiting councillors as well as MPK staff from making statements, be it in oral, written or in any other form.
In the letter, it stated that issues, policies and other matters related to the council’s ambit of power can only be addressed by the council president, secretary, corporate communications director and MPK staff who have been given the authority to do so.
“MPK is citing the Public Officers (Conduct and Discipline) Regulations 1993 P.U (A) 395/1993), to prohibit councillors from making statements, which I think is absurd.
“Councillors are required to engage with the people in their neighbourhood zones and speak to the media regarding unrepaired potholes, uncollected rubbish, flash floods or closure of roads,” he said.
Abdul Razak said the councillors are accountable to the Residents Representative Council (MPP), Residents Associations (RA) and Rukun Tetangga (RT) at the zone levels that cover the municipality.
“Councillors are the people working with the rakyat. I see MPK’s gag order as throwing a spanner into the works to disrupt the closest institution – the MPP, RA and RT where the people work with the councillors,” he said.
He added that Mohamad Yasid’s gag order indicated he need for an iron-fist control on what information can or cannot go out with the aim of keeping ratepayers in the dark.
Abdul Razak believed that Mohamad Yasid has resorted to restricting the councillors’ free speech due to several issues, among them being the council turning a blind eye to the construction of a temple in a residential area off Persiaran Seraya in Taman Chi Liung and the lackadaisical attitude of council supervisors in ensuring that private contractors clean up drains.
He urged Mohamad Yasid to withdraw the policy that curtails the councillors’ free speech.
Two-term councillor in charge of Zone 45A, Bandar Baru Klang area Ngian Yoke Mooi, confirmed that there was no discussion with councillors on the issue of giving comments to the media.
“On this matter of barring councillors’ free speech, I do not agree. I will bring this matter to MPK’s Social Department sub-committee meeting to iron out the issue.
“Until then, I will freely give views or press statements to pressmen,” she said.
Councillor Sebastine Rao Pragasam said, “I am shocked by the gag order issued. As councillors, we must be allowed to highlight issues in our respective areas so that the public will know what is happening.
“We need to inform the public on certain issues, make recommendations to MPK or other local authorities and bring up issues in the media in order to resolve them,” he added.
Several MPK staff who declined to be named told StarMetro that the gag order on staff was uncalled for as it undermined their credibility and loyalty to the council.
“We feel there are matters that the media needs to be informed of and we strongly criticise the senior management, as this mocks and mentally bullies the employees working for the council,” said a staff.