Hoping for better oversight of Federal Territories


What was formerly the Federal Territories Ministry office in Putrajaya.

WHEN Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim announced his much leaner Cabinet several days ago, no mention was made of the Federal Territories Ministry.

Its fate remains unclear despite the fact that the ministry governs the three Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan.

Since the ministry was left out of Anwar’s Cabinet, the question on people’s minds, especially those living in the three Federal Territories, is what will happen to the FT Ministry.

Many assume that the ministry ‘s functions will be absorbed by another ministry like Local Government Development or Rural and Regional Development Ministry, or parked under the Prime Minister’s Department.

The last of the three is quite possible as the ministry was under the purview of the Prime Minister’s Department before 2004.

Is an FT Ministry needed?

Public feedback has been varied, with some wanting the Federal Territories Ministry to be abolished all together while others hope that it can be retained but downsized.

“Perhaps the ministry can be merged with the Local Government Development Ministry because of some overlapping functions,’’ said National House Buyers Association (HBA) honorary secretary-general Datuk Chang Kim Loong.

“This is in line with the Prime Minister’s aspiration for a leaner Cabinet.

“Housing projects like Prima Homes, Syarikat Perumahan Negara Bhd and Rumawip all come under the Local Government Development Ministry’s purview, so it is only logical for both ministries to be merged,’’ said Chang.

Chan feels the Kuala Lumpur mayor is capable of running the capital city.Chan feels the Kuala Lumpur mayor is capable of running the capital city.

Echoing his sentiments is Taman Desa Residents Association advisor Datuk William Chan, who felt that Kuala Lumpur does not need a minister as the city already has a mayor in charge of its day-to-day running.

“The Prime Minister’s idea of downsizing is laudable and if you need to merge the ministry with another, I think that it should be merged with the Local Government Development Ministry,” said Chan.

Local government expert Derek Fernandez opined that there was no real need for a Federal Territories Ministry as Labuan Corporation and Putrajaya Corporation had their own local authorities or equivalent bodies that exercised most of the powers under the Local Government Act 1976.

“In my opinion, these Federal Territories should be brought fully under the Local Government Act 1976 like with the rest of Malaysia where local governments either have a mayor or council president with 24 councillors.

“The Local Government Development Ministry can then exercise administrative and federal policy oversight over Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL), Putrajaya Corporation and Labuan Corporation,” he said.

He added that not only would this save costs but avoid unnecessary duplication in function between the Local Government Development Ministry and Federal Territories Ministry.

However, this may involve the need to repeal some laws dealing with the federal capital, which can be done within six months.

“So, in the interim, moving the ministry to the Prime Minister’s Department as was originally the case may make sense only if there are cost savings and it can deal with the major complaints the public have about alleged political interference in DBKL affairs,” Fernandez said.

He stressed that what was critical and more important was decision-making not being vested in one person only, but followed the formula of 25 people under the Local Government Act 1976.

“Also, if the Prime Minister’s Department takes over, it should correct the many flawed policy matters in relation to planning, development and governance.

Fernandez says Federal Territories should be brought under the Local Government Act 1976.Fernandez says Federal Territories should be brought under the Local Government Act 1976.

Fernandez said this includes reinstating the right to be heard in all planning and development applications, upholding the right to information and viewing of documents in public hearings, implementing Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee reports on Federal Territories, carrying out investigation and review of the causes of Kuala Lumpur residents’ unhappiness resulting from Kuala Lumpur City Plan being changed without what they perceive is lack of due process.

“Until this is done, whether Federal Territories Ministry goes to the Prime Minister’s Department or not, it will make little difference if the single decision-making model is still used.

“The practice of special one-stop centre (OSC) and ministers chairing OSCs or issuing non-policy directives to the mayor are matters that need attention,’’ he said.

Long-time Brickfields’ resident Dr Christopher Nicholas claimed that the overlapping of powers and functions in the ministry is due to politics.

“Kuala Lumpur is different, it is not like Selangor where there are state seats.

“We only have parliamentary seats which were mostly won by the Opposition. That was why they set up the Federal Territories Ministry in the first place.

“Now that there is a new government, they should do away with it,’’ he added.

Previous Federal Territory Day celebrations have involved budgets ranging between between RM3mil and RM5mil. — FilepicsPrevious Federal Territory Day celebrations have involved budgets ranging between between RM3mil and RM5mil. — Filepics

Will FT Day continue?

Some city folk are more concerned with other matters related to the ministry’s future.

“My question is what will happen to City Day if the Federal Territories Ministry is abolished?

“Does that mean we do not get a holiday any more?” asked Meneka Raja from Sentul.

Federal Territory Day (FT Day), which falls on Feb 1, is a public holiday in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan.

Another point brought up by Bangsar resident Rajesk Mani was the fate of the annual investiture ceremony held in conjunction with FT Day.

“Will this be done away with as well if there is no FT ministry?,’’ he asked.

Christopher: There had been an overlap of powers and functions after the FT Ministry was set up.Christopher: There had been an overlap of powers and functions after the FT Ministry was set up.

The investiture ceremony was created in 2007 and the first ceremony was held in 2008.

It was introduced during the tenure of then Federal Territories minister Tan Sri Zulhasnan Rafique.

Every year on Feb 1, the government confers honours — Darjah Kebesaran Bintang dan Pingat Wilayah Persekutuan (DKBPWP).

Nominations for the awards are managed by the ministry in collaboration with the Prime Minister’s Department.

Nominations from the civil service and local authority are recommended by the Chief Secretary to the Government while political nominees are recommended by the Federal Territories Minister.

The final decision lies with the King and the Prime Minister.

The budget for Federal Territory celebrations varies between RM3mil and RM5mil.

Background of ministry

The ministry was established in 1979 and Malaysia’s third Prime Minister Tun Hussein Onn also held the post of Federal Territories minister back then

The post was then abolished in 1987.

However, former Federal Territories minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor was in charge of the administration of the Federal Territories when it came under the Prime Minister’s Department in the early 2000s.

The Federal Territories Lands and Mines Office in Kuala Lumpur previously came under the purview of the FT Ministry. — FilepicThe Federal Territories Lands and Mines Office in Kuala Lumpur previously came under the purview of the FT Ministry. — Filepic

In 2004, under then prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the Federal Territories Ministry was revived with Tan Sri Mohamed Isa Abdul Samad appointed as its minister.

Since then until the dissolution of Parliament this year to pave the way for the 15th General Election, there have been eight Federal Territories ministers, including Tan Sri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, who was appointed acting minister for four months between Oct 16, 2005 until Feb 14 2006 after the resignation of Mohamed Isa.

Tan Sri Zulhasnan Rafique was later appointed minister until 2009.

Throughout 2004 to 2020, several agencies were incorporated into the ministry such as the Kampung Baru Development Corporation, the Federal Territories Lands and Mines Office as well as the Federal Territories Sports Council.

Employees from agencies such as the Public Service Department, Information Department, Environment Department and Town and Country Planning Department (PLANMalaysia) were seconded to the ministry.

Today, the ministry has about 300 employees.

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