Pushing for local govt elections

“WE believe it is a case of conflict of interest.”

This comment from Kepong MP Lim Lip Eng in reference to Yayasan Wilayah Persekutuan’s involvement in land deals totalling 170ha has to be the understatement of the year.

Over the last five years, City Hall has sold 64 plots of land worth RM4.28bil in Kuala Lumpur to the foundation.

No open tenders were called and, allegedly, most of the land was sold below market price.

Lim and Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh lodged a report with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commis­sion (MACC) on Wednesday, calling for a probe on Yayasan Wilayah Persekutuan.

Lim said most of the land had earlier been categorised as open or green spaces but were sold for development without the charges being paid to City Hall.

I have consistently called for Kuala Lumpur’s green lungs to be protected and gazetted.

On March 24 last year in my column, I raised the issue of a conflict of interest involving Yayasan Wilayah Persekutuan.

I found it odd that then FT Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, former deputy FT Minister Datuk Loga Bala Mohan and KL Mayor Tan Sri Mohd Amin Nordin Abdul Aziz were all trustees of the foundation, which is also the developer of the controversial Taman Rimba Kiara project.

How could the three key persons in charge of administrating the nation’s capital be also involved in developing private residential and commercial projects here?

Unfortunately, City Hall continued to issue development orders for projects without properly taking into account studies for traffic, environmental and social impact assessment.

In the case of Taman Rimba Kiara, residents have taken the local authority to court in a bid to stop the development of eight blocks of apartments ranging from 42 to 54 storeys.

In Taman Desa, the resident’s association has also sought legal recourse over City Hall’s approval for high-rise projects in the area that would be built on public-use land, green lungs and even Tenaga Nasional reserve land.

In both instances, the local authority initiated dialogue sessions with residents but despite overwhelming objections, went ahead with planning permission and development orders.

But it is heartening to note that this week, DBKL has put on hold all applications for development projects on vacant land and hill slopes.

After a meeting with the mayor, Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil said all land deals would be reviewed and all other sale of land in future would be done via open tender.

All the 11 KL MPs are expected to meet with the mayor soon and I hope these newly minted MPs would also initiate a discussion on the relevance of the FT Ministry.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has said that his Cabinet would consist of only 24 to 25 ministries, far fewer than the previous administration. And one ministry that might be abolished could well be the Federal Territories.

Personally, I feel that there are overlapping functions between the ministry and DBKL. I think the final say in matters concerning Kuala Lumpur should best be left to City Hall and the mayor.

And as for the mayor himself, there’s already been calls to allow Kuala Lumpur residents to elect their mayor, just like in other developed cities. Lest we forget, pushing for local government elections was one of the promises made in Pakatan Harapan’s 100-day manifesto.

The 11th mayor of Kuala Lumpur, Mohd Amin’s tenure ends on July 8 next year, but legislation for local government elections can be done as early as the next Parliament meeting.

Actually, for the past 20 years, MPs from the Opposition, who are now forming the new Federal Government, have been collectively championing local government elections for a more transparent and accountable system of governance at City Hall. And these elections are not new.

The first such election in Kuala Lumpur was held on Feb 16, 1952, where 12 out of the 18 councillors in the then Kuala Lumpur Municipal Council were elected, with the remaining six appointed by the Sultan of Selangor.

The last local council elections were held in 1963. Local government elections that were supposed to be held in 1964 and 1965 were suspended. The official reason given by the federal government was Indonesia’s confrontation with Malaysia.

The suspension, supposed to be temporary, became permanent in 1976, when Parliament passed the Local Government Act which only provided for appointed councillors, abolishing local government elections altogether.

Bringing back local council elections would hopefully mean a City Hall that would only be accountable to the people of Kuala Lumpur. And if we were to do away with the post of FT Minister, this would also mean less interference from politicians.

And since I started with a quote from Lim Lip Eng, I’ll end with one of his too.

“We need an elected mayor who is answerable to the electorate and will pay more attention to the needs of the people and not to those who appointed them.”

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Opinion , brian martin , mayor , dbkl , FT Ministry


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