THE Prime Minister’s recent excuse that local council elections in Malaysia may give rise to race-related conflicts implies a lot of negativity in our democratically elected country. Malaysians have matured enough to know the problems conflicts can cause for everyone, as well as for the economy.
The Sarawak Institute for Public Affairs firmly believes that local elections will give rise to accountability and transparency, and boost performances of local councils.
First of all, it is the democratic right of the people to decide who serves on the councils. Residents are the taxpayers in the council’s jurisdiction, so they should have a say in the running of their own municipal areas, not the politically appointed, as is the practice now. Every municipality wants their councils to be answerable to them and not to some party leader; furthermore, many of these political appointees are not professionals and lack the skills to do the work expected.
By having elections, residents can be assured that those elected to their local councils are qualified, accountable and only there based on merit.
Malaysia has only about 146 local councils, so managing these should not be too much of an issue. Race or other considerations wouldn’t be an issue, as all residents of municipalities want their councils to be proactive, responsible and accountable, as it is all based on the needs of that particular municipality.
Naturally, some local councils now are performing well and are accountable but this should not detract from the fact that elections of local councils will definitely improve services and expectations, and will free us of the stench of political interference.
After more than 60 years of independence and setting ourselves up for the push to join the ranks of developed nations, Malaysia having local council elections will show the world that a multiracial, multireligious and multi-ethnic nation can progress under the rule of law.
Sarawak Institute for Public Affairs (Sipa)