Call on all
State Assemblies to formally recognize the position and role of State
Assembly Opposition Leader while Perak should respond to Abdullah’s call
for “First World Parliament” by being the first state to become a “First
World State Assembly” pioneering state assembly reforms and modernization to
be emulated by all other states
- when opening the DAP Ipoh Timor parliamentary constituency service centre
by Lim Kit Siang
(Ipoh, Saturday): The 11th Parliament started on a right and proper footing with consensus between the government and the opposition and between the front and back benchers to make the Malaysian Parliament a “First World Parliament” in keeping with the Prime Minister’s pledge to remove the primary obstacle to Malaysia becoming a fully developed nation – the “First World Infrastructure, Third World Mentality” malaise – by initiating a series of parliamentary reforms and modernization.
The commitment for Malaysia to make the transition from “First World Infrastructure, Third World Mentality” to “First World Infrastructure, First World Mentality” must be infused into all levels of government and society and accepted as a challenge by all far-sighted and public-spirited Malaysians.
The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, has repeatedly stressed that if Malaysia is to join the ranks of developed nations with “First World Infrastructure, First World Mentality”, there must a change of mindset at all levels of leadership and society to achieve the objective of a clean, incorruptible, accountable, trustworthy and people-oriented administration.
Perak should respond to Abdullah’s call for “First World Parliament” by being the first state to become a “First World State Assembly” pioneering state assembly reforms and modernization to be emulated by all other states.
The Perak State Assembly, which will meet for debate after its official opening by the Sultan of Perak on June 15, can spearhead such “First World State Assembly” reforms and modernization, by ensuring that there is full democratic space for all Assembly members, particularly from the Opposition, to speak up and reflect the people’s hopes and fears, dreams and nightmares.
The Perak State Assembly should allow for time to debate Opposition motions as well as emulate Parliament by establishing Select Committees with government and opposition representatives to address issues of great concern to the people in the State, eg, the performance and quality of local government services.
There is one thing which the Perak State Government and State Assembly can do to establish itself as the leader of reform and modernization – by being the first State Assembly in the country to formally accord recognition to the position and role of an Assembly Opposition Leader, through enactment of state legislation to establish the office of an Assembly Opposition Leader.
In fact, I would call on all State Governments and State Assemblies in the country to to formally recognize the position and role of State Assembly Opposition Leader by creating the institution of Office of Opposition Leader in all State Assemblies by formal legislation, as is the case with the Parliamentary Opposition Leader.
In another three years, Malaysia will be celebrating the half-century of independent nationhood – and August 2007 should be the deadline for all State Assemblies in the country to establish the institution of Office of Opposition Leader, as a mark of the increasing maturity of the Malaysian democratic experiment.
There is another area which the Perak State Government and State Assembly can be a leader and model of reform and modernization for other States, viz to deliver good governance in the State with an effective, efficient, trustworthy and people-oriented administration, checking abuses of power, breaches of trust, misappropriation of public funds and all forms of malpractices.
Recently, the Perak State Government announced the two-month extension of the tenure of all the City, Municipal and District Councillors, but there is no sign or promise that there is going to be a radical overhaul both of local government performance, effectiveness and accountability or the system of appointment of local government councilors.
One of the greatest blot of the appointed local government system is the rampant abuses in the appointment of the councilors, which are regarded as ”spoils of office” or the private property of the Barisan Nasional component parties – not to provide efficient, effective and accountable local government services to the ratepayers, but as a passport in their climb up the Barisan Nasional political ladder to hopefully end up in the State Assembly or Parliament.
During their tenure of service as appointed councilors whether as City, Municipal or district councillors, they are not accountable to anyone, least of all to the ratepayers, as there is no satisfactory mechanism whereby the ratepayers can hold any local government councillor to personal account for failures of the local government authority – whether for clogged drains, road potholes, uncut grass/bushes or unhygienic surroundings.
The most effective solution is to restore local government elections to make councillors directly responsible and accountable to the ratepayers for local government services. Short of the holding of local government elections, the Perak State Government should lead the way for all states in the country to end the rampant abuses of the appointed local government system, by setting up a citizens’ appointment panel for local government councillors to vet prospective councillors not to fulfil any quota for Barisan Nasional component parties but to assess their ability to serve the ratepayers – regardless of political party affiliation.
It is hoped that the Perak State Assembly next month would take the first steps to move towards an effective, efficient, accountable and representative Ipoh City Council, municipal and district councils to restore good local governance in the state – failing which, the DAP will launch a people’s campaign to empower the ratepayers to demand direct accountability and responsibility from the local government and the appointed councilors about quality local government service.
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader,
Member of Parliament for Ipoh Timor & DAP National Chairman