You Can Do More For Local Polls Ngos Tell Jagdeep



The Penang Local Council Elections Working Group, a coalition of NGOs, said the state government could do more to implement local council elections instead of relying on Putrajaya to do the job
The NGOs noted the Penang state government had in the past advocated for local polls to be restored in Penang and had filed a court case towards this
"Together with former Aliran president, P Ramakrishnan, the state government had taken the case all the way up to the Federal Court," said activist Sudhagaran Stanley (above) today on behalf of the working group
"But saying that “we are ever ready” or that “we have done our best” however is no longer enough," added Stanley, who is also the Penang coordinator for the Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism
"With Pakatan Harapan now in control of the federal government, the DAP-led Penang administration should seize every opportunity to champion and strongly push forward this agenda, " said Stanley
Jagdeep Singh DeoStanley was referring to the Malaysiakini report yesterday Penang ever-ready, but up to Putrajaya to restore local polls in which Penang exco Jagdeep Singh Deo said he had briefed the federal government on the issue of local elections which were last exercised in Malaysia in 1964
Jagdeep had also reminded that Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad had cautioned that local polls could result in racial strife
Stanley said from press reports, it would seem as though Minister for Housing and Local Government Zuraida Kamaruddin was "left all alone" to champion the cause
Zuraida had previously said the federal government was expected to table amendments to laws to allow local polls by 2020
"As such, we call upon the DAP-led Penang government to strongly advocate for local council elections and stand with Zuraida in her advocacy
"We hope the Penang state government will not back down from parties that oppose the restoration of local elections with misleading non-issues thus allowing others to pressure it into doing another U-turn, " said Stanley
Zuraida KamaruddinThe Penang Local Council Elections Working Group was formed in April 2019 and comprises those who are keen to improve the level of participatory democracy in society by working to restore the third vote
Stanley said the state government could organise public education programmes on local council elections for the various local communities and build support for the cause. This could include seminars, workshops and public debates
"We see this as an important step to help raise awareness and gain public trust and confidence," Stanley said
"Now that the Penang government has a close working relationship with the federal government, the state should work to gain approval from cabinet to hold local council elections in Penang first, without waiting for parliament to amend the laws," he added
"This could be done as a pilot project."Historically, George Town was the first jurisdiction to conduct local government elections in 1857 with three out of the five municipal commissioners being elected
After a suspension of local polls, Penang again became the first to elect nine out of the 15 municipal commissioners in 1951. In 1956, the George Town Municipal Council became the first local council to be fully elected
"Let us regain this glory by being the first state to restore local government elections now," Stanley said
"In light of a new government at the federal level, Penang could also take the matter up once again with the Federal Court for a review of its 2014 decision ruling that the Penang government did not have the jurisdiction to conduct local government elections," he said.Stanley said this move would affirm the position taken by the state previously that local government elections were a state matter under the Ninth Schedule of the Federal Constitution
This means the state legislature has the jurisdiction to provide for local elections under the Ninth Schedule and Article 113(4) of the Federal Constitution
"We need to restore the rights of the state to conduct local council elections. The Penang Local Council Election Working Group is ready to work with the state government and offer any assistance needed to help push forward this agenda," said Stanley
"Together, we can work and advocate for restoring local and grassroots democracy in Penang." - Mkini

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