Is the government afraid of local council elections? - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Wednesday, December 12, 2018
Malaysiakini : "The ultimate goal is to bring back local government elections.
Within the next 100 days I will try to come out with the legal framework
and mechanism for this." – Kepong MP Lim Lip Eng.
| The Harapan grand poohbah Dr Mahathir Mohamad comments that local
council elections could lead to racial strife because of the urban/rural
divide is the kind of horse manure that some Harapan operatives are
pushing in lieu of policies that would enhance democracy in this
They say all politics is local and with this in mind, the
continued reluctance of some Harapan political operatives to strengthen
and enhance the democratic processes should convince rational thinking
Malaysians that Harapan’s neo-BN polices are the framework for this New
When the prime minister claims that local council
elections may produce the “wrong” results, what exactly does this mean?
While the prime minister does not define what a “wrong” result is, it is
pretty clear that a wrong result would mean that whatever racial
formula that politics in this country is defined with would be chucked
When political operatives clutch their pearls about the
rural/urban divide, what they are worried about is that the rural
demographic, which is continuously screwed over by the federal
bureaucracy, would react in predictable ways to upset the apple cart
when egged on by opportunistic political operatives. The federal
government prefers it when it is the opportunistic political operative.
to the chief minister of Penang who stated his position without the
predicable waffling of some political operatives who go against the
federal line. Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow – by clearly
stating that Penang has been preparing for local council elections for
the last couple of years and is ready to go – is demonstrating the kind
of change that many Malaysians voted for in the last general election.
It is also indicative that the current Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng (photo)
was laying the groundwork for local government elections (if I am wrong
please correct me), which is something to commend, unlike his recent
obsequious behaviour when it comes to diktats from the corridors of
power in Putrajaya.
The quote that opens this piece by Lim Lip Eng
should tell you the importance of local council elections when it comes
to the democratic process in this country. It should also tell
you that, at one time not too long ago, Harapan political operatives
were interested in restoring the process that was shelved decades ago. Why?
Because they understand that this system works. They understand that
this process repairs the democratic foundation of this country, which
has long been eroded during Umno/BN’s administration.
For far too
long, the federal government through their proxies have engaged in
corrupt practices and destroyed the environments to satisfy commercial
interests, while people who live in these communities have had very
little say over.
Cynthia Gabriel wrote
this: “It is troubling to see that Dr Mahathir appears cornered to
racialising the issue as was done by various parties and by the BN
previously” about Harapan seemingly taking local council elections off
Remember when Lim Kit Siang said the same about Abdul Hadi Awang (photo)
and the BN regime? In a speech in 2015, Lim Kit Siang neatly demolished
the mendacious racial arguments put forward by certain political
operatives to curtail the democratic process in this country.
like many other political operatives, claimed that local council
elections could lead to another May 13. This was Lim Kit Siang’s response:
“It is, therefore, a great fallacy for anyone to assert that the
restoration of local government elections could result in another May 13
race riots. However, with Hadi opening the way, I will not be surprised
if this will henceforth be used by reactionary Barisan Nasional leaders
as an additional reason for opposing the restoration of local
Funny, right? I wonder if Kit Siang is
surprised that reactionary Harapan leaders are opposing local council
elections using the same argument?
Kit Siang’s formidable argument
the whole speech and you will discover that Kit Siang makes a
formidable argument for restoring local council elections. He rightly
points out that the urban demography is changing. It has been changing
for years. Agreeing with Ong Kian Meng, Kit Siang wrote this: “I don’t
think Kian Ming can be faulted when he concluded: “While the
Malays may be slightly under-represented in the voting population in
some of these urban areas because of their younger demographic profile,
it is clearly wrong to say that the DAP will dominate local elections on
the basis that urban areas are largely Chinese-dominated.”
that the current prime minister may not have the latest statistics as
Kit Siang does now is a disservice to the powerful arguments that he
made in the past - and a disservice also to political operatives, civil
society, academicians and the spirit of the Harapan manifesto that
promised a renewed spirit of strengthening democracy in this country.
Also, see the recent comment of Kua Kia Soong (photo):
“In the 1960s, many towns and cities were run by the Socialist Front.
This was the real reason for not wanting local elections and not because
of the so-called “racial divide”. Anyway, Mahathir now heads the old
“opposition”, so there is no reason to fear such competition.
of course, leads me to think that the real reason why some political
operatives are concerned about local council elections is because it
would demonstrate that the Malay community would desire to have clean
local governments, contrary to the claims of mainstream Malay political
Local council elections could act as some sort of
non-partisan political catalyst because ideas would be transmitted from
the urban Malay demographic to the rural populace. What would
happen if the rural folk suddenly have all these fancy urban ideas about
good governance, local activism and sustainable solutions to local
problems, instead of the big federal government’s racial and religious
solutions? What if they realised that they controlled the levers of
powers instead of the people they elected?
More importantly, this
would empower civil society actors, who may not have allegiance to the
federal government, political parties or corporate interests but who
genuinely want to serve the community. Local elections could also
be a stepping stone for young people and their political activism,
concentrating on local issues instead of attempting to grapple with
larger issues that are mired in “Big Politics” which, truth be told, is
So it is good that Mahathir’s statement is getting blowback. Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin statement that her ministry would continue pushing for local council elections is a welcomed departure from some of the statements by the other champions of democracy.
there is no need for further study. Civil society and politicians have
been talking about this for years. It is not as if we did not have local
council elections before it abruptly ended. We know that it has worked
before and what is needed is fine-tuning. Maybe.
DAP’s Phoong Jin Zhe, pleads that we should discard the racial lens
for policy decisions – when it comes to something like the local
council elections for example – but more importantly, his piece
demonstrates that there are some Harapan political operatives who
publicly disagree with the racial reasoning of the current prime
minister when it comes to policy issues, instead of bending over. What
Harapan needs is the DAP of the Old Malaysia as a vanguard for New
Malaysia, not as a rear guard for Neo-BN policies.
local council elections is going back to our democratic roots. If anyone
is making the argument that it could lead to racial discord, or that we
are not ready or there are bigger issues at play, we have to ask: do
these people really want to “save Malaysia” or do they want to serve
their partisan interests?