Little Napoleons still on the loose

Opinion  |  R Nadeswaran
Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | Upon being elected in May, the government promised transparency and accountability. It declared that nothing would be hidden or swept under the carpet. Citizens rejoiced getting multiple doses of records and numbers in a series and over several weeks.

We knew about the gaping holes in the collection of government revenue; we were informed of the humongous salaries earned by heads of government agencies; and the exorbitant allowances paid to directors of government-linked-companies and even government departments. In short, little remained secret.

For a while, it was “novelty” - learning one fact after another - and it did not end with the announcement of the voluminous seizure of money and valuables from the residence of the daughter of the former prime minister. Eyeballs popped out when the loot was eventually toted up. Then the list of “beneficiaries” of monies stolen from 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) drew even bigger and louder oohs and aahs.

While every Malaysian would like to thank the authorities who helped us learn the extent of the looting of our coffers, the same cannot be said of the access to simple information from local councils.

Little Napoleons still exist, at least in the third tier of government - local councils - which approve anything from hawker licences to the construction of huge townships. Their notoriety to hide under officialdom is no secret but had been adopted as a “Standard Operating Procedure (SOP).

Perhaps, the fact that there are now no-nonsense ministers in the hot-seat equally backed by an energetic government has not registered with some.

Yesterday, Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) summarily dismissed a request for documents related to a high-rise project near Desa Putra Condominium in Wangsa Maju.

The brash and impetuous manner in which the request by residents was handled is reminiscent of the bad old days. There was a time when even innocuous requests for basic information were denied – often (ab)using the civil service mantra – the Official Secrets Act (OSA).

However, it is apparent that for some senior DBKL officials, little or nothing has changed. They still want to continue ruling the roost with their autocratic rule, which is oppressive and repressive by nature...

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