GPS suppressing Sarawakians' rights in denying local gov't elections

Julian Tan Kok Ping

Modified 3 Aug 2019, 1:59 am

LETTER | Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Tun Openg is more concerned for GPS' political survival than the interest of Sarawakians by not supporting the federal government’s plan to proceed with the local government elections in 2021. 

By not allowing local government elections, just like the previous BN government did which GPS was once part of, GPS is silencing the voice of Sarawakians and depriving us of our right for a check and balance and the right to appoint those whom we seem fit to run our cities. 

The restoring of local government elections will allow Sarawakians themselves to vote for members of local governments which consist of mayors and councillors. Currently, all the mayors and councillors are appointed by the GPS government instead.

It is even more shocking that the CM wants to rally the support of more than 700 newly-appointed councillors in the state government’s "war" against Pakatan Harapan in the coming state elections. This is clearly going against the code of conduct and standards a councillor required to adhere to. 

They are supposed to be apolitical and not be used as a political tool to go against Harapan. More often than not, most GPS appointed councillors are politically affiliated and are instead using their positions to help GPS gain political mileage.

There are more pressing issues to work on as local councillors than merely being a political tool for GPS to ensure their political survival in the coming state election. Doing so will deprive the people they supposed to serve regardless of political affiliation. 

In many ways, local councillors represent the first respondents to the problems faced by residents be it clogged drains or potholes, misuse of permits or business licenses for vice activities such as illegal gambling and prostitution and many more. This, indeed, demands from them greater accountability and transparency especially to the people under their jurisdictions.

The new Harapan government is serious in combating corruption and installing a clean, more transparent and accountable local government. Many of the past BN ways of administration have got to go and to achieve this the appointment of councillors cannot be based on political party patronage. 

That power has to be given back to the rightful owners, to the hands of Sarawakians themselves. Power of the local councils include granting of contracts, licences, permits, etc, so political appointees run the risk of conflict of interest as well as patronage.

Restoration of local council elections will ensure competency, transparency and accountability which are clearly in the best interests of the people in each constituency. Sarawakians themselves are able to choose for themselves by voting for the people they think can best serve them.

Therefore Abang Johari's claim that there have been attempts by certain quarters to gain control over Sarawak’s local government does not hold water. Perhaps after more than 50 years of ruling, GPS is afraid of Sarawakian dissatisfaction over how the cities are run and thus by giving back the power back to Sarawakians, they may not be able to maintain power.

Hence, GPS political survival is the only thing at stake here.  

The writer is special assistant to Chong Chieng Jen, MP for Stampin.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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