Unfortunately, local government election doesn’t seem to get into Nga’s priority list.
The policies implemented by the federal and state governments will have a major bearing on the country’s as well as states’ development.
The local authorities, which are the grassroots level administrations in the government framework, are also the administrative machineries closest to the everyday lives of the people, being responsible for everything big and small such as road infrastructure, drainage, garbage collection and handling, community environment and the issuance of hawkers’ permits, among other things.
The administrative efficiency and effectiveness of these local authorities are therefore closely related to the quality of life of the local residents.
In view of this, local government development minister Nga Kor Ming has put several things such as smooth roads, brighter street lamps, unclogged drains and clean public toilets among his priorities after taking over the portfolio late last year.
No doubt, these are the most basic changes most Malaysians have yearned to see. That said, to improve on these issues, the quality of local government officials is a prerequisite.
For decades, local government officials seem to have largely ignored the needs and complaints of the residents and are quick to evade their responsibilities whenever something happens.
We therefore hope that minister Nga will get tough on these officials who must put the interest of the rakyat before their own for the well-being of the local community.
The local government ministry has come up with a truly impressive “ABCD” slogan (Adil, Arif, Amanah; Bersih, Bela; Cekap, Cergas and Displin).
As a matter of fact, these attributes should be embraced by all government officials and civil servants in every government department or agency.
Even though Nga has displayed his unusual resolve as a federal minister, he still needs the full cooperation from the local authorities for his vision to work out well.
While Nga has shown his leadership by conducting unannounced spot checks on government officials under his purview, it is imperative that local government officials — from the mayors, district council chairmen to all levels of officials — must discharge their duties conscientiously to take care of the well-being of the local residents.
The ministry has intended to make toilet cleanliness one of the criteria for the renewal of hotel and F&B permits, but this may also create additional opportunities of power abuse for irresponsible officials.
As such, it is hoped that the minister will draw up a new set of standardized guidelines for the issuance and renewal of local business permits across the country.
Notably, the development of Chinese new villages is now under the jurisdiction of the local government development ministry since the installation of the unity government of Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.
There are more than 600 Chinese new villages in the country. Some of these new villages, being on the periphery of major urban areas, have become quite well developed due to the urbanization drive, enjoying relatively well developed infrastructure.
Nevertheless, those lying far away from major urban areas are still suffering from chronic depopulation as young people migrate to cities and towns for more lucrative job opportunities.
As a result, these remote new villages are left with only aged residents, grossly outdated infrastructure and undesirable quality of living.
New village affairs are in essence local government affairs. Under the Federal Constitution and the National Land Code, certain things such as the land titles of Chinese new villages come under the jurisdiction of the state government and not the local authorities. However, if the federal and state governments will work together for the development of the new villages, the residents’ living quality will be significantly improved.
Where new village development is concerned, one of Nga’s priorities is to encourage more talented young people to return to their villages and take part in their development.
While such an initiative will help bring back the past glory of Chinese new villages, it will also preserve the characteristics of these settlements as well as their unique foods, handicrafts and other products.
We have seen many young people returning to their native villages in recent years, running their creative businesses by repackaging some of the traditional local foods and products on the verge of extinction, giving them a new lease of life, while other enliven the local abodes by turning them into attractive B&Bs to woo domestic and foreign tourists, thus injecting new life into the depressed local economy.
If such initiatives have received a boost from the authorities, we believe the results should be multiplied many times over.
Selangor state government and the state exco in charge of local government, public transport and new village development Ng Sze Han, have come up with BAIK Selangor project to repackage traditional local delicacies and products to give them added value. Such a project will invariably stimulate the economy of new villages in the state to help transform the native product businesses and assist young people in starting their own businesses. This initiative should be reproduced in all new villages throughout the country in order to benefit the local residents.
Unfortunately, local government election doesn’t seem to get into Nga’s priority list. He says he is well aware of the fact that local elections will effectively reflect the views of the local residents, but there are far more urgent matters to attend to. After getting the feedback from the public, he realizes that they are more concerned about revitalizing the local economy in a bid to lessen the people’s burden and enhance their quality of living.
DAP has in the past strongly advocated the reintroduction of local government elections and indeed the opposition included the reinstatement of local elections in its 2008 general election manifesto.
Sadly, Pakatan Harapan no longer included this in its election manifestos for GE14 and GE15.
Perhaps PH has its own consideration for not doing so, as the other political parties and alliances might not support this initiative for possible political reverberations.
We hope the unity government will succeed in its endeavors and win the trust of the electorate in the years to come. We also hope that local government election will gradually be incorporated in the government’s administrative policy and not remain continuously dormant and completely vanish from the country’s political landscape in the end for the simple reason there should be no turning back for the country’s democratic development.