While most eyes are on the Galas and Batu Sapi by-elections on 4 November, a couple of fascinating tests in the quest to deepen democracy in Malaysia have been scheduled for 14 November.
That’s when the Penang Forum is holding elections to determine its nominees to serve as MPPP and MPSP councillors. This pilot experiment is a prelude to the full restoration of local council elections some day in the future. The 13-14 November weekend is also when the PKR elections will move to Selangor, which will provide the biggest test for the party’s direct electoral process.
In Penang, so far 14 applicants have submitted their forms to be considered as candidates to contest in local council civil society nominees election. At least five of them are from the mainland (MPSP).
More candidates are expected to join in the fray before the closing date on 10 November. Application Forms are available HERE.
If you are a resident of Penang, have you also registered as a voter for these elections? Just email aliran (at) streamyx (dot) com and provide your name and contact details.
No one knows what to expect at these elections, but we hope that the collective wisdom of the people will result in the right candidates.
Some common questions and answers:
What is the structure of the local council?
Have a look at the MPPP or MPSP website for the structure.
Who will the councillors report to?
Under the present system, which is far from satisfactory, those who are political party appointees would report to their respective parties. NGO-nominated canddiates could give feedback to the NGOs they are involved in and give talks and feedback whenever requested. They could also inform the rakyat via press statements and speeches.
What do councillors do and what authority do they have?
In brief, councillors are the decision makers on the policies and directions of the council, and they consider applications for planning/building approvals. They are the bridge between the council staff and the people. They are responsible for the direction of the council: what to emphasise, what policy to adopt in respect of urban services and planning, and how to manage the money collected from ratepayers. They also follow up with MPPP staff to make sure decisions are carried out expeditiously.
Councillors are also expected to attend meetings, read the minutes, give suggestions and ideas, and go on site visits. At the end of the day, councillors are there to ensure that the councils efficiently serve the rakyat especially those who are already disadvantaged, e.g. persons with disabilities and the poor, and enable them to live in a sustainable environment that is not congested and polluted.
How much are councillors paid and who pays them?
Counicllors are given an allowance of RM700 per month and for every official meeting, an allowance of RM50 is paid. The money comes from the revenue collected by council from assessments, fines, application fees, etc. You can check out the the council budgets on the MPPP and MPSP websites.