It looks like the status quota – or even an entrenchment – in the system of rewarding party faithful with appointments to the two Penang municipal councils.
The total quota for “NGOs” in both MPPP and MPSP is reportedly being reduced from 10 councillors in 2008 to seven for 2011. Bear in mind, the state’s definition of ‘NGOs’ includes groups with vested business interests. As for the representation of public interest (civil society) groups, the word that comes to mind is tokenism.
Pending the restoration of local council elections, public interest groups had asked for five reps in each council. Under the banner of Penang Forum, they had conducted open elections to choose their nominees in a bid to broaden their selection process and make it more transparent.
But in the end, the supporters and party members of the Pakatan parties are expected to seize the lion’s share of the seats – not much different from the BN practice. Which makes you wonder if Pakatan is really interested in enhancing public participation in the first place given that legally it is unable to hold proper council elections at the moment. Does it still want to still cling on to the system of patronage? That said, we have to acknowledge they have taken some effort to seek expert legal advice and a court ruling on the legality of holding local elections.
Only seven local council posts for NGOs
The Penang government announced today that NGOs would only be given seven municipal council seats and that these may include representatives from the business community.
In 2008, some of the 10 slots set aside for NGOs were taken up by business representatives, causing disappointment among the NGOs.
State exco for local government, traffic management and environment Chow Kon Yeow, who made the announcement at a press conference today, said four of the NGO seats would be in the Penang municipal council (MPPP) and three in the Seberang Perai council (MPSP).
The state would have a challenging task picking the councillors, he said, because political parties such as PAS and PKR have also submitted their lists.
The Penang DAP alone has submitted 50 nominees, said Chow, adding that the first round of interviews would be conducted this weekend.
“Besides myself as the party’s selection committee head, Lim Hock Seng and Jagdeep Singh Deo, as well as three non-party members who are former municipal councillors, will interview the candidates,” he said.
“They include lawyer Lim Kah Cheng and academicians Francis Loh and Goh Ban Lee,” he added after chairing a public forum on local government issues.
Last month, a mock election organised by local civil society groups voted 10 people to fill the NGO quota for the 2011-12 term, five each for the Penang and Seberang Perai councils. The names have been submitted to Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.