Sunday, August 24, 2014

WHY THE NEED FOR LOCAL COUNCILS?

In the past, in the days when Umno was running Selangor, they ‘created’ projects as a means to siphon out money. They developed areas that really did not need development (like plant flowers, pave the sidewalks, etc., every few months) so that the councillors can make money from kickbacks.
mt2014-corridors-of-power
THE CORRIDORS OF POWER
Raja Petra Kamarudin
(Bernama) – Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail today praised Selangor’s administration under Mentri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim for having set aside allocation for implementation of various economic programmes in the state.
However, she said, Abdul Khalid should also pay attention to people’s issues, like “rubbish and road”.
“Although we are proud of the achievement, we should also be sensitive to people’s issues like those related to rubbish and road.”
“If basic facilities for the people are neglected, the state reserves brings no meaning,” she said in the presidential policy speech at the PKR’s 10th National Congress here yesterday.
She said the state administration under Abdul Khalid was often criticised for not building new infrastructure facilities, as well as maintained existing ones, despite having huge cash reserves.
Dr Wan Azizah said infrastructure projects had to be carried out so that the Selangor people would benefit from the state government’s funds.
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What Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said yesterday is actually very true. However, before we discuss this issue, let us first understand the role of governments. And please forgive me if what I am about to say sounds a bit academic or like an essay for a course in political philosophy.
In the beginning, humankind did not have governments. That, of course, was in the era of the hunter-gatherer when people lived a nomadic life and survived off the land, and then moved on somewhere else when the land could no longer sustain life.
When the community eventually grew too large, and there were too many communities within walking distance from one another, it was no longer possible to live the life of a nomad.
One reason was wherever they wanted to migrate to was already inhabited plus moving a large body of persons to a new area is not as easy as, say, moving just one family or a small community.
That was when communities settled down and built a life where they lived. And that meant they could no longer survive as hunter-gatherers but had to transform into farmers (they had to replace the food they scavenged off the land) plus they had to rear livestock (they had to replace the animals they killed and ate).
When communities become too large, they need rules. So laws were introduced. You were not allowed to steal from others or kill your neighbours or rape their wives and daughters. The weak needed to be protected from the strong because the strong will always try to dominate and bully the weak (it is human nature even until today).
Once you have decided to have laws or rules then you need someone to formulate them and determine what can and cannot be done. So you need the lawmakers, who will usually be the elder or elders in the community, maybe a committee of elders who the community has chosen to represent their interests.
Once the laws are in place you now need a judicial system, a body that sits to hear complaints regarding violations of these rules or laws and judges whether this allegation is in fact true and what to do with these lawbreakers and what punishment they should be subjected to.
This would be the process for the implementation of the laws but if you want them to be implemented properly then you need a sort of police force tasked with the job of this implementation. If you cannot enforce these laws then it would be futile to have laws.
So, eventually, communities began to have lawmakers, enforcers and judges and everyone lived within this system, what we would call a government (elected or otherwise). And anyone who did not wish to live under a government can opt to leave that community and become what we would call anarchists — people who reject governments or organised communities.
Eventually, the community became even larger and these governments became more complex and the community demanded more from its government. There was the matter of development (social needs), defence (from the attacks of other communities), and much more.
So a system of tax was introduced so that water could be supplied to the community, roads built, guards employed to patrol the streets, and so on. The individual could no longer do this. The government needed to do it and they needed money to do it, which the people paid for through the tax that was levied.
We have come a long way since then but the process more or less still remains the same and the reason why we do this also still remains the same. However, the system of government today is a bit more complex than what humankind first started 10,000 years or so ago.
Let us talk about Selangor, in response to what Dr Wan Azizah said yesterday (and what Anwar said today at the PKR national congress).
Malaysia, as do most countries, has a federal government that decides on national policies and looks after foreign relations, national defence, internal security, etc., which is headed by a prime minister and his/her federal cabinet.
Then we have state governments that are in charge of state resources (water included but not oil and gas), religion (meaning Islam), and development that comes under state jurisdiction (but not including federal roads/highways and federal agency infrastructure such as schools, military camps, police stations, etc.).
The menteri besar or chief minister and his/her state cabinet or Exco head this state government.
While the prime minister heads the federal government, his/her cabinet decides the policies and brings these proposals to the cabinet for approval. As Anwar Ibrahim said many times when he was still in the Barisan Nasional government, the entire cabinet is collectively responsible for cabinet decisions because it is a cabinet decision and not the sole decision of the prime minister or minister in charge of his/her ministry.
This was what Anwar used to say.
Hence you cannot blame Anwar alone for his education policies when he was the Education Minister, or blame Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad alone. Whatever was done was a cabinet decision, not a one-man decision.
The same goes for the state government. We cannot blame Mat Taib or Khir Toyo alone for how Selangor was run. We need to blame Umno and/or Barisan Nasional. Hence we cannot just replace the Umno menteri besar. We need to kick out Barisan Nasional and change the whole government. It is no use kicking out just the menteri besar if Barisan Nasional is still the government.
This was what Anwar used to say.
So now we have complaints regarding, as Dr Wan Azizah said, “rubbish and roads”. This is why, according to Dr Wan Azizah, Khalid Ibrahim needs to be kicked out.
But who is the one in charge of rubbish and roads (meaning state roads, not federal roads)? Is it not the Exco member in charge of local government, a DAP state representative? And hence, also, would not the local councils come under him?
And is it not the entire Exco and not just the menteri besar that decides the policies? And does the Exco in charge of local government not table his plans, policies and budget at the state Exco meeting for the approval of the entire Exco?
If anyone should be blamed for the failure of the local governments then it should be the Exco member in charge of local government. But it is not his fault alone, just like Anwar cannot be blamed for the deterioration of Malaysia’s education system that started when he was the Education Minister.
Anyway, local councils have local councillors. And these are the people who are supposed to decide the policies of their local councils and make sure that the rubbish is collected and the damaged roads are repaired. They decide what is done and how much money is spent to do it.
And who are these local councillors? Are they not members of PKR, DAP and PAS and are they not nominated by PKR, DAP and PAS? Hence the local councils are run by PKR, DAP and PAS representatives and report to the DAP Exco member who then reports to the Exco.
Are you saying that the menteri besar personally instructs the heads of the local councils, by-passing the local councillors, Exco member in charge of local government, and the entire EXCO?
If so then why did the DAP Exco member in charge of local government say that he does not share the view of the others that Khalid Ibrahim failed to do his job properly? And why did the PAS Exco member say that they could only get money if backed with a proper working paper with sound justification as to why the money should be spent?
In the past, in the days when Umno was running Selangor, they ‘created’ projects as a means to siphon out money. They developed areas that really did not need development (like plant flowers, pave the sidewalks, etc., every few months) so that the councillors can make money from kickbacks.
I have seen perfectly good sidewalks torn up and repaved at great cost, many times more than twice or three times what it should have cost. And many of these jobs were given out to friends and family on a non-tender, negotiated basis.
We have to be very careful that once Khalid leaves and a new menteri besar takes over, Selangor does not revert to the old Umno ways of doing things. RM3 billion is a lot of money but even RM3 billion will not last if we develop the state not because it needs development but because certain people want to make money from kickbacks.
And if the menteri besar and not the councillors decide how the local government operates and what it does, then why the need for local councillors? And if we need local councillors because they must run the local councils then why blame Khalid for the “rubbish and roads” problem when it is the local councils under the Exco member for local government that are in charge?
After all, do we blame Anwar or Barisan Nasional for Malaysia’s poor education system?
Congress 24 Aug 2014
 Today’s shot of the PKR 10th National Congress

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