When did PAS Muktamar pass a resolution to oppose restoration of the third vote as since the seventies, PAS position in Parliament was to support restoration of local government elections?

The restoration of the 50-year suspension of local government elections is an important building block not only for democracy but also for plural nation-building in Malaysia.

It has nothing whatsoever with the 3Rs of race, religion or rulers, as some are trying to imply.

Like other countries, local government is concerned with the other 3Rs of “Rates, Roads and Rubbish” although the scope of local government responsibility has expanded by leaps and bounds worldwide, such as including community services like libraries and parks, tourism, urban renewal, community health services, accessible transport and pollution control.

Elected local government is to empower citizens with the democratic right to participate in the third tier of democratic governance to take ownership of the decision-making process about their immediate environs – serving as a training ground for citizens in the direct experience of democratic governance at the grassroots level.

The restoration of local government elections, or the third vote, has recently and suddenly become a subject of controversy, marked by many myths, misconceptions and downright lies. Let us deal with some of them.

FIRST, there is the myth and misconception that DAP had suddenly sprung this issue from no where, adding aggravation to the Pakatan Rakyat crisis which is already bedeviled by the hudud differences between DAP and PAS in Pakatan Rakyat.

I want to stress that the DAP will strive our utmost to live up to the hopes and trust of Malaysians, who have given Pakatan Rakyat 52% of the national vote in the 13th General Elections to bring about change and improvement in the quality of life in the country.

The Pakatan Rakyat Leadership Council is finally meeting this Sunday, and DAP is fully committed to fulfill the people’s hopes and trust in PR based on two basic principles: firstly, the reaffirmation of the Common Policy Framework which had been the guiding policy bedrock for the three component parties of DAP, PAS and PKR in PR since the formation of PR in April 2008; and secondly, reaffirmation of the basic PR operational principle that PR operates on the basis of consensus of the three component parties and that the PR Leadership Council is the highest decision-making body of the PR.

Based on the continuation of these two fundamental principles which had been PR’s guiding compass since the PR formation in April 2008, DAP is prepared to walk the last mile to sustain PR. There will be no PR however if these two guiding principles are rejected and jettisoned.

It is a great fallacy that the DAP had suddenly sprung the subject of the restoration of the third vote from nowhere on PR or on PAS.

The restoration of local government had always been the objective of DAP ever since our formation in 1966.
In fact, the restoration of the third vote was one of the issues in the Oct. 1968 parliamentary by-election of Segamat Utara which saw the first election of Musa Hitam as MP.

The restoration of local government elections is in line with the PR Common Policy Framework commitment to “strengthen local government democracy” and the Selangor Pakatan Rakyat 2013 General Elections Manifesto which promised a People’s Government in PR’s second term in Selangor, with the specific undertaking to “carry out decentralization through a gradual implementation of Local Government Elections”.

With such specific and clear-cut commitments to the restoration of the third vote in the PR Common Policy Framework and the Selangor Pakatan Rakyat 2013 General Elections Manifesto, how can anyone suggest that the DAP had “sprung” the issue of the restoration of the third vote from nowhere?

In fact, in March 2010, Selangor Mentri Besar and the Penang Chief Minister wrote separate letters in the name of the respective PR state governments to the Election Commission asking it to conduct local government elections in their respective states, but which was opposed by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

This meant that the Selangor PAS were not only privy, but a full party to the initiative taken by the then Selangor Mentri Besar on behalf of all PR Excos to press for the restoration of the third voter.

How can anyone in Selangor PAS say that they had not supported the restoration of the third vote as a member of the Selangor PR Government in 2010?

The DAP did not “spring” any surprise on the other PR parties with our stand on the restoration of the third vote, which is in line with the PR Common Policy Framework, the Selangor PR 2013 General Election Manifesto and the initiative by the Selangor Mentri Besar and Penang Chief Minister in March 2010 pressuring the Election Commission to conduct local government elections.

It is the PAS leadership which sprung the “surprise” on other PR parties about its vehement opposition to the restoration of the third vote, even warning that it could lead to a repeat of May 13 race riots.

I am not a member of PAS but I follow closely political developments in the country.

When did PAS Muktamar adopt a resolution to oppose the restoration of the third vote?

This has come as a surprise to me as the PAS position in Parliament since the 70s was for the restoration of local government elections which was suspended on March 1, 1965 by the then Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman on the ground of threats from Indonesian Confrontation.

We can have differences and debates about the powers, the funding and even the restructuring of the local government authorities, whether we should keep to the 150 local authorities at present or return to the pre-Athi Nahappan Royal Commission Inquiry restructuring of some 400 local authorities but the principle of elected local government authorities is a core principle which cannot be compromised, as it distinguishes democrats from non-democrats.

For this reason, I am heartened that there are strong democratic voices in PAS in support of the restoration of the third vote, like PAS veteran Datuk Wan Abdul Muttalib Embong, who was formerly Terengganu Exco member in the former PAS state government 1999-2004 as well as former PAS legal adviser, and other democrats in the present batch of PAS MPs.

The SECOND myth and misconception is the one spread by ISMA that the call for restoration of the third vote was a post-13GE grab for political power by the Chinese at the expense of the Malays – suggesting that DAP was behind such a “Chinese grab for political power” as some 60 per cent of the State Assembly seats in the country are already under the DAP control.

This is a total lie and fallacy as:

(i) DAP does not control 60% of the state assembly seats, as all the three Pakatan Rakyat parties of DAP, PKR and PAS did not even win 50% of the total state assembly seats in the 13th General Election. The total number and percentage of state assembly seats won by the three PR parties in the 13GE are 229 seats or 45% of the total of 505 state assembly seats in the country. This is broken down into 85 State Assembly seats for PAS, 95 for DAP and 49 for PKR, or 16.8% for PAS, 18.8% for DAP and 9.7% for PKR out of he total of 505 state assembly seats.

(ii) The DAP had never been a party for the Chinese or any one race or religion, as right from our establishment 49 years ago, DAP had been committed to the goal of being a party for Malaysians of all races and religions. In fact, DAP is the first Pan-Malaysian political party in Malaysia, with branches in all the states in the country.

THE THIRD myth and misconception is that the restoration of local council elections would benefit the Chinese at the expense of the Malays, ignoring the local government restructuring and the process of Malay urbanization in the past five decades, resulting in Malaysia having 148 local authorities, about 90% of which have Malay majorities of over 50% of the population, while only two per cent or three of the 148 local authorities have Chinese majorities, leaving a balance of 13 with plurality of races, seven of which are Chinese-dominant and six Malay-dominant.

There are a total of 12 local authorities in Kelantan, ranging from the lowest of 92% Malays in Kuala Krai to the highest of 99.7% Malays in Dabong. Terengganu has seven local authorities, ranging from the lowest of 95.2% Malays in Kemaman to the highest of 99.7% Malays in Setiu.

Is it seriously suggested that if local government elections are held for these 29 local authorities in Kelantan and Terengganu, the Chinese will capture any of these local authorities when the percentage of Malays in these local authorities range from 92% 99.7%?

Where are the Chinese voters in these 29 local authorities in Kelantan and Terengganu to emerge from so as to allow the Chinese to capture the Kelantan and Terengganu local authorities? Are they going to be “phantom” Chinese voters?

THE FOURTH myth and misconception is that local government elections is “communist” and “chauvinist” – whatever the latter means. Those who argue this are really ignoramus. Don’t they know that local government elections are also held in Indonesia, Turkey and Iran. Are they suggesting that President Jokowi of Indonesia, President Erdogan of Turkey and former Iranian President Ahmadnejad are “communist” or “chauvinist” or Indonesia, Turkey and Iran are infested with “communists” and “chauvinists”?

In three weeks time, it is the 50th anniversary of the suspension of local government elections. In five years’ time in 2020, Malaysia wants to join the ranks of the fully developed nations under Vision 2020.

There is no better time than now to demand the restoration of the third vote for Malaysians for Malaysia cannot claim to have the necessary conditions to join the ranks of fully developed nations when we are not even prepared to restore the third vote in Malaysia, when elected local government was a right of the first Merdeka and Malaysia generation in the 50s and early 60s!

(Speech at the Roketkini forum “Benarkah pilihanraya kerajaan tempatan akan hakis hak Melayu?” at Mandarin Court Hotel, Kuala Lumpur on Thursday, 5th February 2015 at 9 pm)

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