Dato Ong Kee Hui gives assurance to DAP

Speech by DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, at a DAP protest public rally against proposed abolition of elected local government held at Suleiman Court, Kuala Lumpur on Saturday, 9th October 1971 at 8 p.m.

Dato Ong Kee Hui gives assurance to DAP that there will be debate in Parliament on government’s proposed abolition of elected Municipal, town and local councils

The Minister of Technology, Research and Local Government, Dato Ong Kee Hui, has given an assurance that there will be a debate in the coming Parliament, which begins on 8th December and will go on to 4th February, on the government’s proposed abolition of elected Municipal, town and local councils.

Dato Ong gave this assurance in a reply to my letter to him two weeks ago seeking confirmation that Parliament will be given an opportunity at its next meeting to debate the issue.

Dato Ong, in his reply, said:

“I have to advise you that an opportunity would be given for Parliament to debate this as it is intended to table the report on the Royal
Commission on Local Government.

“The debate may be on a Government’s motion on the subject or alternatively on a white paper setting out Government’s proposal on the implementation or otherwise of the Royal Commission’s Report.”

There must not only be a full-scale discussion and debate on this vital issue in Parliament, which goes to the heart of democracy in Malaysia as it threatens to kill grass-roots democracy, but in State Assemblies, over radio, television, press and at all levels of public life.

To allow this, the DAP calls for the immediate release and publication of the Report of the Athi Nahappan Royal Commission of Enquiry into the
Workings of Municipal, town and local councils.

The Athi Nahappan Royal Commission was set up six-and-a-half years ago to report on the workings of local government. After six and a half years, the public has still not been given the Commission’s Report. This is a reflection of the inefficiency and incompetence of the Alliance government.

Following Dato Ong Kee Hui’s announcement in Parliament last July that the government proposes to abolish elected Municipalities, town and local councils, the reaction on the ground has been most unfavourable.

The public regards this move, and rightly, as the latest government attempt to chop away more very limited democratic rights of the people.

The Deputy Prime Minister, Tun (Dr.) Ismail bin Abdul Rahman, said in Ipoh last week that the country faces a grave challenge from the resurgence of armed communism.

He said there are three groups of people on the side of the communists:

i. those who are threatened or forced to help the communists;

ii. those who side the communists because they are discontented with the democratic process or certain ills of government;

iii. the die-hard communists.

If the government abolishes elected Municipal, town and local councils, then it will create and even vast number of Malaysians who are thoroughly disenchanted by the democratic process as practiced by the Alliance, and look with more favour at the struggle of armed communism.

The abolition of elected Municipal, town and local councils will further undermine the confidence and hopes of the people in the towns in the integrity and meaningfulness of a democratic society, and will be a big step in the final destruction of democracy in Malaysia.

The abolition of elected local government can only harm the nation tough it will benefit the selfish interest of the MCA.

The MCA has three reasons why it wants to kill grass-roots democracy as represented by Municipal, town and local council elections:

1. It wants to avoid an even worse defeat in the hands of the electorate than the one it suffered during the 1969 general elections.

2. The MCA realized that if the Opposition, in particular, the DAP, win the majority of the Municipal, town and local councils, they will be a base on which the DAP will build to greater strength and power.

3. The MCA leaders know that if MCA stooges are ever to get appointed onto Municipal, town and local councils, the only way is through the backdoor system of government appointment, and not by elections. Thus in Malacca, Dato Tan Cheng Swee will never dare dream of becoming Malacca Municipal Commissioner if there are Malacca Municipal elections. Dato Tan Cheng Swee is Malacca Municipal Commissioner not through elections, but by appointment.

I call on the Alliance government to put national interest above narrow MCA interest, and hold general elections for Municipal, town and local councils.

The people of Malaysia want a meaningful democracy, not a guided democracy, or a democracy in namesake only.

As Kuala Lumpur is the capital of the nation, it should set an example in elected local government. There should be elections to the Kuala Lumpur Federal Municipality, with and elected mayor.

Such a system will be more responsible and responsive to the needs and problems of the people of Kuala Lumpur.