Athi Nahappan Report on Local Authorities

Press Statement by DAP Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka, Mr. Lim Kit Siang on10th December 1971

Athi Nahappan Report on Local Authorities

The DAP welcomes the recommendation of the Athi Nahappan Report for the continuation of the system of elected local government in Malaysia.

We regret that the Government, despite its knowledge of the Athi Nahappan Report recommendation since December 1968, should decide to flagrantly disregard the Report’s recommendation and set its mind on abolishing elected Municipal, town and local councils.

The abolition of elected local government involves a fundamental issue, which goes to the very basis of democracy. If elected Municipal, town and local councils are abolished, it will not only spell the death of grassroots democracy, it will be a grave blow to the democratic system in the country and will lead the way to authoritarian and totalitarian forms of government.

Democracy is a very fragile plant in Malaysia, and if it is to take root, it must be nurtured into a sturdy and viable tree, by encouraging the people to fully participate in the democratic process, and inculcate in them the democratic spirit and way of life. This is very well served by involving the people in the running of their own local government through elected Municipalities and town and local councils.

The replacement of elected local government by appointed local government will be a formula for an inefficient, incompetent and unresponsive local administration. I will just give one example. As a result of the take-over of the Malacca Municipality by the State Government, and its care under Alliance Dato Tan Cheng Swee, we find a four-storey building completed at the heart of the town which had no electricity supply for its two-most floors because of inadequate electric power supply for that area. Although this is an NEB matter, the cause is because of the refusal on the part of the Malacca Municipality to jointly solve this problem expeditiously with the NEB.

The government’s intention to abolish elected local government is not motivated by any desire to give better service to the people. It is dictated purely by selfish party interests. In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that the MCA must bear the greatest responsibility for the government’s decision to abolish elected local government. It is the MCA which is the real murderer of grass-roots democracy in Malaysia.

After the 1969 general elections, where the MCA candidates were decisively rejected by the electorate, the MCA realised that it has lost out to the Opposition because of its own history of political bankruptcy.

The MCA leaders realised that if there are Municipal, town and local council elections, the MCA would suffer an even greater defeat than the 1969 general elections.

Thus, though over the press, radio and television, MCA leaders make brave noises about how it has regained public support, in its heart of hearts, it knows that it will never regain public trust and confidence. This is why it does not want Municipal, town and local councils for its own political survival’s sake.

The MCA leaders also know that if MCA stooges are ever to get appointed onto Municipal, town and local councils, the only way to do so is through the backdoor system of government appointment, and not by elections. Thus in Malacca, Dato Tan Cheng Swee will not get elected as Municipal Councillor if there are elections, let alone dreaming of becoming the Malacca Municipal Commissioner.

The DAP calls on the Government re-consider its proposal to abolish elected local government, in view of the Athi Nahappan Report recommendation, and to put national interests above selfish party interests in holding general elections for Municipal, town and local councils to give a new boost to the forces of democracy in Malaysia.