by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, in Penang on Friday, February 21, 1992:
DAP calls on Penang Chief Minister, Dr. Koh Tsu Koon, to announce the result of the State government review on the two local councils
In May last year, the Penang Chief Minister, Dr. Koh Tsu Koon, announced that a decision on whether the present local government set-ups on Penang and Seberang Perai would be abolished or restructured would be made known in July.
He said a special committee, headed by State Local Government committee Chairman, Dr. Goh Cheng Teik, would submit findings and recommendations on the matter in two months’ time.
More than six months have passed since July deadline given by Dr. Koh Tsu Koon, but there has been no announcement as to the outcome of the State Government’s review and public hearings on the functionings of the two Municipal Councils.
Since the announcement of the State government review of the local government set-ups in December 1990, the people of Penang had been given many promises and assurances.
The Penang State Government said that the review of the present local Government set-up was to improve local government efficiency and look into ways to better deal with increasing urban service problems which might reach crisis proportions if left unattended.
The State Government said that if the hearings reveal that something drastic ought to be done to revamp the councils, the present system would be abolished and the authorities would consider enacting new legislation both in the State Assembly and Parliament.
Among the possibilities being considered by the State Government was the replacement of the two municipal councils in the state with a public utilities board as in Singapore. Another alternative was the retention of the two councils – MPPP and MPSP – but with reorganization of functions and methods.
The Penang Chief Minister should answer three questions:
Firstly, what is the finding and recommendation of the Goh Cheng Teik Committee on the two Municipalities in Penang; and why the State Government has not made public its findings in the form of a White Paper;
Secondly, what is the decision of the State Exco on the findings and recommendations of the Goh Cheng Teik Penang Local Government Review Committee.
Thirdly, did the Goh Cheng Teik Local Government Review Committee and the State Exco consider the restoration of local government elections for both Penang Island and Seberang Frai to revive grass-roots democracy and provide the motivation for popular participation in local government.
When DAP State Assemblymen raise in the Penang state Assembly the question of the restoration of Municipal Council elections, the Penang Chief Minister and the other State Excos will claim that this is outside their jurisdiction and that the proper forum for the DAP to raise this issue is Parliament.
This is most misleading and irresponsible. In the review of local government set-ups by the Goh Cheng Teik review committee, the Penang State Government was prepared to consider proposals which would require enactment of new Federal and State legislation – as in abolishing the present local government set-up and replacement with a structure like the Public Utilities Boards as in Singapore.
If this is the case, why didn’t the Goh Cheng Teik review committee give serious consideration to the restoration of local government elections although it would similarly involve enactment of new Federal and state legislation?