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3g: Local Democracy


Preamble

Of the three levels of government—federal, state and local—local government

(city, municipality and district councils) has the most direct influence and impact

upon the daily lives of the general public. Local authorities play the important

role of managing the development process at local level while adhering to basic

principles of democracy and administrative efficiency, and ensuring the social and

economic development of the people and areas within its jurisdiction. Local

governments are the last gatekeepers for projects that either improve people’s

lives or have disastrous consequences. As such, constant feedback and public

engagement is crucial to ensure that their actions have the approval of local

communities. Unfortunately, the absence of local government elections has made

it challenging, if not impossible for principles such as public participation,

transparency and local representation to be a prerogative.


I: Local Represeationnt

There should be “no taxation without representation”. Currently, local

councillors are appointed by the ruling political parties and represent the interests

of the politicians and parties that appoint them. This interest may be in conflict

with those of the residents, whom these appointed councillors are supposed to

serve. The appointment of city mayors and council heads is also based on

political patronage.

1. Reinstate local council elections.

(Wong Tsu Soon, Agora Society Malaysia, Proposal
3G-1; Fork Yow Leong, Proposal 3G-2)

i. Bring back local council elections, which was officially abolished under

the Local Government Act 1976 (LGA).

ii. Until the legislation is officially reinstated, hold provisional elections,

with the winning candidates appointed as councillors by the authority of

the Menteri Besar.

iii. Include election of the mayor as part of local elections.


II: Freedom of Information & Public Participation

Public participation in local affairs starts with the availability of information.

Local democracy is possible only if citizens are given adequate information to

provide feedback to policy makers. Local governments in Malaysia have been

slow to embrace the culture of open data and open data initiatives. On top of

this, secrecy laws such as the OSA do not support a safe environment for

transparent open data and data sharing. Instead, such laws enable certain corrupt

parties to withhold information from the public that could otherwise help ensure

a transparent and accountable government.

2. Make information available to the public through policy and legislative

changes.

(Jaslin Nadia, DHRRA Malaysia, Proposal 3G-3; Danesh Prakash Chacko, Tindak Malaysia, Proposal 3G-4)

i. Institute an open data policy, mandating all levels of government to

voluntarily publish important information. Local councils must

periodically publish a list of open data information in a format that is

accessible to all.

ii. Enact a Freedom of Information (FOI) law at the federal level to

enshrine the rights of the public individuals to request information of

public interest, and reduce vagueness and arbitrariness in the criteria for

open data release.

iii. Subscribe to the Open Government Partnership and adopt their

framework of principles and practices.

iv. Promote public participation in the annual budget of local councils via

participatory budgeting, and adhere to the principles laid down by the

International Budget Partnership.


Concluding Remarks

These two main action items on local democracy will improve public

participation and foster greater community engagement in the service delivery

efforts of local councils. Open data sharing within the local government

ecosystem promotes transparency, while encouraging the adoption of more

holistic and inclusive working practices. A multi-disciplinary, multi-stakeholder

approach is needed to solve the current multi-dimensional problems of climate

change, the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the pandemic. Local governments

can no longer just work for the people—they will need to work with the people.

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Index
First Name
Last Name
Organisation
Submission Date
1
Chee Han
Lim
Agora Society
17/10/2022
1
Swee Lin
Loh
Individual
28/09/2022
2
Laura Sui San
Kho
Mental Health Association of Sarawak (MHAS)
28/06/2022
1
Laura Sui San
Kho
Mental Health Association of Sarawak (MHAS)
28/06/2022
1
Laura Sui San
Kho
Mental Health Association of Sarawak (MHAS)
28/06/2022
1
Laura Sui San
Kho
Mental Health Association of Sarawak (MHAS)
28/06/2022
1
Laura Sui San
Kho
Mental Health Association of Sarawak (MHAS)
28/06/2022
1
Mohd Asraf Sharafi
Mohd Azhar
Individual
25/06/2022
1
Chee Han
Lim
CSO Health Cluster / People's Health Forum
14/06/2022