Zambry Warns Councillors to “Shape up” or “Ship out”

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I refer to the news item “Ratepayers want prompt action” (NST Streets Northern, March 16).

It was reported that Menteri Besar Dato’ Seri DiRaja Dr Zambry Abd Kadir said that the state government is fed up with constant complaints about bread and butter issues and warned local councillors to either “shape up” or “ship out”.

Last year, members of several civil society NGOs in Ipoh carried out a survey on MBI councillors to help ratepayers understand the roles and functions of city councillors, raise awareness on local government, enhance good governance and transparency.

The initial intention was to conduct a survey amongst all 23 MBI councillors, soliciting their response to a questionnaire with five simple questions.

Two important questions were: ‘Why do you want to be a councillor?’ and ‘How often do you meet residents in your zone?’

It is regrettable that all councillors decided not to respond, citing reasons which were unacceptable. They said that they were only answerable to their political party and not obliged to reply to NGOs. Instead of contacting us, they expressed their opinion in the daily Nanyang Siang Pau.

We then decided to approach our ratepayers for their views. A modified simple questionnaire with a ‘Yes/No’ answer was prepared and our findings on three important questions were:

81% of residents do not know who their councillor is.

92% of the residents have not seen their councillor in their area over the past twelve months.

83% of the residents are not satisfied with the performance of their councillors.

There are also a few dedicated councillors and one of them is Dato’ Daniel Tay, councillor for Lim Garden and Merdeka Garden. He visits the places that need maintenance and organises meetings between residents and MBI staff. However, some residents were not happy because he did not play an active role during the massive flooding.

The findings were handed over to MB, Dato’ Dr Mah Hang Soon, the Mayor and Exco Members. There was no reply. We doubt whether our authorities read letters sent to them by the ratepayers who are their paymasters. They are not aware of the real situation on the ground.

We highlighted that the present system of appointing councillors is a failure and councillors have very little interaction with the residents.

We suggested other options to replace the failed system, namely:

Councillors be elected.

Do away with councillors who act as middlemen and cut cost.

MBI can appoint Special Officers to accept/act on complaints from the public

MBI to hold sub-committee meetings at night so that the public can attend and participate in the discussions on various issues.

MBI to hold public hearings on new plans/projects and get feedback from the public before implementation.

Empty talk without concrete action plan is a waste of time.

A. Jeyaraj

[GASRA (Gabungan Solidarity Perak)

LLG Cultural Development Centre

Ipoh City Watch

Perak Consumers Association

Mafrel Perak

Lim Garden Residents’ Committee

Ikram Perak

Tamil Foundation]