In January this year, new councillors and those who were re-appointed were sworn in to serve the people. A few days after the swearing-in ceremony, I asked MBI a couple of times for the list of councillors and their zones and was told that it was not ready. Recently, K. Sagadevan, Secretary, Lim Garden Residents Committee found that the councillor for Zone 8, which comprises Lim Garden and Merdeka Garden, is Ong Chee Keng. He arranged for a meeting with the councillor and a few of the residents. During the meeting Ong assured them that he would work with the residents to solve their problems. It would have been better if Ong had taken his own initiative to meet the residents. After all he volunteered to do the job.
I conducted a small survey to find out whether residents know their new councillors and if he/she had visited them. I also attended a few public forums to gather information. In fact all of the persons I enquired said that they do not know who their councillor is and have not met him/her.
After eight months of appointment, the residents still do not know who their councillor is. At the swearing-in ceremony, many of the councillors said that their main aim is to serve the people and solve their problems. They also said that they would organise ‘meet the people’ sessions. How are they going to do this when they have not visited their respective zones.
Since the councillors were not elected by the residents they do not know who is appointed as councillor to their zone. It is the duty of the councillor to introduce himself to the residents of his zone. The councillors must set up a service centre in their zones or hold weekly meet-the-residents sessions and listen to their complaints.
A couple of years ago 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 and transparency of councillors and local government. Their findings highlighted three glaring facts:
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.
However, there are a few dedicated councillors and one of them is Dato’ Daniel Tay Kwan Hui who was councillor for Zone 8. When he was appointed as councillor, he called for a meeting with representatives in the Zone. He divided the zone into four sub-divisions and visited each division with MBI officers and representatives from the area. He visited the problem areas and most of the problems were solved. He was easily contactable. However, some of the residents were not happy with him because he did not play an active role during the massive flooding.
The councillors must be made responsible to ensure that the basic services like garbage collection, grass cutting and drainage cleaning are carried out regularly in their zones.
MBI has a monthly full board meeting at the end of each month. I suggest that MBI hold a mid-monthly meeting with the councillors in the presence of the residents. During this meeting the councillors must submit a report on the activities being carried out in their zones. The residents must be allowed to participate in the discussion. This would ensure that the councillors are doing their job.
In March 2013, it was reported in the media 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”.
Since most of the councillors are political appointees, they are ignorant of their duties. A handbook must be prepared and given to each councillor on their responsibilities. The councillors must be accountable to the Mayor and an Annual Report Card must be prepared for each councillor.