During his executive talk to civil servants, Menteri Besar Dato’ Seri DiRaja Dr Zambry Abd Kadir said that executive councillors would go to the ground soon to serve the people (NST, January 13, 2016). This is a good initiative and should have been implemented earlier, however, this should not be limited to only executive councillors but all assemblymen from both sides of the political divide.
My assemblyman, A. Sivasubramaniam comes around only when asking for votes during election. More than a year ago K. Sagadevan, Secretary of Lim Garden Residence Committee and I, met Siva and shared our problems and invited him to visit our area. He came and saw the situation and I was lucky since the buffaloes were grazing in front of my house during his visit. He forwarded our complaints to the former Mayor, requesting him to take action. As expected, nothing was done. Siva has the only active service centre in Buntong and is there quite often to meet the people. Saga says that Siva is in touch with him.
The most important representatives the ratepayers want to meet are their councillors, who are supposed to be the voice of the people and mediate between ratepayers and the council.
After being appointed as councillor for Zone 8 in 2014, Ong Chee Keng made no initiatives to meet the residents. Since councillors are not elected, residents have no idea who is appointed as councillor to their zone. It is the duty of the councillor to introduce himself to the residents of his zone. It was some months after his appointment that K. Sagadevan, managed to arrange for a meeting with Ong and representatives from the zone. After that first meeting he has come to the zone a few times only when he was invited. Saga says Ong is in touch with him, but he must meet the people.
In contrast, when Dato’ Daniel Tay Kwan Hui was appointed as councillor for Zone 8 previously, he called for a meeting with representatives of the zone for a meeting at MBI and introduced the relevant MBI officers. He divided the zone into four sub divisions and visited each division and saw the problem areas. He was easily contactable. This is an example of a good councillor. He is one of a coterie of dedicated councillors who understand that they are being paid to provide service to the ratepayers. We should have more councillors like him.
Some years ago members of several civil society NGOs in Ipoh carried out a survey on councillors to help ratepayers understand the roles and functions of city councillors. 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.
I think the situation has not changed. I get calls from residents asking 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 said they would organise ‘meet the people’ sessions which they are not doing.
Residents in a number of housing estates are concerned about new businesses being allowed to operate there. They are worried that outsiders and foreigners would be coming and there would be a spike in crime. The councillors who approved this must discuss it with the residents and obtain their views.
Some years ago NGO Ipoh City Watch (ICW) suggested preparing Annual Report Cards for the councillors as was practised in some countries. This did not materialise. The newly launched ICW must make this their top priority.