Some years ago MBI invited a number of NGOs and explained the concept of Local Agenda 21 (LA21) and how we can work together to improve the quality of life in Ipoh. With the change of mayors this seems to have been forgotten. LA21 is a programme to forge partnerships between local authorities and the communities they serve and to work together to plan and care for their surroundings towards sustainable development. LA21 adopts a “bottom up” approach. That is to say the local community themselves are involved from the very initial planning stage.
LA21 (Local Agenda for 21st century) programme was launched in June 1992 during the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. There were a total of 178 participating countries, including Malaysia. The programme began its implementation in Malaysia since the 8th Malaysia Plan (RMK8) in 2002 by initially appointing four pilot local authorities, namely Petaling Jaya City Council, Miri City Council, Kuantan Municipal Council and Kerian District Council. Other local authorities were also required to implement LA21.
MBI claims that it has implemented LA21, I think it is in theory rather than in practice. The Land Office was shifted to Kampung Manjoi without consultation with the residents and there were many complaints. The Customs Department is in Lim Garden, causing traffic jam and minor accidents. The residents were not consulted. The Syariah Court is in a residential area in Pari Garden. Recently, the operating hours of Tun Razak Library has been reduced to office hours without any consultation with the public and many people have complained. This is an issue to be dealt on its own.
So far MBI has not invited Lim Garden Residents Association regarding any development project in the area. MBI did not discuss the issue of land request by St Philomina Tamil School for extracurricular activities with the residents. The newly proposed commercial project will affect the residents whose views have not been heard.
Residents in Meru Raya are concerned of the rapid developments taking place in their area and are not aware of what is going on.
Benefits of LA21 to individuals and community:
- Your views being taken into account in the planning and implementation of development projects. Your local authority will be more sensitive and effective to your needs
- A more conducive environment and a higher quality of life
- Having more pride and ownership over your surroundings
- To expose sustainable development issues to the public and private sectors
- To clarify that sustainable development is a shared responsibility
- To formulate strategies and action plans based on the LA21 local sustainable development issues.
This looks nice in theory, but is not being practised. MBI must engage residents associations and Rukun Tetangga and discuss the projects being planned in their areas. The residents know best what is good for them. However, MBI must be cautious in dealing with NGOs. Many NGOs are more interested in promoting themselves than looking into the welfare of the residents.
Local Government Act 1976 states councillors “shall be ordinarily resident in the local authority area, have wide experience in local government affairs or have achieved distinction in any profession, commerce or industry or are capable of representing interests of their communities”.
Do our councillors fulfil these requirements and are capable of doing their duties?
Councillors are the link between the public and MBI. It is the duty of the councillors to inform residents in their zones on the projects that are being planned in their zones and get their feedback.
While surfing online I noticed that many local councils in other cities like London, Brisbane, Auckland and many more allow the public to attend council meetings which are held during late evenings enabling the public to attend. The public can participate in the meetings and their opinions are taken into consideration. The minutes of the meetings are also made available.
We have a new forward-looking young Mayor and he must open the council meetings to the public, if he thinks there is nothing to hide. If we want to be a developed country we must follow some of their good practices.