Handbook for New Councillors

By A. Jeyaraj

Barisan Nasional councillors have been relieved of their positions and Ahmad Faizal Azumu, Menteri Besar Perak, said that new councillors will be appointed accordingly. This means most of the councillors will be from political parties and their affiliation will be to their party. They will try to please their political masters and be in their good books. Basically there will be no change in the profile of the new councillors.

Findings of “Know Your Councillor” survey organised by a number of civil societies a few years ago is still relevant. More than 90 percent of the respondents in the survey said they did not know who their councillor is. Most of the people do not even know who their elected assembly person or MP is. While voting, they put their cross against the symbol of the party without knowing the name of the candidate. If people do not know who they voted for, how would they know their appointed councillor?

When appointing new councillors, the PH government should also provide them with a handbook about their responsibilities which must be made public. Being political appointees, councillors are not aware of their duties.

Councillors from the previous government used to say that they are only answerable to their political parties. Councillors must be made accountable. They should report to the Mayor or State Exco for Local Government, then the public would know where to lodge complaints against councillors. An annual report card should be prepared for each councillor based on feedback received from the residents.

I am reproducing what I wrote sometime back of an example of what a newly elected councillor should do. When Dato’ Daniel Tay Kwan Hui was appointed councillor for Zone 8 which comprises of Lim Garden, Merdeka Garden, etc., he called for a meeting with representatives of the Zone in MBI and introduced himself. 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. Though he did not come to the zone, he was easily contactable and responded to issues raised. Newly appointed councillors should emulate him.

The councillors appointed after him did not take the initiative to introduce themselves. I did not know who my councillor was since my housing estate was listed in the Councillors’ List.

A councillor’s scope of duties and responsibilities would mean practically a full time job. However, this is not so, as all are appointed on a part-time basis. Residents’ associations can set up WhatsApp groups with their councillor as a member and share their problems.

Understanding the role and responsibility of a councillor is necessary and important for one to get the best value for the rates we pay to MBI. Clean drains, regular rubbish collection, functioning lamp posts and traffic lights, clean, safe and peaceful environment are our basic requirements.

It is important to know who your councillor is and to periodically engage with him/her. Your engagement with your councillor effectively ensures a win-win situation for both of you.

Councillors are not doing their job for free. They are paid, enjoy perks and privileges and go on all paid vacation at the expense of the ratepayers. What more do they want?

While in the opposition, DAP and PKR were fighting for local council elections and now they are in the ruling coalition, without further delay they must call for local council elections.


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