Going The Distance (Selangor Times)
14 December 2012
IN my last article I wrote about the importance of changing the system of
local government that we have. By that I meant we should reintroduce local
government elections as well as overhaul the Local Government Act in order to
ensure a more transparent and accountable local authority.
There are also other institutional changes which are desperately needed in
Keeping to local governments, the law which exempts them from any legal
action being taken against them is also something which has to be looked at.
For example, the Ampang local government was immune to any legal action for
supposed negligence in the decision making which led to the Highland Towers
But, in case I appear to be harping on too much on local government, let us
spread our sights a bit further.
The Election Commission used to be an independent body and its members had
the security of tenure similar to those on the Bench. That was changed in the
60s however. What was also changed was the power of the EC to draw the
boundaries for the electoral constituencies.
Now the EC commissioners are there at His Majesty’s pleasure and the power to
delineate constituencies lie in the hands of Parliament. This means that the
independence of the EC is questionable as they can be fired at will and whoever
has the majority in Parliament will undoubtedly draw the electoral boundaries to
suit them and not to ensure a fair representation of the people in this
There are many other examples of course but I shall not go into them here.
Needless to say the system of governance we have now is built around the concept
Those in authority owe their position to a master. This leads to a feudal
mentality as well as the ever present suspicion that work is done not on a
professional level with the interest of the nation at heart, but instead it is
done to serve a political patron.
This systemic malaise that we have can of course be changed by anyone with
legislative power and the requisite will to do something about it. But is it
possible to find anyone or any group with the nobility of spirit and strong
sense of fairness to do so; especially if the status quo suits their own
The answer is sadly in the negative, which is why changes in government are
When one is on the other side, then one suddenly longs for neutral government
machinery and a level playing field. Take Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad for example;
the paragon of Southeast Asian authoritarianism. When Tun Abdullah Badawi was in
power and Dr Mahathir was simply an old age pensioner who was not in favour with
the current administration, he found himself blocked out of the mainstream
Suddenly the man who was in charge during Operasi Lalang which saw the
shutting down and subsequent cowing of the print media, was lamenting about the
lack of freedom of expression. He had to resort to writing a blog to get his, oh
so numerous, gems of wisdom across.
Of course now that the reins of power have passed, you don’t see him
lamenting any more as he has all the platforms that an octogenarian can possibly
My point is that political parties must be kicked in and out of power because
this will have a positive effect on the mundane government of machinery; the
civil service, the various commissions, the judiciary, the Attorney-General’s
Chambers, local government and numerous other public institutions.
As long as any one political party feels that they will govern forever, this
change will not occur.