• Minister for Urban Well Being, Housing and Local Government, Datuk Rahman Dahlan, must disclose the cost of building, operating and maintaining the proposed incinerator in Taman Beringin, Kepong

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 8th of February, 2015

    Minister for Urban Well Being, Housing and Local Government, Datuk Rahman Dahlan, must disclose the cost of building, operating and maintaining the proposed incinerator in Taman Beringin, Kepong

    It was reported that the Minister for Urban Well Being, Housing and Local Government, Datuk Rahman Dahlan, had met with the anti-incinerator NGO, KL Tak Nak Insinerator (KTI) on the 30th of January, 2015. Before this meeting, KTI had provided the Minister a list of 24 questions for his Ministry to answer (see attachment). While is it commendable that the Minister took time to meet and listen to KTI, the answers given in his written replies on the 5th of February are not convincing. In particular, his failure to disclose the cost of building, operating and maintaining the proposed incinerator makes a mockery of the international and open tender process initially promised by the Minister.

    The latest news have indicated that the bidding for the proposed incinerator in Taman Beringin, Kepong, has been narrowed down to two players. The Minister refuses to divulge the companies that are involved in the tender process. More worryingly, the Minister has also refused to divulge the cost of this entire project except to say that the Ministry will not pay a single sen towards the construction cost and would only pay for the tipping fee for the disposal of solid waste at the incinerator.[1] This tipping fee, according to the Minister’s reply to KTI, was being reviewed in the tender process.

    If the Minister supports open disclosure, why not let the public know the cost of building the incinerator, the tipping fee and the funding model for the entire incinerator project?

    Recently, the Minister said in his Twitter and Facebook accounts that local elections will lead to an increase in taxes including assessment rates. Ironically, it is likely that residents in Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur (WPKL) will see their taxes raised to fund the proposed incinerator even though there are no local elections in WPKL. I call upon the Minister to disclose the tender documents, including the cost of construction and the tipping fee for the proposed incinerator, and to invite public comments on whether such an incinerator is needed in KL or not.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    Attachment: KTI Questions to Minister Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan, 5 Feb 2015

    [1] http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/have-a-picnic-in-landfill-minister-tells-residents-opposed-to-incinerator

  • UMNO stands to gain from local elections in Selangor, not DAP

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, Member of Parliament for Serdang, on 6 February 2015

    UMNO stands to gain from local elections in Selangor, not DAP

    Yesterday, on 5 February 2015 in Sinar Harian, ADUN for Permatang Datuk Sulaiman Razak made several baseless accusations against the DAP.[1]

    First, Sulaiman alleged that the main reason DAP is demanding elections for local authorities (LAs, or Pihak Berkuasa Tempatan or PBT in Bahasa Malaysia) is to ‘seize more urban seats’ and to ‘monopolize positions of power and decision-making which will marginalize the rights of other races.’

    In reality, the party which will benefit most from local council elections in Selangor is UMNO and not DAP. In Selangor, UMNO holds 12 out of 56 DUN seats (21%) and 4 out of 22 Parliament seats (18%). Although UMNO succeeded in winning 18% of the popular vote in Selangor in GE-13, UMNO does not have a single representative in any of the local councils. With local council elections, UMNO through its popular support of 18% stands to win at least 50 out of 300 local councilor positions which at present are appointed by the State Government.

    At the same time, there is a strong possibility that UMNO will dominate the Kuala Selangor, Sabak Bernam and Hulu Selangor local councils through local elections, given the strong support for UMNO in these areas.

    As another example, in areas such as Petaling Jaya where UMNO did not contest any Parliament or DUN seats, local elections will give UMNO the opportunity and space to gain representation in the Petaling Jaya City Council (Majlis Bandaraya Petaling Jaya or MBPJ).

    Second, Sulaiman accused DAP of wanting to ‘taking the opportunity to become the majority in the local councils’ especially in local councils such as MBPJ, MBSA and MPAJ which have large budgets. Sulaiman’s accusation is based on the perception that urban areas are majority-non-Malay areas and that this will benefit DAP.

    This allegation is also baseless. According to the 2010 population census, 10 of the 12 local councils in Selangor have a Malay majority, including Majlis Bandaraya Shah Alam (MBSA) and Majlis Perbandaran Ampang Jaya (MPAJ). In Majlis Bandaraya Petaling Jaya (MBPJ), Malay residents are a plurality. Only in Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ) is there a Chinese plurality.

    Does UMNO have no confidence that it can beat DAP in local elections for Malay-majority areas such as Shah Alam and Ampang?

    Third, Sulaiman accused DAP of ‘intentionally creating issues to blame the Federal Government because the election of local authorities come under a Parliamentary Act in the concurrent list for Federal Government and State Government powers.’

    Actually, State Governments have two ways to carry out local authority elections even if the Federal Government refuses to cooperate. The first way is to pass a state law in the State Assembly (DUN) to conduct local elections and obtain an exemption from the Local Government Act 1976. The Penang State Government took this approach but failed when the Federal Court rejected its appeal.

    The second approach is to hold local elections through the Selangor State Government machinery and appoint the winners as local councilors. This method has been used by the Selangor State Government to choose Chinese village heads in Kampung Baru Sungai Jarum in Kuala Langat, Kampung Bagan in Pulau Ketam and Pandamaran in Klang. The same method can be used to select local councillors but requires more detailed planning.

    Local elections in Selangor are not something new. It is stated in Selangor Pakatan Rakyat’s GE-13 manifesto as follows: Carry out decentralization through a gradual implementation of local government elections.”

    If UMNO Selangor continued to oppose the election of local authorities in Selangor, is it because they have no confidence in their own ability to attract support and win local council positions, or because UMNO in Selangor does not want to serve the people through local government?

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming

    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    [1] http://www.sinarharian.com.my/politik/bn-dakwa-dap-tamak-dalam-isu-pbt-1.357227

  • The Prime Minister must instruct Ismail Sabri to retract his statement and to apologize for his baseless accusations

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 3rd of February 2015

    The Prime Minister must instruct Ismail Sabri to retract his statement and to apologize for his baseless accusations

    Article 3 (1) e of the Sedition Act states that “A ‘seditious tendency’ is a tendency—to promote feelings of ill will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Malaysia.”

    The Facebook statement by the Minister of Agriculture and Agro Industry, Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri, which called for Malays to boycott Chinese traders, has undoubtedly raised feelings of ill will and hatred among Malays towards not just Chinese traders but the Chinese community in general.

    This is evident by some of the comments on Ismail Sabri’s Facebook page, a few of which are featured below:

    There is a comment which characterizes Chinese traders as leeches and calls for the Malays to declare war on this group of people. There is a comment which accuses the Chinese of insulting the Malays. There is a comment which says that the Chinese are ‘bangsat’, an insulting and vulgar term. There is a comment which uses this example as ‘proof’ that the Malays are being victimized by the Chinese.

    Ismail Sabri’s statement is baseless, irresponsible and has heightened feelings of hatred and ill will towards the Chinese in general.

    There are many reasons why traders, regardless of race, have not decreased their prices even though the price of petrol has dropped. The price of petrol comprises a small component of the cost of goods. Even though the price of petrol has dropped, the wages of workers have not dropped, the price of electricity has not dropped, the price of cooking gas has not dropped, and the price of cars have not dropped, just to give a few examples. In addition, because of the depreciation of the ringgit, the price of imported goods have not only not dropped but have increased!

    I call upon the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, as a Prime Minister who is tasked with the responsibility of safeguarding ethnic relations between the races in our country, to instruct Ismail Sabri to apologize for his statement and to retract his baseless accusations against the Chinese traders. If the Prime Minister fails to do so, he should take his 1 Malaysia slogan and throw it in the dustbin.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

  • Restore Local Elections to increase accountability, to better reflect local representation and to increase transparency

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, 25th of January, 2015

    Restore Local Elections to increase accountability, to better reflect local representation and to increase transparency

    PAS President Tuan Guru Hadi Awang, in a statement on the 23rd of January, rejected the need for local elections on the basis that it would promote instability, increase the gap between rural and urban development and could lead to another May 13th in the country.[1]

    Rather than respond to these baseless assertions, I would like to make the case for why we need local elections, more than ever. Bringing back local elections will increase the level of local accountability, will better reflect political representation at the local level and will increase transparency in local council and district spending decisions.

    Increase Local Accountability

    Having served as an MP for one and a half years and having worked with councillors in the Subang Jaya and Kajang local councils (MPSj and MPKj respectively), I understand and appreciate the role of local councillors much more than before. Local councillors, in many ways, represent the first responders to the problems faced by residents be it the illegal dumping of rubbish, clogged drains or potholes. In a mature democracy, elected representatives at the national and state levels should focus on legislative matters while local councillors should focus on matters to do with the local council.

    In Malaysia, local councillors are appointed by the state government. Many of them are unknown to local residents, even in the areas which they are supposed to take care of. One of the main reasons behind the relative anonymity of the local councillors is because they are not elected. I can assure you that any elected representative in Malaysia would have gotten telephone calls asking for us to take care of their rubbish problems because “we elected you”. They cannot say the same of the local councillors.

    In the current set-up, local councillors are beholden to the parties which appoint them rather than to the residents whom they are supposed to service. While a non-performing councillor may not continue to receive the recommendation from the elected MP or ADUN to continue his term as a councillor, the question of accountability still remains. A poorly performing councillor can remain in his position as long as he is ‘protected’ by the party. In areas where the elected representative is from a different party from the councillor, the line of reporting and accountability becomes even less clear.

    Hence, local elections are the most effective way to restore the link between residents and their local councillor. Local councillors will have to campaign in order to be elected. They will have to make election pledges and produce election manifestos. Their profile among residents will be raised. Their accountability to the residents who voted them into office will also increase. This is arguably the most important reasons for the restoration of local elections.

    Better reflection of local political representation

    As it stands, it is a zero sum game at the local council level for political parties. Whoever controls the state government, controls the appointment of ALL councillors regardless of political support of the respective parties at the local level.

    For example, PAS may have won all four state seats and the parliaments seat of Kuala Terengganu but they have no representation whatsoever in the Kuala Terengganu City Council. Similarly, UMNO won 7 out of the 21 state seats in Seberang Prai but they have zero representation in the Seberang Perai Municipal Council. Pakatan Rakyat won 9 out of 11 parliament seats in KL but have no representation whatsoever in Kuala Lumpur City Council.

    Restoring local elections would better reflect the local political representation for all sides be it Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Rakyat.

    Local elections will not necessarily result in DAP dominating the contests in urban areas for two reasons. Firstly, the emergence of other parties and political forces will likely be the strongest in the urban areas. It will not be surprisingly for candidates representing green interests or even a green party to win representative in local council elections. Single issue candidates such as an anti-KIDEX or a pro-animal position are much more likely to win local council elections in Petaling Jaya compared to non-urban districts where mobilization based on a single issue is much more challenging.

    Secondly, the ethnic composition of many of the urban councils have changed significantly since the May 13th incident in 1969. The large migration of Malays from the rural to the urban areas have made areas like Kuala Lumpur very different from today from what it was in 1969. According to the 2010 census data, the Malay population in Wilayah Persekutuan KL (45.9%) outnumber the Chinese population (43.2%). In fact, out of the 3 city halls, 9 city councils and 37 municipal councils in Malaysia, only 6 have populations where the Chinese outnumber the Malays – Ipoh, Kuching Selantan, Johor Bahru Tengah, Pulau Pinang, Sibu and Subang Jaya![2] In other words, 88% of these large urban areas have a plurality and in most cases, a majority, of Malay residents. Even in a place like Petaling Jaya, the Malay population (46.2%) outnumber the Chinese population (39.6%)! (See Appendix 1 below)

    While the Malays may be slightly under represented in the voting population in some of these urban areas because of their younger demographic profile, it is clearly wrong to say that the DAP will dominate local elections on the basis that urban areas are largely Chinese dominated.

    More transparency in the budgetary process

    My final argument as to why local elections need to be restored is in term of budgetary transparency and oversight. Currently, there is very little debate or deliberation as to how a local council’s budget is allocated. This matters since it determines how many playgrounds get upgraded, how many overhead bridges get built, how much is spend on rubbish collection and public cleansing, how much is used for landscaping, just to give a few examples.

    With a more accountable elected local council coupled with a more politically accurate representation of local councillors, there will be a better check and balance over how the local council budget will be spent. Similar to how the opposition at the federal and state levels are supposed to scrutinize the government budgets of the federal and state governments, a more representative council should also do the same for the local council budget.

    Conclusion

    While there may be some legitimate concerns over having local elections e.g. the kind of electoral system to use, the specific powers of the local councillors, who can vote in these elections, just to mention a few, the possibility of a May 13th like event happening as a result of local elections is not one of them.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    Appendix 1: Ethnic Composition of the 3 City Halls, 9 City Councils and 37 Municipal Councils in Malaysia according to the 2010 Census Data

    [1] http://m.harakahdaily.net/index.php/presiden/33425-pembangunan-bandar-bermasyarakat-madani

    [2] Some of these places have since been upgraded to city councils e.g. Petaling Jaya

  • Will the operating expenditure of our public universities be cut in the latest budget revision?

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 23rd of January 2015

    Will the operating expenditure of our public universities be cut in the latest budget revision?

    In PM Najib’s recent announcement on the revision to the 2015 Budget, the largest expenditure rationalisation item was an RM3.2 billion review of transfers and grants to statutory bodies, GLCs and Government Trust Funds, particularly those with a steady revenue stream and high reserves. This is a significant expenditure review and the institutions involved need to know how much of their operational budget will be cut. Of interest to the public is whether and how much funding to the public universities will be affected as a result of this expenditure review.

    According to the Economic Report 2014-2015, grants to statutory bodies from the operation expenditure was an estimated RM16.7 billion. A large proportion of these grants are allocated to public institutions of higher learning i.e. our public universities. All of our public universities, with the exception of the International Islamic University, are statutory bodies.

    According to the 2015 Budget Expenditure Estimates, RM7.4 billion was allocated for the operational expenditure of 20 public universities. This represents 44% of the total RM16.7 billion allocated to statutory bodies. It seems unlikely that our public universities will not suffer budget cuts as a result of the RM3.2 billion expenditure review for the allocation to statutory bodies, GLCs and Government Trust Funds. The question is, by how much?

    There are more than 120 statutory bodies at the federal level, at least 10 Government Trust Funds and numerous GLCs, most of which receive at least some funding from the federal government.

    But because of PM Najib’s failure to table the breakdown of his budget revisions in Parliament, Members of Parliament and I suspect that the affected statutory bodies, GLCs and Government Trust Funds themselves do not know whether or not they have been affected by these expenditure reviews.

    It would be unfair for our public universities to suffer major budget cuts when other programs and expenditure items such as the RM30.7 million allocated to PERMATA under the Prime Minister’s Department go unscathed.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    Appendix 1: Allocation to the 20 public universities from the 2015 Budget Expenditure Estimates

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