Who will the mayor opt for?

Posted by SM Maulana
Monday, 16 June 2008

KUALA Lumpur City Hall Advisory Board members get RM600 each time they attend a board meeting. Although the sum may be paltry, there is much jostling to be appointed a member. And, the reason lies beyond the payment – it is the opportunities that come with the position.

Hakim: The mayor is said to be in no rush to appoint the new advisory board members.

It is no secret that some members of the board use their position to influence decisions on the awarding of contracts and to get approval for business licences. There are even one or two who feel there is nothing wrong in exerting their influence to obtain approval from the board for projects carried out by their family members, friends or cronies.

Whether such things continue remains to be seen, but the new board members must remember that KL-ites are now demanding transparency and accountability for each and every decision made by the board.

City folks have become more outspoken, as evident from the harsh criticism towards the Draft Kuala Lumpur City Plan 2020 recently.

They are demanding to know which company is behind a project in sensitive areas such as hillsides or green lungs and whether the process and approvals are in order.

This brings us to the question of whether the new board members take a serious approach in solving the problems faced by the people

The tenure of nine advisory board members expired on May 31, which means Kuala Lumpur mayor Datuk Abdul Hakim Borhan has to choose new members or renew the terms of the incumbents.

The board comprises 15 members, with six currently serving their first term (each term is two years).

According to the Federal Capital Act 1960, the City Hall advisory board must have 15 members with one member each from the Federal Territories Ministry, the Finance Ministry and the Economic Planning Unit of the Prime Minister’s Department, and two members nominated by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Selangor government.

The remaining 10 members must be individuals with knowledge on local government issues, or hold a degree in a certain profession, commerce or industry, or have the expertise to represent the needs and interests of their communities.

According to a DBKL source, the mayor had not made up his mind and seemed to be in no rush to do so.

Indeed, after the brouhaha with the Public Opinion Hearing Committee (POHC) for the Draft Kuala Lumpur City Plan 2020, one can understand why the mayor is being extra cautious this time around.

“He is trying his best to be sensitive to the needs of the residents, especially after the POHC issue,” said a DBKL director who wished to remain anonymous.

Also, the Pakatan Rakyat MPs had demanded that DBKL appoint them to its advisory board.

Their argument was that since the Opposition had won 10 of the 11 seatsit was only logical that they be appointed as members of the board. . But, the DBKL has chosen to remain silent on this.

“This is pretend democracy,” said an irate city denizen. “If the MPs (Pakatan Rakyat) are not allowed to sit on the board, then the DBKL should consider having elected councillors comprising professionals and people from NGOs instead of political appointees.”

Former Segambut MP Datuk Dr Tan Kee Kwong once said:“The board is like a toothless tiger – it is redundant and outdated.”

A resident of Damabsara, who was opposing a development project in his neighbourhood last year – and probably still is – said that he did not even know who the advisory board members were and even tagged them “useless”.

Harsh words indeed – but to say that they (members) did not do their job would be unfair as there were members who worked diligently with the community to solve problems like housing, traffic, garbage and flood in their respective areas.

Yet there are also those who have done very little for society and whose names are hardly recognisable to the community.

Part of the role of an advisory member is to be the eyes and ears of their community, very much like what Kepong Community Service Centre head Yee Poh Ping and Seputeh Barisan Nasional Information head Banie Chin are doing for their respective areas.

City folks need to know who their community representatives are and that they can call upon their help at all times; that they are not just out there for personal glory and gain.

Former member Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye once said that board members should not be blamed for not doing enough because they only held advisory positions.Lee, who is holds the record of being the longest-serving member of the board – 16 years to be exact – said that members did not have executive powers and hence could only advise and suggest to the mayor as per Sec 6 (1) of the Federal Capital Act 1960, which stated that the duty of advisory board members was to advise the mayor on matters relating to administration of Kuala Lumpur City.

Perhaps that is true, but in troubled times like now, when the city is reeling from the escalating cost of living, following the fuel price increase, over-development and congestion, Hakim needs all the help and advice he can get.

One can only hope that when making the decision, our honourable mayor is able to show he is willing to embrace the democratic spirit by giving more say to the ratepayers of this city in the decisions made by the DBKL.

The Star


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