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Malay rights not affected by local polls, says Umno man

athi nahappan  malaysia insider

Published: 13 March 2015 6:39 PM by The Malaysian Insider

Restoring local government elections will not erode Malay rights, said an Umno leader, amid worries by Malay leaders from both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat that the third vote will result in unfair racial representation at the local councils.

Former deputy higher education minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said Malay rights and the position of Islam as the federal religion are enshrined in Articles 153 and 3 of the Federal Constitution.

Moreover, the majority of Malaysians residing in the 140-plus local councils are Malays, with only a handful have an almost equal Malay-non-Malay representation, he said.

“Additionally, the current political climate has evolved, with more people becoming colour blind, as reflected in the last two general elections.

“Because of these, the Malays should not worry,” he said in his special address at the “Conference on Local Authority in Malaysia: Revisiting the Athi Nahappan Report for Our Times” in Kuala Lumpur this evening.

Pakatan’s DAP has been pushing for the third vote to be restored as a way to strengthen democracy, but ally PAS had long resisted it.

Early this year, PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang raised the spectre of the May 13 racial riots in defending his party’s position against local council elections, saying that such polls could cause a deeper racial divide as well as tension, especially in Chinese-majority areas, besides being advantageous to urban residents only, whom he said were mainly non-Malays.

His remarks found support with Umno leaders such as Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan.

To allay fears over the local government exercise, Saifuddin, who is the chief executive officer of the Global Movement of Moderates, suggested a mechanism to implement the exercise, such as holding staggered local polls.

“I am of the opinion that local government polls has nothing to do with race. I understand the worries from some quarters so what is needed is to impress upon them that it has nothing to do with race and the Malays should not be worried about losing their rights,” he added.

Local government elections used to be held until they were abolished under the Local Government Act 1976. Since then, positions in the local council have been appointed by political parties ruling the state.

The DAP-led government of Penang has tried, unsuccessfully, to restore the third vote by taking the matter to court.

But the Federal Court in August last year ruled that the state government had no jurisdiction to conduct local council polls. – March 13, 2015.

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