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Turn KL into 14th state for better governance, DAP lawmakers say

HAZE_KUALA LUMPUR

Published: 1 February 2015 8:19 PM by The Malaysian Insider

Kuala Lumpur should be turned into Malaysia’s 14th state to ensure better governance and transparency on its spending and the Federal Territories Ministry abolished to democratise governance of the capital city, besides saving taxpayers cost, opposition lawmakers have suggested.

DAP’s Cheras MP Tan Kok Wai said turning Kuala Lumpur into a state would create two levels of governance, namely a state government and a local council, which would be able to provide better check and balance.

Currently, the itemised budget of Kuala Lumpur’s City Hall (DBKL) is not publicly revealed. It also does not have councillors and is only accountable to the Federal Territories minister.

This year, DBKL was allocated RM2 billion from the ministry as part of its budget.

This is unlike other states where the budget of municipal councils are tabled at the respective council meetings for debate and approval by councillors.

“This will ensure transparency, including on DBKL’s expenditure,” Tan said at a forum titled “Beyond Local Government: Making Kuala Lumpur A State” organised by DAP think-tank Research for Social Advancement (Refsa).

Kuala Lumpur was made Malaysia’s capital when the country achieved Independence in 1957 and it was accorded city status in 1972. Two years later, it became a Federal Territory.

Tan said changing Kuala Lumpur’s status was possible by amending Articles 1 and 154 of the Federal Constitution, as well as other relevant legislation such as the Federal Capital Act 1960.

Article 1 provides for the establishment of the 13 Malaysian states and the three Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan, while Article 154 contain provisions for a federal capital.

The Federal Capital Act, meanwhile, is a consequential legislation of the Constitution.

“It is legally and technically possible to do so,” said the five-term MP.

Kluang MP Liew Chin Tong said governance of Kuala Lumpur, referred to as “KL”  by locals, needed to be democratised and as such, call for the abolishment of the Federal Territories ministry.

The move, he said, can save taxpayers RM83 million in federal administrative costs, which include salaries for the offices of the minister, deputy minister and the secretary-general.

Liew said there is a need to make DBKL accountable to Parliament and the appointment of the mayor should also include parliamentary endorsement.

The Johor MP said the capital city now is “not good” as the current governing structure is too secretive. He agreed that turning Kuala Lumpur into a state would promote transparency, especially with regards to its budget and election of mayors.

“KL is a unique animal. The budget is so big that it is not accountable to anyone. In any local council you have to present the budget so that anyone can see, but in KL, we can’t even see the itemised budget and that is ridiculous,” he said.

He proposed that DBKL table its yearly expenditure report to Parliament and have its budget debated in the assembly.

He said having local government elections would not only make the city more dynamic and liveable, but also make it more accountable, democratic and transparent.

Analyst Dr Wong Chin Huat said the fear of healthy competition was stopping certain parties from agreeing to local elections.

Dr Wong said ‎if Pakatan fails to advance local democracy, then it has lost half its meaning.

“What is the point of having another version of Barisan Nasional called Pakatan? What we need is a new paradigm. Don’t tell me KL in 2015 is more backwards than KL in 1951.

“What should differentiate BN and Pakatan is whether Pakatan is brave to have more political competition, so that the people will be empowered,” said the Penang Institute fellow.

Pro-local council election group KL Action Council representative Ishak Surin said he was ashamed that local council elections are not held in Malaysia, unlike neighbouring countries like Indonesia and Thailand.

“The time has come for KL residents to band together and demand for KL to be run by those elected by the locals,” he said, adding that it is time for residents to have a say on how the city should be administered. – February 1, 2015.

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