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Community issues transcend parliamentary scrutiny

Local government elections should be the way forward in resolving issues in a far more efficient manner

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Lately there has been a legitimate request by civil society and politicians that Parliament should be able to function amid the emergency proclaimed by the Perikatan Nasional government.

These calls are getting louder since there is a lack of accountability, unemployment, economic contraction and human rights issues. There are also politicians who are keen on current numbers in Parliament, which could be a basis to seize power and form a new government.

In this context of elite statements, debate and demands in the media, there is something significant and dynamic in the local context that seems to be lost in all political discourses.

The issues are related to community living within neighbourhoods, some divided along ethnic lines, where power is monopolised by one ethnic group, lack of aid to single mothers and flats where crimes rates are high. Other issues relate to land on which people who have lived for decades are asked to leave without just compensation and damage to roofs due to fallen tree that remain without attention by the local authorities.

What makes things worse is when local politicians or counsellors ignore a particular area as that area belongs to an opposition MP. The dominance of private interests seems to deny poor people who are living on private land the legitimate safety and security that is much needed for human survival.

Such community issues seem to reveal the importance of the principle of subsidiarity, where issues should be resolved at the community level. Facilitation would be the key mediating skill in addressing community issues. It also requires effective local government structures that would effectively deliver solutions.

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All these issues are simmering in places like Ipoh where local issues go unnoticed due to the elite’s preoccupation with politicking.

The Association for Community and Dialogue (Acid) had the opportunity to assist the All-Parliamentary Group Malaysia on sustainable development goals at the Ipoh Barat constituency on 8-10 April. These issues were observed, confirmed and analysed. The group’s role was to gather information on the underlying issues of a particular constituency and suggest solutions. This was done with the approval and endorsement of Ipoh Barat MP M Kula Segaran, who was keen to address some lingering problems in his constituency.

After meeting various grassroots communities with researchers, Acid participated in a meeting with the group, Kula Segaran and the mayor’s team, on 10 April. From this meeting it was understood there had been foot-dragging on various issues like land matters, abandoned buildings, and lack of aid to deserving single mothers and the very ill. These were due to shortcomings in the system, where certain issues had to be referred to the state government or national agencies that are slow and inefficient.

We were glad the mayor was open to resolving various issues and he ensured us of his responsibility to address some matters raised.

What is pertinent here is that these simmering community issues such as land matters, ethnic unity and local environment cannot be resolved effectively by national politicians.

Local empowerment is vital to deal with local government issues. Towards this end, local government elections should be the way forward in resolving issues in a far more efficient manner with reasonable and effective powers to local authorities.

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It seems pertinent issues effecting communities transcend so-called parliamentary debates and oversight that national politicians are craving for. Politicians should spend more time with their communities to understand local dynamics that have national ramifications. – The Malaysian Insight

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