Current Affairs

Kuala Lumpur needs its own Legislative Assembly

by Ahmad Iskandar

Imagine the injustice, when people in states like Penang and Malacca with population densities of 1,490 and 493 persons per kilometre respectively are represented at state level while the people of Kuala Lumpur (KL) with a population density of 6,891 persons per kilometre are not represented at territory level.

Despite having 11 Parliamentary seats, the Federal Territory does not have its own Legislative Assembly. For more than 40 years, the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) has been left in charge of administering KL.

If KL parliamentarians are preoccupied with national issues, then who will take charge of championing local grievances?

Lately, DBKL has drawn some criticism over its handling of certain issues. Despite public uproar, DBKL went ahead with the demolition of Pudu Jail to make way for a new underpass to be built in its place. More recently, the landowners of Jalan Sultan protested against administration’s plan of acquiring the area for the much debated Mass Railway Transit (MRT) project.

As demonstrated, much of DBKL’s methods lean towards the high handed ‘big brother’ approach. The sentiments of the people are generally ignored. How then, could the hopes and dreams of the common man of KL be heard and achieved?

Probably, the answer lies in returning KL’s administration back to its people. Maybe it is time for KL to have its own legislative assembly.

Before we go on, let us learn a thing or two about KL. Situated at the confluence of two rivers, Sungai Gombak and Sungai Klang, this 243 km2 stretch of land has now an estimated population of 1.6 million people. With an urbanisation rate of 100 per cent, KL is steadily on its way to become a world class-city.

In order for it to develop further, proper planning is crucial while in the process not victimising its stakeholders such as the business owners, investors and most importantly residents.

In fact, within this decade, we have seen a few blueprints outlining the future of Kuala Lumpur. The first, drafted by DBKL in 2003, was the Kuala Lumpur Structure Plan 2020. This plan outlines the vision of making Kuala Lumpur a world class city with regards to its infrastructure, environment, city management, social and community facilities.

The other blueprint was introduced in Najib’s Economic Transformation Programme. Identifying the Greater Kuala Lumpur (GKL) as one of the National Key Economic Areas, Kuala Lumpur and the Klang Valley as a whole are expected to be the engine for economic growth for the entire nation.

While these plans are applauded, it rings hollow to many, as the proposed transformation plans only cover the cosmetic aspects of transformation. None of them touch on the issue of increasing the representation of the people. Without this, the voice of the people will forever remain unheard.

Being appointed by the Federal Territories Ministry, the mayor and the staff of DBKL seems detached from the sentiments of the ground. Issues that affect the residents the most are overlooked as their concerns revolve mostly around protecting the interest of the ministry.

As we progress, more Multinational Corporations will flood in the city while the residents of KL are sidelined and their needs are set aside. This trend will continue as Najib’s administration continues to pursue their capitalistic goals. Unfortunately, this is the sad outcome when residents are continuously excluded from the decision-making process.

To ensure that the people’s future is safeguarded and their rights respected, it is important that KL is given the opportunity to self govern. Besides having a more accountable administration in the city centre, this is the opportunity for us to sow the seed of democracy at the lower level.

Self governance is not an unknown idea. It is an important concept for a country that practises federalism. Usually, compared to other states, a territory governed by the federal government will be under represented and their people’s welfare neglected. That is why cities and territories like the Australian Capital Territory (Australia), Brasilia (Brazil), Buenos Aires (Argentina), and the National Capital Territory of Delhi (India) were given authority by the federal government to govern themselves with their own legislative assemblies.

Taking Australia as an example, although the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) is represented in the parliament, it still has its own legislative assembly where all its 17 members including the Chief Minister of ACT can debate issues that are close to the hearts of its residents. The Chief Minister then has the authority to appoint his ministers to form the territory’s government. Since all of them are elected by the people, they are answerable to the people and not to any other appointed officials.

Consequently, the outcome that we get from this arrangement are that the residents enjoy higher wages as the territory can impose its own wage policy, improved governance as local problems need not be referred to the federal government, plus specific laws can be enacted to meet the needs of the locality. All of which are good news for the people.

Expect a similar outcome if the same were to be implemented in Malaysia. People in other states have already benefitted from having their own government, why not KL?

What we see here is another of Barisan Nasional’s mischief in denying the people their right to get fair representation. It is a shame that we proclaim ourselves to be a democratic country despite practising only a limited version of it. While we practise a bit of democracy in our states, it is non-existent in Kuala Lumpur, the city that we pride ourselves as the heart of Malaysia.

Perhaps a new federal government is needed before we can see KL restored to its full potential and democracy practised without any limitations. –The Rocket

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