NGO councillors decry ‘hijacked’ seats

The Selangor state government came under fire today as NGO councillors questioned the validity of political appointees in NGO-designated slots and demanded the list of NGO councillors in all local councils be revealed immediately.

Coalition for NGO and Professional Appointed Councillors (CONPAC) chairman Tan Jo Hann said he is disappointed over the significant reduction of NGO councillors in the new lineup, claiming 25 percent of the councillor quota allocated was ‘hijacked’ by political appointees.

“In MPSJ, the number of NGO and professional councillors has been reduced to three now from seven in 2008.

In Kuala Selangor district council, even the only NGO councillor was axed,” Tan said in a statement handed to the Selangor menteri besar at the state secretariat today.

“If the eliminated councillors are not performing their duties, their assessment should be revealed so the decision will not be seen as arbitrary.”

The councillor lineup announced last Tuesday was fraught with controversy when some names featured were changed the day after.  A scheduled swearing-in ceremony was canceled in the eleventh hour, believed due to last-minute lobbying and politicking.

The Selangor state government on Friday released an amended version of the lineup and set July 20 as the swearing-in date.

Meanwhile Coalition for Good Governance chairman Jeffrey Phang urged the state government to remain true to its election promises of good governance.

“While MBPJ retained their NGO quota, Shah Alam Municipal Council (MBSA) and MPSJ have their NGO quotas taken over by political appointees.

“We commend the state for tabling the Freedom of Information Act, however we would caution that the removal of NGO councillors is a step backward,” he said.

Phang said that the NGO appointees served as the conscience for the council’s decisions, by virtue of their non-partisanship.

CGG, which comprises over 40 NGOs, also observed a shift in now recruiting ‘yes-men’ as councillors who have no proven merits.

Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim when responding to the two NGO’s statements said the state would hold discussions with them.

“There are always public discussions on the differences in views, which we thought would be best handled in a private discussion before we go public on these decisions and opinions,” he said at a press conference at the state assembly.

“Debating in public, just like in our political experience, will hinder the progress of the activities we are doing.”

Tan meanwhile plans to seek an audience with Khalid before the councillors are sworn-in.