By Lian Cheng
KUCHING, Dec 15: Assistant Minister of Local Government Datu Dr Penguang Manggil has shot down the proposal by Bersih Sarawak for the state to hold local council elections.
Penguang said besides being impractical, it would be expensive to organise such an election in all the 26 local councils in the state.
“Imagine, in some of the big councils, we have between 30 and 32 posts. And there are 26 local councils and more than 700 councillor posts, minus DBKU (Kuching North City Hall).
“You can imagine the expenses the election would be incurring. It will end up more expensive than holding the Sarawak election,” Penguang told DayakDaily today.
He was responding to Bersih Sarawak’s call for Sarawak to lead the way in implementing elections in local councils as it believed the state had the by-laws and the experience in the 60s to organise such elections.
Penguang, who is also Marudi assemblyman, stressed that the situation in Sarawak today could not be compared with Sarawak in the 60s.
Firstly, he said, back then, there were only a few councils. Secondly, councils in the state cover every inch of its territory.
“We all know how big Sarawak is in term of land size. If we were to hold local council elections, it means stretching from the northern tip of Lundu all the way to Lawas. It will be a big task.
“What is worse is that we have to do it every two years, as stipulated by the by-law,” he pointed out.
He said with the state election and general election, Sarawak was already preparing for elections roughly every two years.
“If we were to hold local council elections, it may means every year there is an election!” said Penguang.
He opined that Peninsular Malaysia was in a better position to carry out local council elections, and yet it was not.
“For Peninsular Malaysia, the rural areas are under the Ministry of Rural and Regional Development, meaning that if Peninsular Malaysia were to hold local council elections, it will only be held in big towns and cities.
“For that matter, Penang and Wilayah Persekutuan, which are under the DAP, should have started it, but there has been none. Why?” he asked.
Penguang, who was recently appointed as a vice-president of Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), also emphasised that Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) had never promised local council elections.
“Holding local council elections is never GPS’ promise because it is not practical here. Thus, we have never made that promise.
“The fact is that Pakatan Harapan was the one who proposed and promised in their election manifesto. But now, even Prime Minister (Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad) had said that PH would not organise such elections as it can cause further erosion among the people, as such election is drawn along racial lines.
“If PH was the one promising it but not doing it, why should GPS end up holding it? Bersih National should pressure the PH government instead,” argued Penguang. — DayakDaily