Thursday December 25, 2008
Right of councillors to speak out
LIM CHIA YING at the MPSJ full board meeting
THE issue of health insurance for councillors and council employees and the premiums for this insurance dominated the Subang Jaya Municipal Council’s (MPSJ) full board meeting on Wednesday that dragged on until late in the evening.
Some councillors had questioned the high premium fees and raised the need for quotations from different companies to ensure a check-and-balance mechanism was in place and accountability practised, as taxpayers’ money was involved.
A few councillors, however, seemed more interested in asking about how the insurance worked and how exactly they would benefit from it.
The issue appeared to hog the meeting when the time might have been better spent on matters concerning the public.
One of the more vital issues was brought up by councillor Chang Kim Loong, who proposed to MPSJ president Datuk Adnan Md Ikshan that all other councillors as well as assemblymen for areas under the jurisdiction of the MPSJ be allowed to speak and share the main table at the One-Stop Centre (OSC) meetings.
“Currently, the other councillors who are non-OSC members can only pop by and sit in the public gallery. But every councillor should be given the chance to speak at the main table on issues that affect their areas as we are all equal,” Chang said.
“More importantly, the assemblymen should also share the main table with us, as they are elected while we councillors are only nominated.”
Chang said the state allowed for all councillors to speak up at OSC meetings although they had no voting rights.
“However, despite the permission given, this has never been practised in the MPSJ.”
He added that currently, only the four councillors sitting as OSC committee members received the minutes, while the others did not unless they requested for it.
The four OSC councillor members are Chang (representing the NGOs), Pooi Weng Keong (representing DAP), Hamdan Ismail (representing PKR), and Roslan Shahir Datuk Mohd Shahir (representing PAS).
He also proposed that the OSC papers be given three days beforehand and not 24 hours before the meeting.
“Also, we are proposing that committee meetings be opened to other councillors despite them not sitting on it.
“After all, transparency and accountability should be the apex of good governance,” Chang said, adding that the proposals had been agreed upon by 12 councillors so far.
Councillor Ismail Kamal Abdul Rahman said the law must be followed because if every councillor could speak out, everyone would start talking.
Adnan said it was a good proposal but the councillors who raised it would need to submit a notice first.
“We need time to discuss this and even then, not all may agree to the proposal.”
Subang Jaya assemblyman Hannah Yeoh, who attended the full board meeting as an observer, sought permission from Adnan to speak towards the end.
“I’ve checked with state local government chairman Ronnie Liu who confirmed that all councillors can speak in the OSC, but cannot vote.”
She also advised all councillors to ensure that they replied their email regularly since each of them had been provided a laptop by the council.
Chang said he had submitted a working paper to Adnan on the proposal and said it was fair that the president was tabling it for discussion at another meeting.