It was a crispy Sunday morning after heavy rain the night before at the Penang Chinese Girls’ School Alumni building in Jalan Bagan Jermal. About 15 people had already gathered outside the building from as early as 8.00am. The crowd swelled to more than 300 when registration for voters closed at 10.00am. Many more came later and could not register to vote. The election of nominees from civil society for the position of councillors for MPPP/MPSP for 2011 was organized by the Penang Forum. Nominations were received about 2 weeks earlier and closed 2 days before voting day. There were a total of 24 candidates vying for councillor positions, 15 for MPPP and 9 for MPSP. Campaigning was only allowed outside the voting hall and there was no lack of creativity and enthusiasm in the candidates. One group called themselves the “red shirts” and dubbed their candidate “Superken”.
|Voters eagerly queueing up to register|
|Dr. Toh Kin Woon chairing the session with Kah Cheng (left) and Ahmad Chik (right)|
The morning started with Ms Lim Kah Cheng, a third term MPPP councillor, giving a brief history of our local council. She pointed out that the Municipal Council of Georgetown was established in 1857, the first local authority in Malaya after Singapore. The first local election was held in 1951 but this was suspended in 1965 under the Emergency Ordinance. In 1968, the Athi Nahappan Report recommended the restoration of local elections but this was never carried out. Kah Cheng then presented some of the governing laws of local councils, the council’s structure and roles of councilors. She called on the council to make the full council meetings more public and make the council’s budget more transparent by putting it up on the MPPP website. She also urged the state government to give back 5 council positions to civil society groups which are not NGO’s. She pointed out that NGO’s like the chambers of commerce are special interest groups which do not serve the common interests of civil society and general ratepayers.
Ahmad Chik then announced that Penang Forum 3 endorses the Penang state government’s no-plastic bags policy. The packed audience overwhelmingly supported this by a show of hands.
|Teo Lee Ken garnered the most popular votes.|
Members from the floor were then given the opportunity to ask questions to the candidates. Candidates from the ex-police association were asked on their stand on ISA and law enforcement. A representative from the hawkers’ association was asked how he is going to solve unlicensed hawkers and cleanliness issues. Another candidate was asked how he, as an engineer, is able to contribute as a councillor.
|The more than 300 audience listening intently to the candidates speak|
|Voters eagerly casting their votes|
|Counting and tallying the votes|
A total of 284 people casted their votes. Voting was very enthusiastic as the voters eagerly queued up. Vote counting and tallying was completed by about 3.30pm and the results were announced by the “election commissioners” Ahmad Chik and Rama. The elected nominees for councilors are:
- Teo Lee Ken
- Dr. Lim Mah Hui
- Ms Chin Khuan Sui
- Low Swee Heong
- Dalbinder Singh Gill
- Dr. Tiun Ling Ta
- Sivagurupatham a/l Vadivellu
- Teng Kim Chew
- Krishnan a/l Samiah
- Ung Teow Hong
|The elected nominees|
Aliran President, Ramakrishnan, said that today was a historical day and is a showcase for local democracy. Prof Francis Loh of Penang Forum said that the crowd’s enthusiasm and spirit shows that Penangites want to bring back local council elections.
YB Chow Kon Yeow arrived in the middle of the vote counting. In his speech, he said that today’s event showed that it is possible to have local elections in Penang. He said that he will bring today’s results to the state government to consider for appointment as councillors for 2011.
Note: Penang Forum is a group of more than 12 civil society groups and residents associations working towards playing a more involved consultative role with the Penang state government. You can get more details about Penang Forum here.
Report by: Tan Seng Hai