Friday, July 10, 2009

Councillors list not given - The Star

Wednesday July 8, 2009

Journalists not given list of councillors


ONCE again, the Selangor Government gave journalists covering the announcement of new local councillors the run around.

For the second consecutive year, the state caused confusion in the manner it handled the appointment list.

Last year, my colleagues and I were forced to go through the ordeal of obtaining the list from the individual councils. This was after I failed in my bid to convince state local government committee chairman Ronnie Liu to give me a copy.

He told me that the list had been despatched to all the council offices and that I should get it from the various councils. As such, reporters had to go to the various councils to get the lists. We had to literally beg the officers, including the council presidents, to make the list available to us. Some of us got it on the very day while others were not so successful.

I put this down to lack of experience on the part of the Pakatan Rakyat government which had only been in power for three months then.

However, after being in office for a year and three months now, I thought they would have learnt their lesson from last year’s experience. But no, this was not the case and I can only conclude that they have gone from bad to worse.

On Monday, I was once again asked to get the list of 288 names from the state government. I stationed myself at the Bangunan Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah in Shah Alam which is the Selangor State Secretariat.

I was going from the 15th floor where Liu’s office is located to Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim’s media office on the 20th floor before I was told that the list would be out at 2pm.

Liu began the conference by saying that he was making the announcement on behalf of Khalid who was outstation and read out the background of the candidates on the list.

At about 3.30pm, Liu stepped out of the conference room and returned from his office with a stack of papers and to our dismay told us that he could not give us the list because it contained personal particulars of the councillors.

“The list has confidential information so just take down the names as I read it out,” he said.

The journalists present protested and told Liu that it was impossible to get all the names right this way.

We even suggested that we would wait while the personal details were deleted but Liu shot this down.

Seeing our frustration, he then suggested that we obtain the list from the individual councils.

This sounded ridiculous but we had no choice.

I have never experienced a situation like this where I had to write down hundreds of names, especially at a press conference.

Also, to make matters worse, the list was incomplete with an average of four names short for each council. There should be 24 councillors each.

Liu said their names had been left out due to inaccurate details.

However, I was made to understand that the actual reason for the incomplete list was due to the indecisiveness of the state government.

The question is why the state requires such a long time to finalise the names of the councillors, knowing very well that they play a vital role in the decision-making process at the local level.

Why must the state deprive the ratepayers of the councillors services and whose tenure had been terminated on June 30.

After Pakatan Rakyat’s statements on transperancy and good governance, this does not reflect well on them.

Under the Barisan Nasional, a prior announcement would have been made to the media on when the list of councillors would be released.

At no time was an incomplete list released or journalists tasked with writing down names like schoolchildren.

Hopefully, the state government will not repeat the blunder when it comes to the appointment of the new councillors next year.

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