Media Statement by REFSA Executive Director Wong Shu Qi on 2nd June 2017 (Friday):


MCA president is wrong; local government election is the solution, not appointment of mayor based on ethnicity


MCA President, Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, has suggested that appointing Chinese as mayors would increase the Chinese community’s sense of participation at the local level. Unfortunately, this race-based proposal is neither the right way to improve urban governance nor to increase Chinese’s participation in local government.


The real issue is how a local government deals with ratepayers, and not the mayor’s ethnicity.


Urban residents are disgruntled due to poor governance in the city. The sense of belonging and participation in the local government will not be improved if the appointed Chinese mayor is only meant as a rubber stamp or window dressing.


The fact is crystal clear that urban voters want potholes be repaired, roads paved, garbage collected, public space maintained, and public transport efficiently run. Residents will be happy and satisfied with the local government as long as these local issues are resolved.


Simply put, all residents regardless of ethnicity will suffer when a city government does not execute the will of the people. More importantly, the ethnic composition in most of our cities is highly mixed. About 70% of Malaysia’s population is living in urban centres. Malaysian cities are not as homogeneous as they were half a century ago.


Appointing a Chinese mayor will only encourage demands for Indian mayors, Kadazan mayors, Iban mayors, and so on. The ethnicity of a mayor does not matter, as long as she or he can serve the people, resolving problems and difficulties.


Ironically, the current mayor of London, who is a Muslim, will never be elected if Liow Tiong Lai’s idea is to be implemented. The London ratepayers voted for a Muslim mayor not because he is Muslim, or the voters are Muslims, but majority of them believed that he is the best choice to serve the city of London.


Hence, it is unfortunate that Liow Tiong Lai does not understand the real problem at all. His mindset is still racial-based.


Instead of pushing another window dressing appointment at the local level, it will be more realistic that MCA pushes for local government election. Allowing ratepayers and residents to vote for the mayor of their choice will ensure more accountability on the part of the local government.


As the face of cities and towns has changed a lot over the past 50 years, the results could surprise opponents of local election, as most Malaysians today may elect a capable candidate to be mayor, instead of merely an ethnic group representative.



Wong Shu Qi