Wednesday, January 09, 2008



We, as concerned Residents’ Associations (RAs) and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), strongly believe that local democracy should be reinstated into the Malaysian political system.

Local Authorities form the third tier in our federal structure and provide the closest link between the government and its rakyat

As one of the main foundations of democracy, Local Authorities need to safeguard and realise the principles of participatory democracy, rule of law, and the protection of human rights in their governance.

It is, therefore, the duty and responsibility of Local Authorities to:

i. Protect, respect and provide opportunities for the rakyat to exercise their
rights through consultation, participation and representation through local

ii.Create an enabling environment in which the rights of the rakyat can be realised
through transparent and accountable processes, which includes transforming
legislative, budgetary, judicial and other reforms to ensure substantive delivery
of services; and

iii. Acknowledge, value and respond to the diverse rights, interests and concerns of the rakyat.

The Charter on Local Democracy and Governance sets out eight (8) guiding principles and standards on good practice for strong and accountable Local Authorities.

1. Constitutional and rights-based legal framework for local democracy Compliance to legal and constitutional rights-based framework, is important to secure and protect local democracy.

a) Review and amend where necessary all legislations governing Local Authorities so as to increase transparency, abolish corruption, enhance public participation, ensure accountability, prevent immunity for offenders and end malpractices.

2. Local democracy through free and fair election
The rakyat should be enabled to elect their local representatives in conditions of political freedom, including a free and fair election that is conducted with full integrity according to international standards.

a) Amend Section 15 (1) and (2) of the Local Government Act, 1976 (Act 171) to reinstate elections to Local Authorities.
b) Review and amend other laws related to elections to promote free and fair election.

3. Participatory democratic processes Create, nurture and develop programmes that enable the rakyat to participate actively and effectively in decision making processes of Local Authorities so that their overall needs and concerns are met.

a) Comply with and implement Local Agenda 21 policies and guidelines effectively to achieve its intended goals.
b) Impartial consultation and dialogue with the rakyat prior to decision-making and implementation of programmes and projects which will affect the rakyat.
c) Educate and mobilise the rakyat to promote sustainable development i.e. an environment which places rakyat at the centre of the development process and creates an environment in which all rakyat can enjoy a long, healthy and creative life.

4. Accountability at Local Authorities
Local Authorities need to be accountable to the rakyat they serve while operating within the legal and policy framework of other spheres of government.

a) Establish effective regulatory and monitoring mechanisms to provide safeguards against corruption, mismanagement and the inappropriate use of resources by Local Authorities, politicians and officials. Such mechanisms will ensure that resources are used in the best interests of the rakyat.
b) Review and amend as necessary any related legislations which govern local Authorities for example legislations which exempt local authorities and councillors from liability for acts of wrongdoings and negligence

5. Transparency at Local Authorities
Decision making processes of the Local Authorities must be clear and properly communicated to the rakyat it serves e.g. minutes of important local authority meetings must be made available to representatives of the rakyat through the RAs and NGOs.

a) Policies determined by Local Authorities need to be open to scrutiny and to have constructive feedback from the rakyat.

6. Non-discrimination and inclusiveness
Local Authorities have a responsibility to meet the special needs of discriminated and marginalised groups through proactive planning, and affirmative actions.

a) Allocate substantive resources, especially finance, for this purpose.
b) Study, review, and act against incidents of discrimination and inequalities.
c) Impartial consultation and dialogue to include discriminated and marginalised groups prior to decision-making processes which will affect their interests
d) Introduce at least 30% women’s representation at the Local Authorities.

7. Effective leadership to ensure equitable, efficient and responsive delivery of public services. It is the responsibility of the Local Authorities to ensure that everyone has quality and equitable access to public services through effective leadership and monitoring mechanisms.

a) Provide programmes to inculcate a culture of accountability and transparency for councillors, officers, RAs, RT and NGOs.

8. No Taxation without Representation
Within a truly democratic tradition, taxation cannot be justified without representation. Ratepayers must be represented in governing bodies which determine how money is spent.

This is a fundamental precept of parliamentary democracy which is applicable at all levels of government, including Local Authorities. Nominated representatives in Local Authorities will otherwise only be accountable to their political affiliations and not to ratepayers.

WE, as concerned Residents’ Associations (RAs) and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), call for the recognition and adoption of this Charter by the Local Authorities.

Dated this 2 December 2007, Penang, Malaysia.

For further enquiries please contact: Tanjong Bunga Residents’ Association, at

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