Penang reps call for change in selection process for Lord Mayor post

GEORGE TOWN: Two Pakatan Harapan members have called on Penang to drop the conventional way of appointing a new Lord Mayor for the island.

They urged Penang to either elect the candidate or appoint someone from outside the civil service system.

By next month, the Lord Mayor's post in Penang will be vacated as the incumbent Datuk Maimunah Mohd Shariff would be seconded to the United Nations as its Human Settlements Programme's (UN-Habitat) executive director for a four-year term.

Tanjung Bungah assemblyman Teh Yee Cheu (pix) has called on the state government to affirm their political will to elect rather than appoint a Lord Mayor to head the Penang Island City Council (MBPP).

He said that he knew that the Federal Court has barred the holding of local government elections, but Penang can do it indirectly by allowing the outspoken civil society here to vote and shortlist among themselves a list of people whom they prefer as candidates.

Their choices can then be deliberated at the full council level, screened by the councillors before a final choice was made by the council and their officers, said Teh in an interview.

"It is taking an out of the box approach to deal with the fresh challenges to the issue of local governance. We cannot be doing things the old way of dealing with new age problems such as environmental degradation, the inflow of migrants, worsening congestion, social amenities and public health issues."

He also extolled a need to have a strong enforcement standard to guard against those, who easily flout local council bylaws and to punish litterbugs, whose bad habits have led to a clogged drainage system.

"With a professional at the helm and a person with no vested interest, we can expect better decisions to be made. Certain policies such as on sustainability and the state's structure plan can be managed better if fresh ideas are brought into the debate."

Teh's suggestions were supported by former PKR parliamentarian Yusmadi Yusoff, who urged the state to hire a technocrat or a professional to deal with the demands from both Pakatan and the Opposition – Barisan Nasional.

Yusmadi said the ratepayers' reliance on local government was growing, citing last month's floods as an example of how the public overwhelmingly relied on the local authorities to assist in the massive clean-up.