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Democracy via Citizenship Participation – Rethinking Local Governance with the Rakyat

John F. Kennedy’s famous quote rhymes along with this theme. “Ask not what your country can do for you.. Ask what you can do for your country. The efforts of the government alone will never be enough. In the end the people must choose and the people must help themselves.” And it is indeed, very applicable to the situation i am looking at today.

Has Democracy really Faded?

I don’t know, but it seems that majority of Malaysians (as what i felt based on mainstream and social media) seems to be drowned within the pessimism of how our current government perform. Ever since the last General Election, many has claimed that democracy has lost etc etc… i remember vividly where suddenly almost every of my friend turned into politicians just for that week alone prior to GE13! and when things just don’t happen as how it should be, you see black “RIP Democracy” pictures everywhere on social media.

I questioned on that.

How does one even say good bye to democracy when majority does not even participate the nation building progress with their citizenship? Most of my friends would assume then, the game changer is the single vote they have, and who wins the General Election. To me, that’s only the stepping stone, and it’s debatable that whether it matters at all. What matters most, is how much citizens participate in our governance process today. And that, i think majority are pushing the buck to governments to perform but do not even really care what’s happening.

I questioned a lot on the participation rate of public forums too.

It’s very easy for us to flip through the printed media today and read all kind of obviously, biasly written headlines and gossip about it via social media and rub it off our shoulders the next day. Of course, media has it’s own reasoning or nature of business environment to do so, but shouldn’t us, as the people be more aware to read the two sides of the story? That’s why i never read TheStar alone.. neither Malaysiakini alone.. the best way is, get down to the ground. There are so many public forums happening these days, and some of it where i have been attending are quite disappointing in terms of participation. Some of it are quite encouraging, however only to see elderly ones joining the crowd.

Talks
Some of the public forums i have attended this year. Very eye opening and always refreshing to see the questions participants shooting out, not necessarily on the panel’s dialogue.

That’s how the whole social environment suddenly being blanketed with a falsified pessimistic scent of the future everywhere now. No thanks to alternative media who seems to try to pick cheeky lines that tend to favor the majority urbanites to ‘share’ around.. Well that is what happened when the media feed their audience what it seems to be the best selling story aka what people want to hear and proven true.

The ultimate truth of a story can only be heard when one is on the ground to investigate it, instead of relying a person or a media telling you what’s happening selectively.

Take for instance, i was at this nuclear power forum and there was a long 2 hours fruitful debate that goes into the technical terms of energy security and safety for the country’s future planning. Guess what Malaysiakini reported? (despite sitting there for 2 hours too). They took the excerpt of video recording of one of the panel saying “we need to vote the opposition in order to get rid of the nuclear power plants.” That’s it. Go figure.

Rethinking Good Governance – Practicing Citizenship

There is no doubt that there is the need for citizens to participate in a certain level of governance. And no, this is not equivalent to politics. It seems that there are some people who singled out anything to do with government has to do with politics and hence it’s not their game. Well, i just hope that they will understand eventually they are all living under such circumstances of who they elect for. As a citizen, it’s obviously there are many unsaid responsibilities.

Know Your Local Councils, ADUN and MP

The first most obvious is to recognize, understand and collaborate with your local council, Asssemblymen ADUN and member of parliament. Know who they are, attend local council meetings where important information and decisions are presented, lodge necessary complaints to the correct departments etc. Truth to be said, it takes time to understand the operation side of your local council and state council to understand how decisions are being made and where you should submit your complaints. The last i did was giving my comments on Rancangan Tempatan Petaling Jaya RTPJ2 aka Local Plan revision for Petaling Jaya. That’s when i noticed the renaming of land titles is something unusual, and proven to be a dispute between the mayor and local council it seems.

Komas Menu
KOMAS did some great booklet on Knowing Your Rights, illustrating citizenship and good governance.You can collect these at Pusat KOMAS located at 40-A, Jalan 52/18
Komas Outreach
KOMAS did some great booklet on Knowing Your Rights, illustrating citizenship and good governance.You can collect these at Pusat KOMAS located at 40-A, Jalan 52/18

One has to understand that an elected representative can really, only do that much. And i am sure they will be more than glad if you can go to the relevant local council department to complain relevant cases and putting them into the loop. The elected representatives are certainly not your all in one complaint center. One has to understand the amount of scope that they have being a representative and wearing other many hats such as certain positions they have in their parties that make them so busy… On the brighter side, often there are open houses or weekend events with these reps that will be coordinated by their office, just make sure you turn up then! Often the sad thing is many goes to the GE voting poll and voting for some representative judging based on which party do they represent but never really knew what they have done, or will do, for their respective zones.

Komas Booklet
Some screenshot of the booklet. Credits to KOMAS. visit them at http://komas.org/about-us/what-we-do/

Lodge a Complaint Properly – lah

That’s obvious, and most of you reading this will be duh, it wouldn’t help. The other obvious reason of citizenship, is to participate actively on daily basis by always thinking how does one improve the city. Let’s face the fact that we all have come across dirty drains and backyard, illegal rubbish dumpings, damaged roads and vandalized public amenities.. and the list never ends. But again, not all belongs to the jurisdiction of the local council necessarily. For instance, public transport related should be lodged to SPAD Land Transport Authority.. Citizens obviously, are also the end consumers of many things, thus putting them in the front lines of services and products complaints.

I seriously urge those who think that complaints do not help to rethink again. Let’s go down to a simple logic that if corrective actions in some departments as per SOP perhaps need some evidence or complaint log to be act upon. A case that i found so is that when i lodge a taxi complaint in Malacca, and only to found out that taxis are compulsory to have meters in KL Penang and JB as what i have replied by SPAD. Surprise? That’s how i found out. It is sad but true that SPAD will really love to do raids, but they can only do that much with limited manpower. Thus this is when our complaints can help them constructively. Rather rubbishing aside the effectiveness of your complaints, perhaps one can suggest a better way to improve our taxi system? But so far, hey they are very prompt in replying the complaints!

SPAD Complaint
Emails with SPAD proved to be effective. They will get back within 3 working days with a verification email, and another 2 working days they will call you up!

The other things as you know, you are the end users of various services and products. Just make sure you send to the right departments and people and demand an update about it.. Well just lodge one to Giant just now..

complaints2

Is this being bossy or nothing better to do? Well if you ask me, that’s way better than spilling out your displeasure on social media, and wouldn’t you feel guilty that will only make matters worst by contributing to the whole lot of pessimist opinion cloud on social media instead of helping?

MyCleanCity App

Launch of App
MyCleanCity mobile app home page

So this is how i came to know something that is effective. Since some of you are speaking of, i am lazy to email lah… i don’t know who to email to… and i love to play apps!  The Selangor government recently just came up with such app that you can submit any complaints or lodge any reports of any culprits in regards to dirty backlanes, illegal dumpings, uncollected rubbish etc.. well anything within the jurisdiction of local council.

MyCleanCityHomePage
Website Link version. CLICK!

Excerpt from the website*

About Project

The MyCleanCity mobile application is a project initiated by the Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism. The vision of MyCleanCity is as follows – “A  livable and clean city for everyone”.

In order to achieve the above vision, we invite residents of Petaling Jaya to be partner of development in the following 3 ways:

  • Resident Complaints – Help identify local issues in your neighborhood. Provide accurate description so that local authorities could resolve them efficiently
  • Catch the Culprit – Be the ears and eyes of MBPJ. Help us nab individuals or corporations that dirtying the city or create problems in your neighborhood
  • Resident Thinkbox – Think of an idea, gather support and present your idea at the City Council on how to make the city a livable place for all.

As for now, i think the user interface design is rather simple and straight forward. User friendly! Hope this thing really helps a lot! Just switch on your GPS, take a picture, type the caption and your details, and that’s it! But of course, this app isn’t the game changer tool, what matters the most for the app is as a tool for trust building between users and the local council. Time will tell. This is also highlighted by some columnist that local council must first embrace such app. Nevertheless, it’s always interesting to see what other people complain about!

Preview of App
Well, it’s something i am in the middle of figuring out as well honestly speaking. It’s not that i want to go into the politician game or whatever, but it’s just as simple as being responsible for the citizenship i have. And if i don’t care for my fair share of space to be in this city i love in, who else would?