JEJAK UKHUWWAH

JEJAK UKHUWWAH

20120305

Apa kata Tunku Zain Tuanku Muhriz isu Lynas?



Dibawah ini pandangan Yang Amat Mulia Tunku Zain Al-'Abidin ibni Tuanku Muhriz mengenai isu Lynas, isu decentralisation melibatkan kerajaan negeri dan kerajaan pusat. Menurut Tunku Zain sejarah telah membuktikan bahawa Raja-Raja Melayu meyokong decentralisation. Dalam isu Lynas pula pandangan yang agak panjang lebar, yang menarik perhatian ialah kerajaan Malaysia mempertahankan operasi syarikat swasta dari Australia, sedangkan kerajaan Australia tidak campur tangan dalam isu ini.

Perhaps more decentralised government might have provided an escape route. Because our federal government is so involved with the whole issue (unlike the Australian government which views this as an Australian company just trying to do business)

Decentralisation an antidote to toxic decisions
GUEST COLUMNISTS
Sunday, 04 March 2012

If the objectors are indeed in the majority, then the democratic thing to do is to shelve or reassess the project. The reasons for the objections – fear of an environmental disaster, doubts over the economic case, or wanting to use the space for sepak takraw courts instead – are secondary: it is not up to us in Kuala Lumpur or Seri Menanti to judge their preferences.

Tunku ’Abidin Muhriz

In a previous article I wrote that “development of local neighbourhoods should be subject primarily to the wishes of those who live there: whether in Kampung Baru or Damansara Heights or Gebeng.” I forgot to mention Jalan Sultan, where the owners of some of Kuala Lumpur’s oldest businesses are still concerned that their historic premises may be demolished as a result of the MRT project, as tunnelling works may render the buildings structurally unstable. Some are over a century old, like the tailor shop bearing the name Kwong Fook Wing which is now run by that entrepreneur’s grandson, who like his ancestors continues to tailor for the nation’s royals.

The rare earths processing plant proposed by Australian mining company Lynas in Gebeng has caught more attention this week, however. Many readers might have decided which side of the argument they are on. I’ve spoken to impassioned proponents and opponents who use multi-pronged lines of argument to support their case: economic, scientific, environmental, moral. Unsurprisingly, the hype has caused all of these arguments to be manipulated or exaggerated by politicians for electoral reasons.

In this melee, which has escalated into a nationwide (and global, amongst those who think that everything must be done to remove the near-monopoly China now has over rare earths) issue, the opinions of the people who actually live nearby have been drowned out. Perhaps the elected representatives have failed to speak up on their behalf; certainly many of the prominent personalities and their more thuggish detractors at the protests on Sunday came from far and wide.

If the objectors are indeed in the majority, then the democratic thing to do is to shelve or reassess the project. The reasons for the objections – fear of an environmental disaster, doubts over the economic case, or wanting to use the space for sepak takraw courts instead – are secondary: it is not up to us in Kuala Lumpur or Seri Menanti to judge their preferences.

At this point, some people disagree profoundly. They say that it’s a copout: “you don’t want to take responsibility, so this is just a way for you to avoid deciding on the merits of the case”. My reply is that empowering individuals to take responsibility for their own neighbourhoods forms a foundation of any democratic society.

A more virulent argument claims that by not making decisions for “less educated” people, “you are condemning them to suffer, since they do not know what is good for them”. My response to this demeaning and condescending attitude is that it is still much better to work to get the buy-in and cooperation of local people. Development might not happen as quickly, and projects may not be so grandiose, but it will be more sustainable and the people are likely to feel a sense of ownership and therefore, pride.
However, it’s undeniable that there will be impacts outside Gebeng and Pahang itself, and it is intrinsic to democracy that all of us have say, too. It is also intrinsic to democracy that any one of us should be able to engage the stakeholders of our opinions on the matter. Still, I’d argue that we should weigh the views of the people close by exponentially more than those far away: for if we lose this principle, we risk losing the mosaic of differing landscapes, tastes and preferences that enrich our country.

Perhaps more decentralised government might have provided an escape route. Because our federal government is so involved with the whole issue (unlike the Australian government which views this as an Australian company just trying to do business), it has become a target: imagine instead that responsibility lay at the state, or even the local level.

This was on my mind since Friday, when I joined a forum on decentralisation hosted by the Penang Institute, a reincarnated think tank funded by the state government there. One of the more shocking things I learnt is that no authority in Penang can determine where its bus stops are placed: such decisions are made in Putrajaya.

At the end, one journalist asked if the Malay Rulers were likely to support decentralisation, and I cited that in 1903 Sultan Idris of Perak criticised administrative over-centralisation during a Conference of Rulers, in 1923 Tuanku Muhammad of Negri Sembilan wanted to ensure that state budgets were approved by State Councils instead of the Federal Council, and generally the Rulers of the Unfederated Malay States were even more keen to protect their independence having witnessed the centralisation that occurred in the Federated Malay States. Indeed, the historical record shows that the Rulers were champions of decentralisation even before political parties came to exist in these parts!

Tunku ’Abidin Muhriz is President of IDEAS.

http://www.malaysia-today.net/mtcolumns/guest-columnists/47785-decentralisation-an-antidote-to-toxic-decisions

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