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Election Watch

Laporan Rakyat: Evaluating the voted

Source: Selangor Times
Date: 2 December 2011

“Can you name your state assembly person or Member of Parliament?” asked one of our reporters during a quick survey.
The reply was brief but telling. “I don’t know. Why should I care who they are or what they do?” answered the man as he hurried towards the LRT station.

That is just one of the many replies I got when I asked around during a quick survey in Klang. For city dwellers like that man, lawmakers only surface during election campaigns or talks.

And the fact is, as more and more urban folk become independent, their lawmakers have less and less direct impact upon their busy lives. They listen to election speeches, decide on who to vote for, and choose the one whose promises resonate with them.

But how do they know for sure that the elected politician they’ve voted for is one who will keep their word?

Now, with Laporan Rakyat, people will get a chance to evaluate their elected representatives and assess them based on their performance and services, even before elections.

Through this report, people can keep tabs on their representatives and have a clearer picture about the person they are voting for.

“Laporan Rakyat is a good move forward. It gives people a chance to better understand the roles assemblypersons and MPs play,” says Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad in an email interview.

He says this can also be seen as a process to educate voters to elect the best candidate to represent them.

However, he also points out that the results of this report may be lopsided, as most Malaysians are confused between what their elected representatives are supposed to do and what is expected of them.

For example, a resident may choose to rate his or her representatives poorly on the Laporan Rakyat because of their rubbish woes or drainage issues. They might wind up judging the lawmakers based on the job scope of a councillor and not what they do in Parliament or at state level, Khalid says.

“Only a handful will assess MPs on what they do at Parliament level, while others might evaluate them based on local council issues,” says the first-time parliamentarian.

He says the public firstly has to be educated on the different roles local councillors, assemblypersons and MPs play, before answering the questions on the card.

They must also be made aware of the challenges each politician faces in Malaysia, which has two different governments in power in the federal and state level.

This clearer understanding will allow for a more accurate result for the Laporan Rakyat.

“Once they are clear on who does what and understands the limitations we face, then only can they judge us fairly and decide if we are suitable to represent them,” Khalid says.

Agreeing with him is Subang MP R Sivarasa, who points out that the methodology of Laporan Rakyat needs to be finetuned in order to produce fair and accurate results.

“This report has to be circulated to the right demographic to fit each social profile, racial background and so on,” Sivarasa tells Selangor Times during a telephone interview.

He explains that if the Laporan Rakyat only reaches a handful of people from the same area in one constituency, the results generated might distort the perception of assemblypersons and MPs.

For example, it would be unfair to deduce his performance as a Subang MP just by the results generated from Kayu Ara.

Though Kayu Ara is one of the 38 voting districts in Subang, it only makes up a minority of the 100,000 voters living in the constituency.

“This will end up misleading the people’s impressions on their elected reps if a balanced demographic is not reached.

“I fully support ideas such as Laporan Rakyat, which lets the public speak out, but I think it has to be randomly done and be applied to the whole constituency,” he says.

Laporan Rakyat, which was launched on Nov 18, is currently used as a pilot project by the independent youth movement UndiMsia!.

UndiMsia!’s community movers will be going to the Hulu Langat parliamentary constituency to conduct 500 face-to-face interviews with locals.

Data collected from the interviews, based on questions in Laporan Rakyat, will be analysed by the Centre for Public Policy Studies (CPPS), and are due to be out in March 2012.

Hulu Langat constituency was chosen due to its racial demographic of 52% Malays, 36% Chinese, 10% Indians and 2% other ethnicities, which is similar to the country’s population.

Results from this pilot project will show the voters’ assessment and expectations of their elected representatives.

“I doubt the results of the findings will be accurate, but at least it can be used as a gauge to see how much the people like or dislike their representatives,” says Sungai Pelek assemblyperson Yap Ee Wah.

He says the results can be used to gauge their performance level and used as a reference to see what the people really want or need from them.

Yap further points out that the results may also influence the voting process in the upcoming General Election.

“Of course, people might vote for a candidate based on the results from the report. This may turn out to be unfair, because some people may dislike a politician and rate them lowly even though they are performing well and efficiently,” Yap says.

However, he says this may also help politicians improve their performance and find ways to connect with the people who dislike them.

“Politics is about winning the hearts and minds of the people, but at the same time politicians are judged by their actions as well,” says Meru assemblyperson Dr Abdul Rani Osman.

With the results of the Laporan Rakyat, assemblypersons and MPs will now get a chance to focus more on issues they have overlooked and reel in the community groups they have left out.

“All elected representatives should be given copies of the results and used as a future referrals to see what they did or didn’t do,” says Dr Abdul Rani.

He adds that it is time the people make sure their elected representatives fulfill all their promises, and use the Laporan Rakyat as a check-and-balance tool.

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