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Federal Territory Day

Today, we celebrate Federal Territory Day. Today, we celebrate Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya—not only these very special cities but also the diverse, hardworking and virtuous people who make them come alive.
This year’s celebrations unfortunately take place during the Covid-19 pandemic as well as the on-going Movement Control Order (MCO) and Emergency.
The Prime Minister has spoken and in his remarks outlined the various initiatives his government has undertaken to assist the people of the Federal Territories.
Unfortunately, the fact is that his government’s inadequate, flip-flopping response to both the public health and socio-economic crises triggered by the pandemic has negated whatever good the initiatives he has introduced may do.
Indeed, the lives of Malaysians in the Federal Territories and other urban areas in key sectors—including employment, education, infrastructure, the environment and public safety—leave much to be desired, especially for the B40s and M40s.
The best “gift” the current government can give Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya this Federal Territory Day is to commit to work more closely with its elected MPs and civil society, to listen and implement the mountains of sensible advice given in good faith, including on how to bring the pandemic under control.
This cannot take place while Parliament is not sitting, nor when members of his administration seem determined to take an adversarial relationship with a great many of the FT MPs.
The voices of the people of the FT appear to be ignored, including the most vulnerable and disadvantaged such as the young, single parents, the homeless, mentally ill and migrant workers.
The FT needs change desperately. There is no use talking about all the aid given when the MCO—which has yet to show positive results despite several weeks—hurts livelihoods without helping to bring down the soaring infections. There is still time to reverse the perilous course we are still on.
In the longer term, self-governance ought to be returned to Kuala Lumpur, in the form of restoring local council elections in the city. The best way to ensure its continued development as a world-class city will be to allow Kuala Lumpur to be governed in the interest of its residents.
The recent Court of Appeal judgement in the Taman Rimba Kiara case is proof that the Federal Government does not always know best when it comes to the lives of our great cities.
In Setiawangsa, we have the Taman Tiara Titiwangsa case, where the residents have won at the Court of Appeal level.
The Federal Territories can definitely emerge as international hubs that draw people from all over the world. But it must first be able to take care of its own people—to keep them healthy, safe and employed and that requires real leadership that has the people at its heart.
Kuala Lumpur and the Federal Territories are special cities. And their people are special. With wisdom, cooperation and genuine leadership, there’s no reason why it will not be able to recover and eventually, thrive.