Liaison officers serve as a bridge between the people and govt
By JADE CHAN
THE terms “state liaison officer” and “parliamentary liaison officer”, better known in Bahasa Malaysia as penyelaras DUN and penyelaras parlimen respectively, have been bandied around in recent times, but who exactly are these people and what do they do?
Seri Setia state liaison officer Datuk Yahaya Bujang likened their duties to the job functions of a wakil rakyat (elected representative).
“These liaison officers, who are Barisan Nasional appointees, serve as a bridge between the people and Federal Government in Pakatan Rakyat-held states like Selangor, Kedah and Penang,” he said.
Their appointment comes from the Implementation Coordination Unit (ICU), under the Prime Minister’s Department, and is on a year-to-year basis.
On how the system was introduced, Kelana Jaya parliamentary liaison officer Ong Chong Swen said a few months after the March 2008 general election, the Federal Government realised there were some hiccups in getting things done, especially activities for the people.
“The idea of having liaison officers was proposed and the Barisan Nasional party components recommended the names of potential candidates,” she said.
“The appointments were confirmed in August 2009. In the meantime, we have been helping the Federal Government with mesra rakyat (people-oriented) activities since August 2008.
“Our main tasks are to help the various ministries disseminate information and help in carrying out their programmes and organise mesra rakyat activities,” said the Kelana Jaya MCA division chief.
“We also help with applications for programme funding by residents associations and NGOs, and meet every two months at the district office to sort out various matters.”
Common mesra rakyat activities are meetings with the police and community, festive celebrations, and gotong royong.
Yahaya has also sponsored a free tuition scheme for students in Seri Setia, while Ong said she had proposed to the ICU to tweak the eKasih programme to channel funds to maintain and repair flats for the urban poor.
Yahaya, who is also Kelana Jaya Umno division deputy chief, said: “We help to sponsor many programmes, immaterial of whether they are for social, community or religious purposes.
“A lot of our effort is focused on welfare aid and helping the poor. We also assist when it comes to dealing with federal-level agencies,” Yahaya said.
He believed that it was good to have one wakil rakyat each at the state and federal level.
Ong said oo elected representative had the right to claim a particular area as theirs.
“Those who did not get the people’s mandate can still work and serve the community.
“This system is one way of helping the people, as Barisan-elected representatives in Pakatan-held states are not given programmes or funds.”
While declining to reveal the exact amount, Ong said they were given a limited allocation by the ICU yearly, and had to be shared between her, Yahaya and Subang Jaya state liaison officer Lee You Hin. “We are given a sharing formula that is decided by the ICU, and the funds are allocated by the parliamentary seats,” said Yahaya.
Ong said the funds were allocated for mesra rakyat activities, festive celebrations and funding requests by NGOs.
“Yahaya, Lee and I are regularly in contact to discuss activities and allocations,” she said, stressing that the liaison officers have no authority when it comes to funds for infrastructure upgrade and construction, as that comes under the purview of the ruling state government.
The appointment of the present batch of liaison officers is from August 2009 to August 2010, although Yahaya said it had been extended until November until the next group of appointees take over.
“Whether the present batch of liaison officers are appointed to continue for a second term or be replaced with a new person depends on their performance,” he said.
Each officer has to submit individual quarterly reports to the Selangor Barisan headquarters for performance assessment.
“We have been informed that liaison officers will not necessarily be fielded for the next general election,” Yahaya said.
Pakatan Rakyat has an adoptive exco or exco angkat scheme in areas held by Barisan-elected representatives.
“The exco angkat concept basically assigns each Selangor state executive councillor the responsibility to oversee constituencies that are under the Opposition (BN),” said state Tourism, Consumerism and the Environment committee chairman Elizabeth Wong.
“They are responsible for making sure the state government programmes achieve their intended objectives, especially those under Merakyatkan Ekonomi Selangor, which are intended to help the poor people of all races.”
Some of these programmes include the Skim Mesra Usia Emas, Tabung Warisan Anak Selangor, an education fund for the children of estate workers, and a fund for all Selangor students entering university.
“There is a coordinator and a team at the local level to deal with daily work,” said Wong.
State New Village Development and Illegal Factories committee chairman Ean Yong Hian Wah said the job scope was similar to an assemblyman’s work, as they met the constituents and helped them with various state government affairs.
“We set up a service centre in each area that is run by a team, which is assisted by local councillors,” he said.
Wong oversees the Hulu Bernam, Sungai Burong and Permatang state seats, while Ean Yong handles Kuala Kubu Baru and Batang Kali.
While the adoptive exco system was set up after Pakatan took over the administration of the state, Ean Yong said there were plans to change the system next year to make it more streamlined and focused.