Open Letter to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet by Lim Kit Siang on Tuesday, 2nd September 2008: 

First post-Permatang Pauh by-election Cabinet meeting tomorrow - an acid test whether Barisan Nasional government has learnt the lessons of the two "political tsunamis" in six months

YAB Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister,
YB-YB Cabinet Ministers,

Ten challenges which the Cabinet must address tomorrow to demonstrate that it has learnt the lessons of the two political tsunamis in six months

I believe the overwhelming majority of Malaysians have one common reaction when they read or learnt of the news of the announcement by Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukudu of his sudden resignation yesterday – when Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is going to resign as Malaysian Prime Minister despite his earlier announcement of the power-transition schedule in June 2010.

This may be unfair but this is a fact. Why is this so when four short years ago, the Prime Minister had won the country’s biggest mandate in the 2004 general election winning an unprecedented 91 per cent parliamentary majority?

This was one of my thoughts when I hiked up Penang Hill “48” this morning, which I had not done for a very very long time. The hour hike up and down Penang Hill “48” provided me with a very conducive atmosphere to think about the multiple crisis of confidence afflicting Malaysia – political, economic, educational, judicial, institutional and nation-building.

The idea to pen this Open Letter also came from this hike as the Cabinet meeting tomorrow is the first one after the Permatang Pauh by-election, presenting an acid test whether Barisan Nasional government has learnt the lessons of the two “political tsunamis” in six months to save the country from the multiple crisis of confidence confronting the nation.

There are at least ten challenges which the Cabinet must address tomorrow:

1. Ahmad Ismail’s racist remarks

The Cabinet must sternly and unanimously censure the Bukit Bendera Umno chief, Datuk Ahmad Ismail for his offensive, insensitive, derogatory and racist remarks about the Malaysian Chinese during the Permatang Pauh by-election campaign.

By referring to the Chinese as pendatang, orang tumpang and totally untrustworthy Malaysians, and going into hiding after making the offensive and racist remarks, Ahmad had spoilt the 51st Merdeka anniversary celebrations and sabotaged the Prime Minister’s 51st National Day Message calling on every Malaysian to give importance to solidarity, as “it is the cornerstone of the country’s political stability, social harmony and economic competitiveness”.

The Prime Minister has also caused great dismay and distress among right-thinking Malaysians as he has chosen to demonstrate his “solidarity” with Ahmad when he should be an exemplar for Bangsa Malaysia.

Is there any Cabinet Minister who is prepared to point out tomorrow that the Prime Minister’s response in condoning Ahmad’s racists remarks is weak, unworthy and unacceptable?

The Prime Minister’s statement: “I will tell him not to do it again…. I don’t think he meant it. I’ll make sure to tell him not to use it again” raises many questions.

It means that the Prime Minister had neither met, discussed nor reprimanded Ahmad or he would not have used to future tense of “I will tell him not to do it again”.

How can Abdullah ensure that such offensive, insensitive, derogatory and racist language would not be used again when even in Parliament recently, Umno MPs could hurl racist abuses like “Balik Cina” without any censure by UMNO or BN leadership?

Or shouldn’t the Ahmad Ismail furore be raised and discussed in the Cabinet at all? In that case, let the Cabinet explain its double standards in rejecting the apology of Wee Meng Chee for the “Negaraku” rap video-clip just before the 50th Merdeka anniversary last year, with Umno Ministers competing with each other to demand all sorts of penalties including stripping him of his citizenship as compared to the case of Ahmad Ismail!

2. Declare Malaysia Day on Septembert 16 as a national public holiday

Sabah and Sarawak have suddenly become very important after the March 8 “political tsunami”, not so much to end the long-standing neglect and marginalisation of the rights of the people of Sabah and Sarawak as distinct from those of the leaders of Barisan Nasional in the two states but to ensure the survival of the Barisan Nasional power structure at the federal level.

This is just not good enough as the people of Sabah and Sarawak feel being made used of just to perpetutate the vested interests of the Barisan Nasional in Kuala Lumpur, without any change of heart by the Barisan Nasional leaders.

After 45 years, the people of Sabah and Sarawak must be made to feel that they are an integral part of the Malaysian federation with the Cabinet taking the first step in declaring Malaysia Day on September 16 as a national public holiday with effect from this year.

3. Commitment to establish IPCMC by end of the year

Despite increased budget allocations for the police, Malaysians today feel even more unsafe whether in the streets, public places or the privacy of their homes compared to five years ago when Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi became Prime Minister.

In Pasir Pinji in my parliamentary constituency of Ipoh Timur, there is a reign of fear following a sudden spate of violent thefts leaving the residents and the petty trading community worry for their lives.

This is not an isolated development in Ipoh but represents a worsening situation of law and order in the country, which has made Malaysia unsafe and insecure for its citizens, visitors and investors.

So far there is no political will to fully implement the recommendations of the Royal Police Commission, including the establishment of an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) to create an efficient, incorruptible, professional world-class police service to keep crime low.

Let the Cabinet make a policy decision tomorrow to establish the IPCMC by the end of the year.

4. Restoration of an independent, impartial, professional and meritocratic judiciary

The Cabinet has failed Malaysians in failing to set up a Judicial Appointments Commission to restore national and international confidence in the independence, impartiality, integrity and meritocracy of the judiciary.

There must be a Cabinet commitment that although such a Judicial Appointments Commission has not yet been set up, the Prime Minister will respect and follow the spirit of consultation intended in such a judicial reform when appointing the next Chief Justice as the current Chief Justice of Malaysia Datuk Abdul Hamid Mohamad will retire on 17th October 2008.

The Prime Minister and the Cabinet must be forewarned that it does not serve the cause of justice or the nation if the country is plunged into a new judicial crisis because of the appointment of the first Umno Chief Justice in the nation’s history in utter disregard of a proper consultation with the relevant stakeholders such as the Bar Council, the Parliamentary Opposition and the civil society, and in keeping with the principles of accountability, transparency and good governance.

This Open Letter to the Prime Minister and Cabinet is still a work-in-progress. However, because of time factor, I am making public the first four of the ten challenges to give time for deliberation by the Cabinet while the rest of the Open Letter would be finalized and released before the end of the day.

This is one beauty of the Internet era of instant communication and there is no reason why Malaysians should not fully make use of such facilities opened up by the information age.

5. Zero tolerance for corruption

Let the Cabinet declare a new National Integrity Plan objective of zero tolerance for corruption – with Malaysia ranked among the top 10 countries which are least corrupt in the world.

Although there is a flurry of arrests by the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA), Malaysians are reminded of the earlier flurry of ACA activities in the first few months of the new Abdullah premiership which finally fizzled out into nothing – with Malaysia’s ranking in the annual Transparency International Corruption Perception Index plunging from No. 37 in 2003 to No. 43 in 2007.

Are the Prime Minister and Cabinet prepared to give full liberty and authority to the ACA to fight corruption even against Cabinet Ministers, Chief Ministers, Mentri-Menteri Besar and top Barisan Nasional leaders without getting any greenlight from the Prime Minister?

6. End the brain drain

Is the Cabinet prepared to admit that one fatal mistake of our nation-building policy which has led to our diminishing international competitiveness and why Malaysia has lost out to South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore in the past half-a-century and continuing to trail behind more and more countries is injustice and discrimination meted out to the best and brightest talents driving them overseas.

Is the Cabinet prepared to end this crippling denial syndrome to end the brain drain of the best and brightest talents overseas – in particular stemming the brain-drain to Singapore by reinstating the principle of meritocracy and ensuring that Malaysia’s best and brightest, regardless of race, can get the best educational and employment opportunities in their own country?

7. Admit failure of Malaysias education and higher education policies

Just refer to the advertorial of Universiti Tun Hussein Onn published in the New Straits Times of August 23, page 43 to commemorate the conferment of an honorary PhD in Education on Raja Zarith Sofiah if anyone still have any doubts of the failure of the Malaysian education system, whether primary, secondary or tertiary.

It is not just about the “murder” or may be more appropriate term “sodomy” of the English language but reflects the utter sense of irresponsibility of the educational authorities which could see Malaysia plunging from a nation with internationally-recognised high standards of English language to one where we can only hold our heads in shame.

The international repute of Malaysian universities have suffered similar decline.

Is the Cabinet prepared to take a policy decision that Malaysian universities should rank among the best in the world – with at least two among the World’s Top 100 and another two in the list of the World’s next Top 100. In other words, at least four Malaysian Universities among the World’s Top 200 Universities?

8. Usher in a new era of democracy and human

Is the Cabinet prepared to initiate action to usher in a new era of democracy and human rights with the repeal of draconian and undemocratic laws which violate human rights such as Internal Security Act, Official Secrets Act, Sedition Act, Printing Presses and Publications Act and the Police Act?

9. Parliament

Neither the Prime Minister, the Home Minister or any other Cabinet Minister has been able to explain why government has rejected the proposal for the establishment of a Parliamentary Select Committee on the DNA bill, raising questions about the government commitment to create a first-world Parliament.

Is Cabinet prepared to demonstrate its seriousness to far-reaching parliamentary reforms including the establishment of a parliamentary select committee whereby every Ministry would be shadowed by a Select Committee?

10. Bangsa Malaysia and Ketuanan Rakyat

Finally, is the Cabinet prepared to totally revamp government nation-building policies in accordance with the concept and vision of Bangsa Malaysia, highlighting the principle of Ketuanan Rakyat and not Ketuanan Melayu, Ketuanan Cina, Ketuanan India, Ketuanan Dayak or Ketuanan Iban?

Yours sincerely,
Lim Kit Siang
DAP Parliamentary Leader &
MP for Ipoh Timor

* Lim Kit Siang,  DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor