July Parliament made great strides in institutional reforms but the pace is still too slow and unsatisfactory and more should be attempted in next Parliamentary meeting beginning in Octobert in keeping with the New Malaysia pledge of Pakatan Harapan
The July meeting of Parliament which ended on Thursday made great strides in institutional reforms – starting with the motion requiring Members of Parliament to publicly declare their assets, followed by the historic constitutional amendment to lower the voting age from 21 years to 18 years (which to me is a 48-year dream come true as I had first raised this subject in Parliament in 1971) and ending with the first reading of the long-awaited Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) Bill giving the civil society three months for public feedback and consultation.
A day after the ending of the 12-day meeting of July meeting on July 18, the Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad announced after a meeting of the Special Cabinet Committee on Anti-Corruption that the Freedom of Information Act will be drawn up to replace the Official Secrets Act 1972 and that major public service appointments like the chairmen and members of the Election Commission, Judicial Appointments Commission and Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) as well as the chief commissioner of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) will be referred to the parliamentary select committee.
These are impressive institutional reforms which were never attempted by the Barisan Nasional administration before but the pace of institutional reform is still too slow and unsatisfactory and more should be attempted in the next Parliamentary meeting which will meet for 36 days from October 7 to December 5, 2019.
The international weekly, the Economist, in its latest edition, carried an editorial “Malaysia’s government should scrap repressive laws while it still can – Time to bury the tools of oppression” stressed that no reform is more important than restoring civil liberties.
Referring to the panoply of repressive laws in the country, the Economist leader said: “Happily, Malaysia is currently run by a coalition that is not inclined to use these sweeping powers.”
It said: “To be fair, when it comes to civil liberties, PH is streets ahead of UMNO.”
But it also warned that “If PH does not get the economy going, it may wind up in opposition for a few years; if it does not refurbish Malaysia’s democracy, it may be out of office for a generation.”
Coincidentally, former Malaysian ambassador Dennis Ignatius also wrote of a “growing sense that this government – born out of a deep yearning for change – is slowly drifting back to politics as usual”.
“Increasingly, there’s a sense that the reform agenda – which once so excited the nation and inspired thousands of ordinary citizens, some from abroad, to activism in support of PH – has stalled. And it has stalled because of a lack of political will, incompetence and infighting.”
He asked: “How long are they going to keep pleading for more time or blaming recalcitrant civil servants or the so-called ‘deep state’ for their own failure to carry through on some of these reforms or fulfil their own promises?”
These are salutary and welcome reminders that while it is utopian to believe that six decades of abuses of power, corruption and injustices could all be undone in a year or two, it is legitimate and understandable for Malaysians to expect a greater urgency and faster pace in institutional reforms and that the Pakatan Harapan government must convince Malaysians that it is fully committed and is on tract to achieve the goals of a New Malaysia, transforming the country into a top world-class nation respected by the international community for our unity, excellence, freedom, justice and integrity.
A battle for the soul of Malaysia is now taking place, whether for or against the objectives of a New Malaysia. The proponents of klepto-theocracy, with their arsenal of lies, falsehoods, hate and fear, pitting race against race and religion against religion, who want to foster a divided and broken Malaysia, are the real enemies of the mission and dream of a New Malaysia.
Malaysia in post-14th General Election is facing the most toxic and vicious politicking in the nation’s history.
There is a dangerous tendency of late, where politics had been contaminated by the vicious and toxic politics of lies, fear, hate, race and religion, where instead of building tolerance, trust and confidence among the diverse races, religions, languages and cultures that meet in confluence in Malaysia, there is an insidious attempt to breed suspicion, distrust and hatred among the diverse races, religions, languages and cultures so as to poison the well of Malaysian nation-building
I myself had been the most demonized character in Malaysia for the past half a century.
I have been accused of being Chinese, Christian and Communist. I was even accused of being a relative of Chin Peng; responsible for the May 13, 1969 riots, leading the street demonstrations in Kuala Lumpur shouting anti-Malay and anti-Islam slogans although I was never in Kuala Lumpur after the May 10, 1969 General Election; painted as quite a devil, a puaka, even jembalang; that I am anti-Malay, anti-Islam and at various times even anti-Indian, anti-Chinese educated Chinese , anti-English-educated Chinese; an agent of KGB, CIA, MI6 and even Australian Intelligence.
Yes I am a Chinese but more than anything else, I am a Malaysian. I am not a Christian nor am I a Communist, or we must have the most incompetent Special Branch in the world as to unable to identify a Communist in Parliament for the past four decades when in actual fact, the Malaysian Special Branch is acknowledged as among the best in the world.
Before the 14th General Election, such toxic politics alleged that I will be the Prime Minister of Malaysia if Pakatan Harapan wins the polls. When such lies and falsehoods were proved wrong after May 9, 2018, new lies and falsehoods were manufactured to allege that I am the real power in the Pakatan Harapan government in Putrajaya and that Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, Anwar Ibrahim, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and Mohamad Sabu were merely my stooges and puppets.
In the Malay social media, I am painted as the arch-villain and the greatest threat to the Malays and Islam, while in the Chinese social media, I am painted as utterly unprincipled and opportunistic who had sold out the rights and interests of the Chinese community and am prepared to be a “lap dog” of the Malay leaders in Pakatan Harapan government.
How one person can perform so many contradictory roles, I do not know – but this is the stuff of the most toxic and vicious politicking in the nation’s history in post-14th General Election.
I have often been asked what is the difference between DAP as part of Pakatan Harapan government today and DAP in the first four decades of our Opposition days.
There is one major difference. In the first four decades of our Opposition beginning, we needed only to think of the interests of the DAP. Today, we must think of the interests and success of the Pakatan Harapan Government which comprised four political parties and of which we are part.
We cannot be as outspoken and articulate as in the first four decades of DAP history, when we are in the Opposition. Now that we are part of a coalition government, we must use internal channels to try to resolve our differences.
This means that our we may not agree with how certain issues are being handled, like the Teoh Beng Hock or Pastor Koh and Amri Che Mat cases, but we have to use internal channels to articulate our viewpoints.
What is vital and important is that we must never forgo our principles and objectives to reset nation-building policies to build a New Malaysia.
I shudder to think of what Malaysia would be like today and in the coming decades if on May 9, 2018, we had not succeeded in Saving Malaysia, effected a peaceful and democratic transition of power and Datuk Seri Najib Razak had continued as Prime Minister.
We would not only have 1MDB global scandal, we would have 2MDB, 3MDB and 4MDB scandals to become a Super Global Kleptocracy.
As the latest issue of the Edge has put it, “Don’t throw away the dividends from May 9, 2018”!