Posts Tagged ‘General Elections’

Wishlist for Barisan Rakyat UPDATE

March 11, 2008

I was overjoyed to read [via Malaysiakini, subscription required from tomorrow the day after tomorrow!] of several commitments already made by both the newly minted Penang MB Lim Guan Eng and Selangor MB front-runner Khalid Ibrahim.

Incidentally, did anyone else notice the NST’s oversensationalised front page yesterday – Khalid fails to get Sultan’s consent to form Selangor government? Got me all excited…it was simply that the Sultan of Selangor sensibly wanted to meet with PAS and DAP reps first. At least The Star took a more sedate and accurate approach today – Selangor Sultan wants state to have a strong coalition govt.

Guan Eng has committed to three of the points raised in my ‘Wishlist for Barisan Rakyat‘, and then some! It’s not surprising given that most of what I included touched on well known issues and are related to issues that civil society has been kicking a fuss over for some time. Nevertheless, Guan Eng deserves credit for reaffirming his commitment so quickly by:

1. Stating the he wants to do away with the NEP in favour of non-racial or religious policies.

2. Stating that he wants to restore local government elections and in the meantime appoint professionals and NGO representatives in the municipal councils.

3. Ordering top government servants to publicly declare their assets
Over and above these, he has also committed to:

4. Enacting a Freedom of Information Act (an important step towards greater government transparency and accountability)

5. Pursuing investor friendly policies

6. Seriously addressing the people’s other concerns (e.g. concerning the unwanted development of Penang Hill and the cancelling of the Sungai Nyior tol, amongst others).

Khalid too has already publicly stated his commitment towards pursuing local council elections and a Freedom of Information Act. I expect Khalid will make known more of his intentions once the Sultan of Selangor confirms his choice for the MB of Selangor.

These are excellent starts for both Penang and Selangor. I look forward to reading similarly heartening statements from the Barisan Rakyat MBs of Kedah, Perak and Kelantan…and if Malaysians are lucky, perhaps from BN-controlled states too.

Wow…still need to pinch myself…this truly is Malaysia’s chance to shine…dreams really can come true people! However we must remain steadfast and vigilant.

P.S. I’m sure many of you have been taking advantage of the opportunity to read Malaysiakini for free during this past week. From tomorrow onwards the English section goes back to being subscription based, although the letter remain free to view. If you haven’t already purchased a subscription, I’d urge you to do so. RM 150 really isn’t that much for a year, is it?

Especially if you cancel your subscription to that Mainstream Media Newspaper…mostly they’re good for wrapping up your nasi lemak but that’s about it… 😉

Wishlist for Barisan Rakyat

March 11, 2008

UPDATE: This post was published as a letter in Malaysiakini.

The 8th of March 2008 will go down as a proud and historic day for all Malaysians – the day that the politics of race and fear were dealt a stunning blow by Malaysians of all races, colours and creeds. It was also the day on which Malaysians sent out a message to all political parties in the country – pay heed to what we say or you will be voted out. The next five years will tell us just how well Malaysia’s political parties understood this message.

The hard work of meeting the people’s expectations must now begin. There is much to do and it is somewhat bewildering as to where to start. I thought I could help by coming out with a list of suggestions in ten areas that I believe should, even during these very early days, be at the top of the Barisan Rakyat coalition’s agenda. Many of the points I have included should come as no surprise as many of them have already been promised by the various component parties of Barisan Rakyat.

While I am directing this list primarily to Barisan Rakyat, I don’t believe the rakyat would complain if Barisan Nasional also choose to adopt any or all of these items into their agenda. In fact, if they hope to fare even better in the next General Election, I would encourage Barisan Nasional to do so.

(1) The rule of law

Push for the use of all emergency laws and powers to be curtailed immediately – among others, the use of these laws includes the power to detain individuals indefinitely without trial, the power to arrest individuals without a warrant and the forced eviction of squatters. The continued arbitrary use of these laws undermines the rule of law and the need for the government to be transparent and accountable.

Push for the immediate release or charge of all Internal Security Act (ISA)detainees.

Push for the repeal or amendment of the ISA and other repressive laws as well as any other laws that contain ouster clauses, always being guided by the objectives of strengthening the rule of law, making the government more accountable and making government processes more transparent.

(2) The New Economic Policy (NEP) / National Development Policy (NDP)

Push to transform the NEP/NDP into a means tested benefit scheme that will assist the poorest sections of Malaysian society, irrespective of ethnicity, religion or political persuasion.

(3) Minimum wage

As promised by PKR, push for the implementation of a minimum wage in Malaysia. Other developing countries including Vietnam, Thailand, Sri Lanka and China have already introduced minimum wage legislation. Research by the International Labour Organisation has found that the introduction of a minimum wage does not have a negative effect on employment and is a proven method of reducing poverty in developing countries.

(4) Assets of those holding public office

Lead by example: Have all Barisan Rakyat Members of Parliament and State Legislators publicly declare their assets. This should be able to instituted fairly quickly provided the political will is there.

(5) Corruption

Push to have the Anti Corruption Agency (ACA) report to Parliament instead of the Prime Minister.

Push for the further prosecution of any corrupt politicians/civil servants and former politicians/civil servants whilst ensuring that investigations and any subsequent prosecutions are made as transparent as possible.

(6) The Judiciary

Push for the immediate establishment of a Judicial Appointments Committee to restore confidence in the Malaysian Judiciary and to ensure that the best and brightest people are appointed to the Bench.

Article 121(1) is an amendment to the Federal Constitution that effectively made the Judiciary subservient to Parliament (and by extension, the Executive). Barisan Rakyat MPs should push for the amendment of Article 121 (1) so that the power of the courts is once again derived from the Federal Constitution instead of Parliament. This is in keeping with the Separation of Powers doctrine which advocates an independent Executive, Legislature and Judiciary.

(7) Local Council Elections

Lead by example by taking steps to institute Local Council Elections in Barisan Rakyat controlled states as soon as possible.

(8) The Royal Malaysian Police (RMP)

To restore the reputation of the RMP and restore public confidence in the RMP, push for the establishment of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission.

(9) Freedom of expression

Promote robust and responsible public debate on all issues of public interest to Malaysians – a good starting point would be to push to allow Malaysiakini to sell their newspaper in printed form across Malaysia.

(10) Implement a scorecard system

A number of the points mentioned above are consistent with the People’s Declaration – a statement which was endorsed by all the component parties of Barisan Rakyat. In serving the people of Malaysia, please remember to adhere to the principles that you endorsed.

Over and above this, to ensure that you remain responsive and in touch with the needs and desires of the people market research should be carried out as soon as possible to determine the particular needs of the people within individual constituencies. The results of this research should be made public and serve as a scorecard (or in management parlance, Key Performance Indicators) for each elected representative. It would be advisable for each elected representative to make public exactly how they intend to meet the needs of their constituents.

Needless to say, this is not an exhaustive list. There is much more that can be done to ensure that Malaysia is able to reach its full potential. However, I believe the above suggestions in the ten areas are excellent starting points and their implementation will ensure that Malaysia’s New Dawn remains dazzlingly bright.

Does the Election Commission Really Want Us to Vote?

February 16, 2008

Election Fever is well and truly in the air in Malaysia.

Malaysiakini has kindly published my letter on a closely related topic – our voting rights. As a Malaysian currently residing overseas the letter reflects my personal frustrations with the voting system and doubts about the General Elections. For the record my letter states that I had made enquiries ‘yesterday’ – that was the day before Parliament was dissolved.  There is one point in particular that I neglected to include in the letter; a point that is seemingly minor though it obscures an issue of great significance.

In the body of my letter I make three points. There is a fourth that I should have added which is: “Why was there a need to determine whether I am a student or not?” Following on from that: “Why was I directed to go through the Malaysian Students Department (MSD) when other Malaysians presumably deal with postal voting through the High Commission?”

One may say this is a minor point for it could be said that as there are so many Malaysian students in the UK that it would be impractical for the High Commission to deal with the voting needs of Malaysian students. My response to this is, if the High Commission can deal with the voting needs of the other Malaysians resident in the UK, why not Malaysian students as well?

The reason that I say this leads on to an issue of great significance is that most Malaysian students that I know here in the UK are already fearful of taking a public stance on contentious Malaysian issues. Reasons cited for this fear range from the Internal Security Act to the continuance of a scholarship to imperilled job prospects upon a return to Malaysia. Naturally, this creates the suspicion that the biggest reason they are fearful is because if they do take a stance it will not be one which is in line with the incumbent Government.

You may say I am barking up the wrong tree here. Perhaps the reasons for asking students to go through MSD are purely administrative. Yet such suggestions do not dampen the effect of this procedure on many students, which is to make them even more nervous and more fearful. This culture of fear is symptomatic of a larger problem in Malaysia – one linked to (i) our nation’s collective dislike of confrontation, (ii) a Hang Tuah complex (i.e. an unquestioning deference to authority) and (iii) the divisive spectre of 13 May 1969, so effectively used by the BN during every subsequent election.

What say you, dear reader?

A Vote for Change…

January 30, 2008

I recently received an interesting comment from someone named Rem regarding my last post Why the Paranoia?

It reads as follows:

The question is not whether he deserves (or not) a second chance. The real question is — who deserves the ‘chance’ then?

PKR? I would rather eat my own pubic hairs in public!

DAP? There’re many ways to insult my intelligence, but going for this one is not the option I would consider.

PAS? Well, may be… a considerable choice. At least, at the 2.0% level of confidence. Not signficant, though.

And yes, the people do respect the government — if you mean ‘people’ as in ‘the majority’. But if the ‘people’ you’re referring to are your clans and the ever-loud minority — then yes, the respect isn’t there.

If there’s a better choice, with ‘the current state’ of our government, I’m sure the majority will be more than willing to switch. Unfortuntaley, this is only an IF. In reality, there isn’t any!

Most people are happy to settle for less, than going for none.

I thought Rem’s were worthy of some comment and include my riposte to Rem below.


Rem, I’m not quite sure whom you seem to think my ‘clans’ are. If by my ‘clans’ and ever-loud minority you are talking about those who are willing to stand up and be counted on matters of principle and are willing to stand up for the rights of anyone, irrespective of that person’s political persuasion – then yes I am a proud member of that ever-loud minority or those ‘clans’.



I will make no secret of the fact that ten years ago at the height of the Reformasi movement I was a staunch supporter of the BN. Though even at that time the BN did not necessarily represent good governance to me, they did represent economic stability and as someone who thought like an economist the BN made the most sense to me back then. The Opposition, on the other hand, were a motley crew whose only common purpose was to displace BN. To a great extent I maintain that the latter remains true.

In recent years, however, my position has shifted slightly but with dramatic effect. The state of the economy is still the jewel in the crown as far as I’m concerned as it affects the man in the street and his ability to provide for his family. However, I now approach the whole subject with a much longer term view. Unlike our last Prime Minister, Pak Lah has shown that he understands little about economics. Further, despite all the hype, he has managed to muddle his way through one term and curtailed certain freedoms along the way. Rather than promote responsible discussion of ‘sensitive’ issues, public discussion, particularly in the media remains verboten. If memory serves me correctly, he has already closed down 3, possibly 4, newspapers where Dr. M closed down 3 in 22 years. Not to mention our government’s foot dragging when it comes to reform – for instance we are promised that corruption will be nipped in the bud and yet we still see many of the same Ministers who have been dogged with claims of corruption for years. Added to this, Malaysia’s brain drain continues unabated.

As neighbours such as Indonesia become more democratic and progressive we in Malaysia seem to be falling behind. Is it any wonder that our levels of Foreign Direct Investment have been declining while Indonesia has been experiencing a rise in FDI? Where do you see Malaysia in 20 or 30 years time?



Let’s be realistic here. A vote for any of the Opposition parties in the next GE will not deprive the BN of a 2/3 majority. What then is the point of voting for the Opposition, you may ask. First, the purpose is to send the BN a message that we are displeased with their performance. Second, it is to attempt to impose a greater degree of check and balance. The judiciary has already made subservient to Parliament by virtue of the constitutional amendment to Article 121. And Parliament is subservient to the BN (due to its 2/3 majority). Who then is in a position to influence the executive arm of government?

The answer is a stronger Opposition. A stronger Opposition will mean a stronger voice to offer a check and balance against what I increasingly regard to be a coalition government that is stuffed full of arrogant fat cat politicians.


It’s high time we began demanding for more rather than being content to settle each and every time for less…and less…and less – for who knows what we will be left with in the end.


In conclusion, and not intending to sound too Obama-esque, A vote for the Opposition is a vote for change.

A vote for the Opposition is an expression that we, as Malaysians, are insisting on greater accountability. Now where, pray tell, is the harm in that?