Abdullah Badawi has declared his determination to ensure efficiency, commitment, service to the people and an end to corruption and to pay special attention to the people’s problems. But does he have enough people in Umno to help him? Can he push through meaningful reforms before he is shown the door, wonders K George.
We have already gone through several analyses and comments. I too wish to add to them.
Bersih consisting of DAP, Pas, PKR, PSM and several NGOs called upon the Election Commission (EC) to ensure that the 12th general election would be free and fair, emphasising that some of the past elections (even including by-elections) were neither fair nor free. The Commission responded with certain assurances, one of which was the use of indelible ink.
The Aliran Monthly election issue published a few days after Nomination Day carried a cover story that strongly urged the people to vote for a change. Its editor, P Ramakrishnan, did not mince his words in emphasising the importance of drastically reducing the Barisan Nasional’s long-standing two-thirds majority.
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For my part, when Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi started setting up corridors in every nook and cranny of Malaysia, I wrote a couple of articles highlighting his grandiose promises to the people, his shortcomings as Prime Minister, and the drastic increase in corruption and crime in the country.
I am sure that most of the people in Malaysia are happy with the way they voted. The Barisan Nasional has been finally denied the two-thirds parliamentary majority. Besides that, there are now unbelievably five states under the control of the opposition. In spite of the changed political scenario, by and large there is a feeling of unity and harmony among Malaysians. The strident voices of the few fanatics failed to unsettle the peace and harmony of the nation.
Coming back to the election result, I believe there will be harmony amongst the ethnic groups, less competition, improvement in democracy and human rights and very clear setbacks for cronyism and nepotism.
What about open tender? Mahathir and Abdullah both promised open tender but hardly practised it. I hope and pray that the government henceforth will practise social justice, which will remove marginalisation and ensure eradication of poverty.
Malaysia has chosen parliamentary democracy for its system of governance – but are we really practising it? The system has three separate entities – the Executive, the Legislature (Parliament) and the Judiciary.
In 1988, the then Lord President Tun Salleh Abas and two other senior judges were dismissed by a kangaroo tribunal, manipulated by the Executive. Later, Lim Guan Eng, the present new chief minister of Penang , was imprisoned for 18 months, having been found guilty under the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) and the Sedition Act. What was his crime?
As a Member of Parliament, he was approached by a Malay grandmother for help. She claimed that her 15-year-old granddaughter was raped by a Chief Minister, who was not even questioned by the authorities. When I came to know that the girl had given birth to a child, I suggested in one of my articles that a DNA profile be performed to determine paternity. But who cares!
How many of you are aware that more than 950 journalists had appealed to Dr. Mahathir to repeal the PPPA but in vain. The PPPA empowers the Minister concerned to cancel, withdraw or suspend the licence permit at any time at his sole discretion. His decision cannot be challenged in a court of law. If you go through our statutes, quite a number of the laws have such ouster provisions.
Please bear in mind that we the people elect our representatives to Parliament and the respective State Assemblies to run the country/state. This is basically what democracy is all about. Instead, our elected representatives are controlled by their respective party ‘whips’. Yes, the whip can make you vote against your conscience. Our first PM, Tunku Abdul Rahman, enacted the Internal Security Act (ISA), an atrocious piece of legislation, in 1960. The ISA allows the police to enter a person’s house even at an unearthly hour to arrest him, take him away and lock him up.
Our new Chief Minister of Penang was a victim of the ISA in 1987. His father, not knowing where in heavens his son had been taken to, went to the police station in Kuala Lumpur. A smiling police officer arrested the father and imprisoned him. The officer thanked the father for voluntarily surrendering!
Talking about the most undemocratic and cruel ISA, five Hindraf leaders have been detained under this notorious ISA. One of them, lawyer, S A Manoharan, stood for election and won without personally campaigning. He is now an Assembly member, which means the people’s representative. This was a clear rebuff to Abdullah and a total rejection of Abdullah’s reason for undemocratically detaining the five Hindraf leaders.
Peaceful demonstration is everyone’s right. But for organising a very successful mammoth demonstration these five leaders have been put under ISA on unproven charges. Please, Mr. PM, start your second term of premiership by releasing them, and redeeming your tarnished reputation.
Malaysia’s new Cabinet
The new cabinet consists of 32 ministers including the Prime Minister and his deputy. Malaysia’s progress, prosperity, reputation and ethnic harmony all depend upon the Cabinet’s ability, commitment and honesty.
The name of a well-known woman is missing from the list of cabinet ministers. She was investigated by the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA), which concluded that there was a prima facie case against her for illegally giving out 28.7 million shares to five persons who are closely connected to well-known politicians. For reasons unknown to me, she was also under investigation for giving away thousands of Approved Permits (AP). The value of just one AP is anywhere between RM15, 000 and RM30, 000. There was a government announcement before the elections that anyone under ACA investigation would not be allowed to contest in the elections. Would she have come under that category, I wonder? Anyway, she appears to be upset.
Corruption and crime
In 2004, a few months after Abdullah became the PM, I mentioned in an article that our fourth premier, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was seen as the God-sent saviour of Malaysia. But now he is no more ssen in that light! Corruption and crime seem to be the order of the day. The PM himself mentioned over a year ago that increasing corruption is hurting our economy.
It is our duty to fight against the serious menace of corruption and crime.
The scourge of money politics
During elections in Malaysia, money politics spreads its ugly wings – though hard evidence is hard to come by. Nonetheless, there were a few instances of candidates mysteriously withdrawing from contests, leaving his only opponent to claim victory uncontested.
During the recent elections, a PKR candidate did not turn up to file his nomination papers. He just disappeared; his house was locked; his family was not to be seen anywhere. Days later he was discovered holidaying in Port Dickson. It must have been a well-earned holiday! Is this not another form of money politics? If so, it must eradicated so that our election can be free and fair.
After the election, when I tried to find out whether my PKR friends who had contested the election had won, I was informed that they were all locked up in hotels purportedly for brainstorming and that they could not be reached. I was not only shocked but became worried. It was only later that I came to know that there were attempts to buy some of them.
The Suara Keadilan of the PKR published after the election carried a story on page 6 alleging that Khairy Jamaluddin had lost the election by 83 votes on the first count but the result was reversed with a bundle of postal votes on the second count. Khairy won by 5,746! I was told that the result would be challenged in the court but this is left to be seen.
Many believe, rightly or wrongly, that the BN resorts to such illegal and shameful practices through the postal ballots to tilt the balance in favour of the BN.
U-turn on indelible ink
A few months ago, the Election Commission chairman gave us something to cheer about by announcing the use of indelible ink to stop phantom voting. A few weeks before the 8 March election, it was reported that the EC had ordered nearly 50,000 bottles of the indelible ink costing about RM2.4 million from Mysore, India. But days before the election, the Chairman rudely shocked the nation by stating that the Commission overlooked the enactment of the necessary legislation to permit the use of the indelible ink! But the BN remembered to amend the Constitution to extend the Chairman’s term of tenure to ensure that he was around for the election.
I doubt anybody believed him. The talk is that the election analysts of the Barisan Nasional would have come to the conclusion that the BN was going to face an unimaginable electoral setback. Was this the reason why the BN government extended the service of the Chairman for another year? The net result was that many believe that bus-loads of phantom voters were transported to voting centres.
Abdullah’s change of style
The 12th general election had opened the eyes of the people. They now know they have the power not only to change state governments but to teach the arrogant BN a lesson that will not be easily forgotten. They will no longer be pushed around and taken note of democratic countries where ordinary people have brought about effective changes through the ballot box.
Abdullah must have taken note of the peoples mood. On 19 March, a day before Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, Abdullah declared his determination to ensure efficiency, commitment, service to the people and an end to corruption and to pay special attention to the people’s problems. But does he have enough people in UMNO to help him?
There are many Malays who are educated, intelligent, honest, humble, capable and incorruptible. But hardly any of them get elected to the Umno leadership because of rampant money politics. Good people without money and connection cannot get into leadership position in UMNO. That is why UMNO is in such a bad shape. Eventually money politics will destroy UMNO. This is also Dr Mahathir’s prediction. Just imagine, Mahathir himself was not able to get elected as a delegate (a simple post) for the Kubang Pasu division to enable him to participate in the Umno general assembly last year. He and others say money politics was the reason why he did not win enough votes to be elected. Even an ex-PM who had ruled the country with absolute authority for 22 years can be a victim of money politics.
Now that the elections are over, Abdullah should concentrate his energy in running the country effectively.
Here are a few pressing issues that need the urgent attention of the BN:
- IPCMC – The PM was largely responsible for the establishment of the Royal Commission on Police. He promised to implement the Commission’s recommendations, one of which was to establish an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC). It is going to be three years or so but there is no sign of IPCMC. Please implement without any further delay.
- Attorney General – The A-G must be answerable to Parliament. Let us not have another Mokhtar Abdullah.
- Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) – The ACA must be independent and their investigation report of crimes must be made public.
- Local Council elections – Please re-introduce elections for Local Councils as recommended by the Athi Nagappan committee years ago. Councillors must be accountable to the people.
- Freedom of Information – It is time Malaysia enacted a Freedom of Information Act instead of hiding their misdeeds under the Official Secrets Act (OSA).
I hope and pray that PM Abdullah will fulfil all the promises he made way back in 2004.