Persatuan Pemangkin Daya Masyarakat (Rose) is disappointed that in this 21st Century, our politicians remain ignorant of the basics of democracy and the principles of good governance.
We are of course referring to Deputy Prime Minister Zahid Hamidi, who said the following while on a visit to Betong recently for a Gawai celebration: “It can be seen how the longhouses in Betong and other areas in Sarawak have successfully produced good leaders because the policy of the longhouse leaders is often pro-establishment. Whoever becomes the government, they are pro-establishment because if they are anti-establishment, it will bring down their people.”
Whilst it may be true that the implementation of federal projects is better facilitated when the state government is also part of the federal government, it is an affront to the principle of parliamentary democracy to openly advocate that every community leader must be pro-establishment.
It is disrespectful of the rights of citizens to freely choose their leaders via elections. Indeed, it also insults the intelligence citizens have acquired via education. It is thus a pity that the deputy PM remains stuck in the political dark ages even while he purports to support the concept of “Madani” (Civil Malaysia), of which respect is a core value.
It is not uncommon for residents or villagers of one village to have different political views on various issues. Hence, it is villagers who will best know who they wish to represent their views in the state legislative assembly.
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Good community leaders serve their community and the needs of their members. They raise community issues to the right authorities or to their state assembly member or MP. And they respect the differences of political views and beliefs of their charges and do not force nor threaten them to only vote in a certain way when an election comes around. These attributes essentially reflect a basic understanding of leadership, democracy and good governance.
Sadly and unfortunately, the process of the appointment of community leaders or headmen leaves much to be desired. If the deputy PM does not already know, it is the state government that appoints village headmen, and those who are appointed are ones who have the tacit support and endorsement of the elected representatives of the area. They are renumerated with public funding and are hence considered part of the administrative structure of the state government.
This entrenches feudal leadership in Sarawak by continuing to appoint “pro-establishment” headmen. In the words of a former prominent Iban politician, once appointed, they must “jangan lawan taukey” (they must not challenge their political bosses). How then does this reflect democracy and good governance?
We in Rose are of the view that good leaders are not necessarily pro-establishment leaders but leaders who stand with and are committed to the welfare of their communities. They are consultative, transparent with their decision-making, and are accountable to those whom they represent.
Additionally, it is the government’s role to consult these community leaders when devising policies and strategies to enhance economic growth, provide employment opportunities, improve welfare to the needy and increase social wellness.
Finally, the deputy PM would be reminded that once he is appointed as a member of the cabinet, he is a minister for ALL the people of Malaysia, including Sarawakians who are not “pro-establishment”. We expect him to live up to his stature and role as a minister and as a deputy PM instead of acting like some feudal village politician. – Rose