It has not been long since Ismail Sabri Yaakob was elevated to the exalted position of Prime Minister.
He handpicked his 70-strong cabinet ministers and deputies – which the public see as being no different in terms of numbers from the previous Mahiaddin Yasin administration, which was cut short by public outcries.
Whatever the reasons for Ismail Sabri to retain the same number of ministers and deputy ministers, it may be absolved as the prerogative of an incoming prime minister.
Patriot, however, gathers from its members and the overwhelming social media outpouring that Malaysians, having been disappointed with the previous government, now only hope that Ismail Sabri will perform better than his predecessor.
That hope cradled by patriotic Malaysians is understandable given the past 17 months of instability that let loose the pandemic to spread and punish 1.7 million people with Covid infections and 17,000 deaths not including the hundreds of suicide cases, countless job losses, inability to repay loans and to put food on the table.
Having to put up with three prime ministers in less than three years, Malaysians have nothing much to be proud of. The political instability is the single most critical worry that Malaysians share widely.
Patriot believes that the burden of bringing stability sits heavily on the shoulders of Ismail Sabri.
The unelected prime minister hence must prove himself as an effective and capable leader able to galvanise the nation and place the country back on track.
Time is against him for the nation wasted a good 17 months.
The two pivotal national agendas that must be arrested by Ismail Sabri’s equally large administration are the pandemic, which has gone ballistic even with month after month of lockdowns and varying movement control orders, and the economy, which is crushing the people and the nation’s coffers.
Patriot adds a third wish of the rakyat, which is the runaway wagon of widespread corruption.
Karangkraf chairman Hussamuddin Yaacub, as a concerned citizen, formed the popular Rasuah Busters in an attempt to fight corruption at all levels. It speaks volumes about the gravity of the problem that is undeniably paralysing the country on all its four aspects of nationhood, namely politics, the economy, the social front and the environment.
The prime minister should know all too well that corruption in the country is setting in like a gangrene, which must be eradicated without any compromise by the new government.
The public perception that has taken root is over the massive corruption among some top political leaders. It has become both a bane and yoke, shaming the nation with a rating as one of the most corrupt destinations in the region.
Ismail Sabri, being a senior member of the previous government and one who stood solidly behind Mahiaddin, must know the weaknesses of his short-lived predecessor. It gives him no option to fail.
In responding to the King’s call, Patriot too hopes that the new government should serve all Malaysians better. Ismail Sabri has also issued an ultimatum of a 100 days’ grace period for his team to show their report cards. To help the prime minister further the cause, Patriot presents the following 10 points to Ismail Sabri and his team for due consideration.
- Any minister or deputy minister under Ismail Sabri who is alleged to be corrupt must be relieved of his or her post immediately to facilitate impartial and unhampered investigations. This also applies to all civil servants, regardless of their positions
- Should a subordinate official in a ministry or department be found guilty of corruption, the head of that ministry or department must be answerable to establish if there was failed leadership and not absolved as has been the standard all this while
- Ministers and deputy ministers must welcome any proposal from the public that is considered worthy for the betterment of the ministries. And the public must be informed where such proposals have been acted upon. The practice of not responding or replying to input from citizens must cease immediately
- Ministers and deputy ministers must conduct regular town hall sessions where the public can voice their grievances and where the ministers and deputy ministers can explain to the public any new policies of public interest. These must be effectively coordinated and carried out. Do not continue with the past practice of rushing through announcements and decisions at the eleventh hour before implementation
- Ministers or deputy ministers must be banned from uttering words or making statements that can be construed as a threat to public sentiments and public order.
- The public must enjoy free access to any MP at all reasonable times, as they are the elected representatives of the people who were elected and mandated to serve the people
- Political appointees serving ministers or deputy ministers should not behave like anointed ‘gatekeepers’ of government contracts. They must facilitate and enable service providers every opportunity, free of corrupt intentions, to participate at arm’s length in all opportunities created by the respective ministries
- All ministers, deputy ministers and political appointees must make a formal declaration of assets immediately upon appointment – and it must be made public to avert undesirable political character assassinations
- The practice of appointing politicians to hold positions in the boards of government-linked companies and government-owned companies must cease immediately. Heads of these organisations must be appointed based strictly on their professional capabilities, experience and clean, uncorrupt record
- A professional independent body should be appointed to evaluate the 100-day performance of ministers and deputy ministers. Those found to be underperforming should be relieved of their jobs
Patriot believes that all these 10 points cannot be swept under the carpet or even given a miss by Ismail Sabri if he expects the people to work with him in dealing with the pandemic, the sinking economy and the widespread corruption in the country effectively and with sterling success.
Patriot will stand by the government and its leader for as long as the voice of the people to save their nation gains traction. We believe the people out of the love of their nation demand the best from ministers and deputy ministers and will no longer tolerate deadwood and underperformers who were so common in the previous administrations.
Retired Brigadier General Dato’ Mohd Arshad Raji is president of the National Patriots Association (Patriot)