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Initiate reforms in governance, security and Parliament; empower democracy

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In his first speech after becoming Prime Minister, Ismail Sabri made an offer to the opposition bench to join him in bringing about the recovery for our nation and its people. He extended his invitation across the political divide to join the national recovery council and the special committee to manage Covid.

Ismail Sabri should be sincere in such offer and if he is truly sincere, he must also come up with extensive plans to carry out reforms in governance, security and Parliament to empower democracy and people’s participation in policymaking.

Reforms in governance must include efforts to curb corruption, promote transparent governance, give more powers to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to act on its own, put the MACC and the Election Commission under the jurisdiction of Parliament. There is also a need to restructure government institutions and government-linked companies to ensure total accountability and be more responsive to the people’s needs.

Reforms in the security sector are also crucial to ensure transparency and accountability in actions undertaken by the police force, the Immigration Department and other related enforcement agencies. Necessary avenues must also be established to allow public scrutiny, complaints to be lodged and investigations to be carried out independently to ensure that the security sector is clear of any misdeeds, abuse of power, inefficiency or corrupt practices. This includes setting up oversight bodies like the independent police complaints and misconduct commission (IPCMC), enhancing the powers of the current Enforcement Agencies Integrity Commission (EAIC) to provide better oversight of powerful agencies like the Immigration Department, the armed forces and other paramilitary agencies such as the volunteer corps (Rela) and the Civil Defence Force.

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Yes, there is bound to be some level of secrecy within the security sector that needs to be maintained for security reasons. But in doing this, the security apparatus cannot always go overboard. On many occasions, the rights of the people have been violated and people are prevented from questioning such actions. Oversight of the security sectors is needed to move these security-related agencies towards a more professionalism in its actions and to make them accountable and transparent in the interests of the public.

Parliamentary or legislature reforms are also crucial to provide effective checks and balances on the sitting government to promote and enhance professionalism in governance in order to better serve the people and the entire nation. This include amending the standing orders of the legislature to empower the parliamentary select committees to provide effective oversight of government ministries, departments, agencies and government-linked companies in terms of policy implementation, budgetary matters and scrutiny of its activities.

Other legislature reforms should include recognition of the role played by the opposition bench. We need to institutionalise the shadow cabinet and the role of the leader of the opposition. We must also provide more assistance and budgets for research facilities and access to government and policymaking details.

Similar legislature reforms must also be encouraged at the state level to enhance the role of the state opposition bench and to  recognise the roles of shadow executive councils or cabinets by providing all the facilities effective checks and balances.

The government must also understand and accept that the role undertaken by the opposition bench is not at all about going against all kinds of government policy or implementation. The opposition bench must not be regarded as an ‘enemy of the state’, and annual allocations should not be denied to their constituencies.

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Instead, the government must see the opposition bench as a crucial partner in the administration to ensure good governance, accountability, transparency and competency so that service to our people is assured.

In empowering democracy, the input of alternative policies must be encouraged for the betterment of our people and the nation. Allowing the opposition bench and civil society groups to be in partnership in governance to bring about change, improve the way things are carried out, share knowledge and provide good scrutiny to improve and enhance public service should be the way to ensure that participatory democracy flourishes.

So, is the Ismail Sabri government ready to undertake such a commitment? We look forward to his sincere approach, not just for the nation’s recovery post-Covid but for long-term democratic partnership as well. – whchengsocdem.wordpress.com

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