It is normally a sign of a functioning democracy when a government expresses its readiness to listen to the views of ordinary people it supposedly represents.
Recently, the Malaysian government reportedly asked Malaysians to provide ideas on how to improve the implementation of the nationwide emergency that had come into effect recently.
For this purpose, the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia set up a saluran maklumat darurat or emergency information channel for people to send in their views.
While the gesture appears commendable, it may raise suspicion among critics whether such a move is another way of the government trying to lend legitimacy to its controversial emergency rule in the wake of certain quarters being critical of it.
Put differently, submitting ideas on emergency implementation to the government in this manner may give the impression that people in general have accepted emergency rule as fait accompli – when there are certain quarters who are still critical of the decision.
The call for ideas has also prompted cynics to raise such questions as, doesn’t the government know why it insisted on having the emergency to supposedly fight against Covid-19 in the first place?
To follow through the cynics’ questioning to its logical conclusion, the following line of query could emerge: did the government not think of crafting concrete strategies and a concerted plan of action to help activate the emergency rule?
In other words, asking people for ideas a few weeks into emergency rule is tantamount to putting the cart before the horse, which is confounding.
That said, one could counter-argue that the challenges posed by the pandemic have become so immense that ideas of different hues from various quarters should be welcomed.
If feedback of the people is indeed needed in the government’s attempt to improve on the implementation of the emergency, then it appears that the most appropriate mechanism for meaningful and robust discussions to take place is Parliament (as well as state assemblies).
It is most unfortunate that Parliament has been suspended under emergency rule, for this is the place where the voice of the people can be rightly heard through their elected representatives. Moreover, proper and civil debates can be held in the august chamber in the common pursuit of seeking the best ideas in the resolve to address huge problems faced by the nation.
Besides, there have been calls for a bipartisan, if not all-party, approach to fighting the pandemic as well as addressing the economic problems confronting the country. Shouldn’t the Lower House then be an apt place to build positive synergies – and at the same time reduce politicking – to combat the pandemic, our common foe?
Political differences must be left at the door of the Dewan Rakyat – should the suspension be rescinded – before embarking on fruitful discussions if the interests and concerns of the rakyat are to be prioritised, especially when time is of the essence.
It is crucial to remind ourselves that, while some Malaysians are still busy politicking, which may in turn give rise to a pandemic and political fatigue among others, the virus remains virulent. – The Malaysian Insight