May 14, 2013
Post GE13: What Malaysians want
by Dr Kua Kia Soong (05-13-13)@http://www.malaysiakini.com
COMMENT: In the aftermath of GE13, UMNO wants to know what BN detractors want. Malaysians have felt frustrated and sidetracked by their attempt at communalising the election results, something they have been doing even before Independence.
BN did their worst – did we do our best? Have dissident Malaysian voters been asking what they want in this election apart from “Ubah (Change)” and lowering the price of petrol? Anything But UMNO (ABU) is an ‘away from’ response. Have we listed out ‘towards’ demands?
With all the visible injustice and foul play in the GE13, there is understandably plenty of pent-up frustration and anger among those who have experienced being wronged. And we know that that the roots of that injustice are to be found in an electoral system that has for years been inherently flawed.
Having seen the videos of violence against migrant ‘voters’ during this election makes me wonder if such a reaction is at least in part, the result of misplaced expectations. If the BN government had listened to the demands by Malaysian civil society, they would not be asking us what we want after the election.
The following are some of our fundamental demands which call for an end to corruption, oppression and racism, and the reinstatement of justice, democracy and human rights:
1. One person, one vote
We have known about gerrymandering in the country for decades and yet there was the false hope that GE13 was going to overcome this major impediment to electoral fair play.
Notice that BERSIH’s eight demands are short-term and do not include this mother of all unfree and unfair aspects of Malaysian elections, namely, undemocratic constituency delineation.
The original Merdeka constitution provided that in drawing up constituencies, “there shall not be more than a difference of 15 percent in the number of electors of any constituency to the electoral quota.”
The “electoral quota” or national average, was defined as the number obtained by dividing the number of electors in the federation by the total number of constituencies. Section 2(c) of the Thirteenth Schedule had stipulated that “the number of electors within each constituency ought to be approximately equal throughout the unit of review.”
The constitution was amended in 1962 transferring the power to delimit parliamentary constituencies from the Election Commission (EC) to a bare majority of parliament.
A new Thirteenth Schedule sets out certain new features permitting a weightage of up to 2:1 in favour of rural constituencies, thus enabling differences of 100 percent between urban and rural seats.
A further constitutional amendment in 1973 took away altogether the original check in the Thirteenth Schedule on there being too great a disparity between urban and rural seats.
Today, the absurdity of constituency delineation in Malaysia is exemplified by the contrast between 10,000 voters at Putrajaya federal constituency and more than 100,000 at Kapar, a disparity of more than 10:1.
The Malaysian Chinese organisations, which endorsed the joint declaration before the 1986 general election, focused on this demand for fair constituency delineation as one of the main objectives for their civil rights committee. But they have not followed up on this demand since then.
Thus, this reform to the Malaysian electoral system should take top priority and not creating false hopes that lead to mobs beating up migrants.
2. End racism and racial discrimination
Racism in the form of Malay-centric ideology has been the main instrument of rule by the UMNOputras ever since they have been in power. Their “1 Malaysia” exists only as a slogan – how else can they justify blatant racial discrimination in the economic, educational and social sectors?
Thus, as soon as dissident voters show them what they think of the charade, the same trite rhetorical question is posed by their propaganda machines: “What more do they want?”
One would have thought that the leaders of Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) knew that.Furthermore, I have shared the same rostrum with some of these Hindraf leaders at forums where I have pointed out that state racism in Malaysia has taken a morbid turn toward victimising ethnic Indians, especially the poor and marginalised.
This is seen in the disproportionate number of Indians among the victims of Police shootings and deaths in custody. The implementation of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) should have been Hindraf’s non-negotiable demand to the BN government.
I had assumed that the Hindraf leaders would understand this analysis of state racism in Malaysia and the requisite political practice that logically followed from that analysis.
Unfortunately, their theory and practice has followed the same backward example of “racial bargaining” typical of the MIC and the MCA. They have chosen to back the hegemonic oppressor and exploiter of the masses on the eve of the election by using the flimsiest excuse about being rebuffed by Pakatan Rakyat. But then such opportunism has been seen ever since careerist politics came into existence.
I stand to be proven wrong and will render an unreserved apology to these Hindraf leaders if they prove to be dedicated and selfless activists who refuse to accept any government or bureaucratic posts in this administration but operate as an NGO to monitor the implementation of their “blueprint”.
One would have thought that the abolition of the New Economic Policy (NEP) should have been the sine qua non for Hindraf in any tryst with the two coalitions since the NEP is the main perpetrator of racial discrimination in Malaysian society and the main obstacle to progress.
The actions of the Hindraf leaders seem to suggest that they condone the NEP as long as the Indians also get a slice of the cake –regardless of whether any slice is apportioned to the Orang Asli, the poor Chinese and others.
I might add that in their exuberance for “Ubah”, the dissident voters neglected to call for the abolition of the NEP which had a sell-by date of 1990.
Consequently, Pakatan got off easy with a manifesto that did not have to promise abolishing the NEP if they got into power. We have since been promised a mythical “withering away of the NEP” if Pakatan comes into power.
These are the nuts and bolts of racism and racial discrimination in Malaysia that reforming Malaysians should respond to instead of the knee-jerk reaction to the racism that underpins UMNO and that has not changed ever since the umnosaurus had spots.
3. Elected local government
We want this third tier of government to be elected by the people and not appointed by the state governments as prizes for toadies. Again, this vital democratic demand was not in the Pakatan manifesto and negligent “democrats” must take some of the blame for this oversight.
An elected local government should go hand-in-hand with the reform to decentralise government and empower people at the local level to take charge of education, transport, housing and even community policing.
4. End corruption
Corruption in Malaysia needs to be curbed effectively through:
- The setting up an Independent Anti-Corruption Commission answerable to parliament with the power to recommend prosecutions for all offences of corrupt practice;
- A Public Accounts Committee in parliament that is chaired by an opposition member of parliament and not by the ruling coalition;
- Tighter regulation to prevent money laundering and the outflow of illicit money;
- Eliminating opportunities for corruption by proscribing the “revolving door” opportunities between the civil and armed services and the private sector;
- Ensuring the government ministry or department head accounts for every discrepancy in the annual auditor-general’s report and pays for any negligence or corruption involved;
- Open tendering all privatised projects;
- For all wakil rakyat and heads of civil and armed services to declare their assets and those of their family’s.
5. Uphold the Rule of Law
The Rule of Law ensures that laws are enforced impartially and there is full protection of human rights, especially for minorities. This requires the existence of an independent judiciary, an impartial civil service, and an incorruptible police force.
The BN government has often confused the rule of law with rule by law, in which the law is a mere tool for the government that suppresses in a legalistic fashion.
Good governance to uphold the Rule of Law requires:
- Repealing all laws that allow torture, whipping, detention-without-trial and incommunicado detention;
- Abolishing the death penalty in Malaysia;
- Ratifying the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights, the Convention against Torture and the Convention on Refugees;
- Implementing the IPCMC;
- Establishing a law reform commission to restore the independence of the judiciary;
- Reviewing the federal constitution and all laws that are unjust and violate human rights, and resolve the conflict of jurisdiction between civil and syariah laws;
- Establishing a royal commission of inquiry (RCI) to solve once and for all the problem of citizenship for Malaysians, their foreign spouses as well as the problem of undocumented migrants in the country;
- Ensuring social justice for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT).
6. Human rights of women, workers and indigenous peoples
Good governance requires:
- Respect for women’s human rights and dignity including incorporating the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Cedaw) and its provisions into national law;
- Reviewing and amending all laws and constitutional provisions that discriminate on the basis of gender;
- Confronting sexism and prejudice based on gender stereotypes;
- Equal pay for women holding similar posts as men;
- Ensuring through competent national tribunals and other public institutions the effective protection of women against any act of discrimination.
Workers’ rights must be recognised by:
- Ensuring labour laws are compatible with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention;
- Encouraging and promoting workers’ unionisation;
- Legislating a progressive guaranteed minimum wage for all workers, including foreign workers;
- Abolishing the contractor for labour system and restoring direct two-party employment relationship between principal and owners of workplaces and the workers that work therein;
- Ensuring all workers are employed as permanent employees who enjoy all benefits, including maternity rights and an extended retirement age.
Recognise the right of the Orang Asal to self-determination, sustainable development and protect the native customary rights of the Orang Asal to their traditional lands and territories.
7. Freedoms of expression, assembly and association
Full participation in a democratic society requires the freedoms of expression, assembly and association to prevail.
The freedom of expression and information cannot prevail until we:
- Abolish the Sedition Act, the Official Secrets Act and the Film Censorship Act;
- Enact a Freedom of Information (FOI) Act at federal and state levels which is reflective of the peoples’ right to know, with the public interest as the overriding principle;
- Prevent the monopoly of ownership and control of the press and broadcasting stations by political parties or corporate bodies.
Media organs paid for by tax payers – including RTM and Selangor Times – must be independent and not be used as propaganda organs of the ruling coalitions.
Good governance relating to the freedoms of assembly and association entails repealing the Police Act, the Societies Act, the Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA), Peaceful Assembly Act 2011 and other relevant laws which restrict these fundamental freedoms, and granting students of voting age the full freedoms enjoyed by other Malaysian citizens.
These were some of the fundamental demands of the Malaysian civil society in the GE13 together with those for a progressive economic, fiscal, defence, energy, environmental, educational, social and cultural policies.
The BN and Pakatan coalitions would do well to note what Malaysians want in the 13th general election.