Great May Day to all of you and the Four Aces, arguably the most popular vocal group in the 1950s and Brenda Lee will entertain you.—Dee Jay Din Merican
Dear Zunar and the Team at Suara KeADILan,
My belated congratulations to you, buddy and the team of good men and women at Suara KeADILan on the occasion of your receiving “permit akhbar” from the Ministry of Home Affairs after a 3-year wait. With this permit Suara KeADILan is now the official organ (lidah rasmi) of Parti KeADILan Rakyat. I am proud to be associated with a fine newspaper like Suara KeADILan.
I know Suara KeADILan will continue to be an excellent channel of communication between the public and our party and be an example of what constitutes good journalism. The bonding with the public is vitally important for our party and our partners in Pakatan Rakyat (PAS and DAP). There is growing interest in what we are doing in the five states of Kedah, Penang, Perak, Selangor and Kelantan. Given this interest, we can be confident that Suara KeADILan’s circulation will increase substantially from the current 100,000 copies per issue. Salam Perjuangan.—Din Merican
One very respected retired Chief Justice, who is known as an extremely straight and no-nonsense chap, remarked, if he had to be tried in court, he would not like it to be in a Malaysian court. He further remarked that the windscreens of the cars of judges are blacked-out not for security reasons but because the judges are ashamed to be seen by the public.
THE CORRIDORS OF POWER
Raja Petra Kamarudin
Dear Datuk Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad,
First of all, thank you for writing to Malaysia Today. (Read letter here). As promised, I have published your letter in toto without any amendments, additions, deletions, or ‘touch up’, though I felt some improvement to the language may have been necessary. Nevertheless, I was very careful in not ‘doctoring’ any parts of your letter lest I open myself to accusations of any sort.
I must admit I am pleased and honoured that the Press Secretary of the Deputy Prime Minister and likely future Prime Minister would take the trouble to write to Malaysia Today. As I have said so many times in the past, the only way to deal with the independent media is to engage it, not ignore it, for you ignore it at your own peril. And note that I have used the term ‘independent’ media and not ‘alternative’ media or ‘opposition’ media — because that is exactly what we are. In fact, what you call the ‘mainstream’ media, today, could actually be called the alternative media.
Now, on the points in your letter. A ‘trial’ by court of public opinion has been what we, the Rakyat, have had to rely on since 1998. Some say that the judiciary has in fact been compromised since 1988 after the sacking of Tan Salleh Abbas and his fellow judges. The fact that these half a dozen or so judges were recently honoured in a dinner graced by the Prime Minister where Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced that the government will spend millions of the taxpayers’ money to pay these judges their 20 years back-pay confirms that the Abdullah government, in which Dato Sri Mohd Najib Tun Razak is part of, agrees with the court of public opinion’s view of events that happened 20 years ago.
This opinion is of course strengthened by your very own de facto Law Minister’s statement, barely a few days after taking office, that the government should apologise to Tun Salleh and his fellow judges. This was of course shot down by the Cabinet, and instead of an apology, they are being paid millions of Ringgit, which Najib said should not be interpreted as an apology. Maybe Najib is right when he says that if the government pays out millions of Ringgit of the taxpayers’ money this should be only taken as 20 years back-pay and not be taken as an apology. Nevertheless, this still tantamount to an admission that the judges had been wrongfully dismissed, apology or no apology.
We must also not forget the statement by Justice Kamil when he delivered his judgement in the Likas election petition case. Yang Arif admitted that he always receives instructions from the top before he delivers his judgement on important or crucial cases. Justice Kamli also said that he is not the only judge to receive such instructions but that many other judges are also subjected to interference and instructions from the top and that they are told how they should rule. When asked who this person from the top is, he replied that we should know whom it is he means and he left it at that. No one had any misgivings as to whom Justice Kamil meant.
One very respected retired Chief Justice, who is known as an extremely straight and no-nonsense chap, remarked, if he had to be tried in court, he would not like it to be in a Malaysian court. He further remarked that the windscreens of the cars of judges are blacked-out not for security reasons but because the judges are ashamed to be seen by the public. This is coming from someone who is placed above normal men and when someone of that calibre makes such statements how can the public not feel that the Malaysian judiciary can no longer be trusted? As they say, let you be judged by your peers, and the judiciary’s peers have made their ruling.
Dear Datuk Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad,
To argue that we should leave this matter to the courts to decide is just not on. It can never be on until we see genuine and real reforms in the judiciary. And when the talk amongst legal circles is that, in September, the President of the Court of Appeal will take over as the new Chief Justice, this just erodes our confidence in the judiciary even further. Putting Umno’s lawyer in charge of the judiciary is like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse or, as the Malays would say, putting the kambing in charge of the sireh. And you want us to leave it to the courts to decide? When you have highly-respected judges and retired Chief Justices openly condemning the Malaysian judiciary what do you expect the lesser-learned Rakyat like us to do?
Of course, you will say that one is innocent until proven guilty. That is a beautiful concept. However, if you believe such a thing is possible in Malaysia, then you probably believe in the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus as well. Do you remember Anwar Ibrahim’s trial ten years ago? Anwar was tried in a court of public opinion when they paraded that mattress in and out of court every day. What happened to that mattress? It was never part of the evidence and eventually just quietly disappeared out of sight. Was that not grandstanding for the media and TV cameras?
In Anwar’s case, he was not innocent until proven guilty. Though the Malaysian judicial system, which follows the British and not the French system, stipulates that a man is innocent until proven guilty, Anwar was assumed guilty and he was made to prove his innocence. The onus should be on the court to prove guilt but in Anwar’s case he was considered guilty and he had to prove his innocence. And the judge sent Anwar to jail because, according to the judge, Anwar had failed to prove his innocence.
We are therefore using the same ‘burden of proof’ on the present Deputy Prime Minister just like what the previous Deputy Prime Minister was subjected to. If this system of ‘prove you are innocent or else we have to assume you are guilty’ was good enough for Anwar then it is certainly good enough for Najib. Why should there be different standards between one Deputy Prime Minister and another? Should there not be one standard for all?
Note that Malaysia has a law called the Internal Security Act. When you are detained under this law, you are assumed guilty until you can prove you are innocent. And if you fail to prove your innocence then you are detained without trial indefinitely. Some Malaysians have spent more than 20 years under detention because the hapless person was not able to prove his innocence. Ahmad Boestaman, the famous Malay nationalist and independence fighter, was detained for 14 years or so. You may remember him. His son, Rustam Sani, died recently.
Dear Datuk Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad,
I must remind you that I too was arrested on Hari Raya Haji Day in 2001 after I walked into the police station to be with my wife who had earlier been arrested. Her ‘crime’ was for trying to help an old woman who had a knee injury and who was struggling to walk up a hill. The police arrested my wife, the poor old woman, and her daughter.
When I walked into the police station, Bakri Zinin, the current CID Director, assaulted me when I attempted to step outside to make a phone call. I was trying to step outside because a policeman shouted at me that I am not allowed to make a phone call inside the police station. But when I tried to step outside as instructed, Bakri assaulted me. He then instructed his officers to arrest me.
When I asked what my crime was and as to the reason I was being arrested, they told me they will think of something later. In the meantime they will arrest me first. I then insisted I be allowed to make a police report against Bakri but they refused to take my report. When I refused to accept no for an answer, they reluctantly took my report but nothing further was done after that. That police report made on Hari Haji Day of 2001 is probably no longer in the file.
Dear Datuk Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad,
I am glad you talk about respect for the law. I just wish you and Najib had said the same thing when they beat me up, handcuffed me, and threw me into the lockup without a charge back in 2001. Will I be accorded justice as well just like how you and Najib want to see justice done? Will Bakri Zinin be taken to task for beating me and for arresting me without any charge? Thus far, the only action taken against him is that he has been promoted from OCPD Dang Wangi to Director CID. Let us talk about justice when I see justice done to me as well. Until then we shall rule by law of public opinion, as that appears to be the only ‘system’ available to us.
I understand the concept of subjudice when commenting on an ongoing trial. So allow me to comment only on what the mainstream newspapers have already covered. The mainstream newspapers reported about a green Suzuki Vitara. The registration plate of the car was also mentioned in that newspaper report. Malaysia Today traced the owner of this car to an address in Ijok. On further checking with the SPR registration, it was confirmed that this person exists and his name, address and IC number tally with that in the JPJ registration.
The house exists and the neighbours confirm that the person concerned does live there and that the green Suzuki Vitara has been seen in front of the house. This, according to the newspapers, is the car that took Altantuya away after she was arrested in front of Razak Baginda’s house and taken to Bukit Aman.
Has this man been picked up? And, if not, then why since Altantuya was last seen alive driving off with him? Malaysia Today has revealed his name, address and IC number. And this man’s neighbours in Ijok confirm his existence and that of the car. Note that this was raised in the trial and was reported by the mainstream newspapers. So this is not mere insinuations and innuendoes.
In an interview in 2002 or 2003, Razak Baginda confirmed that his company brokered the submarine deal. He even mentioned the commission he had earned. This matter was confirmed by Razak himself and is documented in that interview. So this is also no insinuation or innuendo. And have we forgotten Razak’s wife’s outburst when she said that her husband is innocent and that it is not he who wants to become the next Prime Minister? Was Razak’s wife talking about Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, Anwar Ibrahim or Khairy Jamaluddin? And was not Razak’s wife once a magistrate who would therefore know the law and know what constitutes subjudice?
Dear Datuk Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad,
I can go on but let the above suffice for the meantime. The issue of the changing of the judge after the filing of the Affidavit during the bail hearing (which was raised by Karpal Singh), the defence lawyers resigning because of threats from certain people (which Zulkifli Nordin confirmed), the changing of the entire prosecuting team the morning of the trial (which the prosecutor admitted when he asked for a one-month postponement), and much more are all documented and are on public record. Let the court of public opinion decide whether Malaysia Today is merely raising what is already well-documented or whether Malaysia Today is dabbling in insinuations and innuendoes.
Again, I thank you for your letter and really appreciate you taking the time to write to us. Let us together, in the spirit of Islam, the religion we profess, seek the truth and oppose transgressions — as made mandatory by Islam under the concept of amar maaruf, nahi munkar. From God we come and to God we shall return. And we shall be made accountable for all that we have done on this earth. And, in the eyes of God, those defending kemunkaran will be as guilty as those committing it. Let us not fear man for man proposes but God disposes. And nothing will befall us that God has not planned will befall us. Subjudice and contempt of court are creations of man that will not carry any weight in God’s court. So fear God because man even as powerful as Prime Ministers and Deputy Prime Ministers will be powerless to help you in God’s court where we shall all ultimately be judged.
Raja Petra Bin Raja Kamarudin
|Posted by Raja Petra|
|Wednesday, 30 April 2008|
|Saya ingin merujuk kepada rencana yang disiarkan pada laman web tuan di bawah tajuk “Let’s Send Altantuya’s Murderers To Hell” pada 25 April yang lalu.Untuk makluman pembaca laman web tuan, saya membuat kenyataan ini untuk menjelaskan perkara sebenar, memandangkan ada sindiran- sindiran dan juga komen-komen yang tidak berasas yang dilontarkan terhadap Timbalan Perdana Menteri Dato Sri Mohd Najib Tun Razak serta isterinya, Datin Sri Rosmah Mansor.
2. Artikel tersebut menuduh bahawa kononnya Timbalan Perdana Menteri dan isterinya ada kaitan dengan pembunuhan seorang wanita Mongolia; bahawa kononnya Timbalan Perdana Menteri pernah menyokong permohonan visa wanita itu; bahawa kononnya rekod imigresen wanita itu telah sengaja dihapuskan dan kononnya ada gambar yang dirakamkan (menunjukkan Timbalan Perdana Menteri dan isterinya) bersama dengan wanita Mongolia itu. Kesemua kenyataan ini merupakan kenyataan padang-dengar (hearsay) yang tidak pernah dibuktikan, tetapi pihak tuan sewenang-wenangnya menyiarkan kenyataan seperti itu seolah-olah ianya fakta, dan menjelaskan pendirian pihak tuan, dengan menyebut “ kami juga telah melaksanakan perbicaraan kami sendiri di mahkamah pendapat umum, dan kami telah mencapai keputusan kami sendiri.”
3. Rencana berkenaan juga menggambarkan seolah-olah penyiasatan polis dalam kes ini penuh kelemahan dan kecacatan serta proses perundangan berkaitan kes ini juga dikompromi dengan tujuan menyembunyikan pesalah sebenar dalam kes itu. Gambaran ini pihak tuan nyatakan dengan ayat “ show trial in the Kangaroo Court”dalam rencana terbabit.. Walaupun pada hakikatnya tuduhan-tuduhan dalam kes ini adalah tertakluk dalam bidang kuasa polis dan institusi kehakiman, Timbalan perdana Menteri berhak untuk mengulangi pendiriannya dalam “mahkamah pendapat umum’ ini bahawa beliau tidak pernah kenal, malah tidak pernah bertemu dengan mangsa dalam kes bunuh ini. Maka segala tuduhan-tuduhan liar yang mengaitkan Timbalan Perdana Menteri , sama ada secara langsung atau secara sindiran, adalah tidak lain dan tidak bukan berniat jahat untuk mencemarkan nama baik Timbalan Perdana Menteri pada mata rakyat Malaysia.
4. Dakwaan seorang saksi dalam perbicaraan kes Altantuya bahawa konon-kononnya si mati pernah makan bersama dengan Razak Baginda dan individu bernama “Najib Razak” tidak pernah disahkan, malah kredibiliti saksi itu juga tidak pernah diteliti. Dakwaan kononnya ada gambar si mati dengan Razak dan Timbalan Perdana Menteri juga tidak pernah dibuktikan oleh mana-mana pihak melainkan gambar rekaan yang terbukti palsu serta dibuat dan dikeluarkan oleh Ketua Penerangan PKR, Tian Chua. Jika benar gambar seperti yang didakwa itu wujud, mengapakah ia tidak dibawa ke dalam perbicaraan kes bunuh itu sebagai bahan bukti? Apakah “gambar” yang ghaib itu hanya boleh dijadikan bukti dalam “mahkamah pandangan umum” yang disebut dalam rencana itu?
5. Butiran kes, mengenai penglibatan Razak Baginda dan dua anggota polis yang dituduh, akan terungkai sepenuhnya dalam perbicaraan kes ini. Saya ingin menyatakan di sini bahawa dakwaan kononnya kes pembunuhan Altantuya ini pula bersangkut paut dengan pembelian kapal selam oleh Kerajaan Malaysia adalah tidak berasas sama sekali dan dakwaan itu dibuat semata-mata untuk menjadikan dongengan yang timbul sekitar kes ini lebih menarik.
6. Dato Sri Najib sekian lama menahan dan mengelak dari membuat sebarang kenyataan tentang kes ini kerana ia melibatkan tuduhan terhadap individu-individu yang beliau kenali. Sebarang kenyataan daripada beliau sudah tentu mengundang pelbagai tafsiran atau dianggap sebagai mencampuri urusan mahkamah, memandangkan perbicaraan kes itu sedang berlangsung. Suka diingatkan di sini bahawa pernah berlaku dalam sejarah negara ini, seorang bekas Timbalan Perdana Menteri didapati bersalah atas tuduhan menyalahguna kuasa apabila beliau cuba menutup penyiasatan salahlaku seksual terhadap dirinya.
7. Seperti yang dinyatakan sendiri oleh tuan dalam rencana itu, ada isu berkaitan “subjudice” dan penghinaan mahkamah, apabila membincangkan kes ini secara terbuka. Semua pihak, termasuk Dato Sri Najib, rakyat Malaysia, dan juga pelawat asing yang berada di Malaysia perlu menghormati undang-undang dan peraturan negara ini dan dalam konteks kes ini, menghormati undang-undang dan peraturan tersebut bermaksud tidak membuat pelbagai spekulasi atau kenyataan tentang kes yang sedang dibicarakan. Justeru, amatlah tidak adil tuduhan-tuduhan liar dan tidak berasas berkaitan perkara yang sebegitu serius dilemparkan sewenang-wenangnya terhadap Timbalan Perdana Menteri bagi tujuan menjatuhkan maruahnya pada pandangan umum.
8. Dalam rencana tuan, ada disebut “hal ini bukan hal politik dan tidak harus diuruskan sebagai hal politik”. Timbalan Perdana Menteri amat bersetuju dengan pandangan ini dan berpendapat bahawa kes ini perlu mendedahkan kebenaran, dan diselesaikan dengan seadil-adilnya. Namun begitu, jelas sekali ada pihak yang tidak berminat untuk mendapatkan pengadilan yang sebenar untuk Altantuya. Sebaliknya mereka hanya berminat dengan aspek politik kes Altantuya ini. Harapan saya agar pembaca-pembaca laman web tuan dapat membezakan antara apa yang benar, separuh benar, dan apa yang sebenarnya pembohongan dan penipuan yang nyata. Maklum sahajalah, seseorang ahli politik itu diadili di “mahkamah pandangan umum”.
9. Akhir sekali, ingin saya tegaskan di sini, bahawa, memandangkan tuduhan-tuduhan liar yang dilemparkant terhadap Timbalan Perdana Menteri itu adalah sangat serius dan membawa kesan negatif terhadap maruah dan imejnya, beliau tidak akan teragak-agak untuk mengambil tindakan undang-undang terhadap pihak yang bertanggungjawab.
Datuk Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad
After the Malaysian polls, parties must embrace new competition in policy-making
April 26, 2008
Dr. Ooi Kee Beng
THE remarkable results of the Malaysian general elections of March 8 almost certainly mean that the country’s politics has changed forever. Five states are in opposition hands and the government has lost its two-third majority in Parliament. At the individual level, a sense of empowerment is widely felt in the northern states that fell to opposition parties.
Even supporters of Barisan Nasional (BN) parties such as Gerakan, which governed the state of Penang for 38 years, are pleasantly surprised by the sense of relief felt in coffee shops and on the streets.
With this change in political climate comes a mindset shift. Suddenly, a concept of “new politics” has appeared in contrast to “old politics” and to the discourses that emanated from the race-based system of the BN.
Public enthusiasm has entered the political arena in a way not seen in decades. This is evidenced by the sharp increase in membership that opposition parties have experienced over the last month, as well as by the sudden rise in popularity of all the newspapers in the country.
The strategic thinking of all of Malaysia’s political parties cannot but change to accommodate this. Where the opposition parties are concerned, the main challenge is to avoid disappointing voters. This is easier said than done for a variety of reasons.
First, state power is restricted by federal authority, and the depth at which state level reforms can go is in many areas consequently dependent on the goodwill of the federal government.
Second, the competence of their elected officials may not be what it should be, given how suddenly their former fate of being the eternal opposition was changed on March 8, 2008.
Third, there is an inevitable disconnect between what voters think the new state governments should achieve and what these governments wish to achieve or are capable of achieving.
But given how bad the state of governance was perceived to be before the elections, the public is bound to exercise patience with the new governments.
Member parties of the ruling coalition, on the other hand, are having a harder time adjusting to the new terrain. On the peninsula, most of them saw their strength radically diminished, even to the point of
The United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which had been growing in dominance within the coalition ever since it was formed, now must rely on support from East Malaysia to stay in power.
UMNO is thus in crisis again. The last time that happened was in 1998, when Dr Mahathir Mohamed, who was Prime Minister then, sacked his deputy Anwar Ibrahim. The subsequent revolt — the Reformasi — saw Umno suffering defeats at the hands of the opposition in the 1999 elections.
A decade before that, UMNO’s crisis involved being declared illegal in the aftermath of a political clash between Dr Mahathir and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. Mr Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was Umno’s highly-successful answer in the 2004 general elections to reverse the anti-UMNO swing among Malay voters.
By 2008, however, the answer had become the quandary. The same old names are back in the fray. In that context, Mr Anwar is the one who has most successfully reinvented himself and is now better placed than any of the others to decide the direction of Malaysian politics. His achievement of getting the opposition parties to work together has been much more significant than most had expected before this year’s
UMNO’s dilemma goes much deeper than merely a bad election. For one thing, the vehicle on which the party depends to stay in power is the BN. That coalition is looking very weak, making its claim of representing all races through its race-based member parties shaky indeed.
For another, its contention of representing the Malay community is no longer tenable. With the Parti Keadilan Rakyat now the largest opposition party in Parliament, the Malay vote is split three ways.
In declaring multi-racialism and social justice as its goals, KeADILan has captured the urban middle-ground among all the races. Its Islamic ally, Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), in toning down its rhetoric on the Islamic state, has made major inroads into UMNO territory, making it acceptable to non-Malay voters for the first time.
UMNO is thus losing discursive relevance more quickly than it is losing political power. With a grand battle for the party presidency approaching, and Mr Abdullah’s position weakening, UMNO’s future has to go in one of two directions.
First, it can persevere for a return of its former glory and defend its badly-discredited techniques of patronage. To do this, it must rely heavily on its East Malaysian allies and retain the racialist character of governance. This conservative option will meet less resistance within the party but is also short-sighted in its ambitions. Its second and more long-term option is to adapt to “post-March 8 politics” and to accept the fact that its dominance has been broken for good.
It may still be the biggest party for now, but it can no longer take that status for granted. There are signs that Premier Abdullah is trying to respond to popular demands for change. He is doing this by honouring judges sacked for dubious reasons —although without apologising to them — by deciding to form a judicial commission and by wishing to make the Anti-Corruption Agency an independent body.
With four parties actually running state governments, it is inevitable that the essence of the “new politics” will be one of policy competition.
In the foreseeable future, UMNO PAS, KeADILan and the Democratic Action Party must act with the full consciousness that voters are watching and are endlessly comparing them one to the other.
Dr Ooi Kee Beng is a Fellow at the Institute of South-east Asian Studies. His latest book is Lost in Transition: Malaysia Under Abdullah.
Copyright MediaCorp Press Ltd. All rights reserved.
By Anil Netto
PENANG, Apr 27 (IPS) – With Malaysia’s opposition pact in the ascendancy after stunning gains in a general election last month, some are wondering how different their economic policies are likely to be if they do wrest power, as many expect them to do, eventually.
The Pakatan Rakyat (People’s Alliance or PR), made up of the multi-ethnic People’s Justice Party (PKR), the Islamic Party (Pas), and Democratic Action Party, now has 82 seats in the 222-seat Parliament. It is now promoting a new needs-based Malaysian Economic Agenda to replace race-based affirmative action principles inherited from the New Economic Policy.
The alliance has control of five states in the peninsula which account for about 56 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. They include three of the most industrialised states in the country — Selangor, Penang and Perak — and two among the poorest, Kelantan and Kedah.
The ruling coalition, meanwhile, is mired in factionalism and internal rivalry with the most attention focused on its dominant party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO).
In the months before the general election Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi had announced a string of regional economic growth corridors to be spurred by multi-billion dollar infrastructure and other projects. Critics say it is a top-down model designed with little public consultation, its prime beneficiaries likely to be major well-connected corporations.
The government has traditionally worked on the premise of affirmative action principles outlined in the NEP, which favours the ethnic Malays and other indigenous groups. The NEP initially lifted broad segments of the majority ethnic Malays into the middle-class after it was first introduced in 1971. But critics say its race-based policies were later abused by ruling coalition politicians to award contracts and licences and allocate corporate equity to cronies and well-connected firms.
This, along with neo-liberal policies that cut taxes for the rich and slashed subsidies for essential services, contributed to a widening of income inequalities — one of the highest disparities in Asia.
There’s now a broad recognition that the NEP has run its course. “The NEP is good but its benefits are only enjoyed by some, as many Malays in the country, including those in Penang, are still poor,” said Lim Guan Eng, the chief minister of the DAP-led Penang state government. “The implementation of NEP has only made the rich richer and the poor poorer due to malpractices.”
The MEA, advocated by opposition icon Anwar Ibrahim, is aimed at replacing the NEP with a policy that provides assistance to poor and marginalised Malaysians of any ethnic group who are in need. “We always stress that under out leadership, the interests of the Malays will be maintained, and we are always committed to building a new system that is fairer, more just and we will ensure that no one will be left behind without regard to their race or religion.” said Anwar in his blog.
But to assure Malays, he added that there are plans to introduce new mechanisms to channel economic aid to large groups of small traders within the Malay community and to ensure that educational opportunities, micro-credit schemes, social and welfare services and other forms of economic aid are available to the community. Civil society activist and economist Charles Santiago, just elected to Parliament on a DAP ticket, says Anwar’s PKR — and the DAP to a lesser extent — is committed to reducing the cost of living especially for the poor in the five states. Pas, for its part, is downplaying its Islamist agenda and is instead promoting the concept of a welfare state.
In PKR-led Selangor, for instance, the state government announced it would provide free water for the first 20 cubic metres to all residents in the state. The state’s chief minister also said he would be looking to raise the job skills among the youth.
”Transparency in contracts and open tenders are a big change (compared to previously),” Santiago told IPS. Another key goal is a fairer distribution of wealth. Others are hoping for a constructive dialogue on how to bring together progressive forms of ‘secular’ and Islamic community economics. They would like to see the political and intellectual resources of the opposition alliance harnessed and shared rather than used in an adversarial manner.
Santiago said he would like to see more public-public partnerships among the five PR-controlled states. There has been a start in this direction with the Selangor government hoping to learn from the experience of the publicly owned Penang Water Authority, regarded as one of the most efficient in the region in terms of low tariffs and low non-revenue water or leakages. Both states are also exploring how they can get their state agencies to cooperate and complement each other in human resources, education, physical development, and manufacturing.
Santiago will also propose that the five states under PR rule raise their food production. State governments, he said, could play a big role in investing in food production to mitigate the rising cost of living. The state governments could work on increasing yields, providing more subsidies to farmers, and strengthening farms managed by smallholders, including family-run farms, he told IPS.
So will the end of the NEP lead to radical changes towards a people-led economy? Not necessarily, warns political scientist John Hilley, author of the book ‘Mahathirism, Hegemony and the New Opposition’.
For one thing, the international private sector would view the removal of the racially-divisive NEP as another ‘necessary step’ on the road to a more open free-market, deregulated economy, he said. ”And this begs the bigger question, and problem, for the opposition (PR) of how to advance policy ideas that don’t just abandon ‘outdated’ social instruments for more market ‘solutions’.”
This he said was a serious dilemma for any socially ambitious ‘government-in-waiting’, fearful of anxious marketeers and capital flight. ”The blackmail threats and constraints of the global neoliberal (dis)order cannot be easily dismissed,” he told IPS in e-mailed comments. ”Yet, until there are imaginative efforts to craft and pursue people-led economics, the same social divisions, inequalities and business-first agenda will prevail.”
Support for a new social economics was clearly evident in the run-up to the general election in polls. Many Malaysians especially from the working class appeared drawn to election campaign pledges to increase subsidies for fuel and education, to do something about the rising cost of living and to reduce income inequalities between the privileged elite and the toiling masses. There has also been widespread public disenchantment over disastrous privatisation policies that have only enhanced corporate profits and elite salaries while undermining once cared-for public services.
Policies that would promote social investment and poverty-focused spending would thus probably be welcomed by the public. What is lacking though is the political will and radical creativity to realise such policies, pointed out Hilley, adding that the post-election phase ought to be used to explore and build credible alternatives to those proclaimed by corporate interests and the ‘market evangelists’.
He stressed that the key impetus for meaningful economic change would have to come from civil society itself — active NGOs, reformist lobbies, community groups, academic activists and others — rather than ”a hopeful reliance on politicians whose idea of ‘economic delivery’ becomes mediated by political office and tamed by the ‘realistic’ demands of big business”.