Look North, West and South, but East is still the Best–Time to look within at Malaysians


October 3, 2018

Look North, West and South, but East is still the Best–Time to look within at Malaysians

Image result for Mahathir and Shinzo Abe

by Amb (rtd) Dato Dennis Ignatius

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Not many people were surprised when Dr Mahathir Mohamad revived his Look East Policy. He has always admired the Japanese work ethic as well as the way they were able to rebuild their nation after the devastation of World War II. Of course, Japan’s accomplishments have been phenomenal and there’s much we can learn from them.

Corrupt officials with name tags

Cynics will, however, wonder whether anything qualitative has come out of the whole effort to learn from the Japanese, at least in so far as the civil service is concerned.

Civil servants come to work on time with the clock-in system and are readily identifiable by their name tags, but has it made them more productive, more committed to public service, less corrupt? Judging from Mahathir’s own harsh remarks about the civil service, it would seem that the answers to all these questions are a resounding no.

In fact, successive Prime Mnisters have complained about the civil service but all have been quick to also praise them (and raise their salaries) for fear of antagonising an important vote bank.

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We also spend millions, year after year, on civil service training programmes, and send civil servants abroad to study. Much of it is simply a waste of time and money.

Clearly, transplanting Japanese work ethics into the civil service, if it’s at all possible, is going to take a lot longer to realise. However, the experience of other countries when it comes to the civil service may be instructive: where there is uncompromising enforcement of rules and performance standards and a really transparent and competitive promotion system, public servants tend to perform better. The prospect of losing their jobs or being denied promotion is a powerful incentive to keep civil servants honest.

Thus far, there have been lots of complaints about the civil service but little sign of a serious attempt at reform. The rot has spread so wide that no one seems to know where to begin. The recent appointment of a new chief secretary is a step in the right direction but unless there is a commitment to undertake a radical overhaul of the civil service and the way it operates, we are not going to see the kind of qualitative improvements that our nation desperately needs.

Why Look East?

But why look East and not within in the first place? In his speech to the Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industries of Malaysia (ACCCIM) in July, Mahathir himself noted that “the Chinese were the driving force behind generating wealth in Malaysia”. He went on to say that, “Our country is what it is today because of the contribution from the business community, especially the Chinese community because they are dynamic in many ways.”

He then called for a collaborative effort (presumably with ACCCIM and the Malaysian Chinese business community) to lessen income disparities so that everyone could share in Malaysia’s prosperity. It was not the first time that Mahathir has mooted such an idea.

Is renewed interest in the Look East policy a reflection of Mahathir’s disenchantment with the inability of Malaysian businessmen to work together? Is he looking East because he has not been able to look within?

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It’s a provocative question, no doubt, but it deserves some attention. In the past, such collaboration may have been difficult – you can’t demonise a community and then expect it to be helpful – but with a new government in power it might be time to seriously look at ways to get more Malay and Chinese businessmen to work together. The government’s plan to privatise some of the GLCs might, in fact, provide opportunities for such collaborative efforts.

Waiting to be wooed

In the meantime, buoyed by Pakatan Harapan’s election victory and hopeful of a more inclusive future, many Malaysians are returning home. We must find ways to tap the expertise, skills and connections of all Malaysians wherever they are.

Some Malaysians living abroad, however, are waiting to be wooed. One group of them recently urged the government “to form a special panel to woo those living there to return home and join government-linked companies to contribute to the development of a new Malaysia”. They also asked the government to “provide incentives and remove certain restrictions to encourage them to come back”, to quote one report.

If they need to be “wooed” to come home or if they need “incentives” to move back (and to work in GLCs at that), they are better off staying where they are. After all, thousands of Malaysian students return home each year without asking for incentives.

Just ask Yeo Bee Yin, our Minister of Energy, Green technology, science, climate change and environment; she didn’t need incentives to come home to serve her country. It is good that she is now in a leadership position.

 

Dennis Ignatius is a former ambassador.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.

 

Fear and Loathing in Putrajaya Redux


September 9, 2018

Fear and Loathing in Putrajaya Redux

Opinion
By  S Thayaparan
Image result for Putrajaya

Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status.”

― Laurence J Peter, educator and author

COMMENT | While the White House is in a state of fear regarding the anonymous op-ed piece in the New York Times about the dysfunction in the Trump administration and the so-called “resistance” attempting to stymie the US President’s more egregious agendas, the opposite thing is happening in this country.

While I am not someone who makes excuses for the Harapan administration when it comes to their reform agenda, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad is correct when he says that there are officials in Putrajaya who are purposely stalling the administrative policies of the new regime. There are a couple of points worth considering.

The first is the lack of experience of some of the ministers appointed. Much has been said about the “Call me bro” youth and sports minister, the education minister who wants more responsibility – or is that prestige? – but has no real reform agenda when it comes to one of the more important portfolios of this country, the defence minister who likes to cook, and of course, the finance minister who can’t seem to get enough of exposing the scandals of the past administration and nodding to whatever the Prime Minister says.

 

Fulfilling campaign promises is one thing but more damaging is a lack of vision of many of these ministers. Besides Gobind Singh Deo who seems to actually have a vision of what his Communications and Multimedia Ministry can accomplish and Transport Minister Anthony Loke, who you may disagree with some of the things he has done – at least, they are doing things when it comes to their ministries and not attempting to define their ministries by their polemics against the former regime.

While this is an important point, it should not detract from what I consider the bigger point – and what the prime minister rightly points out – the sub rosa moves by bureaucrats to hamper the progress of Harapan regime. I have been doing my own snooping around, calling contacts serving and retired, and there is a definitely a conspiracy of sorts to destabilise the Harapan government from within.

One example I put much stock in is when serving and retired state security personnel tell me that there is a movement within the Defence Ministry to “contain” the popular Mohamad Sabu (photo). This means different things to people but the general idea is that reform within the security services comes with the price of exposing the corruption, collusion and God knows what else, which ironically could prove to be a threat to national security.

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He is no Robert Gates or Leon Penetta. I wouldn’t trust him with  the defense of my hen house. But if you want some light entertainment, you can attend his ceramah-Din Merican

Can you imagine what would happen if forces domestic and foreign, ever discover how compromised our state security apparatus is? So we get all these “investigations” which go nowhere and an inexperienced minister who is grappling not only with his administrative duties but also his political ones, believing that things are running smoothly.

In reality, the petty fiefdoms in the state security apparatus are making moves to conceal buried secrets that could not only bring them ruination but everyone in the food chain.

Infighting within

Furthermore, some minions actually resent that there is a new government. This resentment, depending on the cabal, is based on racism or religious bigotry. Years of the Biro Tatanegara (BTN) horse manure has created a culture that views any “interloping” by non-Malay political operatives other than from BN as trespassing on the provinces of the ‘ketuanan’ types.

No doubt, the propaganda of a New Malaysia rattles their precious sensibilities and these people are ever ready to demonstrate that the bureaucracy can strike back. One recently retired government official told me that these people not only resort to stalling but also hiding relevant documents, misdirecting new and inexperienced aides and attempting to portray everything done by the new Harapan regime as a “witch hunt”.

This, of course, does not take into account what I call the deep Islamic state and their operatives, who are considering working with the committed Islamists within Pakatan Harapan and carrying out their obligations for their handlers within UMNO. Whispering into the ears of easily-rattled Harapan political operatives of the precarious nature of the Harapan alliance when it comes to the Malay vote, they advance an Islamic agenda which is at odds with the supposed “secular” agenda of the new Harapan regime.

However, if you think that this is all UMNO’s fault, you are naive. The infighting within Harapan contributes immensely to the hampering of the reform agenda. My comrade, Malaysiakini columnist Hishamuddin Rais (photo) may have ruffled some feathers when it comes to his writings, but he is more often correct than wrong when it comes to the machinations of the political elites.

Image result for Hishamuddin Rais

 

There are elements within the bureaucracy who have decided to take sides and the infighting within Harapan plays out in how policy is carried out in Putrajaya. Various fiefdoms have erupted like boils within various ministries where busy factotums carry out the agendas of the Harapan political elite and this sometimes includes frustrating rival factions.

As one frustrated political operative lamented that she has to watch her back when it comes to the bureaucracy because not only has she to worry about the flotsam and jetsam of the former UMNO regime, which includes agents of MCA and MIC, but she has to be wary of not stepping on the toes of her political higher-ups who are wrestling for dominance in various ministries.

A still serving low-level bureaucrat in Putrajaya candidly told me that he is impressed that Harapan has been able to accomplish some of the reforms they promised because with all the crap thrown their way by their infighting and elements from the previous regime, it is remarkable that they are able to function.

Another source said, if only Mahathir was younger and had the support of a committed base, he would whip the government into shape. He has preoccupations which are political in nature which are hampering what he needs to do with the government, this near-retiring source claims.

This, of course, is all part of the political culture in Malaysia which is UMNO-based and something that people in Harapan, who are actually interested in reform, have to contend with. Coupled with their inexperience, they find it difficult to navigate the bureaucracy which is at war for itself and with itself.


S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

Malaysian Civil Service Reform requires Political Will


August 20, 2018

Malaysian Civil Service Reform requires Political Will

Change must come from the political leadership. There must be an insistence on greater diversity at the intake level. There must be an insistence on promotion and posting based on fairness, meritocracy and competency… Soon, you will find top civil servants praising Dr Mahathir Mohamad sky high, just like they did with other Prime Ministers.–T K Chua

by T K Chua@www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Image result for Malaysian Civil Service

 

I refer to the letter, “Is there hope for the civil service?” by Dr Amar-Singh HSS.

As a former government servant, I too can relate to what he was saying although I have tried to avoid writing about it directly.

The environment in the civil service is more than stifling. It is also where favouritism, parochialism and bigotry are allowed to thrive. Discrimination in terms of recruitment, promotion and posting is routine and done with impunity. Tokenism has evolved into a fine art. If you are assertive and smart, be prepared to be sidelined and marginalised.

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A Bloated, Mediocre, Unproductive Malay dominated civil service

The civil service values mediocrity – this is absurd but true. The top echelon of the civil service is not populated by the smartest, but they know how to play politics to the hilt. To survive and keep the goodies to themselves, all they need to do is to quickly align themselves with the new regime. Soon, you will find top civil servants praising Dr Mahathir Mohamad sky high, just like they did with other Prime Ministers.

As a body, the civil service has its own inertia. It is not known for efficiency and progressiveness. On the contrary, the service is often associated with wastage, lack of initiative and poor service orientation.

The civil service is essentially an input-driven organisation, i.e. it will not move an inch without additional manpower and resources. Redeployment, revamp and reorganisation are hardly part of its consideration. That is why the civil service is ever expanding, often not in tandem with the size of the economy.

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Reports like the above which was written by two top civil servants of the Mahathir 1.0 Era, Tun Ahmad Sarji and Tan Sri Mahmud bin Taib are useless when there is no political will to undertake serious reforms.

Left on its own, I don’t think the civil service will ever change. It will remain insular, discriminatory and even racist.

Change must come from the political leadership. There must be an insistence on greater diversity at the intake level. There must be an insistence on promotion and posting based on fairness, meritocracy and competency.

We must temper the rights and privileges of communities with the need for competition, efficiency and performance. Otherwise, we shouldn’t be talking so much about greater dynamism and competitiveness for this country.

TK Chua is an FMT reader.

Wake Up Malaysian Civil Servants: Duty Beckons


August 16, 2018

Wake Up Malaysian Civil Servants: Duty Beckons

by Dr Amar-Singh HSS

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Image result for Dr Mahathir and the Malaysian Civil Service

These Civil Servants pledge to feather their own nest

We need to get rid of the culture of censuring those in the civil service who speak up when they see wrong being done.

I found the courage to write this after the recent strong words from Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to the civil service. He encouraged those in the civil service not to blindly follow instructions, and to speak up if there are wrongdoings, saying he will support those who have been “tortured”.

There has been a long-standing culture of victimisation in the civil service. Many of us join the civil service to serve the public. Some of us have better financial prospects elsewhere but choose the civil service because it offers us an unparalleled opportunity to serve the people of our nation.

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Top Goons of the Malaysian Civil Service with the Prime Minister of Malaysia

Unfortunately, as Mahathir points out, the civil service is now populated with those who are self-serving, to put it mildly. Over the years, I have seen people take advantage of their position to enrich themselves or abuse their power, so much so that the prevalent culture becomes “keep your head down and follow instructions”, even if things are wrong.

Those of us who attempt to speak up when we see wrong, or make the necessary corrections in the system, are often censured, at times with measures detrimental to our career. We are constantly reminded that we belong to “the government service”.

Allow me to share an example from my own life. I recently retired after being in the civil service for more than 35 years. In April last year, I received a show-cause letter saying I had brought shame or detriment (memalukan dan memburukkan) to my ministry and the civil service. I was also informed verbally that action was being considered at the highest echelons of the organisation to sack me without pension.

You may ask what I did to bring such wrath upon myself. What prompted this response was a tweet I had made, stating that we are “civil servants, not government servants”. I went on to say that it is “the taxes of the people that pay our wages”.

You may say that what I tweeted was factual and “mild”, but remember that this was in April 2017, before the election, when fear was prevalent and many were being censured. My tweet was forwarded by “cybertroopers” to the highest level of the organisation, and I was issued a show-cause letter.

It was a traumatic learning experience for me. I found that despite many years of work and bringing change/pride to health services (I received a number of international awards), no one was prepared to openly stand up for me. I tried meeting the senior civil service management, but was unsuccessful.

In the end, the previous health minister Dr S Subramaniam was kind enough to act on my behalf when I approached him. Even then, I still received a warning letter saying I had been found to have brought shame/detriment to the organisation, and was warned about future action.

Why do I bring this up? If the civil service is to have any hope, we need to get rid of the petty victimisation of staff and offer safe opportunities for them to speak up when they see wrong being done. The Regulations for Public Officers (Conduct and Discipline) [Peraturan-Peraturan Pegawai Awam (Kelakuan dan Tatatertib) 1993] have an overreaching “Peraturan 19 (1)” about civil servants speaking up. It was put in place to protect government policy, but is also used to silence those who speak up. It can be and is used arbitrarily, as was the case with me.

I hope the institutional reforms committee can look at this section and consider with the government an amendment to focus on government policy, not on personal statements. If there is no safe platform to express the wrongs that are conducted in the civil service, a mechanism outside the system, then many will not dare to support the necessary change for reform in our civil service. Even now as I speak up about the way I was treated (and it is frightening when you go through it), I have some fear that action can be taken against me after retirement.

If you wonder why sometimes there is low morale in the civil service, remember how I was treated for making a simple, true statement. Remember the lack of support within the system for staff who speak up.

It is time to bring back a civil service that we can be proud of. This requires a radical change in how we appoint leaders in the service and how much we encourage constructive dissent (voiced disagreement and discussion on policies and decisions). There is a lot of dead wood and many self-serving individuals that need to be removed, but there are still many who want to serve our beloved nation.

I hope the civil service can be found committed to ensuring the best services for our public and nation and not that of individuals.

Dr Amar-Singh HSS is a senior consultant paediatrician.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.

Straight and crooked reporting in the new Malaysia


August 4, 2018

Straight and crooked reporting in the new Malaysia

by Cogito Ergo Sum
Image result for cogito ergo sum

COMMENT | At the start of each academic year in the Journalism 101 course, I ask my students if they want to be objective or fair in their reporting and writing. Inevitably, most, if not all, answer that they want to be objective.

But like everyone else, I point out, we are subjective. Our opinions are coloured by lenses stained by culture, religion, race and social prejudices, as we grow in an increasingly confusing world where the social order is being altered almost daily.

Some point out that being objective requires one to be ‘fair’ in our judgement calls. I ask them if they can ever be objective about their children, the faiths of others and the politics of the day. And there is a silence in the class.

Being fair needs work. To be fair requires an effort to treat people and stories appropriately and fairly. A lot of work has to go into attempting to be fair.

It means going out of the way to ensure that both sides are given an equal opportunity to give their version of the story. It also means that if you give 10 paragraphs to one side, you must give the same number of paragraphs of the story to the other side.

It also means diligent checking of facts given by both sides. You have to dig and search and countercheck. That is what old-timers in the profession used to do.

A senior editor once told me that in the old days, when there was a gap in the story, reporters were told to find out. Then came the era of the computer and the instructions were to let the computer find out. Now, the instructions are, leave it out.

As you read a story with vital facts left out, you get the distinct feeling that something is not right.

After a while, one becomes desensitised to that feeling. And the readers that have been fed these lopsided articles and stories are now ‘educated’ to think that that is the new ‘fair’ reporting.

Loyalty rewarded, not professionalism

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So often in the past, newspapers and television stations have only published and broadcasted one side of the story. The other side is left to sue for the truth, and the number of successful suits is testimony that fair reporting is no longer part of our journalistic culture.

For 60-odd years, save for a few just after independence, journalism in Malaysia has been about regurgitating and processing official pronouncements and making the speaker or writer look good.

Journalists were rewarded by the political masters of the day with titles, tenures, and wages that were simply outrageous.

As professionals, we seem to have forgotten that we have a code of ethics and rules of language that ensure the art of storytelling and reporting is fair, clear and leaves little confusion.

A doyen of the profession described the work of the reporter as shedding light on a subject without altering it. That description has been violated today by the fact that we can now shine multi-coloured lights on a subject and change its hues with language and latitude in our attitude to the facts.

I will cite an example of how the use of language can subtly alter the perception of readers from a pro-Israel media outlet.

“Defence forces fired on rioting crowds in Palestine today.”

The use of the word “rioting” immediately justifies action by the authorities. Because the crowds rioted, it was justified to fire at them.

But we do not know the reason for the riots as yet. A neutral way of telling the story is to remove the verb “rioting”. And now you have “Defence forces fired on crowds in Palestine today.’That leaves the story uncoloured.

We have become artists in colouring our stories in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.

The stunning victory by Pakatan Harapan in the 14th general election has given the media and its practitioners a hard jolt.

The mainstream media is now confused as to how to play this new game. After almost six decades of subservience and obsequious behaviour towards the BN and its components, journalists in these organisations have forgotten what it means to be a professional.

To think critically in the old days meant that you had a very short tenure and lifespan in the mainstream media.

Giving Najib too much space?

Now, the media seem to be attempting to report stories with a sense of fairness, without colour or clarity. Mainstream media outelts are still owned by political entities of the old BN. And fear that what they did to others may be done unto them keeps them in check, to a certain extent.

Utusan Malaysia – which to many was simply a rabid rabble-rouser that would not think twice about using race, religion and culture to further its masters’ bigoted cause – has merely been told that no one is subscribing to their thinking.

Subscriptions to the paper by public schools and varsities are being phased out by the Harapan government. Some reports say that the new government is reconsidering subscriptions to other newspapers as well.

Equally confused are some of the alternative media. From being an avenue for the opposition to air their views, they believe that by giving the BN leadership, in particular, former Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, a disproportionate amount of space in their publications, they are being fair.

It is still true that a man is innocent until proven guilty. Imagine if Ferdinand Marcos, the former Philippine dictator who was overthrown by a popular uprising, was given the same space as Najib in their papers?

GE-14 was a turning point in Malaysian history. Malaysia was at the point of becoming an Orwellian state, but against all odds, the people overthrew the grand old coalition of BN.

Najib, as head of BN, represented all that was wrong with the old regime. The rakyat had had enough of his autocratic way of getting things done by crushing the will of the people with debts and taxes.

He became the butt of jokes and the parody of cartoonists who were persecuted because they were the voice of public dissent.

Being fair means giving the other fellow an equal chance to rebut an allegation. Najib now has that chance in a court of law after being charged for various crimes against the law and the people.

A dangerous thing

Najib seems to have been somewhat abandoned by the former mainstream media outlets, some out of fear of repercussions, others from sheer embarrassment. He is a master of the game. He has skilfully portrayed himself as a victim of politics. No one really believes that drivel, save for some diehard fans.

The danger in giving Najib space, however little, is that he is quite capable of whipping up support for his lost cause at the expense of the ground Harapan has won among the people.

Now, it seems that Harapan is responding and reacting to Najib’s inane accusations and statements rather than being proactive and restrained in their responses. Restrained, because now they are the government and there is a pending case for them to show the evidence in a court of justice.

Giving Najib too much space is a dangerous thing. To do so is not being fair to the people who threw him out.

He seems to have found an unlikely ally in his former nemesis, the alternative media. And he is cunning enough to exploit the space given to the hilt.

And to my students who may ask if this article is fair? No. Because like everyone, I am subjective.


COGITO ERGO SUM is a Malaysiakini subscriber.

10 Things to do for Malaysian People


August 2, 2018

10 Things to do for Malaysian People

by P. Gunasegaram

http://www.malaysiakini.com

QUESTION TIME | All governments routinely claim that they are there for the people and that they will take care of the interests of the people. But is that what they really do? Or do the leaders forget about the plight of the rakyat and focus on other things such as consolidating their power?

 Image result for Mahathir and his new Cabinet

To do their jobs properly, the government needs to prioritise the rakyat so that the most important gets done first and the others follow on from there.

To remind Harapan, in the midst of all the controversies which have emerged post-May 9, here is a list of 10 things they should be prioritising.

1. Restore our democratic rights

What we need going forward is a full restoration of our democratic rights as envisaged in the original constitution of Aug 31, 1957, nothing less.

That entails removal of all oppressive new laws under the Najib regime such as the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (Poca), Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015 (Pota), Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma), Anti-Fake News Act 2018 and National Security Council Act 2016.

It should also include archaic ones such as the Sedition Act 1948, the Official Secrets Act 1972 (OSA), the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (PPPA), the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 (UUCA) and serious overhaul of the Penal Code to remove ancient laws such as criminal defamation, etc.

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People Power dethroned UMNO-BN

After what we have been through, it must be crystal clear to everyone that to remove a corrupt government and one that is not meeting the legitimate aspirations of the rakyat, there must always be a means of check and balance.

Successive BN governments, including those under Dr Mahathir Mohamad previously, have eroded the legal system and undermined the laws protecting individual rights. These have to be rectified forthwith.

As long as these laws exist in the statute books, unscrupulous leaders can use it to oppress the people yet again. It is a matter of regret that not enough is being done in this regard, as one of the key promises of Harapan.

2. Demarcate lines between executive, judiciary and Parliament

If necessary, introduce legislation to do this. For too long, there has been executive interference in the judicial system, even before the time of Najib Abdul Razak.

Judicial independence all but died in 1987 following Mahathir’s interventions to suspend Federal Court judges.

The only recourse the public has against an oppressive executive is the judicial system. For this, prosecution and investigation too must be independent of government.

To ensure that the Police toe the line and follow the law (by the way, the Police come up tops in surveys of which government department is the most corrupt), an independent commission of investigation for police misconduct needs to be set up.

No matter how much the police maintain that oppressive legislation is necessary, they must follow the law – police brutality in detention is well documented.

3. Redraw constituencies to correct gerrymandering

There can be no argument that the will of the population is reflected in a one-man, one-vote system. However, when you have constituencies several times larger than others, the intention is negated because less people vote for one representative.

Keep differences to a maximum of say 15 percent between constituencies – that will be fair to everyone.

4. Do something concrete about corruption 

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It is not money that is the root of evil, but corruption in getting the money. So, lay the ground rules – open tenders, no patronage, accountability, an independent MACC reporting to Parliament, no cronyism, contracts no longer under the OSA, and 101 other things.

If current laws are not sufficient to bring those who clearly live beyond their means to account, enact new ones which will clearly require them to account for their assets, forfeit them if they can’t and charge them accordingly.

And why this strange reluctance now for all ministers, MPs and state assemblypersons to make a public declaration of their assets? What are they afraid of?

5. For the long term, do something about education

Black shoes only hide the dirt, they do nothing else. Is that the priority of the Education Ministry?

Without a long-term plan for education, the rot in the country cannot be stopped. Quality education has to start with headmasters and headmistresses and teachers – upgrading their quality.

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Our education has to move with the times, and improving English must be part of the agenda. Rural children want to learn English so that their chances of succeeding increase.

Education is too important to be left to chance and to people who don’t seem to have a clue about what they are doing.

It is definitely not just about whether the Unified Examination Certification (UEC) qualification is recognised. It is about preparing a new generation of people for the workplace, moving us up the economic ladder to higher value-added activities, greater opportunities and a better life for everyone.

6. Have a coherent economic plan

It’s all good and well to blame the previous government for everything, including falsely accusing them of having run up a debt of RM1 trillion.

But what is your programme for the economy? How are you going to achieve economic growth and ensure that it is achieved? How are you going to ensure that this is distributed among as many people as possible?

How will you ensure that the socio-economic position of everyone improves rapidly in line with the large amount of resources this country has? What are some of the specific measures you will be taking?

You can give subsidies, increase your spending for the public, build better infrastructure, etc, only if you increase revenue. How are you going to do that?

7. Set targets and make them public

Setting targets alone is not enough, there has to be someone monitoring them. Unfortunately, the new government dismantled the Performance Management and Delivery Unit, or Pemandu, and summarily discontinued their use.

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Despite all the vituperative criticism levelled against Pemandu, it played a major role in economic development under the previous regime. First, it helped all government departments and agencies, including even the police and others to set key performance indices or KPIs which they must achieve and then a system for monitoring this.

Thus, there was a clear, articulated and measurable path to achieving developed status, which not only included income criteria but socio-economic criteria as well.

Out of the labs that were set up and the discussions that arose, a number of useful initiatives arose for increasing economic growth while at the same time improving the quality of life. This was one of the better things that the previous government did and it contributed to better economic growth and living standards.

While it has disbanded Pemandu, the new government must come up with a similar or better system of setting KPIs among all the ministries and the key government agencies. Otherwise, there is going to be a lot of talk but no action plan which is measurable and can be monitored.

The manifesto is a good starting point – set targets and state how you are going to achieve them, and monitor them.

One of the things the government should consider here is a multi-agency government committee such as the National Development Planning Committee (NDPC) of old.

Such committees are typically headed by the Chief Secretary and comprise key people from other ministries, especially secretaries-general of economy-related ministries, the central bank governor and others.

Civil servants from various departments studied all major proposals thoroughly and made their recommendations to the NDPC, which then made a final decision. Seldom were their recommendations overturned in the past.

The NDPC was disbanded under the previous Mahathir regime and politicians decided whether projects were viable or not and whether they were desirable.

8. Consult and reach intraparty consensus

Harapan is a coalition of parties which have common aspirations. And in the spirit of consensus and consultation, they chose a Prime Minister, Mahathir, who will run the show until Anwar Ibrahim takes over.

This is the new Malaysia – consensus and consultation should be agreed upon at least at the supreme council level of the party and at the cabinet level of government.

Prime ministerial prerogative must only be exercised if there is a deadlock, much like a casting vote by the chair of a board. Majority views should prevail because the prime minister comes from a minority party.

No other committee should usurp the Cabinet, which should be the ultimate body for deciding on policy matters and must take joint responsibility for decisions taken. There should be no yes-men in the cabinet and everyone should speak their minds openly without fear of retribution.

9. Allow for dissenting views and discussion

This must be freely allowed within Harapan and within parties in the Harapan coalition, otherwise you will see a group of nodding yes-men who will fawn over the emperor’s clothes even when he is naked.

The room to criticise, make suggestions, to discuss and debate must be there. The prime minister does not know everything and must take advice and encourage opposite views to come out so that all angles can be scrutinised before a final decision is taken. Do we really want another national car? Is that going to be pushed through via prime ministerial prerogative?

I can’t stand, and certainly cannot understand, this call to let the government do its job without fair criticism and feedback. Look what prime ministerial prerogative got us in the past.

Any government worth its salt and truly interested in representing the rakyat and having its interests as its highest aims, instead of the leaders’ own interests, must be unambiguously receptive to constructive criticism and obliged to explain their policies and decisions so that the public understands it. That’s what transparency, good governance and accountability is about.

10. Be humane and fair in your decisions

Finally, don’t overdo things when you want to try and paint a black picture of the previous government.

Don’t tar and feather everyone. There are many people, including many top civil servants, and heads/boards of government-linked companies who have made a real contribution to the country.

Do not denigrate their contributions, do not make light of them, do not label them as corrupt unless you have evidence. If you have evidence, charge them.

There are many people in government who are professional and interested in doing a good job in the service of the nation. Use current resources, which are not corrupt and which are capable; acknowledge them.

Do not run roughshod over innocent human beings in your haste to put down everything the previous government has done. I dare say the politicians associated with previous BN governments over a long period of time are more corrupt than the civil servants, the vast majority of whom have had no opportunity for large-scale corruption in the way politicians have had all these years.

All Malaysians hope that Harapan can once and for all kill political corruption, the most insidious form of corruption there is because it leads to all other forms of corruption. As they say, the fish rots from the head.


This is the sixth and final part on a series of articles on Malaysia post-GE14.

Part 1: Mahathir’s patently unfair cabinet

Part 2: Did Mahathir win the general election?

Part 3: Do we really need a council of elders?

Part 4: Proton, Khazanah, Malaysia Inc and Mahathir

Part 5: Here’s how Khazanah can spread its wealth

Part 6: 10 things Harapan should do going forward

P GUNASEGARAM says the greatest challenge this government has is of getting rid of corruption, patronage and cronyism within their own ranks. If they can do that, the rest is easy. E-mail: t.p.guna@gmail.com.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.