Malaysia Baharu one year on

Since Pakatan Harapan Government has been in office, we are facing greatest challenges from 4 aspects:

  1. Opposition parties become more extreme and utilise 3Rs (Race, Religion, Royalty) to thwart the Government’s reform agendas;
  2. Public servants are not cooperating;
  3. “Rule of Law” spirit is not fully instilled in the public, therefore not easy in accepting the way the government functions without fear or favour;
  4. Some cabinet members and political leaders do not have the determination to implement reforms or lack political awareness, therefore would easily fall into the rigid system or could not grasp the order and priority of different reforms.

It is a known fact that Malaysia, Singapore, Canada, Australia, India and some other countries are practicing Cabinet System, whereby the cabinet is the core of the government leadership and is accountable collectively responsible to the parliament.

When new policies were facing challenges from the 4 aspects, they sometimes were not supported by or received coordination from the rest of the cabinet members and departments (such as foreign worker policies), were not carried out with adequate publicity in advance (such as death penalty abolition), or were implemented unilaterally. As a result, such policies would be easily defeated or face great backlashes. Popular discontent would also arise when opposition parties grab the golden opportunities to pressure the government.

However, when we reexamine the four challenges faced by institutional reforms, I believe that to isolate and evaluate the performance of every ministry would be unfair and not objective to some ministries. For instance, a year after the change of government, new policies on foreign workers are still entangled and not released. We cannot simply say that the Human Resource Minister M. Kulasegaran is not working, because to solve this problem he has to coordinate and work closely with the Home Affairs Ministry.

Another instance can be seen when some members of the public are discontent when enforcement operations under the Ministry of Transport is over-strict. We have to identify the crux of the problem. There might be several reasons that leads to “over-strict enforcement operations”, such as excessive and deliberate enforcement by JPJ aiming at creating public discontent, or due to the fact that two enforcement units namely JPJ and Traffic Police (PDRM Department under Home Affairs Ministry) carry out operations on same offences.

The way that the new government must improve is to abandon the governance model of the old regime. We should not fully and blindly trust and accept all suggestions offered by civil servants, but should initiate more dialogues and communicate with organisations and groups from various fields. Also, carry out sufficient publicity to make sure that the policies are in line with national contexts and social context before releasing them.

This might be a tedious practice, but way better than how the previous regime dictated everything without consulting other quarters.

Although the Pakatan Harapan government is now in dilemma, I believe that since we can never please both sides, let’s do the right thing and focus on our reform agendas. A government that is changing its direction all the time due to different opinions and pressure while forgetting its mission to reform, is a government that put the cart before the horse. Wouldn’t it be worse if we can achieve nothing in the end?

In a society that is moving towards democratisation, such noises, controversies and resistances are inevitable, and more will come. This is the difficult quest for complete democratisation that we must endure. After all, democratisation does not happen overnight, but is a long and painful journey of political struggle.

Chiong Yoke Kong
Media statement by Chiong Yoke Kong in Cameron Highlands on Wednesday, 8th May 2019