Five Challenges for the new Prime Minister

- on
Motion of Confidence on Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as Malaysia’s Fifth Prime Minister in Dewan Rakyat
Kerk Kim Hock

(Dewan Rakyat, Monday): I wish to first of all congratulate Datuk Seri Abduallah Ahmad Badawi on his appointment as the fifth Prime Minister of Malaysia.  

For the last few weeks, the nation has witnessed the expression of public sentiment, in the media and websites about the retirement of the nation’s longest serving Prime Minister--- Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. .


In his 22 years of service, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has certainly brought about achievements and successes which earned him the praises and eulogies that he deserves.


For his many critics who have always been concerned or have noticed or have paid heed to the democratic price and the failures that accompanied his development successes, hopes are now placed on his successor who has a different of leadership to rectify the weaknesses and mistakes.


For us, as legislators and political leaders who must not only see what is the present but to understand what is to be done for the future, we should ask whether what we have and see today are foundations strong enough and conditions sufficient enough to propel the nation to greater heights?  Has he left behind a nation of innovative, competitive and united Malaysians who are more confident and convinced that we are heading for a better tomorrow?  


As the motion before the House is to seek the House’s confidence in the new Prime Minister, I will not dwell on Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammad’s achievements and failures.


Suffice to say that we should appreciate his contribution and achievements but we must not, at the same time, ignore his mistakes and failures.


Let me take this opportunity to wish him a very a happy retirement.


Motion of Confidence


On 27.1.1976, while debating the motion of confidence on Dato Hussein Onn as Malaysia’s third Prime Minister in the Dewan Rakyat, the former Member of Parliament for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang had described the motion of confidence as an unusual one.


Arguing his case, the former Kota Melaka Member of Parliament had said, “Clause 43 of the Constitution provides that the Yang di Pertuan Agong shall appoint as Prime Minister a member of the Dewan Rakyat who in his judgment is likely o command the confidence of the majority of the members of that House, and who shall continue as Prime Minster until he ceases to command the confidence of the majority in the Dewan Rakyat.’”


Lim Kit Siang further said “ Dato Hussein Onn was appointed Prime Minister following the death of Tun Razak and as the head of the Barisan Nasional which controls a two thirds majority in the House, the question of him not having confidence of the Dewan Rakyat does snot arise?”


Hence, the motion of confidence before the House today is actually unnecessary as the question of the nation’s fifth Prime Minister not having the confidence of the Dewan Rakyat does not arise as the Barisan Nasional commands a big majority in the House.


It is even more interesting to note that the motion has been proposed by the Shah Alam MP under Parliamentary Standing Order 27 (3), which states as follows:


“ Except as provided in Standing Order 43 and in paragraph (5) of Standing Order 86, not less than fourteen days’ notice of any motion shall be given unless it is in the name of a Minister, in which case seven days notice or, if Tuan Yang di Pertua is satisfied upon representations to him by a Minister that the public interest requires that a motion should be debated as soon   as possible, one day’s notice shall be sufficient.” 


Is it not unusual that this motion has to be presented to the Parliament with less than 14 days’ notice and on the ground that a Minister has made representations to the Tuan Yang di Pertua that public interest requires it be debated as soon as possible when the date of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammad’s retirement was fixed 16 months ago? .


Five Challenges for the new Prime Minister


Apart from the question of who shall be appointed the new deputy Prime Minister, the next two important questions which Malaysians are curious to find out from the new Prime Minister are, firstly, when will the next general election be held and secondly, what changes will he bring about after becoming the nations’ top executive?


Undoubtedly, Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi possesses the qualifications and qualities to become the Prime Minister. His Mr. Clean and Mr. Nice image have endeared him to the people. But many challenges and tasks await him.


I will today only outline five challenges which I call on him to give his utmost attention:


Challenge one: Ensuring genuine national unity and long lasting peace


Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, when introducing his concept of Vision 2020, had said that the most fundamental and most basic of the nine challenges that must be overcome before Malaysia could become a fully developed nation was to establish a united Malaysian nation.


Peace and Muhhibah have always prevailed in this blessed nation. We are however not being truthful if we do not admit that there is still a long way to go before we can say that Malaysia has become a truly united nation.


We are indeed still very far way from the goal of the common identity of Bangsa Malaysia.


The Prime Minister, in implementing government policies, whether involving politics, education, economics, culture and religion, must therefore give consideration to the fact that Malaysia is a multi racial, multi religious and multi cultural nation and that every race and community must be given their rightful place under the Malaysian sun.


The Prime Minister needs to realize that long lasting and genuine national unity can only be achieved through building consensus and implementing just policies. As we march forward, we should continually re-emphasise the very basis of what the country should be – Unity in Diversity.


It is therefore hoped that he will not only listen and understand, but he will in fact accept the legitimate aspirations and hopes of all races in the nation, and not just make decisions based the Barisan Nasional consensus. He must never forget that he is the nation’s Prime Minister and not the Barisan Nasional or the UMNO Prime Minister.


The second challenge is to provide leadership that is keeping up with times and to bring about policy changes  that can keep up with the needs and challenges of the times.


A leader, no matter how capable, dedicated or sincere, cannot be effective and successful if he is unable to keep up with the times and bring about the necessary changes.


In facing the era of globalisation which stresses on meritocracy and competitiveness, the Prime Minister must embark on bold and new policies, especially educational policies, to ensure that Malaysians can compete against the world. .


Educational policies must not continue to divide Malaysians and the quality education for primary, secondary, tertiary and mother tongue must be the top educational objective so as to ensure that our children will receive the education needed for the 21 st Century.


The long-standing problems of shortage of schools and trained teachers as well as the lack of development allocation faced by the national type schools must be resolved.


The third challenge is to show true commitment to the concept of democracy ad to phold he nation’s  parliamentary democracy.


Malaysia has paid a heavy democratic price in the past and it is therefore imperative that the Prime Minister must take effective and necessary steps to restore the public confidence in the democratic institutions and enforcement agencies of the nation, whether these are the Judiciary, the Election Commission, the Police, and the ACA etc.


The government must prove its total and sincere commitment to democracy by accepting the universally accepted principles of democracy. There must be a review and repeal of all laws which violate the basic principles and spirit of democracy.  .


Parliamentary democracy must be upheld and the doctrine that the Parliament is supreme must be respected. . Parliament must not be treated as a rubber stamp of the Executive.


The government must operate in an environment of accountability, transparency and rule of law.  Nepotism, cronyism and corruption which have cost the nation so much, too much wastage must be fought as an all out war.


The fourth challenge is to introduce and inculcate good , fundamental  values and to tackle serious social ills.


The nation’s fourth Prime Minister started his administration 22 years ago with the slogan of Amanah, Bersih dan Cekap. Today his slogan has long been forgotten. .


Today, the people who are involved in the corruption practices are getting younger in ages. We also have more and more people who believe that if they cannot beat those at the game of corruption, they might as well join them.


It also appears that more people now regards every government project as a get rich quick scheme which can and must be obtained by corruption practices or by having political connections.


There is now more cheating and deception in the society, whether by individuals or syndicates, either against innocent individuals or against even government agencies.


The Prime Minister must therefore inculcate the fundamental values of honesty, integrity and responsibility. Most important of all, he must eradicate the sources and causes which are eroding these fundamental values. 


With daily reports of robberies, rapes, assaults, murders and violence, the Prime Minister must also introduce effective policies that can make Malaysians feel safe not only in their homes, but also at bus stops or public car parks or on the streets. Crime and violence must be effectively and quickly reduced. 


The government must make efforts to get rid the schools of gangsterism and indiscipline so that parents need not worry which school to send their children to.


The fifth challenge for the Prime Minister is to respect, uphold and preserve the 46-year-old constitutional secular basis of the Federal Constitution.


An Islamic State in Malaysia, whatever its model, violates the “ social contract ‘ reached by the major communities on achieving Independence, the 1957 Merdeka Constitution and the 1963 Malaysia Agreement.


The Prime Minister must therefore reaffirm the greatest contribution of the first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman—the founding 1957 Merdeka Constitution principle that Malaysia is a democratic, secular, multi religious and tolerant nation with Islam as the official religion but not an Islamic State.


Working with the Prime Minister


Two days ago, the Prime Minister urged all Malaysians not to work for him but to work along side him for the country.


Let me say today here that the DAP is prepared to work with him on tackling the above challenges as we are all elected to make Malaysia a better and just place for all.


The Prime Minister can be assured of our full support in political reforms and policy changes to make our democracy healthier, our people truly untied, and our nation more prosperous, just and fair.



* Kerk Kim Hock, DAP Secretary-General & MP for Kota Melaka