Malaysians need more avenue for objection besides social media

MAY 27 — The past few weeks have seen various appointments of politicians to positions and boards of GLCs.

In this age of information, at least, it is not hard to find out how much they will be earning from those placements.

I would summarise the amount as being -- a lot.

This handing out of rewards to “loyal” politicians needs to stop. Most of them are unqualified for the positions, with no experience or skill set besides being a member of the right political party.

Our GLCs are made to serve the betterment of our country and the prosperity of our citizens.

It should be criminal to hand out these appointments for political reasons as can be demonstrated, the appointees rarely if ever bring value to their positions.

That isn’t hard to track either; we have plenty of cases of abuse of political appointments. GLCs with poor records, dodgy balance sheets and accusations of mismanagement of funds.

Yet it seems the KPI for these appointments seem to be nothing more than showing up very occasionally at board meetings or press conferences.

It is 2020 and yet all this isn’t ancient history but “just the way it is” in Malaysia. What is unacceptable is that Malaysian citizens do not have recourse to protest this blatant abuse of political process.

Appointments to GLCs should not be unilateral. Nominations cannot consist of just one candidate, a few names need to be proposed openly and put to a proper vote.

The public should also be given recourse to voice any dissatisfaction with public appointments, to call out, perhaps, past accusations of criminal impropriety or the lack of qualifications.

It is not enough that Malaysians only get to grouse or object on social media. There needs to be a proper avenue for Malaysians to officially speak out against poor government decisions with numbers that can be used to gauge support for measures.

The government also needs to stop harassing those who dare disagree with or criticise the government openly on social media. You cannot continue to arrest people in the middle of the night for calling a (former) prime minister a clown on Facebook.

I have personally had to deal with hundreds, nearly thousands of cyber-bots programmed to spam my social media whenever I make controversial comments. This is not acceptable.

Whether the government deigns to acknowledge there are political parties involved, it is well-documented that funds have been used by political parties to spread propaganda and harass targeted individuals.

Dissent is normal and citizens need official channels to express their dissatisfaction. It is not enough to call or text an elected rep (if that is even possible for ordinary folk) but there must be open, public channels and the responses need to be tabulated.

The politicians and the government overall need to be held accountable in a public and transparent manner for all dealings, including GLC appointments.

It bears reminding that it is the people who elect a government and a government is not a feudal entity that functions as a dictatorship, with some vague divine mandate.

We have South Korea as an example, where petitions can be made to the Blue House and the ones with a certain amount of support will receive official attention.

“Listening to the people” is not an election tagline but an actual responsibility. We need to hold our politicians to higher standards because at the moment some aren’t even managing the bare minimum.

Malaysians deserve better and it is time we start demanding it.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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