MAY 11 — Now that the people have elected Pakatan Harapan (PH) as their first-ever alternate government to Barisan Nasional (BN), PH must show that they truly represent change.
The biggest impact from the overthrow of BN, perhaps, is the start of the end of race-based politics. Malaysians have shown that they do not need Umno, MCA, or MIC to defend so-called Malay, Chinese, or Indian rights.
Of course, there is Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Malay party, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM), and Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) that explicitly endorses an Islamic agenda. DAP, on the other hand, has very few Malay members and leaders, even if its membership is open to all Malaysians.
Within this term, PPBM and Amanah should provide full membership privileges to all Malaysians who want to join them, regardless of race or religion, and change their party mission so that they do not promote the interests of one particular ethnic or religious group. DAP, on the other hand, should pull back their pro-Chinese chauvinistic tendencies.
Hopefully, BN will take this time to self-reflect and perhaps transform into a single multiracial party by merging Umno, MCA and MIC, together with the rest of its component parties.
As a responsible party, PH should implement its 10 pledges in their first 100 days of office.
However, it is uncertain if PH can fulfill its promises to abolish the goods and services tax (GST), without raising income or corporate tax, and to reintroduce petrol subsidies, as the GST collection is a major revenue stream, estimated to total RM43.8 billion this year.
The PH government would have to make major spending cuts to accommodate the revenue loss. What will they cut?
The PH government must also prevent Dr Mahathir from returning to authoritarianism if he does not get his way. They must work even harder to repair the institutions that he destroyed when he was first prime minister under Umno.
These are some other dos and don’ts for the new PH government in their first term:
Do amend the Local Government Act 1976 when Parliament convenes and restore local council elections. Although PH did not promise this in its manifesto, 10 PH Members of Parliament from Kuala Lumpur signed a manifesto by the Selamatkan Kuala Lumpur citizen group, which pushed for the election of the KL mayor, community participation in city planning, protection of urban green and public spaces, and to gazette a local plan.
Local council elections should be held in all other states too, of course, so that local councillors and mayors are elected by the people, not used as jockeying positions by political parties.
Do promote transparency and competition in government procurement, as promised in PH’s election manifesto. If PH is serious in producing “the best value for taxpayer’s money”, it should review Bumiputera preference in government procurement.
Do repeal price control regulations and roll back pro-Bumiputera economic policies to create a more competitive business environment. Competition will lead to better products and services and lower prices.
Do enact legislation to protect people from discrimination in employment, education, and goods and services provision. The PH manifesto merely states that it will set up an Equal Opportunity Commission, but several PH MPs have supported secular group BEBAS’ campaign to support laws prohibiting property owners and businesses from discriminating based on race.
Do repeal various oppressive laws that violate freedom of speech like the Anti-Fake News Act 2018, the Sedition Act 1948, the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, and certain provisions in the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.
Don’t use the Senate as backdoor appointments for unelected people as ministers or deputy ministers. The Senate must be respected and further empowered so that it will not simply rubber-stamp laws.
Don’t put yes-men in Cabinet or restrict Members of Parliament or state assemblymen from going against the party line on most Bills in the interest of their constituents.
Don’t stack political appointees in government-linked corporations. The PH manifesto contains this pledge, but the Pakatan state governments of Penang and Selangor in the previous term have not practised this.
Don’t punish BN by withholding funds from Opposition-held states.
Don’t give in to religious fundamentalism. PH should promote secularism, both at the federal level and in the states it governs, by removing enforcement powers from the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) and state religious authorities, which have long violated people’s right to freedom of expression and privacy.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.