FROM 29 Dec 2008 to 4 Jan 2009, the Chinese media highlighted the reactions of political parties towards the proposal for hudud to be implemented; the Gunung Rapat village chief elections; and the compulsory use of rear seat belts.
On New Year’s day, Yi Ren’s commentary on sinchew-i.com titled DAP need not lower itself examined the dynamics within the Pakatan Rakyat through the hudud issue.
On 20 Dec 2008, PAS vice-president Datuk Husam Musa said during a debate with Rembau Member of Parliament Khairy Jamaluddin that his party would have introduced hudud laws if the Pakatan Rakyat took over the federal government on 16 Sept 2008. In response to Husam’s statements, DAP chairperson Karpal Singh and secretary-general Lim Guan Eng said Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim must respond and not remain silent.
Yi Ren noted that whenever PAS members mentioned “Islamic state” or “hudud”, DAP leaders always wanted Anwar to speak up. However, PKR information chief Tian Chua has replied that Anwar need not respond to every issue.
Yi Ren wrote: “The DAP believes that PAS, PKR and the party itself have equal footing in the Pakatan Rakyat, unlike the Barisan Nasional that follows Umno’s lead.
“If the DAP really feels that the three parties are equal, it is unnecessary to differentiate between leader and follower. The DAP should just seek clarification directly from PAS leaders on issues related to Islamic state and hudud. Seeking clarification through Anwar means the DAP willingly lowers itself to a secondary role.”
Additionally, Yi Ren noted that Chua had said Anwar was the prime-minister-in-waiting and would be the focal point when the Pakatan Rakyat won federal power.
The writer said, “If Anwar and PKR are so ambitious, Anwar should take charge of the situation when his allies are bickering. As the leader of the coalition and the prime-minister-in-waiting, he should not behave evasively or keep quiet.
“Anwar must be able to clarify all of the Pakatan Rakyat’s policies to exert his authority within the coalition. He must have the authority before becoming prime minister.”
Yi Ren noted that PAS has also mentioned that if the Pakatan Rakyat were to take over government, its party president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang was the best candidate for prime minister. Yi Ren argued that this means the premiership is not necessarily within Anwar and PKR’s grasp.
Gunung Rapat election
In Why only Gunung Rapat?, columnist Mu Li said PKR has set a precedence by holding elections for the Gunung Rapat village chief.
The Perak state government earlier announced that no elections should be held, and that village chiefs would continue to be appointed. PKR elected representatives have chosen to defy the policy.
However, PKR merely nominates the elected person to the Perak state government as village chief. The final decision to appoint the elected village chief still lies with the state government.
Nonetheless, the columnist applauded the effort to break the tradition of direct appointment of village chiefs by the state government. Allowing villagers to elect their own chief would result in a legitimate and popular leader for a village.
Mu Li noted that the person nominated may not be someone from PKR, or may well be someone from the state opposition. “Some may think that having an election at the village level may cause losses in terms of political resources. Looking at it from another perspective, the poll could bring many advantages to the party,” she wrote in Sin Chew Daily on 29 Dec.
In the past, village chiefs were directly appointed by the ruling party. If the chief performed well, it reflected well on the party. Conversely, if the chief’s performance was unsatisfactory, the party would be blamed. Hence, the appointment of village chiefs may affect the ruling party’s image or even its performance in the general election.
Mu Li argued that if village chiefs were elected, the villagers could only blame themselves if their chosen candidate failed to perform. She added that electing village chiefs was also about developing democracy in Malaysia.
Furthermore, the writer said some think this move by PKR makes the DAP look bad because the DAP had been the ones eager to implement local council elections. But “revive the third vote” has become a mere slogan in Penang where the party rules.
“It does not only make the DAP look bad. Reviving local elections was one of the promises made by the Pakatan Rakyat during the 8 March elections. Therefore, the success of the Gunung Rapat elections would definitely pressure the five state governments of the Pakatan Rakyat.”
On 1 Jan, PKR Gunung Rapat branch chairperson Ten Chong Yong was elected as Gunung Rapat New Village chief.
Rear seat belts
Zhang Xiang Jian’s commentary in Nanyang Siang Pau on 1 Jan noted that the mandatory use of rear seat belts was one of the more controversial regulations to be imposed in the new year.
Zhang said the measure was commendable because it would provide some degree of protection to passengers. Nevertheless, he said, past experiences show that any good idea, if hastily implemented, would ultimately be ineffective.
Zhang could not comprehend why vehicles registered before 1995 were not affected by the new regulation. He questioned: “Didn’t the government suggest scrapping old vehicles due to safety reasons? Since older vehicles are more unsafe compared with newer ones, why are passengers in older cars exempted?”
Although the authorities have not announced the number of vehicles registered before 1995, Zhang believed there were many such cars. “Implementing a regulation with double standards… how can the authorities gain public trust in making everyone equal before the law?”
He noted that public transportation such as taxis and buses are also exempted from retrofitting rear seat belts.
He said there was also a lack of comprehensive public education, apart from the advertisements and the advice from Road Safety Department director-general Datuk Suret Singh. Zhang said it was unsatisfactory that the department’s official website made ambiguous statements and directed the public to their respective vehicle manufacturers when posed with technical queries.
Given the circumstances, Zhang felt it was too rash to impose harsh punishment on those who failed to buckle up in the rear.