ONE odd thing about the Pakatan Rakyat (PR)’s inaugural convention on 19 Dec 2009 was the fact that none of the grassroots level members were given the chance to debate the common policy framework.
Instead, those who “debated” the document after it was unveiled were mainly second-tier leaders from Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), PAS and the DAP. It suggests that PR leaders were eager to push the common platform through and were not about to face dissent from the grassroots.
Perhaps that’s why the overall document seems to offer little more than the usual feel-good policy statements made during by-election ceramah. It does, however, contain certain reforms which, unfortunately, have now been overshadowed by debate over the omission of restoring local council elections. After that fiasco, can anything else the PR says be taken seriously?
Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang and Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang
from PAS, having signed the common policy on behalf of their parties
Some interesting pledges in the common policy:
putting the appointment of the police chief, attorney-general, anti-corruption commission chief and auditor-general before Parliament;
re-delineating constituencies to reflect proportional representation, instead of the first-past-the-post system in elections, to ensure fairer representation in legislative houses;
giving political parties campaign funds based on the percentage of votes obtained in general elections;
decentralising federal management of state economies;
introducing an Equal Opportunity Act to eliminate employment discrimination;
ensuring minimum wage for all Malaysian workers;
free broadband internet service to reduce the digital divide;
prioritising individual entrepreneurs when granting taxi permits over large companies;
having a royal commission to study the overlaps between civil and syariah laws, and having a mechanism to resolve such cases justly;
passing an act to ensure women obtain just treatment in all fields;
increasing the female workforce to 60% within 10 years;
having 30% women representation in all political and government leadership levels; and
guaranteeing 20% royalty from petroleum income to state governments to eradicate poverty.
Datuk Zaid Ibrahim did the first draft of the policy framework,
which was re-worked by the PR parties. He later said the final
version closely mirrored his draft, except for the omission on
These are sound proposals, but the framework is short on implementation specifics. It provides no clarity on what a federal government under the PR would look like, or how the PR intends to carry out these policies.
PR leaders, meanwhile, say that work to formulate steps forward will continue. By now, however, people are impatient to see just how the PR plans to carry out the reforms it has been promising since 8 March 2008.
Sure, PR states are sidelined in federal government allocations. And the PR in Penang and Selangor are new and learning the ropes and realities of governance. But the three parties still largely behave with an “opposition mindset” of issuing counter-statements, making revelations of wrongdoing, and holding ceramah tours regularly.
Not that any of this is wrong, but where are actual examples of PR governance at the federal level? For example, it was 16 months after the general election before the coalition finally announced its version of a shadow cabinet. Other than statements by prominent PR leaders on the prime minister, on the economy and finance policies, and occasionally on education, we don’t hear much from the other PR shadow committees, do we?
Instead, the PR distracted itself with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim‘s supposed 16 Sept 2008 federal government takeover. And in between campaigning for nine by-elections, it has had trouble reining in errant members, a near fall-out with PAS over unity talks with Umno, and both inter- and intra-party skirmishes.
The PR might be more convincing as a federal power if, in addition to the common policy framework, it had also crafted a timeline of policies it will prioritise as a ruling government. It would be impossible and unrealistic for it to implement everything in the framework upon taking over Putrajaya. Many of the proposals involve momentous changes to the status quo in the civil service, private sector and political culture.
The PR has promised a lot in its policy framework, just like it did when its parties endorsed a return of local council elections and made it a 2008 election promise. But what should we make of its common policy, if it had at one time promised to restore the third vote but is now stalling on it? Does the PR not think through the details, like required amendments to the federal act or resistance from member parties, before committing to a stand? What obstacles might there be in the common policies which the PR hasn’t thought about yet?
A rare sight is DAP chairperson Karpal Singh seated between
PAS leaders Datuk Seri Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat (left) and Hadi
Awang. Karpal is an outspoken critic of PAS’s Islamic state
aspirationsFor 2010, my New Year wish for the PR is to produce that timeline of priorities if it were to form federal government. The timeline should include a checklist of mini-reforms that need to happen systemically in order for larger reforms to be implemented. For example, what laws need to be drafted or amended; what happens to judgements by the courts if there is to be a mechanism to resolve civil and syariah overlaps; how foreign investments will be affected if a minimum wage is implemented; how an Equal Opportunity Act can be passed when the Federal Constitution grants bumiputera a special position; and how to ensure a decentralised government will not be stymied by BN-loyal civil servants — just to name a few.
The PR, particularly through the DAP, did well on its proposal for the government to buy back tolled highways from concessionaires and eliminate tolls in a certain number of years. It seems the ruling government is prepared to consider this. If the PR can get cracking on more workable reforms, Malaysians can then have a real choice come election time.