Updated on 13 July 2009 at 2.10pm
(Malaysian flag image source: vigilenzmd.com)
THIS Saturday, 11 July 2009, will mark Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s 100 days as prime minister. Be prepared for the swamp of praises for Malaysia’s sixth prime minister and for his 1Malaysia vision.
Three months ago, upon his succession, even his pinkish skin complexion was a subject of compliment in a Sin Chew commentary. Today, one could add a list of achievements that are more than skin deep: bold economic liberalisation, the cabinet’s position on unilateral conversion of minors, and his recognition of mother tongue education.
To win back the non-Malay Malaysian vote at all cost, Najib seems willing to dismantle the ethnocracy his late father built with the New Economic Policy (NEP) and other pro-Malay policies after the 1969 post-election riots.
Some foreign observers have expressed their astonishment at Najib’s boldness in ethnic relations. But they perhaps ignore the fact that Umno’s economic ethno-nationalism is untenable because of the external force of globalisation and the internal force of post-8 March democratisation.
The crude choice before Najib is abandoning Umno’s economic ethno-nationalism in the hope of saving the party, or risk having both Umno and its ethno-nationalism swept away by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s Pakatan Rakyat come the next elections.
“Where is democracy?”
The real test for Najib’s reformist substance is therefore political democratisation, not economic or sociocultural liberalisation.
Why? Umno’s electoral one-party state is what upholds Umno’s ethnocracy. In a multiparty democracy, communalism, corruption and mismanagement cannot be so easily shielded from public scrutiny.
Hence, it shouldn’t be surprising that what is conspicuously missing from Najib’s list of reforms is politics and governance. Netizens have already succinctly framed this lacking ingredient in Najib’s reforms in the 7-11 question addressed to Najib: “Where is democracy?”
KPIs on democracy
With the obsession of Malay-Muslim unity and possibly an Umno-PAS unity government, is Najib’s 1Malaysia essentially an “inclusive” Islamic state “with meritocracy”? After all, Najib has categorically denied that Malaysia is a secular state, and PAS cannot justify its collusion with Umno without some major ideological gain.
So are Najib’s reforms thus far about creating an “meritocratic ethno-theocracy”, where you are allowed to make money freely but must uphold Malay-Muslim (read: Umno-PAS) hegemony? I can’t speak for others, but this is definitely not good enough for me as a Malaysian citizen.
Indeed, as one of Najib’s 11 million bosses with voting rights, I am disappointed that democratisation has been ignored in his first 100 days. Hence, I would like to offer the following 10 Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for his next 100 days as both prime minister and the Barisan Nasional (BN) chairperson who controls nine states.
Fresh elections for Perak
The Perak constitutional crisis has deepened after five months and threatens democracy in Malaysia in the future. A host of unelected institutions — palace, judiciary, Attorney-General (AG)’s Chambers, Election Commission, police, civil service, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission — have all been dragged into this unconstitutional regime change.
If this precedence is not reversed, what will happen in the next general election if neither the BN nor the Pakatan Rakyat enjoys a comfortable majority?
A royal commission on electoral reform before the next
constituency re-delineation exercise
Elections in Malaysia are still neither free nor fair.
(Pic by Steve Woods / sxc.hu)Elections lacking in integrity and credibility not only deny citizens their democratic right, they also reduce the competitiveness of electoral politics. At the same time, they also deprive the winner of legitimacy, possibly resulting in a political catastrophe like Iran or Thailand.
If the rules are not changed, the constituency re-delineation exercise — which may take place as early as 2010 — may set the first time bomb for future disputes.
A parliamentary select committee on judiciary and
The judiciary and prosecutorial powers are still controlled by the executive.
The Judicial Appointments Commission is controlled by the prime minister, making the reform a farce. Judicial power before the 1988 amendment of the Federal Constitution’s Article 121(1) has still not been restored.
The AG still controls prosecution and advises the federal government, resulting in a conflict of interest. The AG also controls deputy public prosecutors and lower court judges, who should be independent from each other.
A royal commission on parliamentary reform
Parliament is still controlled by the executive. There is no sharing of legislative leadership at both the house and committee levels. Opposition parliamentarians are thrown out regularly. There is no provision for the role of an opposition shadow cabinet.
Repeal the Internal Security Act (ISA) and prohibit any law that
allows for detention without trial
The ISA is routinely used to terrorise Malaysians, especially dissenting Malaysians. Allowing detention without trial and other human rights violations by law is simply unacceptable for any civilised society.
Institute the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC)
The police continue to violate human rights. They continue to arrest citizens at whim. Detainees still mysteriously die in police custody. Crime rate is still soaring.
A parliamentary select committee on media law reform
The media still suffers tight political control via media-repressive laws that result in self-censorship. Additionally, the high entry barrier for the print and broadcast media results in monopolistic media control by BN interests.
There is not yet an independent public service media in Malaysia like the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
Freedom of Information (FOI) laws at both federal and
Freedom of information is still denied. Information vital for public interest is normally classified under the Official Secrets Act (OSA). This hinders transparency and accountability, and breeds corruption and mismanagement.
While Selangor is initiating its own FOI law, nothing is happening at the federal level or in other states.
The Godfather Nationwide local government elections
Local governments are still unelected and unaccountable. They are largely unresponsive and incompetent. Local governments are not the mafia, therefore they must be elected to have taxing power.
Amending the MACC Act to increase MACC’s autonomy under optimum parliamentary oversight
Despite the transformation from the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA), the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) still practises selective investigations and is still impotent in curbing corruption.
Like its predecessor, the ACA, the MACC is still controlled by the executive and has no independent power to prosecute. Hence, it remains an executive’s tool to eliminate political opponents, rather than an independent institution combating corruption.
Now, if Najib takes some steps towards achieving the KPIs mentioned above in the next 100 days, then I am willing to believe that he may be a reformist. If he doesn’t, then he is embarking on some economic and sociocultural liberalisation measures just to revive Umno’s hegemony as his father did after 1969.
There is, of course, also nothing to stop him from proposing better KPIs to help the government advance democracy and political freedom in Malaysia. The question is — will he?
[Editor’s note: The above 10 KPIs is a statement initiated by 10 civil society organisations and endorsed by an additional 30. The statement was released at a press conference on 10 July 2009 in Kuala Lumpur. At the time of publication, The Nut Graph was not informed that the 10 KPIs was a civil society-intiated statement.]
A political scientist by training and a journalism lecturer by trade, Wong Chin Huat is based at Monash University Sunway Campus. He believes that people are the government’s boss. They must give clear instructions to their servants and not tolerate government defiance, corruption and incompetence.
I’d like to start a betting pool: my bet? He will hit 0/10 of the KPIs you have selected.
Hafidz Baharom says
Hold on. KPIs number 1 and 9 fall under state jurisdiction, do they not?
Any KPI set for the rakyat? How would we all know what to expect from the rakyat? Just mindless demands for something when we don’t have??
I personally agree with the 10 KPIs for our PM. The PM is heading in the opposite direction in terms of the 10 KPIs in the last 100 days. Very alarming!
In fact, corruption, the police, the judiciary and Parliament [demonstrate] that the government is sliding down more and more in the last 100 days.
They thought they are clever [but] ordinary rakyat can see through the whole deception in a lot of things.
As you have rightly said, “to win back the non-Malay Malaysian vote at all cost”, I see this prime minister is bending forward and backward, just to maintain his and BN’s grip on power, NOT to serve the good of the 11 million bosses. In other words, his first 100 days can be summed up as further amplification of BN’s divide and rule. All the “good” things and all the “bad” things at the same time, meaning nothing has changed.
Just look at Umno’s ethnocentric campaign at Manik Urai. All Malaysians should follow the by-election closely. Umno is basically dying to win it, at all cost, thus exposing its true unchanged ethno colour there.
The KPIs are for Najib as both the PM and BN Chairperson, who in practice controls the nine BN-ruled states.
The first KPI is certainly a state matter in theory. Had it been the same in practice, we would not have the coup in the first place. The coup cannot be resolved now without the consent and in fact instruction of the federal PM.
The ninth KPI unfortunately is no longer a pure “state matter” with the establishment of National Council for Local Governments. It has been a “concurrent matter” in practice with the federal government playing the more dominant role now. Until decentralisation starts, reform would come easier from the federation than from the state.
Islamic country. Even Nizar has denied Islamic country. PAS has denied formation of Islamic country.
1Malaysia? When I am born in this country as a Malaysian but am not entitled to the same rights as other Malaysians? Because I am not bumiputera? Because I am not Muslim? Why the discrimination?
Same old, same old. Just pulling wool over our eyes.
On corruption, recent revelation in Selangor, would like to see some action by MACC. Not only must justice be done, but seen to be done. A successful prosecution on the rakyat’s bloodsucker would amply convince me.
Democracy, what is that? An alien word I guess. Show me your worth, a state election in Perak. That may convince me there is hope – it’s alive.
Police and judiciary, oh boy! No further comments.
Anonymous Coward says
It’s late and I may be reading the list wrong but I believe that you’re missing one key ingredient: allow dissent from all Malaysians, especially those from students. It makes absolutely no sense to talk about tertiary education and the higher mental faculties it will unlock if students aren’t allowed to actually, I don’t know, USE it. Let them engage in debate, it will certainly help build character.
When a society can’t express their grievances and thoughts, that’s when we start to stale. Look around you, Datuk Seri Najib, sir. I’m sure you see signs that our society is starting to get stale.
KPI Posted: 8 Jul 09 : 9.54AM
“Any KPI set for the rakyat? How would we all know what to expect from the rakyat? Just mindless demands for something when we don’t have??”
Perhaps you should try to understand the concept of KPI prior to your commenting on it. KPI are set for employees/suppliers by their employer/client. Basically if you pay, you have the right to assess performance.
Since I cannot remember being paid by the federal government, while I remember being trounced by it, I, as a rakyat, believe I have full rights to evaluate the government’s performance, while I hardly see how and why they’d expect the same of the rakyat.
Unless you follow some BN psyche that “BN/Umno owns Malaysia”.
Brother, when you set 10 KPIs for him, itu susah lah. He needs to set his own standards otherwise where got standard when it is set by others. Even the civil servant, oooph should call them civil master instead, is taking the cue that they are there to serve. Most of them think that we are there to pass our patience test and thus need to endure all the frustrations thrown at us. No doubt there have been some improvement overall, especially in the Immigration Department where passports are concerned, but the overall delivery systems still have a long way to go.
Quite right! Idea good, I support.