William Leong makes welcome announcement – but Anwar needs to affirm it

Bersih held its first meeting with a serving prime minister when the team met Anwar Ibrahim on 28 February 2024 - ANWAR IBRAHIM/FACEBOOK

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Aliran welcomes the willingness of a parliamentary committee to vet candidates for the vacant post of Electoral Commission chair.

According to the head of the Special Select Committee on Human Rights, Elections and Institutional Reform, William Leong, the committee is ready to review the candidates and submit its recommendations to the king. He said the process will be conducted openly and in consultation with Parliament.

This breath of fresh air came after 56 NGOs (including Aliran) and 24 individuals submitted a joint memorandum to the government.

In the memo, we urged the government to ensure that the new chairperson will be nominated and vetted by a bipartisan parliamentary standing committee.

We also want the candidate to be someone who will uphold fairness and integrity and be independent enough to propose and implement reforms. The most pressing of these reforms is the redrawing of lopsided constituency boundaries.

Now, all that’s left is for Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim to confirm Leong’s remarks and reassure the public that the process will follow parliamentary procedures.

Before this development, Aliran and other civil society groups were dismayed over the term extension – once again – for Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission chief Azam Baki. This has left the public with the distinct perception that Azam, who was plagued by controversy not long ago, will be beholden to the government.

Until now, the pace of reforms introduced by the “unity government” since it took over the federal government in November 2022 has been agonisingly slow.

Responding to criticism about the slow pace of reforms, Anwar said radical change would trigger anger and frustration. “You assume that the elites have all the answers without even interacting with the masses. I think this is the basic flaw of the so-called elitist-democratic ideals,” he added.

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The basic flaw in Anwar’s argument is this: there is nothing elitist about seeking reforms when those reforms are in the interest of the people. For instance, if credible, independent people are appointed to helm the Electoral Commission and the MACC, they will strengthen checks and balances on the government. The public interest will be safeguarded. Who could possibly object to that?

What about the repeal of the repressive laws that curb the freedom of the people? When can we see that?

We need not only institutional reforms but also socioeconomic reforms. For example, the minimum wage of RM1,500 should be raised, as it remains well below a living wage of over RM2,000.

The current slow pace of reforms will lead to public apathy and even a withdrawal from the electoral process. Already we have witnessed low turnouts in state and by-elections since 2022.

What is sorely lacking is an agreed, shorter timeline for key reforms. The government needs to quicken the pace of reforms if it wishes to regain its lost credibility.

Aliran executive committee
18 May 2024

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.
AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
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