As Umno-Pas combine forces, PH must raise the bar in governance, reforms

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PH must govern in a manner which not only instils confidence in voters but sets a new direction for the country, writes Prema Devaraj.

Before we begin, a quick announcement of a talk we are holding on “Housing for the Lower-income Groups – The Way Forward” at the Aliran office in Penang on Thursday, 7 March 2019 at 8pm. You may still register for the talk here.

The by-election in Semenyih is over with Barisan Nasional (BN) emerging victorious, while finger- wagging at Pakatan Harapan (PH) has begun in earnest.

A growing number of I-told-you-so articles in other media portals have popped up. The concern over the loss of voter confidence (ie erosion in support for PH) had actually started much earlier, but was PH actually listening?

Also needing to be factored in is the reality of what happens when Umno and Pas combine forces (in terms of their combined share of votes) as was also seen in the Cameron Highlands by-election. If Umno and Pas continue to cooperate in this manner, PH could apparently lose more by-elections and possibly many parliamentary seats in the next general election. PH needs a strategy to deal with this.

Meanwhile, the ethno-religious card continues to be unashamedly and irresponsibly played. Both BN and Pas seem to be experts in this area and some voters are falling for this. It is a dangerous game that will fuel mistrust and misunderstanding among Malaysians and divide our society.

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Already, there has been strong condemnation against this dangerous whipping up of ethno-religious sentiments. Calls continue to come from civil society for moderation and for the need to stop ethnic stereotyping. But what is PH’s plan to tackle this?

In addition, it is baffling that despite all the exposes on corruption and upcoming court cases, some voters can still choose to vote for a candidate from BN. What does the slogan “Malu apa bossku” say about the psyche of the supporters of the previous prime minister, who is currently facing charges in court for corruption?

PH has to learn some hard lessons from both the Semenyih and Cameron Highlands by-elections. The next by-election is at Rantau, a state assembly seat in Negeri Sembilan. Now what approach will PH take and what will be the outcome of that?

Without doubt, PH has a tough job trying to get things right after several decades of poor governance and corruption under the previous regime. It will take time to change mindsets and put in place good governance structures and practices. But voters’ expectations are high, and many are frustrated over what seems to be a slow pace of change.

The U-turns over a number of issues (eg the abolishment of the National Civics Bureau (BTN) and the recognition of the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC)), the growing concern over Umno defectors joining Bersatu, and the possibility of the latter turning it into an Umno 2.0 are among some of the criticisms being levelled at PH.

So while PH gets through the first year, perhaps one yardstick of measurement of progress could be how well it addresses the needs of the voters.

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In the meantime, PH must really govern in a manner which not only instils confidence in voters but sets a new direction for the country. For many of those who voted for change, the possibility of PH being a one-term government would be a disaster for the country.

On the upside, the shocking allegations by Court of Appeal judge Hamid Sultan Abu Backer has led to the announcement of a royal commission, which will provide an opportunity for the reform of the judiciary. It is high time this happened. Aliran had earlier supported the call for a royal commission through an online petition.

Over here in Penang, sustainable development continues to be problematic. Groups have called for a cancellation of all proposed coastal reclamation projects. They have also expressed concern over a residential project on the sensitive hill slopes of Sungai Ara, which is said to breach UN sustainable development goals.

Allegations by an online website report over a recent probe by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) into the Penang-tunnel-and-three-highways project surfaced recently. Aliran issued a statement requesting clarification over the matter.

The MACC has since confirmed that it opened six investigation papers over the Penang undersea tunnel project, some of which were completed while others are ongoing.

As ‘development’ in Penang continues, civil society groups led by Penang Forum and Consumers Association Penang staged a protest against the mega-road projects in the state.

It is a battle for sustainable development on many fronts on the island.

The question of focusing on the small picture (ie local) as opposed to the big picture (ie national) has been raised. But as someone said, “if it can happen in Penang, it can happen anywhere in Malaysia.” So take heed.

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Wishing all our readers a good month in March.

Prema Devaraj
Co-editor, Aliran newsletter
5 March 2019

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At least it took UNMO / BN to become Corrupted, Abusive, Arrogant, Racial, Rusty & Rotten after 61 years in Power. Looking at the speed PH is going………. its already getting rusty super fast.