The new government consists of reformers, conservatives, secularists, Islamists, the young and the old guard – a mix that could chart a more measured way forward without alienating many, says Ngu Ik Tien.
Civil society in Malaysia has excitedly ushered in the dawn of a new Malaysia. In recent weeks, the Aliran website has received dozens of articles from an array of writers commenting on and expressing their aspirations for the new Malaysia.
The new government has no time for a honeymoon as they face a vigilant civil society and reformers from their own parties. Such a high degree of alertness stems from lingering distrust of the current prime minister who is believed to have been responsible for the expansion of executive power over the judiciary and parliamentary branches during his previous 22-year rule. Apart from this, the members of his party are mostly defectors from Umno, who have not really pledged far-reaching institutional reforms apart from their pre-election desire for the removal of former Prime Minister Najib Razak. Thus the new government under Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s leadership is being closely watched by pro-democracy activists from within and outside the system.
Upon closer examination, the new government consists of reformers, conservatives, secularists, Islamists, the young and the old guard (former Umno leaders and members). This means the new government is not dominated by the old guard (now mainly in Bersatu). But it also means that the ‘new guard’ (including the reformers within Pakatan Harapan parties other than Bersatu) will not be able to extend their influence at a speed and extent that alienates a large segment of the electorate who did not vote for them (eg Umno supporters). This mix in government is important as it indicates that the winners don’t take all – and this will prevent the breeding of extremism.
In this new phase of political development, civil society and individual citizens are cracking their heads searching for the content of the new Malaysia. What’s new about this Malaysia? What values, principles, approaches and styles should this new Malaysia uphold and practise? How to carry out reforms in a clever and less controversial way that is less threatening to opponents?
Let us take a look at the topics and views discussed by our contributors and their hopes for and understanding of the new Malaysia. A wide range of areas is covered. A number of articles urge the government to correct the abuse of power, corruption and other wrongdoings of some public agencies and funds. Specific cases and agencies are mentioned, and measures to tackle them are proposed.
Some remind the government to uphold principles such as the freedom of speech and free media and equip our civil servants to enforce them. One article responds to Lim Guan Eng’s controversial Mandarin statement from the perspective of cultural contestation and political strategy. Some pieces discuss the role of civil society and opposition forces (for instance, Umno) in this new era for Malaysia.
There is more coming and you are welcome to send us your thoughts and comments about the new Malaysia.
Ngu Ik Tien
Co-editor, Aliran newsletter
7 July 2018