Let’s not take our eye off the ball

This regime needs to be seriously monitored and not treated with kid gloves

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Is this what the ‘New Deal’ is all about, we wonder?

Many in the media deemed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Malaysian government and opposition Pakatan Harapan as historic.

Others felt the MoU was timely to stop the politicking and rescue the nation – given the Perikatan Nasional regime’s insipid attempts at saving the country from a public health and economic disaster.

The proponents and the sifus behind this caper saw it as a win-win deal, purportedly reflecting the growing maturity and professionalism of Malaysian politicians from all sides.  

And so it came to pass that this ‘historic’ MoU was inked on 13 September by both coalitions from opposite ends of the political divide.

The sifus who had declared themselves `principled opportunists’ saw this as a victory for common sense.

It illustrated for them a taming of the wild Perikatan Nasional/Barisan Nasional beast, which, they assume, had been reduced to this weak state because of infighting and the existence of self-serving clusters.

Now, on top of this MoU or ‘confidence-and-supply agreement’ that sees both sides cosying up to each other, we had Ismail Sabri declaring that he wants to treat us all as one “Malaysian family”.

On paper and in a vague way, everything seemed set for a concerted joint effort that would see Malaysia’s public health and economic problems ably tackled and, God-willing, resolved.

That was about a month ago.

We appreciate that the wheels of reform – yet again – move rather slowly, given decades of institutional and procedural abuse and the reluctance of many to pursue change. 

After all, the MoU was drawn up out of desperation, more so the desperation of the PN regime, rocked by scandals and incompetence and holding only a slim parliamentary majority.

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More worrying developments have been taking place, with little comment or the expected pushback by our representatives in Parliament. It is this almost deafening silence that is the primary concern of many Malaysians.

The recent freeing of Umno MP Ahmad Maslan is a case in point. Maslan was set free from a money laundering charge that had been set for trial because the prosecution withdrew the case after he agreed to pay a ‘compound’ of much less than what he was charged for laundering.

His case is not uncommon, of course. Indeed, many Malaysians have watched in horror as one after another of the charged politicians and their family members walk away from court, free from any penalty and, in fact, seemingly rewarded for their dastardly deeds.

What’s even worse is that when they were compounded (surely reflecting their guilt?) the fines they have had to pay have been much less than the amount they reportedly stole or laundered.

This has become so commonplace under this regime that nobody seems to want to condemn and challenge these decisions, mainly by the Attorney General’s Chambers.

The latitude given to these cases from the ‘court cluster’, their impunity, has made many Malaysians question whether justice is really being sought after in Malaysia’s legal system – whether, indeed, justice is blind.

While ordinary Malaysians may shake their heads in despair, their representatives have been slow to respond or, worse, have been silent.

When they do respond, as PH’s presidential council did on 2 October, the response has been rather muted, politely seeking clarification from the attorney general instead of demanding valid explanations.

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Is this what the ‘New Deal’ is all about, we wonder? Where blatant disregard for law and order is met with polite queries?

Being professional and mature – our representatives need reminding – does not mean being muted or, worse, neutered.

If some act, some blatantly unjust decision has been made, it needs to be condemned and explanations – and even a rethink – demanded.

Politeness and servility have their place – and limitations.

Turning the other cheek with a regime that – from the Sheraton Move to the dismissal of Parliament and the proclamation of an emergency – has resolved nothing for suffering Malaysians, is perhaps not the wisest thing to do.

Granted, we – and, more specifically, the Opposition – must not simply buruk sangka (view the situation in a prejudiced way). 

But let us remain vigilant and oppose openly and loudly, when such opposition is needed. It is not as if the regime has changed its colours overnight.

The barefaced disregard for the spirit of the law, the flaunting of the idea of law and order, all need to be questioned, criticised and, if need be, roundly condemned.

The fact is this regime can talk about a ‘Malaysian family’, yet, in the same breath, threaten the livelihoods of freight forwarders with recent demands for 51% bumiputera ownership of these companies by the end of next year.

It is a regime that is evidently still without a conscience – a regime that needs to be seriously monitored and not treated with kid gloves, even if it includes opposition MPs’ constituencies in its award of “special allocations” for the last four months of this year.

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After all, we don’t want to move from being a ‘principled opportunist’ to simply being an out-and-out opportunist.

Rom Nain
Co-editor, Aliran newsletter
3 October 2021
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