Such a framework would enable the government to inform the people that it needs a a reasonable timeframe to carry out its reforms, writes WH Cheng.
Prior to the 2018 general election, the then opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan (PH) laid out its manifesto for the people to decide which coalition of political parties they wanted to run the federal and state governments.
The people made their choice on 9 May 2018 to kick out the then corrupt Barisan Nasional (BN) government and install PH in its place to reform and govern our nation. They wanted the new government to introduce new policies and institutional reforms, combat corruption and correct the wrongs in the judiciary system and the civil service which had been tarnishing our nation’s reputation for years.
In aftermath of PH’s takeover of federal government, it discovered that public coffers had lost billions of ringgit as a result of the swindling, mismanagement and corruptions by previous ruling coalition leaders. Much has gone missing and is unrecoverable.
As a result, the nation’s debts are at the highest lever ever – almost a trillion ringgit – and the nation’s currency devaluation continues. This has caused some inflation, which affects the lives of many Malaysians.
Now let us look back at the PH manifesto, which was laid out to gain the people’s support last year. The PHmanifesto was merely a list of plans that it would carry out if it had won poewer. The contents of the manifesto were great, and it had a tremendous impact on people, who were inspired to vote for change. Finally, they made it happened on 9 May 2018.
Upon taking over power, PH found public coffers almost empty, making it impossible to carry out most of its plans immediately as stated in its electoral manifesto. The funds were simply insufficient to kick-start the many kinds of reforms and changes.
This has caused some resentment among those who voted for PH to replace BN. Many people became disappointed because “promises” were not fulfilled after PH took over the government. Yes, there are many constraints due to the large amount of debts left over by the previous BN coalition, which the nation for 61 years.
To add more pain to the people’s disappointment, BN leaders have started attacking the PH government by alleging that the new administration has broken its manifesto promises.
The BN leaders’ political ploy has put PH in an awkward position because it has already become a “reality” that PH is unable to fulfil the manifesto pledges.
The majority of the people are ordinary citizens, from daily wage-earners, middle-class folks, small-time business people right down to the low-income groups. Many of them do not look at politics and socio-economic matters deeply because they do not understand the situation well.
This is how BN leaders get to easily exploit the people’s disappointment because the majority of the people themselves are lacking in socio-political and socio-economic awareness.
Come up with policy framework
To counter BN’s exploitation of the people’s disappointment, PH leaders should come up with a policy framework if they are not able to fulfil what they had pledged it their electoral manifesto.
People get disappointed easily when “promises” made in electoral manifesto are not met; they get upset when these “promises” were taken off, not implemented, postponed or cancelled. People will just simply say, is PH trustworthy? Is it just like BN?
This does not reflect well on PH, which has just begun to rule this nation. It has just lost one of its previously won state seats in a by-election. This was mainly because it did not have a policy framework. If it had such a framework, PH could have informed the people of the timeframe needed for the implementation of its plans and reforms.
For example, PH promised to establish an independent police complaints and misconduct commission (IPCMC) as an effective oversight body. In the end, the home minister said the government needed more time to study the impact and to get feedback from stakeholders before the commission could be established.
In this case, no timeframe was given, indicating that the government lacks the will to push for the establishment of the commission. As a result, people got upset as the implementation was not immediately carried out and the reasons given were unclear.
The other pledges include
- the repeal of the Sedition Act, the Fake News Act and the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act
- amendments to unjust sections of the Criminal Procedure Codes, the Printing Presses and Publications Act and other laws
- parliamentary and judicial reforms.
Many people are still unaware that the Dewan Negara (Senate) is still preside by a BN leader and the majority of its senators are from BN, which makes it impossible to repeal some laws immediately.
Only when the tenure of these BN senators expires will it be possible to repeal or amend unjust laws and reform the entire parliamentary and judicial system – without being blocked by these BN senators.
A policy framework should therefore be established to inform the people that PH needs a reasonable timeframe to carry out these reforms and changes due to all these political constraints. Even the Federal Constitution cannot be amended as of today because PH lacks the required two-thirds majority.
The people are now watching and complaining that this new government’s reforms are too slow. They grumble that is has not been effective in getting rid of old habits, abuse of power, mismanagement, low productivity and ineffective policies.
Sabotage on a small scale is believed to be taking place within the government machinery. This is partly because some diehard BN supporters within the civil service are allegedly trying to undermine the efforts by the PH government and leaking information to BN leaders.
The PH government needs to move very quickly in dealing with these negative elements within the civil service so that it can get on with its reforms as soon as possible. It needs to ensure that the government machinery clearly informs the people and keep them up-to-date on its policy framework.