By Paul Sir
I THOUGHT the article titled ‘Najib’s Sept 16 fiasco: Glamour announcement but no real change’ published recently in an online news portal was a bit unfair.
Why must we always pour cold water on any plans initiated by the Prime Minister? I think the opposition and the citizenry at large have to give the PM the benefit of the doubt sometimes. Perhaps Najib could be genuinely sincere in wanting to get the reforms going in the larger interest of the nation and people.
Segments of the report in the news portal read:
“To mark Malaysia Day, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak sprung a shock raft of reforms that upon closer scrutiny led nowhere. Civil society and legal experts were left dumbfounded at his audacity and inability to learn from hard knocks of the past that the people were no longer so easily fooled by the superficial and the cosmetic.
“The People’s Justice Party or PKR led by Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim ticked Najib off for trying to give a false impression to Malaysians that they could look forward to greater democracy and social justice, when effectively, there was little real change and a possibility that new laws made to replace the ISA could contain similarly oppressive clauses.
“Firstly, we don’t know what new laws will be made to replace the ISA and Emergency Ordinance. They could be worse. Also, if Najib was really sincere, he would have lifted the Sedition Act and the Official Secrets Act, which they are already using to force the people into obedience. We have always said there was no need for the ISA. The Sedition Act and the OSA are bad enough,” PKR strategies director Rafizi Ramli told the news site.
Let me stress here that I’m no fan of the Prime Minister or the opposition leader. I’m also not a great fan of certain Barisan Nasional leaders or PKR politicians. There are ‘monkeys’ and ‘donkeys’ on both sides. Malaysian voters must be able to dissect the groups and choose wisely, carefully and with responsibility.
However, I would give Najib the opportunity to get his reforms off the ground and see how it goes first before I would criticise him. The way many people have blasted him was pretty unkind to the PM.
I view it this way. Najib is the Prime Minister, like it or not! I would want a serving PM to initiate plans for national reformation and transformation now rather than wait for a new leader to do so years later.
Even if Najib’s reforms are not working as well as hoped for, I would still be glad that at least the PM did make an effort to correct the wrongs. But I have to give him that chance to implement his reforms first.
Then again, how can we be sure that any new PM, whether from Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Rakyat, will be successful in carrying out their reform plans in future? We will never know.
So it’s only fair and appropriate that we give Najib’s new initiative over democratisation the chance to work first.
In his Malaysia Day eve address televised ‘live’ on prime time TV, the PM had promised to revoke the ISA and the three Emergency laws once Parliament begins on Oct 3. Other changes he announced included:
• Government to table motion in parliament to repeal all three Proclamations of Emergency currently in force so that Malaysians can move forward
• Internal Security Act to be repealed; replaced with anti-terrorism laws limiting detention without trial; no one to be arrested for their political ideology
• Banishment Act 1959 to be abolished; Restricted Residence Act 1933 to be reviewed
• Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, that requires yearly renewal of publishing licence by media companies, will be abolished
• The law forbidding assembly in public places will be reviewed to allow freedom of assembly according to international norms
Najib also said that new laws would be enacted to protect the peace, harmony and security of the country.
We all know that the ISA is such a draconian legislation and many, including those in the government, had fought hard to get it repealed.
I believe we can all acknowledge that the ISA was useful in dealing with communist insurgents but since Malaysia is no longer under an emergency period or facing insurgents, the law is irrelevant now.
Of course, we can expect ‘powerful forces’ in the country, even from within the ruling party, who want to preserve the status quo and their vested interests.
Hence, Najib will undoubtedly come under pressure from all fronts.
It is therefore up to Malaysians to come together to support these initiatives with conviction and hope. Again, I have to stress that it is only fair for us to do so.
Nonetheless, I also agree with these comments from a reader in the news portal who stressed on the importance of how laws were carried out by the people entrusted to do so.
“What Najib has done is, he has effectively admitted that outdated laws like ISA and EO have been abused by the government and the police to achieve ends which the laws were never designed for. Now he calls for their repeal, which of course is a good thing, but for real changes to be felt by the people, it is not only the law which needs change, but the manner in which they are used.
“Until the government stops the systematic abuse and misuse of not just the legal system but also institutions like the police and the election commission, civil liberties remain out of reach for us Malaysians. After all, we used to have an independent judiciary who interpreted the law without fear or favour. Nowadays, the government can enact all the shiny new laws they want, because it is the interpretation and administration of those laws which can be perverted.”
Another major point of contention is electoral reform. The PM must walk the talk on this issue which has been prominently highlighted over the past year or so.
It is imperative for the people to continue pressing for swift and effective measures to rectify the current electoral flaws. Electoral reform holds the key to a fair chance of winning the right to administer the country. Without the mandate to rule, all talk of reforms are mere words.
As BN and Najib are the ruling parties now, let’s give them the chance to walk their talk.
Paul Sir is a Borneo Post columnist. Comments can reach the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org