By Stephanie Sta Maria
PETALING JAYA: Kita chief, Zaid Ibrahim, has generously outlined a roadmap for Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to make good his decision to revoke Emergency laws and repeal the Internal Security Act (ISA).
Zaid was among the first to applaud the decision and even went as far as to apologise to Najib for underestimating his political will, especially in rescinding the ISA.
But in his latest blog post today he noted that the announcement itself is not a game changer and that Najib needed to ensure that the reforms are carried out properly and without delay.
“Public opinion of him will reach new lows if people see him as uncertain or not serious about his plans, or if scrapping the ISA is just a rebranding or vote-grabbing exercise,” Zaid said.
“Any delay in implementing the changes will also embolden the hawks in Umno to assert themselves, which will make any progress even harder to achieve.”
The former de facto law minister then put forth a host of suggestions that he believed would strenghten and support Najib’s initiative in order to spur “the first real change in a long time in Malaysia’s history”.
The first was to establish a Justice Ministry outside of the department of the Prime Minister’s Office, which Zaid observed was “already bloated”.
“If the PM were to place matters of law and justice under a separate ministry, he would be telling the people that his priorities are ensuring that just laws and justice for all are the pillars of political and social reform,” Zaid said. “This is what the country needs now.”
The second recommendation was to adopt the British Cabinet practice where the Attorney-General is a Cabinet Minister which would allow for his presence in Parliament to explain some of his more controversial decisions.
“This sense of accountability will put the government in good light,” Zaid said. “More importantly, the weekly meeting among the Attorney-General, the Home Minister and the Justice Minister will help coordinate the several overlapping matters of law involving the three ministries.”
The third recommendation involved the Umno Information Unit going on an “overdrive” to explain the necessity of this political transformation.
Zaid pointed out that after 40 years of explaining why the ISA was needed to preserve peace and even Malay political power, it would take considerable time to explain why it is no longer required.
But the biggest challenge, he predicted, would be getting the support of Umno’s senior stalwarts.
“These individuals may be the PM’s most ardent supporters but they may also have other ideas on how democratic reforms and the rule of law should be implemented,” he said.
“Their statements generally are sometimes less than supportive, even hostile. This must not be the case here.”
Zaid added that the public would be closely following statements made by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Aziz; Information, Communications and Culture Minister Rais Yatim; Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein; and Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin regarding the reforms.
“Opponents of this change can stuff things badly for the PM, so it’s better to deal with them post-haste,” he said. “Their arguments remain the same. They will say the ‘liberals’ who are pushing for change have not experienced the race riots or the harsh time during the Emergency.”
“We are not soft-hearted liberals. We are experienced in life and in politics. But we want change because ISA did not prevent the May 1969 race riots. You need other things other than preventive detention to have better race relations.”
Zaid acknowledged that the ISA was useful in dealing with communist insurgents but emphasised that Malaysia no longer have an emergency or facing insurgents, hence the irrelevance of the law.
He also spoke of the many “powerful forces” who want to preserve the status quo and their vested interests, and cited Perkasa as an example.
“The PM will undoubtedly come under similar pressure elsewhere, even from within his own party,” he said. “It is therefore up to the rakyat to come together to support these initiatives with conviction and hope.” – FMT