Reform the process of the handover of power

In the new Malaysia, one thing should be made crystal clear to every Malaysian: It was the people who chose Pakatan Harapan (PH), specifically under the leadership of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as the prime minister, to form the government. And, this must be respected by all. Whatever the politicking, the overriding factor on which a decision is finally made, must be respect for the choice of the people.

So, why was there a delay in the swearing in of the Prime Minister after the May 9 elections? Why was there an issue over the choice of a mentri besar for Selangor? Why were two candidates sworn in as the chief minister of Sabah and why is that issue still unresolved?

The peoples’ choice was Tun as PM. That was part of the package in voting in PH. In doing so, the people gave him the right to choose his Cabinet ministers, deputies and government heads, chief ministers and mentri besar. So, there should not have been any delay in swearing in his choices. His choices are the choices of the people

Why, then, were there delays? Because of politicking. Interlopers wanted to seize the fluidity of the transition period to place themselves and their people in advantageous positions. That’s politics but it isn’t respecting the will of the people.

The surest way to cut down on the politicking to ensure a smooth transition of power to the parties/coalitions fairly elected is to simply spell out the procedures for transition in the Federal Constitution.

Perhaps, currently, there is some ambiguity in the Federal Constitution that allows for significant players to seize the opportunity to push for their candidates. That can be easily stopped if the Federal Constitution clearly spells out the procedures for the transfer of power.

Amendments can be made to the constitution to add the procedures that must be taken to install a new government. These steps should include a time frame within which the new leader must be sworn in and the time by which the Election Commission should officially announce the results. The procedures must include whether it is the PM or the party or coalition who must submit the names for the mentri besar or chief minister of the state and the number of names to be submitted. The protocol must also state that the swearing in of the mentri besar and chief ministers must come after and not at the same time or before the swearing in of the PM.

These details can be discussed and finalized during the debate in Parliament. Parliament should also settle, once and for all, the oaths that the leaders take. There must be a standard oath for the PM and another or the same for Cabinet ministers, the mentri besar or chief minister.

This will ensure that no one can insert any clause into the oath to secure their position with regard to the candidate. The procedures must be listed so clearly that it will be the standard practice with any government, federal or state, after every general or state elections.

Once the procedures are transparently set out, it would be clear to all concerned just what they should do when there is a change of government. All the delays and politicking we witnessed after May 9 will be greatly reduced or entirely eliminated.

I believe this must be the first reform that the current government must introduce in the first sitting of the seventh Parliament. PH and its allies form nearly a two-thirds majority in Parliament. This issue, however, will appeal to all Members of Parliament, including those from the Opposition as they, too, may want a smooth transition of power should they take over the government sometime in the future.

PH would need to lobby for the support of the Opposition to pass this amendment in Parliament if a two-thirds majority is needed.

When that amendment is made to the Federal Constitution, the people’s will is firmly established and protected and everyone is expected to conform without debate or politicking. Most importantly, the opportunity to change leaders at the last minute will be greatly curtailed and a stable changeover can be expected in accordance with the will of the people.

That will be the first real evidence the people will see of a commitment to the rule of law in this country.

 

 

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Selamat Hari Raya!

This Hari Raya Aidilfitri must be a really special one because it is celebrated under a new government. The economic situation might not have improved. That might take some time before we see evidences of it. But, surely, an oppressive yoke has been lifted off our shoulders with the ousting of the previous government!

That should make this festive season even more celebratory! Not much difference in the amount of money to spend, but, we may be happier! A couple of people have told me how happy they are that the BN government has been booted out! And, they add: “Many people are happy!”

Indeed, we are. So, while Malaysian Muslims celebrate Aidilfitri in this new atmosphere of hope for a better Malaysia, the rest of us can also celebrate with them, visiting open houses or just taking a break! And, if you are a Klang Valley resident, enjoy driving around breezily on the city’s traffic-free roads!

Selamat Hari Raya!

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PH should take pains not to follow in BN’s footsteps

Negri Sembilan Mentri Besar Aminuddin Harun was reported as saying that spouses of senior civil servants are not allowed to attend events organised by anyone associated with the Barisan Nasional (BN).

Now, why shouldn’t they? The wives are not government servants. Even if they were, why can’t they attend a BN function? This is something that a BN leader might have said when BN held the reins of government. BN leaders made the opposition look like demons — the enemy — and who civil servants were not supposed to associate with.

When the people voted for change, we also voted for reforms. Reforms include freedom of association. Even though the government is led by Pakatan Harapan (PH), that does not mean that civil servants can not support non-PH parties or alliances. If PH insists that civil servants and their spouses must support only PH and PH-allied parties, they are no better than the BN that was ousted for such autocratic behaviours.

And, since when did the government have authority over the spouses of civil servants to dictate what they can and can not do?

This ia a case of Animal Farm creeping in. You are now in power and do the same thing you accused the previous administration of doing. No, this must be nipped in the bud!

Civil servants are expected to do their jobs no matter which party or coalition is in government. Who they support is entirely their choice. Who their spouses support is nobody’s concern. However, neither civil servants nor party members holding government positions should use government time and resources to show or lobby support for their political, religious or social causes. Outside of office hours and their scope of work, who and how they support is nobody’s business, unless, of course, it is criminal behaviour.

Aminuddin made the earlier statement in connection with some civil servants who had attended an event organised by the Association of Wives of Barisan Nasional elected representatives and senior state government officials (Pekerti). He said the civil servants had explained to him why they had attended the Pekerti event and that they had assured him that they would not attend any event organised by anyone associated with BN.

This isn’t reform. Under the previous administration, attending a BN or BN-linked event might have been regarded as acceptable and even necessary to get in the good books of the bosses. That practice, however, should be discontinued. Party and party-linked affairs should not use government time, money or personnel and, definitely, should not be funded by the government.

But, in their own time, what civil servants do is up to them.

PH leaders need to think through their decisions so that they don’t trample on the human rights of any individual now that they are in power. They need to be careful not to behave in the same way that BN leaders did for which the latter was booted out.

They have to learn how to respect the rights of others and act in ways that demonstrate it. They have to develop and define a leadership style based on respect for human rights and NOT follow in BN’s footsteps.

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Authorities must be seen acting according to the rule of law

An incident that happened in Manjoi, Perak on May 24 deserved more attention than it got. Members of an NGO forced a convenience store to remove the beer cans it was placing in a cooler. Only two columnists spoke up against the actions of the NGO. Apart from their voices, there was silence from the authorities.

The shop has a licence to sell beer so it didn’t do anything illegal. But, was the action of the NGO legal? Did they have the right to storm into a shop and intimidate the owners or workers to remove products they disapproved of?

Clearly, the action of the NGO was illegal but they got away with it. The police and state government said nothing. It was only after several days that Perak Menteri Besar (MB) Ahmad Faizal Azumu said that the NGO shouldn’t have acted in the way they did. However, he added that the shop operators should have been more “sensitive” to the feelings of the predominantly Malay community.

I can understand the MB’s point of view. But, the important question is: Was the incident handled according to the rule of law? If the NGO’s action was illegal, why was police action not taken? If the locals disapproved of such products in the shop, they could have approached the shop operator and expressed their concerns. Better still, don’t buy the offending product or products or just don’t patronize the shop!

Did the locals ask the NGO to help them or did they take the law into their own hands? I can also understand that under the new government people may feel freer to express their preferences and act on them. Perhaps, the NGO members weren’t aware that, in their zealousness, they were trampling on the rights of others. Perhaps, they were quietly advised against taking such vigilante actions in the future.

This being the new Malaysia, people may be testing the waters to enjoy the freedom to exercise their rights. But, if an action is illegal, the police and relevant authorities must take action and be seen as upholding the rule of law. That was not seen in the Manjoi incident.

The authorities must take the necessary action for it communicates to minority groups that even over a sensitive issue like religion or an issue involving the majority community, they will act according to the rule of law. They can be creative in handling the situation compassionately by giving only a reprimand or a fine, but whatever action they take, it must be clear they are acting within the scope of the law.

We can overlook the Manjoi incident as one that happened too soon after the new government was installed and that the police and MB were unsure of what was expected of them.

Well, we learn from our mistakes. In the future, the authorities must be seen upholding the rule of law and ensure that no one is exempt from it — not the infamous Jamal Yunus who is said to be in hiding or former Sabah MB Tan Sri Musa Aman who seems to have slipped out of the country. The long arm of the law must nab them swiftly and urgently.

When the relevant authorities act according to the rule of the law — and not selectively — it inspires confidence in the people that our institutions can be trusted.

 

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News is getting exciting; don’t Birkin bags show it?

One of the immediate changes that occurred after Pakatan Harapan formed the new government is that news has become interesting! It really is a pleasure to read the printed news now! I don’t know if broadcast news has changed as I don’t listen as much as I read the news.

Prior to May 9, news was boring. Online news portals provided the alternative to government-controlled formulaic, government-speak. I would read the first paragraph and wouldn’t continue as I would know exactly what would follow! It got so bad that I decided I was going to stop the newspapers and rely on the online news portals.

Then general elections were announced and I decided I’ll stop the papers after elections. But, from the day after May 9, news suddenly came alive! There was so much current content that I would read through the story! Before, I would skim through the papers in 20 minutes or so. Now, I take a good one hour of reading and feel very satisfied after!

News is no longer what this minister or Barisan Nasional (BN) leader said or did. Now, the reports give context and background and you get a fairly clear picture of what’s going on.

You see the full work of what the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is doing with regard to 1MDB. You get to see all the accumulated cash in the former prime minister’s homes — people keep RM114 million in cash and RM200 million (unofficial figure) worth of jewellery in their homes? The bank’s deposit boxes, perhaps, are too small to hold all that!

You get to see what the ministers and politicians and even the Sultans are up to!

And, the former prime minister’s wife’s many Birkin bags! Seriously! Why would a woman want that many Birkin bags? One Birkin bag to match every outfit she wears? A Birkin bag’s price ranges from an average of about RM3,000 to as high as over a RM1,000,000 and the second-hand value is even higher. The annual return on a Birkin bag is more than 14%, according to some reports. So, it may be a form of investment.

But, to carry it as a style and luxury item? It may be well crafted but I find the style squarish, stiff and grandmotherly despite the encrusted diamonds! A piece you might see hanging on Queen Elizabeth’s arm! Some of the bags use crocodile skin and I can’t help but feel sorry for crocodiles, although these reptiles don’t make it on my list of favourite creatures in the animal kingdom!

If you can afford a Birkin, I ask, why bother about investments? You are already rolling in a lot of money. Just keep on buying and you still have much to spare! I suppose if you have so much of money you like the challenge of an investment to make more? Well, doesn’t that smack of greed?

Give me a Prada or Gucci bag, anytime. Less expensive and more stylish! Of course, I won’t be buying any of these branded bags ‘cos I’m not in that league of women. More importantly, I’m not one who is defined by the bag or luxury label I carry. But, should my circumstances change (very unlikely!), you definitely won’t catch me with a Birkin!

I digress! But the point is that news opens up all these unseen worlds that we suspect exist but can’t verify. But, when these worlds are spread out before our eyes on the screen and paper, we see a bigger world and it makes us think about right and wrong.

Conversations become interesting. We talk about what is going on and it broadens our worldview. That is what honest journalism does. I’m looking forward to more of it!

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Forgiveness is therapeutic …

Forgiveness is healing — if asking for it is sincere. Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad asked for forgiveness for whatever wrongs he did in his previous tenure as PM and the nation forgave him. As a result, he succeeded in rallying the nation behind him in one concerted effort to oust Datuk Seri Najib Razak through the just concluded 14th general elections.

Tan Sri Tony Fernandes also asked for forgiveness in a personal video for painting an Air Asia aircraft in the BN colours to take Najib back to Kuala Lumpur from Sabah. He might have been sincere but, apparently, the people were not convinced and he was publicly roasted. I can understand the anger of the people against Fernandes for bending over backwards to accommodate Najib without regard to the people who wanted to get rid of him from public office.

To Fernandes’s defence, I have to say that he did not believe that the Pakatan Harapan opposition alliance would win as most analyses still predicted a BN win. (I was the exception because I factored in faith!) Invoke Malaysia predicted a slim majority win on the day before voting day. So, it wasn’t surprising that Fernandes backed the horse, which was the power to be at that time. It backfired and he now has to deal with the fallout.

If asking for forgiveness is sincere it is often transparent. People can recognize it. When we sincerely ask for forgiveness it is because we know our actions have wounded others, whether rightly or not is not the point. The point is we know people have been hurt by our actions and we take steps to correct it.

It begins by asking for forgiveness. And, when we do we won’t make it seem like we are doing it for the sake of expediency. And, it won’t be conditional. We won’t say “if  I’ve done something wrong … please forgive. ”  No, we’ll come out outright and apologize and our sincerity becomes apparent.

When that happens, it is easy to forgive — and forget! I recall a personal experience when I was full of hate for a family member. It took me decades to forgive him and he was too proud to ask for it. But, I forgave him anyway and, somehow, the hate vanished and I began to see him more honestly and stopped judging him. It had an ameliorating influence on our relationship. I was glad we were able to restore our relationship before he passed on.

When there’s a need for forgiveness and we don’t ask or offer it, the relationship remains estranged and no matter what we do we can’t get it back on a good footing. It’s the relationship that is built up when there is forgiveness, and, when that is righted, other things will naturally fall into place.

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GE14 — when the people saved Malaysia

What a week it has been! I’m so glad I was a part of it, like millions of Malaysians! From nomination day to voting day on May 9, the world saw how each one of us did the little we could to make a difference through the 14th general elections (GE14). We urgently ensured that the message to vote for change kept going from one handphone to another. Some of us signed up for polling and counting agent (Paca) training. Many travelled back from far and near to vote, with some forking out the money for others to fly home. Collectively, it was one great united effort by Malaysians of all backgrounds which on May 9 toppled a 61-year-old powerful regime known for corruption. We made history!

We, really, are the stars of GE14! Whether it was the rural or urban voter, the Malay,  Sabahan, Sarawakian, Chinese, Indian or any other Malaysian voter, with one mind, we delivered the mandate to Pakatan Harapan with overwhelming support. We set aside our differences and voted simply as Malaysians. It is a good feeling!

There were those moments of tension when the Election Commission (EC) delayed the announcement of the election results but finally did in the wee hours of Thursday morning and later when we had to wait for hours before Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was finally sworn in as the 7th prime minister of Malaysia. When that ceremony was over by 10.30pm, what great relief!

Soon after, I heard firecrackers go off in my neighbourhood! Some folks celebrating the dawn of a new era in government!

I really couldn’t understand the delays we had to go through. When the people have spoken through the vote, the effort must be to execute their will with speed not delay, especially when it involves their choice of the prime minister and elected officials and formation of the government.

Well, that’s behind us now. We can look forward to a new government to institute reforms to ensure the independence and integrity of our institutions so that they do not lapse in their duty to the people as in the case of the EC in GE14. And, if they do, they will be held accountable.

I also want to see the new government upholding the rights of minorities and ensuring that they are fairly treated.

We, of course, will be watching, allowing them to make mistakes as they learn to govern in the best interests of the people and seeing them get better and better at it. And, of course, when they consistently fail to perform, we will just as easily install another coalition in government!

The new government has a lot of work to do, and, under the able leadership of Tun, we wish them our prayers and best wishes. I hope Tun will get all the support he needs and consideration will be given on account of his age. May all benefit from his insights, understanding and experience and learn fast so that he can call it a day in the confidence that others can easily take over.

I just have one piece of advice for the leaders in the new government: Fear God and act accordingly.

Personally, I just want to thank God for answering not just my prayers but the prayers of millions of people in this country and around the globe. He showed His hand and, through Tun’s leadership, the ground moved! We rallied behind him as one united nation and changed our destiny!

I’ll continue to pray for leaders and others but the specific purpose I felt I had to pray for Tun as a result of my dreams (see previous post) is fulfilled. As far as Tun is concerned, my job is done!

God bless Malaysia!

 

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