The outcome of the May 9 general election was unexpected and came as a great relief to many.
The nation was swept with a wave of hope and great expectation. The Pakatan Harapan was not so much a coalition of hopeful parties but a hope for the nation to regain its future.
Unfortunately the honeymoon period for our new government is over. When Pakatan Harapan won the election, many asked us what we thought about it and our response was “cautious optimism”.
Now much of the optimism is gone and more caution remains. It is important for the new government to recognise the people have expectations based on the monumental effort it took to bring in this new government.
They need to remember that, so much was our fervour, we were more interested to remove the old corrupt regime, rather than worry about the quality of those elected in.
But are we coming back to same place again; and quickly? We hear this from the vast majority of people; that there is an erosion of integrity in the new government. We’re going back to the old, dark ways.
The government has appeared to regress. The Port Dickson debacle is frightening. It shows how far people are prepared to go to regain power. PKR’s election tussle has uncovered the pettiness of people we had respected.
Our new government should have no compromise for basic, essential issues. It is not unrealistic to do this. Draw a clear line in the sand for your principles, stick by it, and the people will support you. There are five areas where the government should not compromise. These are the areas that will define the government’s ‘character’.
No Prejudice or Bias
There should be no programme, plan or strategy that is biased to any ethnic, religious or cultural group. There are poor in all communities. The poorest in our country are the Orang Asli, Penans, Sabahan and the inner city poor. This backtracking for affirmative action for all to affirmative action for some is immoral.
The government should not be found pleasing one community but meeting the needs of all Malaysians. We should be treated and regarded as one people, one nation.
The condition of our indigenous children is frightening.
If our government can believe that no one in Malaysia is hungry then they need to have a reality check. It is important the government get down to the business of doing basic things.
True leaders are able to admit their mistakes and say when they have gone wrong. They must also be prepared to acknowledge policies or programmes that they put in place which have failed. Malaysians are not looking for facades or nice sounding slogans or nice public launches. We’re looking for reality on the ground.
It’s important to stop wasting money and time on ‘grand’ openings and speeches but get down to the hard work our country needs. If you are constantly busy attending functions how will work ever get done?
We notice that the new government is slowly creeping back to the ‘VIP’ status that the old government flaunted.
You have been given the great privilege to serve the people, not to lord it over them.
Time to stop all this bowing and kissing of hands.
It is embarrassing that we can try to champion human rights and democracy on an international stage when the last few prime ministers have had such a poor track record.
While much of the world has ratified many UN conventions we lag behind countries much poorer and less developed than us. From the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women to racial discrimination, protection of the rights of migrant workers and the convention against torture, we are lacking and found wanting.
None of our governments have adequately pushed for or upheld human rights. The condition of children and adults in our detention centres is appalling.
So it is best that we fix our own home before we point fingers at others.
It is also important to hold up a high standard of human right so as to silence all the emboldened bigots in our nation.
Freedom & Integrity
There is a need to bring more freedom to our nation. Many of us are cautiously aware that our civil liberties are still shackled by draconian legislation. From the Sedition Act to the Communications and Multimedia Act, Peaceful Assembly Act and National Security Council Bill.
While Pakatan Harapan promised to repeal many unconstitutional and repressive Acts, it has failed to do so and now appears to be attempting to keep some of them.
It is an oxymoron that a duly elected government, that represents the people, requires an Official Secret Act (with unlimited scope) to hide behind.
All these Acts disregard basic human rights and are undemocratic. In addition the civil service has been populated by “yes men and women”. This has been the modus operandi of the civil servants for many years. It is important that we breathe life, freedom and integrity back into this vital vehicle for the people.
If we do not encourage people, advisors or staff, who disagree with leaders and bring their diverse and differing opinions and viewpoints to the table, then we are lost.
It is vital that leadership is corporate, shared. There is no place in the world today for any autocratic leadership.
Currently we do not see a shared or united leadership but a fragmented, individual style leadership. The average man is losing faith in the new leadership. Good leadership involves transparency at all levels.
Leadership is not about personalities or a right to lead, but about good governance.
It is also important that the government listen to the people as part of leadership.
It is important to have mechanisms to consult the people before any major plans are put in place.
Pakatan Harapan must be careful that it does not become the new word for BN. If the new government is not prepared to live up to the ideals of what it espoused, then it should rebrand itself as the old government.
The people need hope.
A hope that is grounded in reality and real change.
A hope that we will not be failed again by personal agendas.
We are currently like a newly married couple that has found our spouse lacking in many of the promises made during the courtship period.
We are again uncertain about our nation’s future.
* This was written by Datuk Dr Amar Singh and Datin Dr Lim Swee-Im