What if I Were the Pakatan Rakyat Prime Minister of Malaysia Today
Pakatan Rakyat is a loose coalition of 3 major opposition parties in Peninsular Malaysia, namely:
- Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR);
- Democratic Action Party (DAP);
- Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS).
Time and again, the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition has attacked the Pakatan Rakyat as a non-viable political coalition because of what it claims to be the diverse and irreconcilable agendas of the 3 component parties.
It is true that PAS has always aspired to turn Malaysia into an Islamic state, while the DAP has pointed out that the Merdeka Constitution (the original Independence Consitutition of 1957) has stated very clearly and in no uncertain terms that Malaysia is a secular state.
The DAP has always advocated a 'Malaysian Malaysia' where all citizens are treated equally, strongly opposing the Barisan Nasional's apartheid system of dividing Malaysians into Malays and non-Malays in its so-called affirmative actions to bring about a "more equitable society". PKR and PAS, apparently support such a stance, since apartheid and Ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy) are antithesis to the teachings of Islam.
DAP's Uneasiness with Islamic State Doctrine
Resolving the Islamic state issue
It seems obvious clear to me that the Islamic state issue has to be resolved one way or another, if Pakatan Rakyat is to become a viable and stable, long-term political coalition. In as much as it is inconceivable for the DAP to drop its "Malaysian Malaysia" agenda, so also is it inconceivable for PAS to drop its "Islamic state" aspiration.
To me, there is only one solution, i.e. to allow all state governments controlled by PAS to run their respective states as an Islamic state, while maintaining the country as a secular nation, as agreed upon at the time of independence. The status of "Islamic state", however, will persist only in so long as PAS rules the state.
Prime Minister Najib Razak Lied on CNN with Proof (July 2011)
A nation based on honesty and integrity
Malaysia ranked No. 54 in Transparency International's 2012 Corruption Perception Index, and No. 60 for both 2010 and 2011. Now, these figures does not take into consideration institutionalized corruption, or to call a spade a spade, "legal corruption".
Where else in the world can you find a government that allocates shares to its Ministers, when privatizing a government asset? Where in the world can you find a government that awards contracts to its own party members via "negotiated tenders" wherein the tender price is confidential? Thus, if institutionalized corruption, the bigger evil, were taken into consideration, it is my belief that Malaysia would be lucky to even be ranked at No. 100 in Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index.
There is absolutely no reason why Malaysia, with Islam as its official religion, should fare so badly, as compared to secular Singapore, an island state that was once part of Malaysia. Something is truly wrong. Some claim that Singapore is easier to control because of its much smaller size. How then did Finland, a country slightly larger than Malaysia, managed to become No. 1 in Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index in 2012?
If I were Prime Minister, I would make Malaysia one of the Top 10 countries in Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index as my top priority. As it is, many problems that Malaysia are facing are closely tied to corruption:
- Racism to justify why one race should have more than its fair share of the nation's wealth;
- Lack of transparency and accountability;
- A civil service that is nothing more than a pliant tool to the Barisan Nasional;
- Constant lie-telling (as is often said, you need 10 lies to cover one);
- Abuse of power;
- Removal of the independence of the judiciary so that the government can get away with murder, so to speak.
If we are really committed to eradicate corruption, then most of the problems that Malaysia faces will automatically go away.
If I were the Prime Minister, I will make it illegal to require anyone to declare his race in any application form, whether be it for government or for employment purposes. Why is race so important? Aren't we all Malaysians? While making it illegal to require one to declare his or her race will not wipe up racism, it will definitely be a positive step toward making people become more aware and conscious that we should not indulge in racism.
On this note, we have to tell the Malays who, according to the Malaysian Constitution, must be Muslims, that Ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy) is forbidden in Islam. Surah al-Hujurat (49:13) clearly stipulates that, and the Prophet himself said in his Last Sermon: "All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white, except by piety and good action."
Ketuanan Melayu was strongly promoted during the premiership of Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, an Indian Muslim who claimed himself to be a Malay through his mother's lineage. Many have said that it would take many decades to undo the harm that Mahathir had done to Malaysian society.
The New Economic Policy
The New Economic Policy (NEP) was supposedly a socio-economic restructuring affirmative action program, launched by the Malaysian government in 1971. Along the way, it was hijacked and became a Malay agenda. But let's look at what its two-prong objectives are:
- to eradicate poverty, irrespective of race; and
- to restructure society, so as to eliminate the identification of race with economic functions.
How does a program that attempts to eradicate poverty, irrespective of race, became a Malay agenda? The power of the mind to rationalize and justify is indeed amazing. There have been pressures to abolish the New Economy Policy but personally, I think that the policy is good for all times and should be implemented according to its spirit, with hijackers of the program being put behind bars where they rightly belong.
Autonomy, as far as state economy is concerned
Why should the Federal Government have a bigger say as regards to the state economy, as compared to the respective state governments? Why should the Federal Government take 95% of the oil revenues from the oil-producing states, leaving them with only 5% each? Despite being resource-rich and one of the oil-producing states, Sabah is today the poorest of all the states in Malaysia. Why?
Personally, I would think that it is better for the respective states to be responsible for their own economy, with the Federal Government acting as a mediator and coordinator, when economic development involves two or more states. The Philippines moved successfully to a decentralized system in 1992 and the change has had an invigorating effect on local politics and business, as people assumed greater responsibility for and control over their own communities. Indonesia is following suit. As a matter of fact, many successful MNCs are empowering their subsidiaries these days to become independent profit centers.
Vernacular education has always been a bone of contention since Independence. The two major minority races in Malaysia have always fought for the continuance of Chinese-medium and Tamil-medium schools. Some 96% of Chinese children and 56% of Tamil children go to Chinese- and Tamil-medium schools respectively. The parents of these children want mother tongue education for their children for the building and the preservation of cultural heritage, identity and dignity. The Barisan Nasional government, while practicing race-based political parties, has time and again pointed out that allowing vernacular education would lead to racial polarization. It simply does not add up.
In 1983, the Malaysian government made an exception to its National Education Policy by allowing the International Islamic University Malaysia's (IIUM) language of instruction to be in English and Arabic. As Malaysian law does not allow for this, UIAM was incorporated under the Companies Act 1965. Today, the medium of instruction and administration of practically all private universities in Malaysia are in English. This being so, why then does the government still oppose vernacular education? Why the double standards? It must be borne in mind that China and India are potentially two of the world's largest economies and that proficiency in the Chinese and Tamil languages would serve as a competitive advantage for Malaysians trying to do business in China and India.
Independence of the Judiciary
The 1988 Malaysian constitutional crisis was a series of events that began with the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) party election in 1987 and ended with the suspension and the eventual sacking of Tun Salleh Abas, Lord President of the Supreme Court. Many saw the sacking as the end of judicial independence in Malaysia, with Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's actions condemned internationally.
Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who would eventually become Malaysia's 5th Prime Minister, said: "For many, the events of 1988 were an upheaval of the nation's judicial system. Rightly or wrongly, many disputed both the legality and morality of the related proceedings. For me, personally, I feel it was a time of crisis from which the nation never fully recovered."
For me, I personally feel that the only way to restore judicial independence is to allow appeals to the Privy Council in England or a court of similar standing. In this way, even if the Executive were to interfere with the independence of the Judiciary, it would not succeed.
Higher Salaries for Members of Parliament and No Business Involvement
In Singapore, the salaries of ministers and top civil servants are pegged at two-thirds the average income of the top 4 earners in 6 professions: accounting, banking, engineering, law, local manufacturing firms, and multinational corporations. These professions were chosen because their top members had general management skills which ministers also need to have. The Singapore government's rationale is that while it does not want pay to be the reason for people to join the government, it also does not want pay to be the reason for them not to join, or to leave after joining.
I think Singapore is doing the right thing. Why should politicians holding government office be paid lower than market rate and then tolerate corruption? A Member of Parliament or State Assemblyman should run his or her constituency like a business organization. And to avoid conflict of interest, all government personnel should not engage in business. They have to choose one or the other.
Addressing a bloated civil service
At 4.68%, Malaysia has the highest civil servants-to-population ratio in the Asia Pacific, topping:
- Indonesia's 1.79%;
- South Korea's 1.85%; and
- Thailand's 2.06%.
Such a situation obviously promotes inefficiency. At the moment, civil servants are also poorly paid. On February 19, 2013, the Congress of Unions of Employees in the Public and Civil Services (Cuepacs) pressed for a review of the civil servants’ salary scale, pointing out that it has been stagnant for the past 20 years.
Won't it then be a win-win situation to reduce the size of the civil service and increase every civil servant's salary to market rate?
Due to space constraints, I will not touch on many other matters, not the least of which is electoral reforms. Notwithstanding, I believe that even if any Malaysian Prime Minister can achieve just half of the above, many Malaysians would be quite satisfied for at least another 5-10 years.