Malaysiakini Opinion

10 things Harapan should do going forward

P Gunasegaram  |  Published:  |  Modified:

QUESTION TIME | All governments routinely claim that they are there for the people and that they will take care of the interests of the people. But is that what they really do? Or do the leaders forget about the plight of the rakyat and focus on other things such as consolidating their power?

To do their jobs properly, the government needs to prioritise the rakyat so that the most important gets done first and the others follow on from there.

To remind Pakatan Harapan, in the midst of all the controversies which have emerged post-May 9, here is a list of 10 things they should be prioritising.

1. Restore our democratic rights

What we need going forward is a full restoration of our democratic rights as envisaged in the original constitution of Aug 31, 1957, nothing less.

That entails removal of all oppressive new laws under the Najib regime such as the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (Poca), Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015 (Pota), Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma), Anti-Fake News Act 2018 and National Security Council Act 2016.

It should also include archaic ones such as the Sedition Act 1948, the Official Secrets Act 1972 (OSA), the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (PPPA), the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 (UUCA) and serious overhaul of the Penal Code to remove ancient laws such as criminal defamation, etc.

After what we have been through, it must be crystal clear to everyone that to remove a corrupt government and one that is not meeting the legitimate aspirations of the rakyat, there must always be a means of check and balance.

Successive BN governments, including those under Dr Mahathir Mohamad previously, have eroded the legal system and undermined the laws protecting individual rights. These have to be rectified forthwith.

As long as these laws exist in the statute books, unscrupulous leaders can use it to oppress the people yet again. It is a matter of regret that not enough is being done in this regard, as one of the key promises of Harapan.

2. Demarcate lines between executive, judiciary and Parliament

If necessary, introduce legislation to do this. For too long, there has been executive interference in the judicial system, even before the time of Najib Abdul Razak.

Judicial independence all but died in 1987 following Mahathir’s interventions to suspend Federal Court judges.

The only recourse the public has against an oppressive executive is the judicial system. For this, prosecution and investigation too must be independent of government.

To ensure that the police toe the line and follow the law (by the way, the police come up tops in surveys of which government department is the most corrupt), an independent commission of investigation for police misconduct needs to be set up.

No matter how much the police maintain that oppressive legislation is necessary, they must follow the law - police brutality in detention is well documented.

3. Redraw constituencies to correct gerrymandering

There can be no argument that the will of the population is reflected in a one-man, one-vote system. However, when you have constituencies several times larger than others, the intention is negated because less people vote for one representative.

Keep differences to a maximum of say 15 percent between constituencies - that will be fair to everyone.

4. Do something concrete about corruption

It is not money that is the root of evil, but corruption in getting the money. So, lay the ground rules - open tenders, no patronage, accountability, an independent MACC reporting to Parliament, no cronyism, contracts no longer under the OSA, and 101 other things.

If current laws are not sufficient to bring those who clearly live beyond their means to account, enact new ones which will clearly require them to account for their assets, forfeit them if they can’t and charge them accordingly.

And why this strange reluctance now for all ministers, MPs and state assemblypersons to make a public declaration of their assets? What are they afraid of...

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