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LETTER | Let’s affirm constitutional monarchy, democracy, federalism, rule of law

LETTER | Year 2024 will witness the continuity of the era of poly-crises, in which the well-being of every Malaysian and the nation as a whole would be much affected by global factors, from geo-political conflicts in Eastern Europe, Middle East and East Asia, global warming, other destructions of nature, to job loss and replacement caused by Artificial Intelligence and other technological advancements.

Before such global challenges, Malaysians must realise that we are not enemies of each other. We should remember that crises can call out the best in us. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Malaysians helped each other selflessly in the “kita jaga kita” spirit, regardless of ethnicity, religion or political affiliation.

As the Malay proverb goes, ‘to win a shouting match only to lose the village’ (menang sorak kampung tergadai), such victory is pyrrhic. If we fail to prepare ourselves to turn adversities into opportunities, all will be losers. Whoever forms the next government would inherit a lethargic economy and a discontented population.

While we may compete with each other, as individuals or in various groupings, our destinies are bound to each other. When pandemics, natural disasters and economic volatility hit us, no single community is safe. We sink or swim together.

This stark reality calls for political reconciliation and democratic stability so that we can stand by each other before the colossal global challenges that we are facing.

We urge all institutions, organisations and individuals that love Malaysia to work together towards the affirmation of the ideals below, which are originally enshrined in the Federal Constitution and espoused by the Rukun Negara:

1. Constitutional monarchy, in which all rulers stay above politics and leave governance to elected leaders, such that the royal institutions would not be tainted by controversies or polemics and can unite all Malaysians or citizens of their respective states across socio-political differences.

2. Parliamentary democracy, in which the power of the Executive is unequivocally derived from the confidence of the majority of parliamentarians (who are organised through political parties as aggregators of political aspirations and preferences), and scrutinised, checked and balanced by both opposition parliamentarians and government backbenchers through select committees, plenary debates and parliamentary questions.

3. Federalism, in which powers are meaningfully dispersed between the federal, regional/state and local governments, to ensure the right balance between uniformity and autonomy, equity and competition for the regions and states, and that the local authorities are accountable and responsive to the residents.

4. The rule of law, in which laws are enacted to protect basic human rights and advance the well-being of citizens and residents, not for public authorities to arbitrarily control and silence the population, and effectively applied to all including government leaders, without selective prosecution or impunity, to avoid the cynical notion that “one is innocent until one loses power, and one may regain innocence when one regains power”.

To these ends, we call upon the government and the opposition parties to negotiate a package of political reforms for the remaining term of the 15th Parliament until Dec 18, 2027, which should include the following:

• Political stability: A Fixed Term Parliament Act and a confirmatory vote of confidence for every new prime minister after his/her appointment under Article 40(2)(a) of the Federal Constitution;

• Strengthening of Parliament/state legislative assemblies and political parties: Parliamentary Services Act, more parliamentary select committees, non-governmental business time, recognition of shadow cabinet/Executive Council, law for equitable Constituency Development Fund (CDF), a Political Financing Act which enables public funding of political parties, and an independent Election Commission answerable to Parliament;

• The rule of law: Separation of the functions of Public Prosecution from the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), enhancing the independence of the MACC and the impartiality of the Royal Malaysia Police);

• Decentralisation: A “whole of Malaysia” conversation between the federal government, the regional governments of Sabah and Sarawak, and the 11 state governments in Peninsular Malaysia, to have a comprehensively and carefully planned decentralisation roadmap, with the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) being the main pillar and central guiding document.

Instead of waiting for either side to reach out to the others, we call upon both the government and the opposition to invite the Senate president Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar and the Dewan Rakyat speaker Johari Abdul to act as impartial mediators.

Malaysia belongs to all of us. We call upon all Malaysians, including actors in civil society and the private sector, to support this humble New Year call for stability and accountability.

This message is endorsed by:

Civil Society Organisations

1. Project - Stability and Accountability for Malaysia (Projek SAMA)
2. Architect for Diversity (AOD)
3. Bait Al Amanah
4. Bersih
5. Centre for Electoral Education and Democracy (CEED)
6. Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
7. Citizens Against Enforced Disappearances (CAGED)
8. Engage
9. Iman Research
10. Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas)
11. Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH)
12. Lawyer Kamek
13. LLG Cultural Development Centre
14. Movement for Change Sarawak (MoCS)
15. Muslim Professionals Forum (MPF)
16. National Human Rights Society (Hakam)
17. Pergerakan Tenaga Akademik Malaysia (Gerak)
18. Pacos Trust
19. Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran Negara (Aliran)
20. Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan (Patriot)
21. Persatuan Penulis Berbilang Bahasa (PEN Malaysia)
22. Persatuan Pemangkin Daya Masyarakat (ROSE)
23. Pusat Komas
24. Sabah Action Body Advocating Rights (Sabar)
25. Sarawak Dayak Iban Association
27. Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM)
28. Sisters in Islam (SIS)
29. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram)
30. The Sarawak Initiative (TSI)
31. Tindak Malaysia
32. Transparency International Malaysia (TI-M)
33. Workable Initiatives for Secularism, Decentralisation, Openness and Moderation (Wisdom) Foundation


(Disclaimer: All individuals listed endorse the message in their capacity. Their current or former affiliation is only for identification)

1. Beverly Joeman, Supreme Council Member, Kadazan Society Sabah (KSS)
2. Mohamad Arshad Raji, past president, Patriot
3. Christopher Leong, past president, Malaysian Bar
4. Dashran Yohan, journalist
5. Ambiga Sreenevasan, past president, Malaysian Bar
6. Dennis Ignatius, former Malaysian Ambassador
7. Mah Weng Kwai, retired judge, Court of Appeal
8.Yeo Yang Poh, past President, Malaysian Bar
9. Johan Ariffin Samad, former CEO, Institute for Development Studies (IDS), Sabah
10. John Tenewi Nuek, former ambassador
11. Kuthubul Zaman Bukhari, past president, Malaysian Bar
12. Mohd Hishamudin Yunus, retired judge, Court of Appeal
13. Fazar Arif, founder, Pergerakan Wanita Empowerment Revolution (POW.ER)
14. Alek Tuen, former professor, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak
15. Andrew Aeria, former associate professor, Unimas
16. Cecilia Ng, independent consultant
17. Edmund Terence Gomez, former professor, Universiti Malaya
18. Francis Loh Kok Wah, retired Professor, Universiti Sains Malaysia
19. Lim Teck Ghee, policy analyst
20. Peter Songan, retired Professor, Unimas
21. Phoon Wing Keong, political scientist
22. S Munirah Alatas, former visiting professor, Indonesian International Islamic University (UIII)
23. Toh Kin Woon, member, Board of Directors, Pusat Sejarah Rakyat
24. Derek John Fernandez, councillor, Petaling Jaya City Councillor
25. Abdul Rahman Embong, IKMAS, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia
26. Shad Saleem Faruqi, UM
27. Faridah Tun Fuad Stephens, ex-publisher, Sabah
28. Iqbal Fatkhi, editor-in-chief, Cilisos Media
29. Jahabar Saddiq, chief editor, The Malaysian Insight
30. Jayanath Appudurai, former Director, National Science Centre
31. Jerald Joseph, former commissioner, National Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam)
32. Lim Hong Siang, columnist
33. Maha Balakrishnan, parliamentary consultant and researcher
34. Malek Ali, founder, BFM
35. Martin Vengadesan, associate editor, Malaysiakini
36. Nadira Ilana, filmmaker
37. Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid, USM
38. Wong Chin Huat, political scientist
39. Zaharom Nain, University of Nottingham in Malaysia
40. Richard YW Yeoh, former member, National Electoral Reform Council (2012-16) & Electoral Reform Committee (2018-20), Prime Minister’s Department
41.Sharaad Kuttan, journalist
42. Stanley Yong, vice-president, Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH)
43. Steven Thiru, past president, Malaysian Bar
44. Sri Bernard Dompok, former Sabah chief minister
45. Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim, former secretary-general of treasurer, Finance Ministry
46. Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof, former Dewan Rakyat speaker
47. Simon Sipaun, former Sabah state secretary
48. Thomas Fann, former chairperson, Bersih
49. Tang Ah Chai, president, Persatuan Sahabat Warisan Kuala Lumpur and Selangor
50. Yap Swee Seng, former executive director, Bersih
51. Zikri Kamarulzaman, journalist

This statement is Initiated by Project - Stability and Accountability for Malaysia (Projek Sama), the latest initiative to advocate for institutional reforms.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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