Reinventing Malaysia, post-Umno
COMMENT A leadership change is necessitated by the crisis of confidence which has permeated Malaysian society and international awareness in a way that is unprecedented in the nation’s modern history.
This has been abundantly argued in innumerable news articles, op-eds, blogs and a tidal wave of social media, often in views so hotly expressed that we could not repeat them in polite company.
The urgent need of the day is for the rakyat is to wake up and fight for the constitutional and parliamentary democracy of the nation, and repair the country’s institutional framework.
The ultimate victim of bad governance and loss of rule of law are the rakyat themselves. We will have to labour to rebuild the institutional infrastructure and reclaim political stability, and fix the damage inflicted by the actions of its current leaders - Umno/BN-led administration, upon their constitution. So, it is therefore the responsibility of all Malaysians to repair the impact of this fiasco which is growing day by day.
The new leadership will have to show strength and clarity, and explain that this is the time to repair the government, the institutions, the image, the economy, and the currency.
Tasks for new leadership
The people will get their chance to express their vote in the next GE. In return, their leaders (the new leadership) must pledge the following:
A. Protect constitutional democracy and institutions that serve it
Arguably the biggest concern is the erosion of the constitutional framework which protects and facilitates the functioning of democracy in the nation. To all Malaysians, from those in government in positions of power, to the rakyat in the kampung, the responsibility to protect the constitutional democracy is of utmost importance.
By weakening the institutions put in place to ensure constitutional compliance, the current crisis has struck at the heart of the framework which allows democracy to function and that cannot be allowed or condoned, regardless of party, creed, race or other affiliation. Making this a rallying point will serve not only the interests of the Nation, but also align the interests of ruling and opposition political parties, intellectuals, moderates, and all citizens.
B. Protect the ringgit and reverse its decline from its historic lows
The most transparent benchmark for confidence in Malaysia is the ringgit. The fact that the currency has broken 20-year lows against the US dollar is the clearest indication of a loss of faith both domestically and internationally, and not just in the Malaysian economy but also in its political stability and institutional credibility. To put it simply, those with a stake in Malaysia have spoken with their feet and are heading for the exit.
There is talk about Bank Negara intervening as a means to stalling its decline. This is akin to sticking a plaster upon a severed artery. Instead of staunching the flow of funds, all that this will accomplish is the impoverishment of Bank Negara’s hard currency reserves, and a corresponding increase in the cost of doing business in and out of the Country. Besides, with reserves already depleted the financial marketplace is fully aware that Malaysia doesn’t have the wallet to play the game – if foreign reserves run dry there’s a real risk of a free-fall of growth coupled with hyper-inflation.
C. Open the kimono on Umno
The extensive scale of the current crisis, arguably unprecedented in our nation’s history, requires comprehensive and transparent accountability. Mapping out the mechanism for dismantling, fixing, and reconstructing the institutions in question, including the highest office of administration, is a herculean task and one that the new leadership must embrace instead of trying to cover up.
The many scandals have created a complex web of deception and confusion, which must now be unraveled strand by strand. The leadership owes the public a reconciliation of past accounts, and a new narrative to facilitate the future progress of society. Only if there is a robust and credible clearing up of open questions, can there be made the space to talk about a new future.
D. Facilitate the international investigations into the scandals
International regulators across multiple jurisdictions have smelled blood, and they are going in for the kill. From the plethora of published investigative reports by world leading main stream media, they have the ammunition they need and the target in sight. The brand of the country must be restored, and although such investigations hurts nationalistic Malaysians who see their highest office openly questioned, impeding them compromises the ability of the nation to act as equals on the world’s stage and allows others to take full advantage of our weakness.
The new leadership must recognise we are simply fueling the fire with our attempts to shut down the discourse. Leaving aside the fact that these actions lack teeth in its bite - and therefore make us look even weaker - they must accept instead the benefits of open accountability which are numerous and favorable not just to government, but to commerce and private citizens alike.
E. Support a new domestic dialogue on social media
Gone are the days when propaganda can be projected upon the public in a one-way format. In truth, Malaysian society has always been a far cry from despotic rule, and we should uphold with pride our best traditions of inclusiveness, cooperation and understanding for one another, which need to be restored not just in the state-controlled media but also across all digital platforms.
Today, the dialogue with the public is not just two-way, but unconstrained and even enhanced by technology. Ideally there should be some regulation of this traffic so that it meets the norms of society, and eventually it will definitely be so. Some opinions expressed in social media are wild and unconstrained, but equally many in society find this platform the only avenue for honest expression of their opinions. To ignore the public discourse on social media is to do so at our own peril.
Looking at the current flow of comments, it’s clear that executive actions that overreach its legitimate scope and intrude upon the rights of independent empowered overseers, is a source of much frustration and anger. A new transparency, accountability and respect for the sanctity of independent bodies is needed. We must forge a new social reality. Indeed, the most resonating endorsement of a revised strategic vision will be its own validation in social media. Going forward, we must give as much importance to social media in communication as to traditional or main stream media.
Social media show the rakyat knows very well the tricks Umno has employed to duck and dive the allegations of many scandals. First they must go, so that we can start to take the necessary steps.
For Umno to go, the new opposition alliance must present themselves as a united-credible-alternative with sound plan and manifesto to save and reinvent Malaysia. To be able to offer that, the opposition alliance must put aside all their party and personal interests for once, and look at the rakyat’s and nation’s interest.
Don't give Umno ammunition
To save and reinvent Malaysia, the focus must remain to win the next general election with a credible and pragmatic manifesto and form the new government.
And to win, the opposition alliance must negotiate magnanimously in building a new powerful coalition of the willing, to take on mighty Umno/BN, which has the power of incumbency with extensive wherewithal – money, man and machinery.
Instead of negotiating in media, the opposition alliance must realize that the best way to negotiate is behind closed doors where all the cards are placed on the table with open, honest and magnanimous negotiation staying focused on saving the nation.
Open negotiation in the media will only allow interested vultures circling the opposition alliance to create rifts amongst the opposition alliance. Especially when Umno/BN keeps a diligent “watching brief” over the opposition alliance through its power of incumbency and government apparatus.
It is time for the opposition alliance to come out of the ‘activists-opposition’ box and start thinking of charting plans to be the next government.
The ground is so fertile that you may have the mangoes the next day after planting the seed. The rakyat are so ready for change. The rakyat is so hoping for a change.
Now the opposition alliance must also be ready to change. Ready to accept the challenge of hope thrown against them by the rakyat. As Albert Einstein once said, you cannot repeat the same thing and expect a different result.
End 'party first' mentality
The negotiation of ‘party first’, opposition alliance later, must stop right now. This split of a second. Instead, the new wave of magnanimous negotiation by putting the rakyat and the nation first, before the party or self, must be done. No two ways about it.
Power sharing can be in many fronts, not just confined to ministerial positions, parliamentary or state seats etc. For once, let us get the best of the talents amongst the opposition alliance to come forward and lead the country. Less old politics, less war lords, more credible work and more real talents, to save and reinvent Malaysia. The dawn of new politics in Malaysia.
So regardless of your party affiliation and support, let us ensure that you will never walk alone.
RAIS HUSSIN is a Parti Peribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) central committee member.