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COMMENT | “There is no point talking about the importance of institutions, governance and especially human rights. People only care about bread-and-butter issues and not concepts that they do not understand!”

These are sentiments I hear so often. Largely by those in politics who believe that the way to the rakyat’s hearts is to deal with what is of immediate concern to them - namely bread-and-butter issues like the cost of living, wages and the like. Hence the focus (especially close to the possible 15th general election or GE15) is about giving them whatever eases their daily living, i.e. band-aid relief.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against easing the burdens of the people at any time. But strong institutions, human rights and good governance matter if we are to progress as a nation and enhance the well-being of all in the long term.

Just take a look at the past year. The disastrous handling of the floods in December, last year, that resulted in the loss of homes and lives, was a result of poor governance and institutional failure. So is the environmental degradation and indiscriminate deforestation that many believe exacerbated the floods and caused landslides.

Political graphic artist and activist Fahmi Reza being hauled in numerous times, the investigation of those who hold candlelight vigils and other peaceful gatherings, all of these are the result of the erosion of our fundamental rights of free speech and assembly. Not to mention, in Fahmi’s case, because our leaders do not understand satire...

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