LETTER | We, the undersigned, want to express our grave concern and disappointment at the government's continued backtracking on its reform agenda.
The recent decision by the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) to grant DNAA (discharge not amounting to an acquittal) to Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi in relation to the 47 charges involving millions of ringgit in connection with Yayasan Akalbudi, is the latest in a series of indefensible actions by the current administration since the formation of the Pakatan Harapan-BN government.
The decision to take such action, despite a prima facie case having been established, raises serious questions about the government’s commitment and ability to govern our country with integrity and in accordance with our Federal Constitution and the rule of law.
The decision will result in an erosion of public trust and confidence in our institutions, particularly in the AGC’s competence to investigate matters thoroughly and impartially so that we can hold corrupt elites accountable for their conduct.
The 11 reasons cited by the AGC to justify its position are not convincing in the least and demonstrate a tragic waste of taxpayers’ money in what has become a futile exercise in integrity, accountability, transparency and trust.
Furthermore, the decision to discharge Zahid from such serious charges suggests a disturbing departure from the principle of equality and sends a dangerous message that those in positions of power and influence can act with impunity, and escape accountability for their actions.
This perception of a two-tier justice system, one for the elite and another for the masses, is corroding the very foundation of our democracy and undermining people’s faith in the rule of law and good governance.
Since November 2022, we have witnessed a slew of actions which undermine our trust and confidence in Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and his government, whose promises of reforms to uphold our fundamental freedoms and human rights have come to nought.
This has been demonstrated regularly by the constant backtracking on promises to review, amend or repeal draconian laws such as the Sedition Act 1948, Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, Official Secrets Act 1972, and Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma), among others.
There has also been an increased stifling of our freedom of expression, including censorship of media and other online content, banning of films and publications, restrictions on academic freedom, and infringements on gender-based expressions.
There has also been no visible commitment or action to pursue institutional reforms, including making the MACC independent and accountable only to Parliament; and establishing an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission as demanded by civil society to replace the watered-down IPCC.
Prior to Zahid’s DNAA, the reform calling for the separation of the attorney-general from the public prosecutor’s office was nowhere to be seen until recently when it was announced by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Institutional Reform) Azalina Othman Said.
Instead, there are efforts, using taxpayers’ funds, to promote/endorse conduct that promotes division and polarisation based on race and religion, most notably the decision to include 40 Hadith lessons in schools.
Our expectations, which are in line with the multitude of promises made during the election campaigns leading up to the last general election, are that our ministers and government agencies will promote the development of an educated, informed society of critical thinkers who are fully equipped with contemporary skills and knowledge so that we can compete in the global arena.
As voters and taxpayers, we have the right to be informed in decisions about how public resources are used equitably and distributed fairly.
This crisis of confidence in the government’s ability to deliver on its reform agenda must be dealt with in order to enhance accountability and transparency. We demand the following:
The establishment of an independent committee to reaffirm and develop a detailed roadmap (including timelines) of the current government’s reform priorities. This independent committee should include civil society representatives and build on the recommendations made by the IRC established in 2018;
Immediately separate the roles of attorney-general and public prosecutor and establish a mechanism to ensure that the appointment of public prosecutors is independent of political interference;
Reaffirm, without delay, the government's plans to review, amend or repeal all arbitrary and oppressive laws that restrict our human rights and freedom of expression; and
Reaffirm, without delay, the government's plans for institutional reforms in relation to independent MACC and IPCMC.
We also urge the public to reclaim our voice as Malaysia, and undertake the following Sept on 16 to commemorate Malaysia Day in support of our demands:
Use the #REFORMforMalaysia or #REFORMdemiMalaysia on Saturday and repost our demands.
1. Centre for Independent Journalism
2. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor
3. Beyond Borders
4. Agora Society Malaysia
5. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
6. KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall Civil Right Committee (KLSCAH CRC)
7. Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia (GBM)
9. North South Initiative (NSI)
10. Geutanyoe Aceh
11. Pertubuhan Harapan Al-Ikhlas Kuala Lumpur dan Selangor
13. Myanmar Ethnics Organization
14. Refugee Emergency Fund (REF)
15. Pemuda Sosialis (Youth Wing of Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM))
16. Persatuan UMANY
17. Selangor and Kuala Lumpur Hokkien Association Youth Section
18. Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall Youth
19. Pertubuhan Anak Muda Maju
20. Suara Siswa Universiti Malaya
21. Instant Cafe Theatre
22. Parastoo Theatre
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.