Empowering the people of new Malaysia

IT has been more than a month since the seismic events of the 14th General Election. While the new government is slowly getting into the rhythm of governing, the Opposition parties appear to still be in disarray.

As Umno is grappling with the vacuum left by its former president’s resignation, Sarawak BN has pulled out of the Barisan Nasional coalition and the other component parties – MCA, MIC and Gerakan – are still reeling from its devastating losses.

Only PAS appears to be stable; being an opposition party for so long would mean that you can quickly get over disappointing electoral results.

There is no telling how long the Opposition parties would need to rebuild from the wreckage of the political tsunami.

Yet a strong Opposition is crucial in any democracy to keep the Government on its best behaviour.

This is where the rakyat can play a role.

Instead of relying on the Opposition parties to balance the Government, the rakyat can be at the frontline of keeping the Government in check.

The GE14 results have given the people a sense of empowerment; they now feel that they can determine who governs them and how they should be governed.

This new Malaysia must empower the people further.

First, we must review and abolish all laws that restrict freedom of speech and expression.

Laws such as the Sedition Act and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act, and certain provisions of the University and University Colleges Act must be repealed.

In their place, laws that facilitate freedom of speech and expression should be enacted.

This way, the people will be able to give their opinions and criticise the Government freely without fear of state sanctions.

Secondly, the people must be informed.

In this regard, the media should be freed from state control.

Acts that allow for state control over the media, such as the Printing Presses and Publications Act and the Anti-Fake News Act, must be abolished.

Political ownership of media is not a ­problem as long as the state does not control the news.

A media council must also be set up so that the media can self-regulate if there are instances where journalistic ethics are breached.

Lastly, the people must also be allowed to seek out further information.

The Official Secrets Act must be abolished and in its place, a Freedom of Information Act, should be enacted.

People must be allowed access to information to encourage transparency and accountability.

Once the people are further empowered, they will be equipped with tools so that they may play a role in the governance of this country.

The days of the government knows best should be well and truly over.

Syahredzan Johan is a partner of a legal firm in Kuala Lumpur with an interest in the laws that shape our country. He can be reached at syahredzan.johan@gmail.com. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.

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