High hopes for high standards

  • One Man's Meat
  • Saturday, 26 May 2018


In Malaysia 2.0, the people reject ‘politics as usual’ and expect leaders to be honest and attentive. 

IT is refreshing to see that those who were critical of the Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak administration continue to be critical of the government under Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

During Najib’s rule, they made noise about the prime minister. Some probably did not expect their open criticism to make a difference. But now in Malaysia 2.0, they expect their voices to be heard. And some of the complaints are sinking in.

For example, there was some disapproval when Dr Mahathir said he would take the Education Minister post. This is because one of the promises in Pakatan Harapan’s election manifesto states that the Prime Minister would not hold other ministerial posts, especially that of the Finance Minister.

Two days later, the Prime Minister announced that he would not be the Education Minister.

Another example was when several people, including Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah, condemned the arrest of a man who allegedly insulted the Prime Minister and Islam on Facebook. It is believed to be the first such arrest since Pakatan Harapan had come to power.

The Prime Minister tweeted that he disagreed with the action taken against those who criticised him. He also said the laws on the matter would be studied when Parliament convenes next.

But in Malaysia 2.0, some criticism from the public does get ignored.

For example, Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) stated that Lim Guan Eng must be cleared of any corruption charges before becoming the Finance Minister.

Said executive director Cynthia Gabriel: “The C4 Centre is troubled that Lim has been appointed as Finance Minister despite earlier statements by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad that he can only be appointed if he has been cleared of his corruption charge.”

(Lim is facing charges of using his position as the former Penang chief minister to obtain a plot of land and a bungalow at below market value. He was also charged with gaining gratification for himself and his wife Betty Chew Gek Cheng by approving an application to convert agricultural land in Balik Pulau to a public housing zone.)

On Monday, the Bagan MP was sworn in as Finance Minister.

“While there is no question about Lim Guan Eng’s suitability, it raises questions on how the Pakatan Harapan is pushing his appointment through,” said Gabriel.

“Public officials must uphold full accountability for their actions, and corruption must be completely absent. How can this be neglected with the newly minted Cabinet and especially the leadership of the Finance Ministry at stake?”

There was also public outcry in Sabah over Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal’s decision to take charge of the state’s finance portfolio.

Sabah Bersih, the electoral reform organisation, stated that the dual role was not something voters expected when they voted for ‘Sabah ubah’ (change).

It said the practice of the Chief Minister doubling up as Finance Minister was exactly what was practised by the previous Barisan Nasional government.

“The rakyat voted for change, and they want transparency and credibility,” it wrote.

“We respect the Chief Minister’s prerogative to construct his Cabinet but it should be based on good governance principles, where a Chief Minister should not hold critical posts such as Finance Minister.”

Unlike Dr Mahathir, Shafie has not given in to demands that he quit as Sabah Finance Minister. He said he’s temporarily holding the post as he – to use an American political phrase – wants to drain the swamp.

After voting out Barisan from government, the rakyat expects the Pakatan government to walk their talk of systemic reform. It expects Pakatan leaders to be clean and honest.

It is as if Pandora’s Box has been opened. And there is almost no honeymoon period for Pakatan.

The rakyat’s expectations are high. The bar for good governance has been raised. The rakyat don’t want “politics as usual”. The buzzword in Malaysia 2.0 is “rule of law”.

But some things don’t change in Malaysia 2.0. Fake news is still rampant. Perhaps more so, with the investigation into 1MDB spurring people to share fake photographs of gold bars, Birkin handbags and cash.

On the Government side, one Cabinet member who has been targeted by the fake news “factory” is Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik.

I wonder why him and not, say, the new Rural Development Minister Rina Harun. Perhaps because education is an important matter in Malaysia.

Many were sharing on WhatsApp a video clip purportedly showing Dr Maszlee allegedly making racial comments. The attached message urged the public to forward the clip to as many people as possible before he was sworn in as the Education Minister.

The man in the video was not the Simpang Renggam MP. And yet many were fooled by the fake news.

In Malaysia 2.0, political zombies (those who blindly support their political parties) still live on. They are simply circulating messages without checking their veracity.

I hope the political alliance named Hope (Harapan) will not disappoint and betray the trust the rakyat (at least 52% of the voting population) had given them.

If they do, the rakyat is watching.

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Opinion , Philip Golingai , One Man's Meat


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