Setting the tone


Our thoughts and opinions are guided by four principles; the rule of law, limited government, free markets, and individual liberty and responsibility.

I AM really glad to start a fortnightly column in this newspaper. The Star has a long history with Almarhum Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra, the first Prime Minister of Malaysia, who was also our greatest Prime Minister.

When he was a columnist for The Star, he never shied away from making principled commentaries about difficult issues. The country owes him a lot, and his legacy is one that must not be forgotten.

As an organisation inspired by Almarhum Tunku’s vision to see this land become a nation of “liberty and justice”, we at IDEAS are always looking for the opportunity to follow in his footsteps.

The founding president of IDEAS, Tunku ‘Abidin Muhriz, too, had a column in this newspaper. His wit and style of writing would be difficult to match, but the key messages that we all bring in our writings are similar.

Everyone in IDEAS is committed to classical liberal principles, and we look for opportunities to apply this political philosophy in public policy.

Our thoughts and opinions are guided by four principles; the rule of law, limited government, free markets, and individual liberty and responsibility.

In a publication that we released back in 2010 titled The Tunku’s Great Ideas, we outlined how Tunku Abdul Rahman himself consistently advocated these four principles. The publication can be downloaded free from our website www.ideas.org.my.

However, since classical liberalism puts emphasis on individual liberty, it would be wrong to say everyone in the organisation always speaks with one voice.

We, in IDEAS, are opinionated individuals in our own rights and our interpretation of the philosophy may differ from one another. So, while the big picture may be the same, the details may differ.

I accepted the invitation to write in this newspaper following a chance encounter with The Star’s group chief editor Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai. At the height of the campaign period for the 13th general election, we were both invited to be on a panel in RTM. While waiting for our slot, we chatted about the role the media played in the campaign.

We discussed the differences between mainstream press like The Star and party organs like PAS’ Harakah.

As one of the accredited election observers, I told Chun Wai that many people I met have been complaining about how many of the mainstream media were very one-sided in their reporting.

I jokingly told him that if The Star did not change its tack, it would become an English version of Harakah.

Soon after GE13, I received an SMS from Chun Wai inviting me to be a columnist in this newspaper. He said he wanted new voices, and that The Star is not an English version of Harakah.

I was pleasantly surprised that he remembered what I said in jest, and I am delighted and humbled to be invited into this newspaper.

Actually, I am not new to The Star. I was once a columnist for The Star’s iPad edition. But I started that venture at the wrong time and had to stop after just a few articles. At that time, IDEAS was not even two years old yet. As the founding CEO, I had to prioritise my time to build up the think tank and this made the column suffer. That’s why I thought it would be fairer to the editor if I stopped the column instead of continuously missing deadlines.

I was hoping to start writing sooner, but unfortunately this first article had to be delayed a bit. My house caught fire on June 9 and most of my belongings were either burnt or damaged by water. Searching for a new house, buying furniture and clothes from scratch, and moving took a lot of my time (and bloated my credit card bill too!). But I do hope that from today I can play my little role to be a “critical friend” in The Star.

The country is still grappling with the outcomes of GE13. Prior to GE13, only a small number of people believed that Barisan Nasional could do better than 2008.

The vast majority of informed analysts have always said that BN would perform worse, but PR would not win. So, the outcome of GE13 was not really a surprise to many of us.

What was surprising to me, however, is to see how many of our politicians failed to prepare for the results. And today, we see several BN leaders keep making mistakes after mistakes. The biggest was when some suggested that Malaysian Chinese and urban voters of all backgrounds were ungrateful. To this, my response is that we citizens have nothing to be grateful about when dealing with politicians.

Instead, it is the politicians who should be grateful to us. We elected them. We pay their salaries, housing allowances, car allowances, and many more.

Every single sen they earn by virtue of being a salaried politician, including the money they use to support their families, is because of us. They owe their living to us, not the other way round.

The death of feudalism is certain and the true masters are we, the people. If these servants continue to think that they are the masters, then they are paving the road to retirement in GE14.

And I hope that sets the tone for my future articles in this newspaper!

> Wan Saiful Wan Jan is chief executive of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (www.ideas.org.my)

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