Dr Mahathir’s second chance

16-May-2018 Intellasia | Malay Mail | 6:00 AM Print This Post

May 9, 2018 will be remembered as the day Malaysians experienced the mighty power of their right to choose their political leaders. The choice of a substantial majority of Malaysians lifted the climate of fear and depression and in its place, we feel a sense of liberation and freedom.

The assumption of political leaders that they can continue to be arrogant, engage in corrupt practices and that Malaysians are prepared to suffer such egregious behaviour, has been rudely smashed to smithereens. The power of the Malaysian vote has now been energised and is the equaliser.

The greatest irony of our new Malaysian democracy is that the man who weakened our institutions giving rise to a leader like Datuk Seri Najib Razak surrounded by a circle of complicity, has been chosen by us to rebuild and restore these same institutions. There is no greater Malaysian story of redemption than that of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Tun Dr Mahathir now shoulders the hope and expectations of Malaysians that he will set right in a couple of years, all the wrongs of the past couple of decades.

We must be patient to give time and space to the new government to fulfil its campaign promises to the people of Malaysia. There will be teething problems in the new administration and coalition. We should bear with the labour pains in order to enjoy the bigger fruits of this new democracy.

The most important step after the announcement of the Cabinet line-up should be the announcement of immediate measures to restore trust and confidence in the weakened institutions where the power of appointment has been exclusively concentrated in the hands of one man, the prime minister.

One restorative measure which I am confident the new government is looking at, is the process for the appointment and accountability of key positions in the institutions of Attorney-General’s Chambers, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, Royal Malaysia Police, National Audit Department and the judiciary.

Parliamentary Select Committees are underutilised in Malaysia and when used in instances such as the amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code, they improve the quality of law reform through in-depth study of the issue at hand, public consultation and bipartisanship. This process can be implemented consistent with the Federal Constitution where the Committees make recommendation to the prime minister and if the PM were to disagree with the recommendation, the PM must give reasons. This will strengthen the process through transparency.

Accountability will come with the institutions issuing annual reports and its head appearing in person before the Select Committees to answer legitimate questions on the policies, practices and work of the institutions.

The more vexing question is how to rebuild these institutions in circumstances where there are systemic and endemic problems such as incompetence and corruption within the institutions. The reality is that if we were to investigate every single criminal offence and prosecute every wrongdoer, Malaysia as a society would not be able to heal and unite within a reasonable time. Not least, it would distract and disrupt our time and limited resources needed towards more important priorities as education and economy.

The new government has to consider the South African model of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission or the 1970s Hong Kong police force partial amnesty. The Malaysian model can be on terms of amnesty (full or partial) in exchange for admission and disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, limited to certain groups of wrongdoers, nature, extent and timing of wrongdoing. This is still consistent with the rule of law and at the same time heals and unites us as a compassionate society which believes in second chances for the right people.

The final institution which has to be rebuilt is Parliament and here the Speakers of the Houses and opposition must now transform themselves to facilitate and promote fair and intelligent debate and act as a check and balance on the current administration. It will take time towards building a two-party system and what is critical is that Malaysian politicians now know that Malaysian voters know and relish the power of their votes.

Tun Dr Mahathir now has a second chance to restore and rebuild these institutions to prevent any future abuse by a corrupt or misguided leader. If successful, Tun Dr Mahathir will leave behind a legacy of being a true Malaysian patriot and a brighter and better future for the next generation.



Category: Malaysia

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