Press statement by Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser 10 Feb 2018

The ‘Manifesto of the 99%’ is the manifesto of the Progressive Alternative that provides the range of effective reforms for a truly just, democratic and sustainable future that BN and PH have failed to provide. So far, it has been endorsed by nearly 100 organisations representing a cross-section of Malaysian multi-ethnic society. Malaysians should demand that BN & PH leaders debate these BIG ISSUES that affect our lives and society before GE14 instead of the usual mudslinging and scandalmongering that both coalitions are tainted with.

  1. BN & PH represent the rich 1%

Apart from the neo-liberal policies that BN and PH champion, the top leaders of BN and PH represent the interests of the rich 1% – big corporations, developers who seem to have both coalitions in their pockets in their “development” projects that involve carving out forests, reclaiming land and colonising other assets in our public commons. The top leader of BN has admitted that he was given RM2.6 billion before the 2013 general elections. The “new” top leader of PH is the Father of Privatisation and non-accountable contracts that the Leader of the Opposition once called “piratisation” of our national assets. One of his sons is among Forbes’ richest 50 Malaysians in the country.

  1. BN & PH leaders tainted by financial scandals

The top leader of BN is facing world-wide infamy not only for the RM2.6 billion found in his personal account but also for at least US$4.5 billion allegedly laundered in the 1MDB scandal through a web of international transactions. The top leader of PH was alleged to have squandered up to RM100 billion of Malaysian taxpayers’ money in several financial scandals, according to the academic Barry Wain. At the same time, the top leader of one of PH component parties has been charged with corruption but has refused to step down while the case in in the courts.

  1. Wealth redistribution to the 99%

Both BN & PH are competing to see which coalition can outdo the other in neo-liberal policies that offer investors attractive opportunities that they can’t refuse. And while we see BN or PH shed crocodile tears over the rise in the cost of living, we do not see these coalitions putting forward sound policies to redistribute wealth in this country. Do they propose progressive fiscal policies to tax the top 1% who own more wealth than the bottom 40% in our country such as higher marginal tax rates on income, capital gains, inheritance and luxuries?

The wealth of the richest 50 Malaysians (top 0.00017%) amounts to nearly RM300 billion which is a quarter of the country’s total GDP of RM1 trillion! Do BN and PH put forward proposals to regulate financial transactions and to put an end to tax evasion?

In a real democracy Malaysians would witness the top leaders of the two coalitions engage in a debate over such fiscal policies to showcase what benefits they can bring the 99% of Malaysians before the elections but this hardly ever happens in Malaysian general elections.

  1. Affordable public housing, health, transport & education

 A just, democratic and progressive alternative calls for a living wage and rights for all workers; a reasonable pension at retirement, for all; affordable and liveable public housing; affordable and efficient public health and transport; free tertiary education (means tested for the well-off), etc. BN & PH do not prioritise such public provisions because they are champions of neo-liberalism and private interests.

We want to reclaim our public assets from privatization, halt any further privatization of public assets, nationalise public utilities such as water and energy and democratize the GLCs; apportion more revenue from oil and gas resources to the oil and gas-producing states and ensure Petronas’ oil and gas production and investment records are transparent and accountable to parliament and the public.

  1. An end to Racism & Racial Discrimination in Malaysia

Both BN and PH are made up of race-based political parties to gain votes and popularity. The new component of PH is the race-pure “Parti Pribumi” party which considers itself the “real” champion of the Malays in contrast to UMNO. Consequently, none of the political parties in either of the two coalitions have raised the question of when the racially discriminatory New Economic Policy, that was scheduled to end in 1990, will end. Race-based policies have become the norm in this country even though they are the biggest impediment to national unity. So, BN and PH must tell us whether our “1 Malaysia” will still be run on racial preference and discrimination after GE14. If not, when will such racial policies end?

While the middle class and professionals can afford to adapt to such racial discrimination, the poorer classes in the non-Bumiputera communities have been suffering discrimination in education and economic opportunities ever since 1971.

The ‘Manifesto of the 99%’ calls for needs-based and not race-based policies. The majority of democratic countries in the world do not have race-based political parties nor do they have racially discriminatory laws and policies. An Equality Act will make racially discriminatory policies a thing of the past and equality will become an intrinsic part of the Human Rights Commission. The Progressive Alternative that we are trying to build takes human rights seriously and respects all Malaysian citizens irrespective of ethnicity, religious beliefs, gender or sexuality so that we can march forward as a nation.

  1. A just, democratic and progressive alternative

The progressive alternative speaks for the 99% of Malaysians who want real democracy instead of the pious commitments to periodic general elections which do not change our lives substantively. It is time we imposed term limits on office bearers and elected representatives. There are some representatives who have been in Parliament since Independence and still try to claim indispensability. Apparently, there are not enough capable young, women or leaders from marginalised communities in this country who can replace these dinosaurs in Parliament. PH wants us to “Vote for Change” in order that their new leader – who is Malaysia’s 93-year-old former PM – can be PM again.

Representatives to the Dewan Negara (Senate) need to be elected through proportional representation and all elected representatives and senior civil servants be required to publicly declare their assets and incomes as well as those of their immediate families. Elected officials can be recalled from office through a direct vote before his or her term has ended when sufficient voters sign a petition.

The continual postponement of local government elections since their suspension in the sixties is not acceptable – we call for democratic elections whether on a formal or informal basis, with rotation of the top posts and asset declarations of the top office bearers instituted. Decentralised social services such as education, housing, transport and even community policing, can be managed by elected local councils.

It is time for the 99% of Malaysians to seriously discuss and adopt the proposals in this manifesto and to help to build a new Progressive Alternative in order to take the country into a brighter future based on equality, justice, democracy and human rights. We challenge the leaders of BN and PH to debate these big issues instead of the usual mudslinging, name calling and scandal mongering at every election. They should at least try to have a little discreet charm to prove wrong whoever it was who said:

“The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them”.