DIVERT MILITARY SPENDING TO SOCIAL SERVICES AND HUMANITARIAN AID

DIVERT MILITARY SPENDING TO SOCIAL SERVICES AND HUMANITARIAN AID
Press statement by Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser on Global Day of Action on Military Spending, 5 April 2016

5 April 2016 marks the Global Day of Action Against Military Spending (GDAMS), an initiative coordinated by the International Peace Bureau in Geneva. On this day, more than a hundred organisations across the globe focus their attention on raising awareness about the waste of precious resources on military spending. This date is chosen because it coincides with the release of the annual report for 2013 by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

According to the figures released by SIPRI today, world military expenditure last year was more than $1,676 billion (USD), an increase of 1 per cent in real terms from 2014. The increase reflects continuing growth in Asia and Oceania, Central and Eastern Europe, and some Middle Eastern states; and a decline in spending in Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean.

The United States remained by far the world’s biggest spender in 2015, despite its expenditure falling by 2.4 per cent to $596 billion. Among the other top spenders, China’s expenditure rose by 7.4 per cent to $215 billion, Saudi Arabia’s grew by 5.7 per cent to $87.2 billion – making it the world’s third largest spender – and Russia’s increased by 7.5 per cent to $66.4 billion.

Military spending in Asia

According to SIPRI, military spending in Asia and Oceania rose by 5.4 per cent in 2015 reaching $436 billion in 2015 at current prices and exchange rates. China’s military expenditure was more than four times that of India, which was the region’s second largest spender.

Total military spending in Southeast Asia was US$40 billion: Singapore increased by around 9 per cent compared with Indonesia which grew at 150 per cent while Malaysia’s grew at 5.9 per cent or 1.5% of GDP.

South China Sea dispute and international terrorism

In Malaysia, we have seen the entrenchment of the authoritarian state and its attempts to secure access to dwindling natural resources to fight international terrorism. The dispute over the islands in the South China Sea between the ASEAN countries and China are also held up as justification for arms spending. This trend will only swell the national military coffers. The Malaysian defence ministry has always argued that military budgets are already declining and that the military are stuck with outdated equipment, and are not properly protected.

Military action in the South China Sea will not solve the islands dispute. First and foremost, we call on the US government to keep their warships away from the disputed area and let the countries settle the dispute among themselves. The best solution is joint economic development of the islands by all the countries involved. We certainly do not need US intervention and provocation which will be disastrous for the region.

The next reason given by the Malaysian defence ministry for increased military spending is the need to combat international terrorism. If that is the case, appropriate weaponry by the police and improved information technology would be the appropriate response. Malaysian taxpayers need to be persuaded by the need for multi-billion ringgit submarines and multi-role combat aircraft in this fight against international terrorists, pirates, hijackers or rag tag armies in Sabah.

The Year of the Refugee

2015 has been dubbed the Year of the Refugee. The world spends today around US$ 25 billion to provide life-saving assistance to 125 million people devastated by wars and natural disasters. Despite the generosity of many donors, the gap between the resources needed for humanitarian action and the available resources is increasing. In Malaysia, both ruling and opposition coalitions have averted the plight of the Rohingya refugees by “shooing” them on sight or saying they are not welcome.

Re-allocation of public funds to social needs

Over the last few years the International Peace Bureau (IPB) has repeatedly called for a re-allocation of public funds from the military to social need: to development; to public services, notably education and health; to the environment; and of course to peace and disarmament initiatives. What IPB advocates – in addition to meeting humanitarian needs via a switch in priorities – is extending the concept of human security to planetary security in an age threatened by climate change; investing in massive programmes of education and job creation to undermine the temptation posed by jihadi extremism; and more generally building societies based on tolerance, rule of law, nonviolent resolution of conflict at all levels, gender equality and sustainable economies and lifestyles.

In tandem with this global campaign against military spending, SUARAM calls for a reduction in military spending in Malaysia to below one per cent of GDP and for the savings to be diverted to social services and humanitarian aid for refugees, the homeless, the elderly and disabled.

IS THE ANTI-NAJIB COALITION A UNITED FRONT?

IS THE ANTI-NAJIB COALITION A UNITED FRONT?
Press statement by Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser 2 April 2016

In an attempt to justify their alliance with the man responsible for destroying much our Malaysian democratic institutions, the Anti-Najib Coalition has described themselves as a “united front”. The usage of this historically significant term is, to say the least, illusory.

The term “united front” has been used to refer to a form of struggle or political organization carried out by progressives and revolutionaries in 20th century history. It is a strategy to join all forces in the struggle to defend the immediate, basic interests of the people against the bourgeoisie, against fascism and imperialism.

The roots of the united front go back to the practice of revolutionaries in the 1917 Russian Revolution. The united front offered a method of working with large numbers of non-revolutionary workers and simultaneously winning them to revolutionary politics. While uniting with non-revolutionaries, however, progressives and revolutionaries did not subordinate themselves within the united front or sacrifice their independence.

In the 1930’s, with fascism on the rise, united fronts were built and even broader alliances of democratic forces all over the world to unite the democratic forces opposed to war and fascism. As a result, significant gains were achieved in a number of countries at the time.

Then, during World War II and in the postwar period the creation of united fronts achieved a broad unification of the democratic and anti-fascist forces in a number of countries. The united front helped the national-democratic and socialist revolutions to achieve victory in several countries of Europe and Asia and created the peace movement, which developed throughout the world. Following Hitler’s victory, popular fronts drawing in forces far beyond the working class movement were created against fascism.

In Asia, the most well-known united front was formed when the Chinese Communist Party worked closely with the Kuomintang to fight Japanese imperialism that was determined to turn China into its colony. Likewise, during the Vietnam War, the Vietcong organized the National Liberation Front as a united front against US imperialism.

The united front in revolutionary history is thus not a mere tactic. It lies at the center of revolutionary strategy in which progressives never subordinate themselves within the united front nor sacrifice their independence.

Did Mandela form a united front with de Klerk?

Another example used by the Anti-Najib Coalition to justify their alliance with the self-professed dictator of Malaysia from 1981 to 2003 is that “even Mandela formed a united front with de Klerk to save South Africa”, or words to that effect.

This distortion of South African history is also a contortion of the united front strategy of progressives. First we need to understand that the 1985-87 period was the height of resistance by the oppressed masses of South Africa. The Pretoria regime triggered a wave of black anger that led not only to protests in which thousands died, but also to the creation of grass-roots organizations throughout South Africa. The United Democratic Front (UDF) put the Pretoria government on the defensive and resulted in a more militant ANC leadership that had to be recognized by the settler and the Western imperialist forces. When the regime failed to refinance South African debt, it was Botha’s downfall and his replacement, de Klerk, was forced to negotiate with the ANC.

Thus, the Anti-Najib Coalition should get their facts right. There was never any supposed “Mandela-de Klerk United Front”. The South African freedom fighters had a United Democratic Front that was fighting the Pretoria regime. The end game was de Klerk had to negotiate a settlement with Mandela. Unfortunately, the new apartheid-free South Africa compromised the reforms that the ANC had been fighting for all along including nationalization of resources and left the integuments of Western imperialism intact to the present day. President Zuma sitting under a cloud of corruption is instructive for the present anti-Najib campaign after Najib goes.

So what is the objective of the Anti-Najib Coalition?

Since I have shown the non-existence of the “Mandela-de Klerk United Front” in South African history, the attempt at comparing Mahathir to de Klerk automatically falls.

So what is the objective of this so-called Anti-Najib Coalition?

From what we can gather, they only want Najib to step down – Nothing more, nothing less. We don’t even hear about a Royal Commission of Inquiry to impeach him for having 2.6 billion ringgit in his personal account and for squandering all the monies in 1MDB. For how can they when there is no mention of a Royal Commission to bring Mahathir to justice for all his years of financial scandals, assault on the judiciary and oppressive rule?

This Anti-Najib Coalition does not seem to stand for combatting impunity. Notice that when the former Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim had refused to step down, the Pakatan Rakyat leaders held a file of alleged corrupt practices over his head? Sure enough, after he agreed to step down, we hear no more about these corrupt practices that the former MB was alleged to have committed.

So the question is: Was Khalid Ibrahim corrupt or was he not corrupt? If he was not, then the Pakatan Rakyat leaders are guilty of gross irresponsibility and heads should roll. If he was corrupt, why haven’t police reports been made against him by now?

If such is the modus operandi of Pakatan Harapan, why should it be any different if Najib decides to step down? Remember, you cannot have a Royal Commission to investigate Najib and not have another to investigate the 22 years of Mahathir’s scandals.

Who calls the shots in this Anti-Najib Coalition?

Clearly Mahathir calls the shots since the leaders in Pakatan Harapan cannot even raise the issue of releasing Anwar Ibrahim (the de facto leader of Pakatan Harapan) as a demand in the Citizens’ Declaration. I feel sorry for all the PH supporters who have campaigned so hard to free their de facto leader and they cannot even succeed in including “Free Anwar” in the Citizens’ Declaration!

And what precisely has Mahathir agreed to in the supposed reforms in the Declaration? For example, do the reforms in the police force include the establishment of the IPCMC (Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission)? What concrete democratic reforms can we hope for? The reforms are couched in such woolly terms in the Declaration that Mahathir can turn around when Najib has stepped down and say: “I never promised anything concrete, did I?”

United Fronts are led by progressives who are clear about their reform objectives

It is clear that the history of united fronts is marked by three common elements:

(i) The objective of the united front is for the defeat of a dark force oppressing the people, namely, fascism, apartheid, imperialism;

(ii) The united front is led by progressives with clear economic, political and socio-cultural reforms and not by arch-reactionaries who want the same system with just a change of leadership at the top;

(iii) The united front allies with SIZEABLE non-progressive forces in order to defeat a bigger threat such as racism, fascism and imperialism. By contrast, Mahathir is today a spent force in UMNO as he himself has admitted that most active UMNO leaders have kept a distance from him. This is clear from the fact that he cannot even defend his son from being kicked out of the MB post in Kedah and he has been removed from all the cushy positions in Government companies. So what forces can he rally to this Anti-Najib campaign?

WHAT’S UEC RECOGNITION GOT TO DO WITH SOVEREIGNTY?

WHAT’S UEC RECOGNITION GOT TO DO WITH SOVEREIGNTY?
By Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser, 1 April 2016

The litany of reasons given by the government for not recognizing the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) through the years gets more and more bizarre. They used to say that the UEC’s curriculum was not up to the mark. The latest reason is the answer given by the Deputy Education Minister P. Kamalanathan in the Dewan Rakyat who said that the Cabinet in a meeting on Nov 6 last year had decided not to recognise the certificate:

“For now, the government can’t recognise UEC as it is not based on the national curriculum and education philosophy. This is a reality that needs to be accepted as it relates with the nation’s interest and sovereignty.”

He said that out of the 11,332 students who sat for the UEC last year, 3,000 of them also sat for the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM). Kamalanathan added that only 82,000, or 3.7%, of the total secondary school pupils in Malaysia would be sitting for the UEC.

“FOREIGN SCHOOLS ARE TAKING OVER THE COUNTRY”

This could be the April Fool’s Day headline for a Malaysian newspaper. But indeed international schools using English and other foreign languages have proliferated in our country in recent years. This is from our ‘Economic Transformation Programme’:

“As Malaysia grows into a developed nation, it also needs to increase the number of international schools to accommodate the education needs of the influx of expatriates and returning population. To-date, a total of 81 international schools are in operation nationwide, with the need for international schools will be expected to be concentrated in Greater Kuala Lumpur and growth corridors such as Iskandar Malaysia, located in the state of Johor. This EPP aims to position Malaysia as a destination of choice for parents seeking foreign education for their children. At the same time, this EPP will allow Malaysia to benefit from the foreign exchange income earned from international school student spending…The total enrolment, however, is 33,688 students, which is still below the target of 75,000 students by 2020.”

Now, if this concerted effort to promote foreign schools in Malaysia is not seen to be a threat to national sovereignty, why should the Malaysian Independent Chinese Secondary Schools (MICSS) be seen as a threat to sovereignty?

Malaysian Chinese Secondary Schools have existed since 1923

For those who are unfamiliar to our nation’s history, Chinese Secondary Schools have existed in our country ever since 1923 when Chung Ling School of Penang started its Secondary-level classes. (Kua Kia Soong, ‘The Chinese Schools of Malaysia: A Protean Saga’, 2008:25) At Independence in 1957, there were some 86 Chinese Secondary Schools in Malaya. (Kua Kia Soong edited, ‘Mother Tongue Education of Malaysian Ethnic Minorities’, 1998:72)

It was only after the 1961 Education Act that many of these schools were forced to become English-medium (yes! Not Malay-medium) at the time. Only 14 Chinese Secondary Schools remained as “Independent” schools. It was after the “Independent Schools’ Revival Movement” in the Seventies that the number of MICSS climbed to 60 schools. In 1975, when the MICSS decided to hold its first Unified Examination, the Chinese education leaders were summoned to Parliament by then Education Minister Dr Mahathir and were told in no uncertain terms to cancel the examination “or else…!”

The Chinese education leaders carried on regardless of the consequences and the UEC has been held every year since. To date, there has never been a leak in any UEC examinations and the curriculum and marking of exam scripts are carried out every year with professional precision. Today, more than 400 foreign tertiary institutions around the world recognize the UEC and our MICSS students are found in countries all over the globe, including France, Germany and Russia. Ever since the Eighties, the National University of Singapore has been poaching hundreds of top UEC students not only for their academic excellence but also for their trilingual capabilities in an effort to balance the cultural mix of their Anglophile Singaporeans.

Putrajaya should look East for UEC recognition

The Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan has recently said that the Ministry of Education is stupid not to recognize the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) of the sixty Malaysian Independent Chinese Secondary Schools (MICSS), a certificate that has been recognized by the top universities in the world since it has led to a brain drain of our talented human resources. Compared to high-tech brainstorming and money-spinning Putrajaya, Adenan in our East Malaysian backwaters has demonstrated to West Malaysians what a savvy and enlightened politician he is. Our West Malaysian dinosaurs certainly have a lot to learn from our Eastern brethren.

How do foreign students get admitted into Malaysian institutions?

We are all aware of the fact that our local public and private higher learning educational institutions enroll students from all over the world. A simple question to the Education Ministry will show that the reason for not recognizing the UEC is completely untenable, namely:

How does a student from Kazakhstan or Bosnia or China gain admission into Malaysian tertiary education institutions when their respective education systems do not follow our national system?

And which aspect of the National Education System is the UEC syllabus alleged to not follow? It cannot be in Maths and Science; nor can it be Geography since the Malaysian education system has almost obliterated Geography from its syllabus. Can it be in History? Is the History syllabus of the UEC not “Malaysian” enough? If that is the case, how can any foreign student from any part of the globe qualify to enroll in a Malaysian tertiary institution since their syllabus cannot be as “Malaysian” as that of the UEC!

Academic accreditation of education institutions and certificates is what the Malaysian Qualifications Authority (MQA) has been set up to do in the first place! One assumes that the government recognizes all foreign educational certificates based on their accreditation by the Malaysian Qualifications Authority (MQA). How else do foreign students gain admission into our institutions of higher learning? Thus, a student from the PRC can enter a Malaysian tertiary institution based on the PRC’s secondary school leaving certificate. One presumes that our MQA, which is amply staffed, would have done an accreditation of the PRC’s relevant certificate.

Suspending a purely professional decision for 40 years!

Thus, if the MQA is a professional accreditation institution without political constrictions, it would spell out in no uncertain terms what its audit of the UEC has concluded. It does not matter if the requirements of the MQA are far more stringent than the National University of Singapore’s – it just has to spell out in no uncertain terms what the results of that audit are! The government cannot simply suspend a purely professional decision for more than forty years!

It should be pointed out at the outset that, in sharp contrast to foreign students, BM and English are compulsory language papers in the UEC and many MICSS schools also run the SPM at the fifth secondary year (The MICSS is a six-year secondary school system). This easily demolishes the myth that MICSS students only study in the Chinese medium.

To be fair to our civil service and local tertiary institutions, if they require SPM credit in BM for UEC holders, that is reasonable. Nevertheless, the academic accreditation of the UEC by MQA is a totally separate matter altogether.

Malaysians should also know that there are hundreds of non-Chinese students in the MICSS and more than 80,000 non-Chinese students in Chinese-medium primary schools of Malaysia. This is in sharp contrast to UiTM which does not admit ANY “non-bumiputeras” into this public institution even though “non-bumiputera” taxpayers have also paid for this institution!

Does UiTM violate national sovereignty? This Bumiputeras-only policy definitely violates the International Convention for the Eradication of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).

Promote integration by recognizing UEC

The truth is that, through the years the UEC has become a political issue since UMNO refuses to recognize the MICSS system because of their mono-lingual agenda, a policy that is holding back creative development of our human resources. Thus, all these years the community has been paying double taxation when, apart from paying income tax, they also financially support this mother tongue education system.

Recognising the UEC will allow MICSS graduates to be admitted into our public tertiary institutions as well as the civil and armed services, which is the stated intention of the government recently. This will help to promote greater integration among Malaysians and also alleviate the financial plight of those MICSS graduates who cannot afford tertiary education in the private colleges or abroad.

THE CM’S IRRESPONSIBLE BLAME FRAME

THE CM’S IRRESPONSIBLE BLAME FRAME
Press statement by Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser, 22 March 2016

More than twenty years ago, when the CM of Penang was an aspiring DAP leader under the watchful eyes of his father, his stance in public was invariably that of a squabbling adversary. Headlines in the party newspaper at the time would emblazon acerbic accusations such as “KENG YAIK YOU ARE A LIAR!” to the approval of fawning devotees.

Despite his many years of political experience and the fact that he is now safely ensconced as Penang’s Chief Minister, we still witness the same cockerel stance and irresponsible blaming attitude. Through the years many personalities have been targeted as “liars” by the CM. Here I will confine my observations to just three recent episodes:
(i) the CM calling a councillor a liar for pointing out the tardiness of municipal officers;

(ii) the CM’s personal challenge to a valid query by a Member of Parliament who had raised questions of suspected irregularities in the purchase of the CM’s house, and

(iii) the CM’s repeated public excoriation of the leader of the Malay-based Islamic party using the same irresponsible label.

The Penang CM would do well to live up to the claims of a democrat as suggested by his party name. As someone in a responsible position from which he is seen to be leading the state into a better future, he ought to have outgrown the blame frame mentality. Whenever any issues arise it would be more useful if he asks instead, “What happened? What are our solutions?” and proceed to account for any improprieties.

1. CM calls Councillor Liar 7 Times in 1 statement

Highly respected Penang Island city councilor Dr Lim Mah Hui, who was accused of lying by Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng over the towing of cars, has asked Lim and the 12 councillors mainly from the DAP who maligned him to apologise to him publicly without any prejudice to his right to legal recourse. Dr Lim said Guan Eng issued a highly defamatory public statement on March 12 accusing him of being a “hero with lies” and “lying” no fewer than seven times. Dr Lim said:

“These accusations went against the very principles of CAT that the state government claims to espouse. Instead we see incompetence in accountability and a flagrant injustice to me personally and as an MBPP councillor.”

As if he did not know the role of a city councilor, the combative CM had also challenged Dr Lim to “take over and oversee” the towing of cars in the council. Dr Lim of course declined and said his role as a councillor is to advise and it was the job of the city council’s personnel to enforce the council’s regulations.

2. CM challenges MP over dodgy bungalow purchase

Tasek Gelugor MP Datuk Shabudin Yahaya Shabudin had made a typically DAP-style revelation in Parliament recently that the bungalow that the CM bought, on 10,161 sq ft (943.98 sq metres) of land, on Oct 25 last year for RM2.8mil was actually worth between RM6mil and RM6.5mil on the market. Furthermore, the previous houseowner was linked to the company which had won the bid in the sale of a piece of land at Taman Manggis.

In response, Lim threw a challenge to Shabudin the next day for a one on one meeting at his office in Komtar and when the latter declined, he expressed disappointment with the Tasek Gelugor MP for not show up, saying:
“Datuk Shabudin had the opportunity to seek clarification over his allegation in Parliament. His absence was unbecoming of a leader who has thrown malicious accusations against me.”

As if it was a vindication of his accountability, the CM and his wife then took a group of journalists for a tour of his bungalow to show them that the property was not comparable to Khir Toyo’s mansion nor did it have a swimming pool!

And in shocking display of pretended ignorance, the CM claimed that he did not know the market value of the bungalow he bought last year for RM2.8 million. Speaking to reporters invited to view his house, he said he was not a property agent. For a CM who has to know the property value of reclamation land and property development throughout Penang island to claim he does not know the property value of his own house on the market, that is truly incredible! I dare say, if we take a survey, practically every house owner in Malaysia, including those who are not highly educated, will say they know the market value of the house they own…

3. CM calls PAS Leader a Liar Again and Again

The third and perhaps the most consequential target of the CM’s attacks is the leader of the Malay-based Islamic party, Ustaz Hadi Awang. The DAP CM has called the PAS leader a liar so many times over Hudud, TPPA, the Kajang Move… we have lost count.

Considering the DAP claims that it is trying to reach out to the Malay community in order to dilute its image as a Chinese-based party, I honestly cannot understand how their CM does not think that his persistent attacks on the PAS paramount leader is downright rude and only serves to mobilise PAS’ Malay supporters against the DAP.

Does the DAP really think the damage to the DAP’s image from such outbursts against the PAS spiritual leader is outweighed by their few token Malays in the DAP leadership? Even if the Penang CM can be excused for his immaturity, surely his father who has been in politics ever since the Tunku’s era should know such Malaysian reality and the mentality of the Malay voters. Noticing the absence of PAS supporters at the recent Bersih 4 rally, it would be foolish to simply assume that PAS supporters are inconsequential and only important in the rural constituencies.

Accountable, responsible & democratic leaders
Leaders who claim to aspire to “the Malaysian dream” are expected to practice what they preach and to behave responsibly. Nothing less than transparent, principled, democratic behaviour will do. And what does such democratic behaviour in meetings look like and sound like?

Well for a start, it is inclusive, everybody has the right to be heard and collectively agree on the rules by which dialogue takes place and how decisions will be made. There will be respectful exchanges in which feedback about the issues and facts is given without fear or favour. Of course if the collective rules are broken there is a basis for next steps, and even then responsible leaders do not resort to personal attack.

We hope the Penang CM will spare us any further blame frames and personal attacks and set an example with accountable, responsible and democratic action that Malaysians expect.

MALAYSIANS DEMAND CONCRETE REFORMS NOT SLOPPY SLOGANS!

MALAYSIANS DEMAND CONCRETE REFORMS NOT SLOPPY SLOGANS!
Press statement by Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser 19 March 2016

Before long the 14th general election will be upon us and you can bet the Opposition slogan will be “Save Malaysia: Najib out” and politicians will have a field day reeling off BN scandals at ceramahs while their election manifestoes remain in microscopic print. We can assume that the GE14 campaign has started.

And what does the Opposition coalition promise us in a post-BN future? You would think that a detailed blueprint for an alternative Malaysian future would be foremost in their campaign to win a democratic election. Malaysian voters deserve more than sloppy slogans such as “Save Malaysia” and other fluffy  concepts. And if we are serious about wanting a significantly better future, it is vital that we voters demand to know what concrete reforms are in store for us. Without such a plan, if ever the Opposition coalition comes into power, they can say they never promised us anything concrete in the first place!

Here are the main demands in “Agenda for Concrete Reforms” by Malaysian civil society at the GE13 and civil society leaders are reminded that they were committed to these concrete reforms rather than sloppy slogans like “Save Malaysia”:

  1. Eradicate Institutional Racism

Who cannot see that racism and racial discrimination are the biggest obstacles to inter-communal understanding in Malaysia, especially policies and constitutional amendments introduced after May 13, 1969? So which political party is committed to abolish the “New Economic Policy” that was supposed to have ended in 1990? I do not see this commitment in any of the parties’ manifestoes. Malaysians must ensure all political parties commit to,

  • corrective actions that are based on need, sector or class and not on race, with priority given to indigenous people, the marginalised and poor communities;
  • means testing for any access to scholarships or other entitlements;
  • merit-based recruitment in civil & armed services;
  • an Equality Act to promote equality and non-discrimination irrespective of race, creed, religion, gender or disability with provision for an Equality & Human Rights Commission;
  • ratification of the Convention on the Eradication of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

 

  1. 2. Accountable & Representative Democracy

Parties in the Opposition still do not live up to these demands despite their rhetoric about democracy and giving opportunities and participation to more young people. Some are still clinging on to their seats and have done so since the era of the Tunku claiming their “readiness to serve the people”! Others hog federal seats as well as claim their indispensability in the state assembly based on their monopoly of power in the party. Let us ensure a truly accountable and representative democracy that gives more people opportunities to participate in our political institutions by,

  • limiting the office of the Prime Minister, Menteri Besar and Chief Minister to two terms in office and elected representatives to four terms in office;
  • electing representatives to the Dewan Negara (Senate);
  • limiting elected representatives to serve only at federal or state levels;
  • requiring all elected representatives to publicly declare their assets and incomes as well as those of their wives and children;
  • re-introducing elected local governments and decentralising social services such as education, housing, transport and even community policing, to be managed by elected local councils.

 

  1. A Progressive Economic Policy

“Save the Malaysian economy” is a just a mushy slogan. What precisely will a saved Malaysian economy look like?  If political parties are really different from the BN, they must take a stand on the neo-liberal policies that have been steadily privatizing our national assets since Mahathir came into office in 1981 and they must commit to the following demands:

  • nationalise all utilities and essential services including water resources, health, public transport, energy, ensuring they are owned and controlled by the Malaysian peoples at federal, state and local levels;
  • implement a master plan for all federal and state land to ensure judicious use for the public purpose and/or their sale to the private sector at appropriate prices;
  • rights to concessions and other licences to be paid for at economic prices;
  • promote self-governing workers’ cooperatives to produce goods that are useful for society;
  • ensure open tendering for all privatized contracts;
  • stop subsidies to big business which invest in environmentally unfriendly enterprises and are energy guzzlers;
  • promote a sustainable agricultural policy to ensure self-sufficiency in rice and basic food items and to cut down on food imports;
  • provide fair and adequate support to all sectors and distribute land justly to all farmers in need of land, irrespective of ethnicity;
  • modernise the New Villages by giving land titles, improving infrastructure and government assistance for the small and medium enterprises;
  • ensure rights to natural resources such as oil and gas belong to the oil-producing states and thus proportionately more revenue from these resources should accrue to these states.

 

  1. A progressive fiscal policy to reduce income inequality and fund public services

Political parties in most countries that claim to be democratic are expected to make public their fiscal policy to see how progressive or regressive their tax policies are. Malaysians must ensure all political parties commit to a progressive fiscal policy if they are serious about reducing income inequality and in order to fund sustainable public services by,

  • imposing a higher marginal tax rate on high income earners and a correspondingly lower tax rate for lower income earners;
  • an incremental Capital Gains Tax on property;
  • a progressive inheritance tax;
  • regular review and monitoring of the tax laws and implementation to ensure there are no tax loopholes;
  • review capital allowances and tax holidays for foreign firms;
  • regulate and impose a tax on all international financial transactions and hedge funds;
  • no Goods and Services Tax;
  • progressive tax on all luxury goods.

 

  1. A Far-Sighted and Fair Education Policy

The Malaysian education system and standards have deteriorated through the years and we have fallen behind even Southeast Asian countries in the global standards ranking. Political parties must commit to these urgent reforms to recover our educational standards by,

  • abolishing discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, religion, age, gender or creed relating to entry into educational institutions;
  • promoting quality holistic education, equal opportunities, social justice, creativity, critical thinking as well as scientific and technological knowledge required for research & development and vocational skills ;
  • upholding the spirit of the Education Ordinance 1957 by supporting mother tongue education, building Chinese, Tamil and English-language schools in areas where they are needed, ensuring proportionate financial support and training of adequate teachers for these schools;
  • providing financial support for the non-profit community-run mother tongue secondary schools;
  • preserving and developing indigenous peoples’ mother tongue language and education;
  • recognising certificates and degrees based on academic accreditation and not politics.

 

  1. An Improved Public Health Service

The privatization of our public health services started from the time of Mahathir’s rule. The steady encroachment of the private health sector is threatening to make health care unaffordable to the majority of Malaysians and to destroy the public health service we have enjoyed since Independence. An improved public health service should ensure that:

  • Malaysians are entitled to free healthcare in the public sector;
  • At least 10% of the GDP in the annual budget is allocated to healthcare;
  • There are better conditions for doctors, nurses and hospital workers in the public sector;
  • Homes and day-care centres are provided for the elderly and disabled through benefits, support services, including access to mobile health care.

 

  1. Providing better social services

Political parties must commit to providing better social services through:

  • affordable public housing for the majority of Malaysians instead of allowing our commons to be privatized for middle class and luxury housing and resorts;
  • instituting a Housing Development Board, managed by elected local councils to implement an effective low-cost public housing programme throughout the country for the poor and marginalized communities with adequate space for community activities, recreation and green areas;
  • respecting the rights of urban settlers in any development plan to upgrade their area or to re-house them;
  • introducing concrete measures to improve the public transport system in the country while regulating highway construction and car traffic in city and town centres.

 

 

  1. Defend Workers’ Rights

Workers’ rights and unionization have been steadily denuded since the spate of privatization policies by Mahathir in 1981. Political parties must show their commitment to workers’ rights and greater democracy by the following reforms:

  • review all labour laws to ensure they are compatible with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention;
  • promote the right of workers to unionise;
  • legislate a progressive guaranteed minimum wage for all workers, including foreign workers;
  • abolish the Contractor for Labour System and restore direct two-party employment relationship between principal/owners of workplaces and the workers;
  • ensure all workers are employed as regular permanent employees and enjoy all benefits including maternity rights and extended retirement age;
  • extend equality and non-discrimination to all workers in the private sector;
  • let workers and their trade unions to be part of economic influence and decision-making, especially control of their pension funds;
  • divert company stock ownership and profits into employee share funds to enable workers to have a stake in these companies;
  • elected workers’ representatives should be equally represented in the management and to decide corporate decisions, including investments, technology, wages and prices.

 

  1. Uphold Women’s Human Rights and Dignity

Women’s rights and dignity are still not adequately addressed in Malaysian society and the plight of the LGBT has been highlighted recently by the homophobic taunts of the “superman” in one of the Pakatan Harapan parties. In order to uphold women’s rights and dignity,

  • implement at least 30% quota for women’s representation in all decision-making bodies of government, the judiciary and political parties in order to encourage greater participation by women in public life;
  • incorporate the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and its provisions into national law guaranteeing equality for all in both public and private spheres of life;
  • review and amend all laws and constitutional provisions that discriminate on the basis of gender including the acquisition of citizenship status of non-citizen spouses;
  • confront sexism and prejudice based on gender stereotypes;
  • implement equal pay for women holding similar posts as men and establish competent national tribunals and other public institutions to ensure the effective protection of women against any act of discrimination.

 

  1. Protect the Rights of the Indigenous peoples

It is time for a new government to seriously and adequately protect the rights of the Orang Asal to self-determination, including:

  • the right to own, control and use their traditional lands, territories and resources on their own terms;
  • their right to sustainable development, access to basic needs and advancement of their traditions and languages;
  • policies and institute legislation that comply with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) already endorsed by the Malaysian government;
  • enact or amend state laws that recognise and protect the native customary rights of the Orang Asal to their traditional lands and territories.

 

  1. A Society based on Human Rights & Rule of Law

All political parties must commit to building a new society that genuinely respects human rights and the rule of law by:

  • repealing all laws that allow torture, whipping, detention-without-trial and incommunicado detention;
  • abolishing the death penalty in Malaysia, impose an immediate moratorium on all executions pending abolition and commute the sentences of all persons currently on death row;
  • ratifying the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights, the Convention against Torture and the Convention on Refugees;
  • implementing the Independent Police Complaints Committee (IPCMC) and other recommendations of the Royal Police Commission to ensure transparency and accountability by the police and other enforcement agencies such as the MACC;
  • establishing a law reform commission to restore the independence of the judiciary;
  • reviewing the Federal Constitution and all laws that are unjust and violate human rights, and resolve the conflict of jurisdiction between civil and syariah laws;
  • establishing a Royal Commission of Inquiry to solve once and for all the problem of citizenship for Malaysians who were born here or have lived here for more than 10 years, permanent residence for foreign spouses of Malaysians, as well as the problem of undocumented migrants in the country;
  • guaranteeing social justice and dignity for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT) just as for heterosexuals’ rights.

 

  1. Root out corruption effectively

Corruption will not disappear when the BN is replaced by a new political coalition. To ensure that corruption is more effectively dealt with, we call for,

  • establishment of a truly independent Anti-Corruption Commission answerable to parliament with the power to recommend prosecutions for all offences of corrupt practice;
  • the Public Accounts Committee in Parliament to be chaired by an Opposition Member of Parliament;
  • opportunities for corruption to be eliminated by proscribing the “revolving door” opportunities between the civil/armed services and the private sector;
  • government ministry/department heads to account for every discrepancy in the annual Auditor-general’s report and pay for any negligence or corruption involved;
  • all privatised projects to be openly tendered.

 

  1. Free and Fair Elections

The Malaysian electoral system is in desperate need of reform. We demand:

  • fair representation in delineation of parliamentary constituencies, viz. discrepancy in the number of voters in different constituencies should not exceed 15% as existed at the time of Independence;
  • automatic voting eligibility from the age of 18 using identity card;
  • cleaning up the electoral rolls and ensure that migrants have not been illegally enfranchised;
  • use indelible ink to prevent multiple voting;
  • reforming postal voting to ensure transparency and to enfranchise Malaysian citizens abroad;
  • minimum of 21 days for electoral campaigning;
  • fair access to the media for all parties;
  • strengthening public institutions involved in the electoral process, including the judiciary, the Election Commission, police, MACC and broadcasting media to ensure their independence and professionalism;
  • curbing corruption and vote buying by compulsory auditing of all election expenses, campaign financing;
  • full disclosure of sources of financing and expenditure, and setting a limit on campaign expenditure;
  • ending dirty politics and unethical practices such as religious or communal appeal, false statements, defamatory or personal attacks, wilful distortions, unproven allegations, racist, racial or other forms of intolerant statements against women, minorities and marginalized groups;
  • inviting international election observers as a norm in general elections for greater credibility.

 

  1. Uphold Freedom of Expression and Information

Freedom of expression and information must be an important part of a reformed Malaysia. A new government must commit to,

  • abolish the Sedition Act, the Printing Presses & Publications Act, the Official Secrets Act and the Film Censorship Act;
  • enact a Freedom of Information (FoI) Act at federal and state levels which is reflective of the peoples’ right to know, with the public interest as the overriding principle;
  • take appropriate action to prevent monopoly of ownership and control of the press and broadcasting stations by political parties or corporate bodies;
  • transform the national broadcasting authority into one that is independent and non-partisan, answerable to Parliament and not to the Ministry of Information.

 

  1. Uphold the freedoms of assembly & association

A reformed Malaysia must uphold the democratic freedoms of assembly and association by:

  • repealing the Police Act, the Societies Act, the Universities & University Colleges Act and other relevant laws which restrict these fundamental freedoms;
  • repealing the Peaceful Assembly Act 2011, and grant students of voting age the full freedoms enjoyed by other Malaysian citizens.

 

  1. Defend Migrant Workers’ and Refugees’ Rights

In a reformed Malaysia, migrants and refugees must be accorded due recognition as human beings who are entitled to human rights and accorded,

  • full rights as workers irrespective of their immigration status;
  • given full access to avenues of justice and there shall be no deportation until all pending claims and cases, including at labour tribunals, criminal and civil courts have been fully heard, disposed of and finally settled;
  • given the right to hold their passports and relevant visas and accorded the right to be heard before their visas are cancelled and/or refused renewal;
  • the right not to be arbitrarily deported or their visas cancelled based on justifications such as their having contracted certain diseases, medical conditions and/or they have become pregnant;
  • an Asylum Seeker Refugee Law to ensure proper procedures and safeguards are in place for dealing with asylum seekers/refugees in Malaysia, which should also include the right to judicial review;
  • Malaysia should ratify the United Nations Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

 

  1. A Vibrant and Diverse Cultural Policy

A reformed Malaysia would have a democratic cultural policy allowing all the diverse cultures in Malaysia to flourish by:

  • Abandoning the National Cultural Policy of 1971 which is not inclusive of all Malaysian cultures and was not democratically decided upon;
  • Preserving heritage in all its forms as a record of human experience and aspirations so as to foster creativity in all its diversity and to inspire genuine dialogue among cultures;
  • Involving artists and arts experts in the planning of both formal and informal education, while  developing youth provision policies and programmes with specific intercultural goals;
  • Providing funds for young artists and arts institutions of all ethnic groups through specially targeted programmes.

 

  1. Protect animals and the Malaysian environment

A new government should take serious actions to stop effectively the degradation of the Malaysian environment by:

  • Re-gazetting all previously gazetted forests and wildlife reserves that have been de-gazetted since Independence;
  • Disallowing any degazettement of forests without public hearing and clear notice;
  • Imposing strict energy and water conservation measures including incentives for energy efficiency and other forms of demand management;
  • Banning all toxic industries which affect the health of residents and ensure full consultation with people affected by development projects;
  • Giving incentives for development of solar energy and other sustainable energy sources;
  • Enforcing recycling measures in all local authorities;
  • Enacting laws to prevent cruelty to animals and actively promote animal welfare.

 

  1. Reduce crime and increase public safety

The rising crime rate and threats to public safety in Malaysia must be checked through,

  • Rredeploying more police personnel on the streets to reduce crime instead of using them to crack down on peaceful assemblies and snooping on civil society;
  • Setting up a Special Multi-Ethnic Peace-Keeping Force to be deployed rapidly to any conflict involving ethnic communities;
  • Curbing corruption and ensuring the highest standards of professionalism in the police force in bringing drug dealers and drug gangs to justice;
  • Involving the community in policing and the criminal justice system.

 

  1. Defence Cuts and a Culture of Peace

Apart from criticising the BN Government’s arms procurements and corruption scandals, Opposition parties have to date not put forward an alternative defence policy. We call on a new government to,

  • review our national defence policy in order to promote a culture of peace and disarmament;
  • promote ASEAN cooperation in order to pool resources and slash arms spending in all ASEAN countries;
  • cut the defence budget to below 1% of GDP and apportion a correspondingly higher budget for health, education and social services;
  • set up a Parliamentary Defence Committee chaired by an Opposition MP as well as an independent Ombudsman to oversee the defence budget.

 

To conclude, Malaysians must start to ask the alternative coalition what reforms they promise us in a post-BN future. We want a concrete blueprint for an alternative Malaysian future and not just sloppy slogans, corruption slanging and other theatrics. Malaysian civil society provided such an agenda for concrete reforms in 2013. Do the Opposition parties commit to this?