Tuesday, September 20, 2011

That bold speech on that historic day — Sakmongkol AK47

That bold speech on that historic day — Sakmongkol AK47

September 19, 2011
Malaysian Insider

SEPT 19 — I am a little late to write on the historic speech of the prime minister. Really, I wanted to offer words of encouragement and support. I am tired to continue criticising the PM, who is, after all, my ketua bahagian.

I was thinking, support and congratulations are in order because the media, led by the overzealous minister of information, have led the public to believe that some real goodies are in order; and after that, the public will offer effusive joyousness in response.

They will, I think, if the subject matter that is going to be announced affects them directly and immediately in a positive way. The response from the public will be lukewarm if the subject matter affects them indirectly and inconsequentially. Let us judge the administration on this score.

All week, the public was thinking that PM will announce some measures to be taken by the government that will, in substance, increase the efficiency of governance and government. In the end, those measures will translate into immediate increase in disposable income.

What possible form can such measures take place? Maybe: (1) Restructuring the GLCs including Khazanah so that they won’t become governments unto themselves. Now that 15,000 employees of MAS have threatened industrial action, that shows Khazanah has been doing some cloak and dagger corporate moves; (2) replacing laggard key government officials with those with abilities; (3) removal of structural impediments to transparency and accountability such as removing OSA; (4) shaking up the institutions that deliver justice and the law such as the police and the judiciary; and (5) announce stronger measures on corruption including the conviction of the big guns.

Further, things like direct transfer of money (oil money) to the public like what the Singapore government did during its recent general election. Those states making mountains of money from petroleum royalties distributing money to citizens of the state; Felda Corporation, which made lots of money, giving out money to Felda settlers, etc. That would be the real goodies that would certainly induce the recipients to jump up in uncontrollable euphoria while proclaiming “Najib, you are da man!”

We certainly need some substantive liberty enhancing policies from the current administration that would differentiate the Najib administration positively from previous ones. By liberty-enhancing policies, I mean policies that reduce dependency on the government.

There are some economic pressures that the government needs to address that have political ramifications. Inflationary pressures that cause the price of essential goods to rise make people more dependent on the government.

More people in the rural areas will depend on the welfare department for assistance and, when given, obliges them to be loyal to the benefactor. So what does a desperate government do? Maybe even condone the price increase. We are happy to note the administration is doing everything possible to contain the inflationary pressures.

Maybe the scrapping of the RM50 billion MRT in favour of an improved transport system that is more public friendly, maybe the setting of a ceiling price for houses in the city so that lower- and middle-income earners can work and stay in the city. Instead, they now have to look for houses in the outskirts of town while the city is reserved for the selects. Or maybe some form of a Buffet tax on the super-rich. Or maybe the dismantling of Khazanah and transferring all its shares to Amanah Saham Nasional or Amanah Saham Bumiputera.

Compared to the announcement involving the ISA and the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA), government actions on those would be more impactful. But isn’t prosperity predicated on the removal of shackles and chains that perpetuate un-freedom?

I am using the term un-freedom to define freedom and liberty as a state of being free from the arbitrary force and coercion of others. Yes, it does; but the emancipation potential arising from the more down to earth policies could achieve the desired effects of freedom and liberty much more and faster.

The ululating responses would of course make the minister of information look good and perhaps ensure one last hurrah as a Cabinet member? It would be unfair for me to harbour misgivings aforethought.

The desired responses were forthcoming. Everywhere, PM Najib Razak was declared a revolutionary and a bold PM. Rais Yatim must be beaming like a Cheshire cat. PM Najib is really Optimus Prime, the chief Transformer. I have forgotten the never ending list of acronyms. Maybe the APCO people can issue a definitive list signed by Idris Jala, of course.

After the speech and announcement, the euphoria was I think premature. The subject of his bold and revolutionary steps to enhance governance and credibility of his administration are the ISA and the PPPA. Important as they are, I think their impact on governance enhancement and thereafter productivity is outstretched and indirect.

The good intent of abolishing the ISA appears to be blunted by the forewarning that two new Acts will replace the ISA. A person arbitrarily defined as a terrorist can still be detained without trial in open court. The empowering act of Article 149, the fountain from which springs ISA-like enactments, is still there and remains the overarching enabling repressive Act.

I was thinking of some announcement on measures to improve the quality of civil servants, or some measures assuring the best of civil servants that their effort will be well compensated, or the removal of bureaucratic clogs that prevent transparency, accountability and so forth.

Perhaps, if there is full public disclosure, we can once and for all determine, for example, whether Bangladeshi workers are given citizenship to vote in the coming general elections. Perhaps also, if there is full disclosure instead of OSA, then we can resolve the double speak by the Election Commission that the final list of voters are with them and that what the public are looking at are outdated voter registers.

Why would the updated and current list be withheld from public knowledge? I wouldn’t want a Bangladeshi pump attendant to have the same voting rights as I do. How the Election Commission can with impunity insult our intelligence by claiming the latest voters lists are meant for internal circulation is beyond any measure of decency!

I was thinking maybe the removal of the OSA, more insidious than the ISA, which prevents any public spirited citizen of this country from discovering the rationale of many government decisions on tender awards, on selection process and so on.

Now THAT, I thought would have more far reaching impact on the voters.

The ISA and PPPA? Tokens imputing the liberalisation of our society. ISA will be replaced by two new Acts on terrorism? Will the definition of terrorism be assigned to the sole and arbitrary discretion of the PM or the home minister? If it’s that, then the ISA remains in a different form.

People and political opponents, on the pain of being declared a terrorist, can be detained and incarcerated indefinitely without open trial. Owners of newspapers will still need to apply for a one-off licence from the relevant ministers. The liberty to operate a newspaper, therefore, remains only in potential until the minister approves.

Naturally, PM Najib came out brilliantly after delivering what people thought was a very bold move by the PM. Naturally, at least, that was the impression one can safely assume to be gushing out from the sycophantic Umno masses.

Unfortunately for PM Najib , if he cares to listen intently enough, even Umno members are now being critical. With 79 parliamentary seats, it’s no longer PM Najib’s own survival that is at stake, but also that of Umno as a dominant partner in any future government.

To most Umno members, PM Najib’s nervous rendition of his pre-Malaysia Day speech could signal the end of life as they have know it. But that probably is due to a stiffened neck malady — damn the pillow! — or maybe the after effects of his knee surgery.

Mainly, the life of an aristocrat feeding on the toil and labour of the masses while the ruling elite luxuriate in a life with perpetual soirees, jewellery from Jacob & Co, and where the spouses of prominent leaders swap lunatic smalltalk over the latest Hermes Birkin handbags and accessories. — sakmongkol.blogspot.com

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication. The Malaysian Insider does not endorse the view unless specified.

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