Saturday, August 10, 2013

100 days after GE13: Moving on with public wisdom




100 days after GE13: Moving on with public wisdom

First Published: 7:01am, Aug 08, 2013
Last Updated: 8:00am, Aug 08, 2013 
fz.com
THIS Aug13 marks the 100th day of the completion of GE13. Even though to some politicians, analysts and pundits, the debate on its result will carry on, perhaps endlessly, but to most people, it is time to move on.

This is the time where, we the people, no matter how diverse our views and standpoints are, and regardless which part of the house we are seated in, make the best out of what has come out of GE13.

We can, though admittedly it is not going to be easy, if we are genuinely passionate about making Malaysia a better nation.

This is an opportunity to engage ourselves around public issues (not politics) that are fundamental (not because they are viral) in ways that generate a coherent and shared voice of ours, infusing the democratic process with common sense and guiding intelligent decision making.

We must continue the new conversation that has started prior to GE13, with the aim of discussing what needs to be taken into account in order for us to produce long-term inclusive benefits. 

This process should include new approaches in doing things, for example, more consultation, participation and deliberation, and should move beyond partisanship. 

Tom Atlee calls this process "institutionalising the power of public wisdom in our government". I call it "New Politics".

In this context, my take is that we need to do the following:  

Firstly, the practice of New Politics. The aim is to put a stop to all kinds of money, corrupt, dirty and gutter politics of the old, and bring about a more mature and progressive democracy. It involves four major components: integrity, new governance framework, innovations in democracy and progressive political thoughts.   

At a recent workshop on the GE13 results organised by Universiti Malaya Centre for Democracy and Elections (UMCEDEL), Dr Latif Ibrahim of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia compared the different languages used by Old Politics and New Politics.

Old Politics talks about race and religion and emphasises on differences and difficulties in working things out. It includes issues on development, material handouts, use of threats and instilling fear, loyalty versus treason, use of sheer power to silence people and use of unsubstantiated sexual acts.

New Politics talks about justice, equality, freedom, more democratic and two-party system. It includes issues on working across ethnic and religious divide, moderation and non-materialist values.  

Secondly, reform of democratic institutions. We need to regain the peoples’ trust in the Election Commission (EC). The announcement by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak that the EC will now report to Parliament is a good start.

We need to strengthen the Parliament by making it independent through self-governance and introducing new initiatives, for example: formation of more select committees; all existing commissions report to Parliament and their reports debated; formation of a Law Reform Commission; and reform of the Dewan Negara.

The mainstream media needs an overhaul. This is to ensure that the right to information is upheld and an informed society is developed.

Thirdly, the practice of new governance. New realities, particularly the third phase of democracy, necessitate that the government establish a "new governance framework". It refers to a genuine consultative structure and process of decision making that involves all stakeholders (state, business and civil society; and federal-state relations). It must be complemented with a more committed effort in implementing principles of good governance, for example, as envisioned by the National Integrity Plan.

The GE13 shows that the government is facing a trust deficit from the people. This involves the "4Cs": corruption, cronyism, crime and cost (of living). Besides that, there is also the other "2Cs": cows and condominiums!

These issues are real, not perception. We need to tackle them urgently, comprehensively and effectively. For example, in fighting corruption, we need a political will to go after the big ones and to fully utilise spend management technologies (eg, e-procurement and e-bidding) and address political financing.

And fourthly, new approaches in policies. Today’s generational changes warrant that we employ new approaches, that are more in sync with today’s ways, in formulating, implementing and evaluating policies and programmes.

In economy, for example, its aim should no longer be just about growth and equity, but must include new objectives, like a healthy and inclusive system that results in happiness. This entails, among others: ethic, social justice, end of economics of dependency; new and decent jobs; start-ups development; and social entrepreneurship as a new tool in empowering the poor.

Other examples are: migration from "race-based policies" to "needs-based policies"; education system that focuses on the soul of its institutions, quality of its graduates and recognition of parental choice; and full and active empowerment and participation of the youth, woman and civil society.

Let’s stop canvassing and start working.


Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah is the former MP of Temerloh and former deputy minister for higher education. Follow him on Twitter @saifuddinabd. 



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