On March 9 the people of Malaysia didn’t panic or riot. Instead they woke up, took their breakfasts and went shopping. It was the politicians that panicked – something they’re still doing now, some five months on.
Still, the conservatives are certain that we’d be at each other’s throats if we opened up even just a little bit.
Of course, much of what they’re saying is self-serving. Most of the conservative figures would stand to lose a great deal under a more transparent and accountable regime.
The “reform agenda” has been dogged by the Government’s unwillingness to relinquish control. Repression is second nature to Barisan Nasional.
It maintains a constant undercurrent of fear alongside vague warnings of racial unrest and religious extremism that in turn frustrates the voices of the poor and marginalised. All this does is concentrate power ever more firmly in the hands of the elites.
Let’s start with law and order. Our judiciary is widely acknowledged to be fatally weakened. At the same time, the police force appears to have lost the trust of the public at large.
Moreover, two high-profile cases – one concerning the Altantuya murder and the other the sodomy accusation against PKR adviser Anwar Ibrahim – exemplify the challenges facing our legal system.
With law and order so imperilled we need a stronger media to act as whistleblower for administrative and corporate misdeeds.
The mainstream media needs to be unshackled from the restrictions of the Printing Presses and Publications Act. A failure to do so will only embolden the blogosphere and diminish the credibility of papers like the one you are reading now.
Given these developments, a recent blog posting by Lim Kit Siang has been a welcome wake-up call.
The DAP leader begins by explaining that he has “received the initial notification of the parliamentary business for the 41-day budget meeting beginning on Monday, Aug 18”.
According to Kit Siang: “It is a great disappointment, for it is evident that there will be no reformist bill for Parliament in August.”
The Ipoh Timor MP proceeds to outline three key areas that are in need of reform, namely: (i) the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC); (ii) the Judicial Appointments Commission; and; (iii) the Malaysian Commission on Anti-Corruption (MCAC).
While it’s a short posting, I thank the opposition leader for his clarity of mind at a time of intense and largely needless political activity.
Right now the most important thing for Malaysians to do is focus – focus on the really important things, the things that need to be addressed. Our political elite wants us to get agitated and upset over racial and religious issues.
They don’t want us focusing on the system’s inherent frailties – frailties that they have exploited to powerful effect. Their future depends on us losing the plot.
We have to reject their repressive designs in order to regain the reform agenda that has eluded us for so long.