KUALA LUMPUR: Former Bar Council president Ambiga Sreenevasan has defended her criticism of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government, saying it would be a disservice to the country if people do not speak out against wrongdoings by the current administration.
“When I criticise them, it’s on principle, because what’s important is that our new government must know what a conflict of interest is, concepts of cronyism, nepotism and so forth,” she told a forum in Bangsar tonight.
She cited as examples the controversy over Education Minister Maszlee Malik’s appointment as the president of the International Islamic University (IIUM), and the Finance Ministry’s approval to Petron, a company with links to the son of Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, to supply fuel to government vehicles.
“There are these little interests which are conflicts,” she said.
She said she disagreed with the view that critics should be more lenient towards the new government.
“I disagree. We didn’t vote them in for this. We expected a much higher standard from the PH government,” she said.
The former Bersih 2.0 chairperson said she was aware of bigger problems that were difficult to solve, such as on the civil service and the nation’s finances, but said there were “smaller issues” that should be overcome easily.
“It’s not me being personal. It’s good that they learn because once this high standard slips, it’ll keep slipping,” she said.
Ambiga had recently warned PKR that the party was practising nepotism following concerns over the decision by Port Dickson MP Danyal Balagopal Abdullah to vacate his seat to pave the way for a by-election to allow Anwar Ibrahim to contest.
Ambiga, who is part of Putrajaya’s Institutional Reform Committee (IRC), said there was a dire need to push for changes to the current system.
She said her work with IRC touched on the issue in great detail, but said that it would be in vain if the next government undoes such reforms.
“We’re doing this to have a permanent check and balance with the government of the day. It’s not about who’s in power.
“That’s why we have our report, which you can help us persuade the government to make public,” she said to laughter around the room from some 100 attendees, in an apparent reference to the Council of Eminent Person’s decision not to make public its report delivered to Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.