Not unfair to criticise PH after only a year, say rights groups

Buku Harapan, 100 hari, Pakatan harapan
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International Malaysia urge the government to make good on the promises it made before the general election last year.

PETALING JAYA: Human rights groups today challenged the notion that the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government should be given more time to carry out its promised reforms.

Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said it was not unfair to criticise the government after only a year in power.

“The way most governments proceed, it is the first year when most reforms are done. The political momentum is there. People expect things to change.

“We have now crossed the one-year mark (but) it is not too late for reforms,” he said in a joint press conference on PH’s reform agenda here.

He added that if the government waits another year, politics would deepen and complicate efforts at reform.

“Another year, and the next thing you know we will be talking about the next election,” he said.

Amnesty International Malaysia executive director Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu meanwhile said a year was not too short a time to undo the 61 years of what Barisan Nasional had done.

“PH planned a lot of things in its manifesto,” she added. “It takes political will.

“There are decisions that can be made by the Cabinet, whether to abolish, amend or review. Political will is lacking now.”

However, she dismissed the suggestion for civil groups to play the role of the opposition, saying it is more important for them to function as a watchdog.

“What civil society groups need to do is to band together on issues of common interest and importance, where we really want to see strategic reforms made,” she said.

When asked about Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s remark that the manifesto is not a bible to be strictly followed, Shamini said it was a copout.

“They should at least look at the promises made and how the reforms can be carried out.

“The prime minister said with the promises made, they had not expected to win. Well, they won. It’s been a year. We need to get down to business,” she said, urging the government to work on fulfilling its manifesto pledges.

Robertson, meanwhile, said Putrajaya’s “ad hoc decision-making” was undermining its manifesto, citing PH’s initial pledge to abolish the National Security Council Act which it later said would be amended instead.

“By saying that the manifesto is not a bible, you are basically undermining the election manifesto you came up with.

“They need to go back to principles they were elected on,” he said.