10 areas where Anwar needs a reform plan

Bloomberg pic.

After the disappointment of the new Pakatan Harapan (PH) government reneging on its GE14 manifesto promises, Anwar Ibrahim has to tell us what he plans to do that is different from the actions of the current prime minister. If he fails to produce a better vision than Dr Mahathir Mohamad has shown us thus far, there really isn’t much to look forward to and we might as well let the current prime minister finish his term until the next election.

Given PH’s pre-election promises, the least we expect is that Anwar makes it a priority to address 10 burning issues that are central to reforming Malaysia. Saudara Anwar should tell us if he can and will commit to implementing them:

1. An end to race-based policies

Will Anwar replace race-based policies such as the NEP with needs-based measures that truly benefit the lower-income and marginalised sectors? The NEP was supposed to end in 1990 but has become a populist, never-ending policy to win over the Bumiputeras while benefiting mainly the political elite.

It is common sense that poor rural Malaysians should be assisted based on their needs in their particular economic sectors. And with more than 95% Bumiputera composition in the civil and armed forces, will the prime minister-designate ensure that recruitment and promotion in these services are based on merit from now on?

Furthermore, does Anwar endorse Mahathir’s plan to privatise Khazanah to benefit Bumiputera interests? And does he agree with the prime minister’s plan for a new national car, Proton 2.0?

2. A commitment to equality

All over the world, not just in the West, there are now more countries allowing consensual sex between adults than those that prohibit it. The Indian Supreme Court has just shown the Asian world that it is high time to discard the antiquated and prejudiced British colonial law against the LGBT community.

Apart from abolishing racial discrimination, will Anwar commit to implementing legislation to ensure equality for all regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender and sexuality by banning child marriages and decriminalising consensual sex between adults?

3. A progressive and fair economic policy

It is time that revenue from Petronas is invested in a sovereign wealth fund as a pension fund for future generations and oil-producing states instead of being used as a cash cow to supplement the annual budget and bail out failed businessmen. We also want strong and fairly distributed public-sector health, education, housing, transport services including highways which have been privatised to crony capitalists at the expense of the public good. Our small and medium enterprises, farmers and fisherfolk need adequate support in order to develop our local food and industrial production.

Will Anwar address the increasingly serious gap in income inequality through progressive taxation on the high-income earners, their wealth and property, as well as effective tax laws to ensure there are no tax loopholes for the super-rich, capital allowances and tax holidays for foreign firms, and will a tax be imposed on all international financial transactions and hedge funds?

4. Start the process to bring back elected local councils now

It is unacceptable that elected local government will only be reinstated in three years’ time according to the current government. The people have waited more than 50 years for this basic democratic institution to be reinstated and the decision cannot be put off by unconvincing financial concerns.

Will Anwar begin the process for bringing back elected local government right away?

5. Repeal all detention-without-trial laws

The new PH government has been pussyfooting with all the laws that allow arbitrary declaration of emergency, torture, capital punishment, detention-without-trial and incommunicado detention including NSC, Sosma, Pota and Poca. These are laws legislated under the old regime but which remain the same under the new PH government. The death penalty in Malaysia has not been abolished nor has there been a moratorium imposed on all executions pending abolition.

Will Anwar abolish the death penalty and impose a moratorium on all executions, and rescind all laws that violate international human rights as soon as possible?

6. Implement the Independent Police Complaints & Misconduct Commission (IPCMC)

The IPCMC and other recommendations of the 2005 Royal Police Commission to ensure transparency and accountability by the police and other enforcement agencies such as the MACC have not been implemented in the 13 years since.

Will Anwar find the political will to bring this about once and for all to stop the deaths in custody, tortures and other abuses by the police and enforcement agencies?

7. Zero tolerance for corruption

Corruption is a key threat to the growth of our nation and its institutions. Fighting corruption and promoting good public governance must be the top priorities of the new government. Making it mandatory for all public officials to declare their assets, including those of their spouses and children, is crucial to the campaign to prevent corruption in politics.

An asset declaration should cover the public official’s assets and income, and the assets and income of their spouses and dependent children from all homes, valuables and financial portfolios, as well as liabilities, such as debts and mortgages; all sources of income from directorships and investments to consulting contracts; gifts and any potential conflicts of interest such as unpaid employment contracts.

Will Anwar stop the dubious practice of appointing peoples’ representatives as directors of federal and state corporations and ensure that any public official charged with corruption be obligated to step down while their case is pending in the courts?

8. A far-sighted and fair education policy

Education should no longer be politicised as it has been since independence. There should be equal opportunities for all without any racial discrimination with enrolment into all schools including tertiary educational institutions. Besides provision of national schools using the Malay language, mother tongue schools for the various ethnic groups should be built in education precincts designed with shared facilities to promote integration, ensure proportionate financial support and train adequate numbers of teachers for these schools.

Will Anwar build schools according to need by the local communities under the respective elected local councils? Will Anwar ensure the immediate recognition of the Malaysian independent Chinese secondary schools’ Unified Examination Certificate since it was promised in the Buku Harapan before GE14?

9. Defend workers’ rights and interests

The right of all workers to unionise is a universal right. It’s high time we had a progressive guaranteed living wage for all workers, including foreign workers. Workers must be given the right to association, full employment, retrenchment and pension fund, and workers’ representatives should be part of decision-making in enterprises.

Will Anwar ensure a guaranteed minimum wage of RM1,500 as promised in the Buku Harapan instead of the despicable RM1,050 that the new PH government has just announced?

10. Prioritise Orang Asli rights and sustainable development

It is a priority that we put the rights and livelihood of the Orang Asli at the top of the national agenda by recognising their rights to the land they have been occupying for centuries, prohibiting logging in Orang Asli land and ensuring all Orang Asli villages have adequate social facilities and services.

The autonomy of the Orang Asli must be respected by ensuring their participation in all policymaking involving their interests and introducing policies and laws that comply with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, especially their right to customary land. At the same time, all local people must be consulted before any development projects and all permanent forest and wildlife reserves gazetted. We want renewable energy projects that do not destroy forests or Orang Asli land.

Will Anwar set up a ministry for indigenous peoples to show his commitment to prioritising the rights and livelihood of the Orang Asli?

To conclude, we call on Saudara Anwar to make a “Port Dickson declaration” to show us his reform plan for the nation that is different from the present prime minister’s. If he cannot do better than the current prime minister, what is the point of having this forced by-election in Port Dickson? It will be a big waste of taxpayers’ money and we might as well settle for the devil we know until the next election than the angel who can’t promise us a better tomorrow.

Kua Kia Soong is the adviser to Suaram.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.