If we study the history of the world, we would come to understand that many empires, including the great ones, had declined and fallen on account of the rot and decadence that had set within their own system. Hamlet rued the state of decadence and corruption in his kingdom when he observed that “something is rotten in the state of Denmark”. And it was the said rot that eventually brought about the downfall of Denmark.
Likewise in the case of the Umno-led Alliance and Barisan Nasional, which had ruled the country without interruption for the last six decades. The rot and decadence had started at the head and, before long, spread to all the body parts. There was nowhere to go but down.
The fact that people were peeved at the kleptocratic government of Datuk Seri Najib Razak was as clear as day and became self-evident when they rose up against all odds to vote for change at the 14th general election (GE14).
With change comes the huge expectations of the new government to address and resolve the many problems that had beset and beleaguered the nation for so long.
Mixed results so far under the new order
Yes, the new government has delivered on some of its promises, especially in debt and fiscal management, fighting the scourge of corruption and instituting reforms in the institutions and organs of government.
But there remain many unfulfilled promises. The state of our economy and high cost of living continue to be a huge bane for the people. The world economy is reeling under great pressure from the trade war between the superpowers and, if left unresolved, is bound to spill over into our shores. The ugly politics of race and religious bigotry continue to cause fissures and divisions in our society. Gutter politics with its share of fake news, spin, lies and deception dominate the daily proceedings. National unity remains as elusive as ever.
Recently, the government unveiled its first budget. Generally, it was well received by the people, with Moody’s giving the thumbs up to the maiden budget as a step in the right direction. Meanwhile, the World Bank said it was impressed by its comprehensiveness.
As indulgent and forbearing as the people are, at least for now, my view is that there are still a few areas of great concern, among them:
1. Compensation for Syarikat Pengeluar Air Selangor (SPLASH)
One case, which has generated a lot of controversy, is the compensation paid to the shareholders of SPLASH. Many people find it difficult to reconcile the huge gap in the figures of RM250 million bandied about by former Selangor menteri besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim and the final settlement sum of RM2.55 billion agreed between the parties. Those who have followed the developments of the story knew that the incumbent Selangor government (obviously sanctioned by the federal government) has justified the said settlement sum based on the auditors’ reports and valuation of the company’s net worth, with some discount thrown in. But the public needs to have a simple and down-to-earth explanation of the numbers for them to understand the rationale behind the whole scheme. Otherwise, some may feel that the whole thing smacks of impropriety.
2. Fundamental provisions in the constitution
There are legitimate concerns by various parties and stakeholders that their positions, rights and privileges as enshrined in the constitution are now under threat by external and internal forces. The government needs to deal with and handle this problem with great care and sensitivity, lest it becomes a recipe for civil strife. Issues such as the ratification of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) have to be deliberated, explained and dealt with in a wise manner, so efforts to establish social justice do not cause a rupture in the national fabric.
3. Succession plan
Then there is the succession issue between Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. Despite the firm assurances and commitments made by Mahathir that he would honour the pact between the component parties of PH on the said succession plan — which has been warmly embraced by Anwar — the issue still continues to be a subject of manipulative speculation and conspiracy theories.
The enemies are of course hell-bent on creating a wedge between the two leaders. Some media and bloggers, too, have gone into overdrive to spin stories and feed their perceptions or conjecture on the matter to the people. Often, the stories are without basis and merit.
At the end of the day, what matters most is what the two leaders do or say. They will be the ones who will work out things between them. And we should just be content to accept that insofar as this matter is concerned, it is a done deal between them.
It would be instructive to note that in an interview with AFP on Nov 1, Mahathir once again reiterated that he would honour his promise to pass the premiership to Anwar sooner rather than later as he acknowledged that the workload is taking a heavy toll on his health. So, let us give Mahathir the time and space to prepare for his dignified final farewell to us. Anwar has responded by saying that he is not putting any pressure on Mahathir or setting a time limit on the latter’s tenure as PM.
4. Influx of Umno MPs into PH?
The current imbroglio about the possible reverse takeover of Umno and its 40 MPs by Bersatu or PKR is making the people who voted for PH in GE14 uneasy.
They fought tooth and nail to remove Umno from the seat of government and now, suddenly, they face the prospect of having to reckon and work with a party that they perceive as an enemy of the people and state.
Voters have every right to be fearful that some of these bad and ugly politicians will bring their toxic politics and corrupt culture into PH and render the efforts to cleanse our political system hollow. Alas, what a tragedy and travesty of justice that would be!
The other component parties of PH would do well to emulate the moral compass and principled stand taken by DAP on this matter as well as a host of other issues. DAP’s stand on the Umno MPs is clear and easy to understand. It jives well and is in sync with the sentiments of the people on the ground. The stand should serve as the benchmark for PH to measure up to.
The people want PH to know and remember well that if they are not bonded together on a matter of principles, then the coalition would be nothing more than a sham.
PH needs to focus on governance and must not betray the people
The people are watching closely the proceedings of the government and the political play by various stakeholders, actors and players. They want good governance and a clear direction of where the country is heading.
The noises made by the defeated enemies outside and at the gates may be a distraction but, at the end of the day, they may not matter much to the destiny and direction of the country.
However, the government must be mindful of the rumblings of the people. The PH government must not betray the people who voted for them. They must play less politics and instead work together for the good of the nation and the people.
Wan Haron Wan Hassan is a senior practising lawyer and is active in civil society movements. He is also a former treasurer of the Umno Kota Baru division (2004-2008).