Government Must Prioritise Bread And Butter Issues, Says PKR Lawmaker

by Syahirah Syed Jaafar /
December 02, 2018 19:43 pm +08

PETALING JAYA (Dec 2): While institutional reform is needed in the country, the “basic bread and butter economic issues” must be prioritised to prevent backlash from the people, says Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad.

“It’s about solving the basic needs of the people. You can talk about institutional reform, but if the bread and butter issues such as wages are not solved, then we will get backlash and we are already seeing signs of that,” the Member of Parliament (MP) for Setiawangsa said at the launch of his book entitled “9 May 2018: Notes from the Frontline” by PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim today. The price of the book is at RM25.

Nik Nazmi said while the ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition managed to secure the majority of parliamentary seats during the recent 14th general election (GE14), it did not, however, get support from certain quarters of the country and must therefore work harder to earn their trust.

“Even though we have won, we did not get a majority of support from the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, everyone knows that. We also did not get Malay support from Perlis, nor in most seats in Sabah and Sarawak. So these are the things that we need to realise and try to reach out to them,” he added.

For Nik Nazmi, GE14 was a personal milestone as he was contesting for the first time at federal level. He clinched the Parliamentary seat of Setiawangsa, the only seat in Kuala Lumpur that Barisan Nasional had never lost previously.

In his book, Nik Nazmi gave his behind-the-scenes take on the political developments in the opposition coalition from the disappointing loss of GE13 to the ecstacy win of GE14.

“I thought it was important that we document this experience and I wanted to contribute my account so that we can remind ourselves as we embark on a New Malaysia,” he said.

Recalling the fall of the Pakatan Rakyat coalition and the founding of Pakatan Harapan, he also gave his first-hand account of the back room politics, the party conferences, the development of the non-profit organisation INVOKE Malaysia, working with Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, as well as insight into the campaigns he worked on in Selangor and Setiawangsa, and in marginal seats from Perlis to Sabah.

Meawhile, Anwar conceded that a lot more has to be done to address the bread and butter issues, especially the poor and marginalised groups.

“Now that I am MP for Port Dickson, I see that poverty remains an issue till today. While I advocate for dismantling the New Economic Policy to create more progressive ones, many Malays in the rural areas remain suspicious of our efforts because we are not seen as creating tough measures to elevate poverty.

“But I am mindful that to succeed, we must be clear that we will work on getting rid of corruption and show more compassion towards the marginalised,” he said in his speech at the book launch.

Nik Nazmi previously served as private secretary to Anwar from 2006 to 2008. Nik Nazmi also held the position of the first Pakatan Harapan Youth Leader from 2017 to 2018 and PKR youth chief from 2014 to 2018. He was a two-term Selangor state assemblyman until 2018.

Later after the launch, Anwar urged Umno and PAS leaders not to proceed with the rally linked to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) on Dec 8.

He said they should not deny that there was currently racial anxiety, in addition to Putrajaya having said that it had decided not to ratify the United Nations convention.

“I am asking for the wisdom of Umno and PAS leaders as we can’t deny there is racial anxiety now,” he added.

Anwar also called on leaders to show more courage to tackle racism in the country.

“The agenda of reform does not finish necessarily with a change in leadership. On May 9, Malaysians showed that they were willing to stand together to fight corruption, racism and bigotry.

“We may have won (GE14), but we must continue the fight especially with the rising racism in the West and other nations,” said Anwar.

“Yes, we have problems like with what happened (rioting) at the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in USJ25 recently. But I believe Malaysians can be better.

We should never be proud of these religious bigots, they are there waiting for the chance to screw up the nation. I believe if we remain steadfast in our conviction to our promise for reform, we can achieve justice for all,” he added.

Respect Opposition Representatives

I cannot agree with the stance taken by the Minister of Education YB Maszlee Malik, who stated in Parliament that opposition legislators must apply for permission from his Ministry via the relevant State Education Department Director before they can enter government schools.

MPs, ADUNs and local councillors are often invited to such institutions. They are important places in the civic life of our country.

Barring opposition figures from schools and other institutions of learning was one of the worst abuses under the previous Barisan Nasional government.

Many Pakatan Harapan legislators—including myself—fell victim to it.

Despite serving as Selangor State Exco for Education from 2014-2018, I was constantly barred from visiting schools there.

I was even prevented from speaking at my alma mater, KYUEM, allegedly due to political pressure on the school authorities.

On another occasion, I was forced to pretend to be a student—including riding into campus on a motorbike—in order to fulfil an invitation at Universiti Malaya.

Now that Pakatan Harapan is in power federally—it must continue to take the moral high ground.

There is no reason why we should adopt repressive practices and pettiness of the previous government.

We must trust all legislators—whatever their parties—to behave responsibly when carrying out their public engagements.

Action can of course be taken if any MP or ADUN abuse these platforms, such as by inciting racial or religious hatred or pushing a partisan agenda.

But in all other cases, legislators can and should be allowed into schools, colleges and universities when they are invited to do so.

I cannot understand why issues like this even arise in the New Malaysia.

The Minister ought to know better. He certainly should be more open-minded.

Pakatan Harapan must be different. We must do better in this and all things.


Government Decision To Retain BTN Disappointing

The federal government’s decision to retain the Biro Tata Negara (BTN) is disappointing.

As has been stressed time and time again, not only by politicians in Pakatan Harapan but also media and civil society stakeholders, the BTN has had a highly negative impact.

It has become a tool for political propaganda as well as inciting hatred and fear among the different racial and religious groups. We have also committed in Buku Harapan to abolish BTN.

Moreover, the Minister of Youth and Sports Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman was reported as saying on 9 July 2018—less than a month ago—that “BTN will be abolished.”

What has changed since then?

Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mohamed Farid Md Rafik has of course promised that the BTN’s modules will be “fine-tuned” and “rebranded”.

I do not doubt that, in good faith, he believes that this can and will be done.

However, similar promises have been made in the past without any impact.

The leaders of Pakatan Harapan must realise that the coalition was voted into government to reform Malaysia.

“Reform” must also include the political sphere—indeed, all other changes will fail without it.

A body like BTN, which seeks to in effect control the thoughts of Malaysian citizens, is archaic in this 21st Century. Whether BTN promotes the ideals of Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Harapan, it still goes against the norms of a modern democratic state.

Abolishing it can be done without infringing on anyone’s rights or interests. Full time BTN employees can be transferred to other departments.

All that matters is whether the government has the political will to do so or not.

Malaysians are watching the government’s every move and their estimation of it will rise or fall on how it performs in implementing its election promises.

The BTN must be abolished, full stop.


Mahdzir Is Wrong, Teachers Are Free To Choose In Elections

I refer to the recent statement made by Education Minister, Mahdzir Khalid, threatening teachers and officers who are supportive of the opposition that they will be fired from their job.

Following the strong public backlash, the Education Ministry’s communications team then sought to spin the statement to say that the Minister was only giving ‘fatherly’ advice.

First of all, it was unbecoming of the Minister to influence public servants, especially teachers, and put fear on them so as not to support the opposition.

As Education Minister he should be educated enough to understand that we are a democratic nation and every citizen has the right to support, and express support for any party that they want to.

The Minister’s response following the public backlash in an effort to hide behind this ‘fatherly’ persona undermines the intelligence of the public who have heard such threats time and time again – especially with the election looming.

Teachers are the backbone of society, and they are not only role models but also have a role to shape future generations, and therefore it is wrong to treat them as political tools. They should be able to think and act for themselves.

My message to the teachers, officers and public servants is this; you have the right to vote whichever party you think will best lead the nation, and your vote is your voice.

Pakatan Harapan will do our best to ensure that your job and livelihood is well taken care of, regardless of your political beliefs.

Let us teach those who dare to intimidate and undermine us a lesson, that it is they who should not hold any position due to their recalcitrant attitude.


Khairy must realise the problems of the Malaysian youths are caused by Najib and BN

I read with great interest the recent comments of the Minister of Youth and Sports cum UMNO Leader Khairy Jamaluddin, of how the component parties of BN must embrace first-time, youth voters.
It was rightly noted that this group will play a decisive role in the upcoming General Elections.

Press articles reported that Khairy urged his BN colleagues to understand the concerns of these young voters regarding the cost of living and inflation. He also noted that many of them were undecided on who to vote for and had no strong allegiances to any party.

It is heartening that Khairy understands the importance of young Malaysians.

It is altogether just that their concerns be addressed—not to win their votes, but because it is in the country’s best interests to guarantee its future by doing so.

Still, Khairy should realise that much of the problems facing young Malaysians stem from the failed policies of the UMNO-BN administration, especially those of Prime Minister Najib Razak.

This includes the continual pressure of debt thanks to the problematic PTPTN loan system as well as chaotic, contradictory policies in terms of housing, utilities and public transportation.

It has not oriented the economy to produce jobs that pay a living wage and which can withstand the pressures of globalisation as well as automation.

Moreover, the current administration has shown little willingness to reform Malaysia’s educational system by removing the politically-motivated controls that have been imposed on students, academics and administrators. Education continues to suffer from budgetary cuts.

Leaders of the Federal Government have consistently dismissed or downplayed the genuine problems and grievances of the youth.

As a member of a Cabinet system which practices collective responsibility, the Minister cannot claim that he does not support the policies and processes which have made life difficult and the future uncertain for countless young Malaysians.

If he does not, he ought to have resigned a long time ago. His remaining in the Cabinet hence highlights his support and willingness to defend the direction that the country has been set upon, which is clearly headed the wrong way.

Rather than focus on partisan political interests, he should show genuine leadership and help forge a genuine, bi-partisan political and policy consensus to secure the future of young Malaysians. He should also back the political reforms that our country genuinely needs to move forward.

Listening to the hope of young Malaysians

Lately, there has been a lot of talk about the youth vote in Malaysia.

There has been a lot of attention on what young Malaysians care about politically, as well as what could get them out to the polling booths – or make them stay away.

To get answers to these questions, KEADILAN Youth has been trying to engage young Malaysians through a series of events called Teh Tarik Sessions.

The first of these began in mid-August, when Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail came to Setiawangsa, a marginal seat in Kuala Lumpur held by Barisan Nasional.

From there, we have gone to small towns in Kelantan, Perak and Johor, as well as Felda plantations in Negri Sembilan.

Soon, we plan to go all over Malaysia – from Perlis to Sabah – to talk about what KEADILAN and Pakatan Harapan can do for the youth.

The Teh Tarik Sessions are designed to be two-way dialogues. They are not in the typical ceramah format, but more attuned to a generation that is used to lively engagement on social media.

We serve attendees teh tarik (preferably “kurang manis”) and broadcast these sessions live on the internet.

A lot of the issues that they raise are well known.

Falling commodity prices and opaque practices in Felda plantations; the flooding of foreign workers and a lack of well-paying jobs, which force young Malaysians to bigger cities in the country or even abroad; being forced to take on crippling debts to sustain their livelihood; discrimination faced by the Orang Asli community – the list goes on.

Many also complain about the impact of massive budget cuts, particularly on the education and healthcare sectors.

In rural Negri Sembilan, low- and middle-income families spoke of being “asked” to pay RM10 for school stationery.

A family in a kampung in Perak complained about having to reject an offer for their child to further his studies overseas because the parents were expected to advance the money for the first four months of preparatory studies at a local private college.

Doctors told me how they spent their own money to minimise costs for poor patients.

How did it come to this?

In 1991, when I was in primary school, Wawasan 2020 was the order of the day.

In drawing and essay-writing competitions, my friends dreamt of flying cars and shining cities.

Malaysians were also told that the country would finally come of age. Not just an economically developed nation, but also one united as a Bangsa Malaysia: liberal and tolerant, democratic and progressive.

We are just over two years away from that magic date, but we seem to be more far away than ever from the objectives mentioned in Wawasan 2020.

Ironically, Umno-BN is now shifting to a new goalpost – 2050 (“TN50”) – pushing the dream farther and farther away.

KEADILAN and PH Youth’s pitch in these Teh Tarik Sessions is this: let’s not wait until 2050. We have the opportunity in the next general election to change our country – to uplift our generation and our children’s.

For Sabah and Sarawak, we want to go beyond the Malaysia Agreement 1963.

We want more revenue to stay in these states, and to increase their responsibilities in key portfolios.

We also want to promote greater decentralisation for schools and district education offices, while ensuring greater investment in educational infrastructure in impoverished parts of the country.

We will offer free higher education at public universities, with a living stipend for students from low- and middle-income families.

At the same time, we will also provide more routes to vocational and technical education to improve the quality of our workers.

We also believe that wages in Malaysia need to increase. There must also be incentives to encourage profitable companies to provide living wages to their workers.

There has to be greater coordination between the government, private sector and unions to increase wages and productivity for workers.

And, our country needs a roadmap to reduce foreign workers, and offer incentives to encourage the hiring of skilled local workers.

We need more affordable housing, whether bought or rented, for Malaysian citizens in the Klang Valley, Penang and south Johor.

The government should be looking out for first-time homebuyers who want to live in their homes, not absentee speculators who flip their properties for profit.

The destruction of our public institutions also means that we need to focus on restoring their integrity.

Freedom of information legislation, introduced in Selangor and Penang, needs to be introduced at the federal level.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission needs to be made truly independent, with its own prosecutorial powers.

Committees in Parliament and state assemblies – similar to SELCAT in Selangor – need to be formed to allow the overseeing of government authorities.

This is our offer to young Malaysians.

I know that many of them have found our country’s politics thus far disheartening, its parties – on both sides of the fence – wanting.

But, change has never come from people – especially the young – sitting on the sidelines, not voting and refusing to engage in the political process.

Here is an old cliché but one that rings true: the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

As for PH Youth, we hope to promote the politics of hope, not fear; unity, not division.

All we ask, is for one chance – five years – to set the country back in the right direction.

We believe that young Malaysians can, and will, make a big difference.