The Appointment Of Latheefa Koya To MACC

I note the recent appointment of Latheefa Koya as Chief Commissioner of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

Latheefa, is both a prominent lawyer and human rights activist. Besides other major cases, she was part of the legal team which represented me in my trials related to the Peaceful Assembly Act—for which I am of course grateful.

Her appointment, however, has given rise to questions which need to be urgently addressed.

Latheefa was, until very recently, a member of KEADILAN. While she has resigned from the party, she did so after the fact of her appointment.

Hence, concerns over her impartiality as head of the MACC—which is an increasingly and especially important public institution in the national reform process—cannot be dismissed.

More importantly however, the manner of her appointment, which, again going by media reports, was decided upon by the Prime Minister alone, goes against the promises Pakatan Harapan made in its last General Elections manifesto.

The 14th Promise of the Buku Harapan clearly states that under a Pakatan Harapan government, the: “MACC will report directly to Parliament, rather than to the Prime Minister. To ensure effective check and balance, the number of MACC Commissioners will be increased and there will be a quota for civil society. One of the Commissioners will become Chairman of MACC, and all Commissioners will have security of tenure.

Appointment of these Commissioners must be validated democratically by Parliament.”

It is true that the relevant amendments to the laws have not been made to provide for these pledges, including for the validation of the Commissioners by Parliament.

However, the appointment ought to have been referred to the Major Public Appointments Committee anyway, to show, if nothing else, that the Pakatan Harapan Federal Government intends to keep its promises.

We cannot blame voters for being cynical or sceptical about our attempts to govern if we cannot deliver on such simple promises.

This has nothing to do with the new Chair’s qualifications or her political preferences when she was a member of the party.

One is sure, and the public has the right to expect, that she will perform her duties without fear or favour.

However, the manner of her appointment is cause for concern as it gives rise to questions over the government’s commitment to the cause of reform.

We were elected on a platform of bold institutional and economic reform.

Our seeming lack of progress on both these fronts is highly worrying.

The Pakatan Harapan federal government must take cognisance of this if it wishes to retain the support of the Malaysian people moving forward, and most importantly, to avoid the mistakes of the past.


50 Years After 13 May: The Lessons For Malaysia

50 years have now passed since the tragic events of 13 May 1969. It is, naturally, a solemn, sombre day for Malaysians.
We should all reflect on its lessons. The chief among them is that we should never take our country’s peace and stability for granted.
These are things that we all must contribute to and defend. It is a duty and responsibility for all Malaysian men and women—whatever their station in life.
It is a cause for which we must dedicate our time on this earth to.
National unity and harmony, after all, are always works in progress. Different generations must—in their own way—contribute to the building of our nation and the unification of our people.
There are, regrettably, nefarious elements that are still trying to use race and religion for their own ends, seemingly oblivious to the damage their irresponsible actions and rhetoric are causing to our national fabric.
They are leading the country, as well as the races and religions they pretend to champion to disaster.
Such people and those who back them must be rejected firmly by all Malaysians who love their country.
But we must also realise that our national unity, as well as our capacity for racial and religious coexistence, are intricately linked to the extent of our political freedoms and civil liberties.
Reducing any one of these will diminish the other. Indeed, Malaysia will not be peaceful or secure if its people are not free.
What is needed is maturity—among both Malaysia’s leaders and led—to exercise such freedoms responsibly, for the common, ultimate good of individuals, society and the nation.
By that same gesture, reform will be futile without the creation of better education, jobs, healthcare, housing and opportunities for everyone who lives and works in our land.
Genuine liberty and “shared prosperity”, or more accurately, economic justice—are inseparable: they are dependent on each other; one and the same.
We will have neither if we close our hearts and minds to each other.
Malaysia’s strength lies in its diversity.
It not only gives our country character and variety—but also allows us to be a dynamic force in international affairs and commerce, as well as act as bridge between the different civilisations of the world.
We must realise—and teach our children—to respect, accept and celebrate Malaysia’s multiculturalism and traditions of pluralism.
Difference is not something to be feared, but a means for us to get the best possible outcomes for our country.


The First Anniversary Of The GE14 Victory

Today, we celebrate the first anniversary of the historic 9 May 2018 General Elections.

Many Malaysians will of course be reminiscing about that day.

Many more will also be taking stock of how the Pakatan Harapan federal government has performed and what it needs to do in the days, weeks, months and years ahead.

We won the 14th General Elections because we were united and had the better platform—one that truly gave all Malaysians hope.

Our alliance’s work to reform and save Malaysia has just started.

As recent events highlight, the expectations of Malaysians are high and that they will not hesitate to punish Pakatan Harapan if it lets them down.

Indeed, the greatest “gift” of 9 May was that it showed Malaysians that they can always vote their governments out.

It showed everyone that nobody has a right to be in power indefinitely; that leaders who breach the trust of voters and abuse their privileges will be removed sooner or later.

Moreover, Malaysians showed on 9 May that they expect the highest standards from their elected representatives.

It is not enough for us to just be clean, diligent and personable: we must also lift the dignity of the people.

Still, the only thing our government should have to worry about—and the only thing is needs to be unapologetic about—is to fulfil the promises of Pakatan Harapan’s manifesto.

The promises we made can, should and must be met—with hard work and perseverance.

Saying that they cannot be accomplished will make Malaysians think that we sought power for its own sake.

It will signal to voters that we are no better than the previous regime.

Therefore, on this first anniversary of 9 May, I call on all Pakatan Harapan leaders and component party members to recommit themselves to achieving our manifesto in full.

It will of course not happen overnight—but everything we do and say must be towards achieving the goals set out there.

Fulfilling the manifesto will boost our economy, reduce inequality and accelerate nation-building.

In short, it will move the nation forward and guarantee greater economic justice for all Malaysians.

We must not only it make it easier for our people to do business—whether small or big—but also create jobs with liveable wages for all Malaysians willing to work.

So even as we work to realise our manifesto, the minds of Pakatan Harapan leaders should also be on this: jobs, jobs, jobs.

Though we can and should celebrate the memories of 9 May 2018, our hearts, minds and eyes should be on the future.

Let us never be satisfied with what we have and what we have accomplished. We must move Malaysia forward.

The spirit of 9 May 2018 must live on. We must never let the flame of hope that was ignited that day die out.


Happy Labour Day 2019

I wish all Malaysians—particularly the men and women who toil in our factories, farms, educational institutions, homes and offices—a very Happy Labour Day.

The fast-approaching anniversary of Pakatan Harapan’s first year in office, should be a reminder to us that a lot more needs to be done to fulfill the manifesto on which we were elected.

Indeed, we ought to be doing more and better in relation to our promises to ensure economic justice for all our people. Labour Day 2019 should therefore spur us to truly uplift Malaysian workers.

A crucial plank in realising this is to fulfil our pledge to ensure a minimum wage of RM1500 by 2023—as well as create the kind of economy that can support such jobs. The simple fact is that Malaysians are not being paid enough.

Many of the public policy problems confronting the Pakatan Harapan government—including reducing the cost of living, making housing as well as healthcare affordable and increasing access to higher education—could also be addressed by resolving this problem.

It is also interesting to note that Bank Negara, in its 2017 Annual Report provisionally estimated that a “living wage” for Kuala Lumpur, in 2016, should have been between RM1500 (for a single adult) to RM6500 (for a couple with two children) per month.

Of course, this cannot be done simply by the government legislating it to be so and demanding that employers comply.

Rather, as a March 2018 Bank Negara paper argued: “The move towards productivity-led wage growth relies on wide-ranging support from all parts of the economy. Governments can foster a conducive environment for employers to improve productivity by ensuring the availability of good institutional support, minimal regulation on productive investment activities, and the affordability of training and higher-level education. Employers can train existing employees and provide incentives for them to upgrade their skills…

“Employees need to also recognise the importance of self-improvement to achieve a higher wage level that can sustain a minimum acceptable living standard, and take the initiative to upskill.”

Much can be done all-round. For instance, government procurement paradigms should be shifted to also ensure value-add to Bumiputera workers and entrepreneurs, rather than passively handing out contracts by getting them to commit to a roadmap to pay a living wage to their workers.

Also, profitable corporations should be given tax cuts on the condition that the savings be used to increase employee wages, especially at the lower level.

Initiatives to upskill, add value and retrain workers need to be supported by both the public and private sector, whether financially or in-kind. This includes in increasingly crucial areas like languages (including English), IT and other soft skills.

Efforts to get the differently-abled, senior citizens who wish to remain active as well as former drug addicts and ex-convicts who have paid their debt to society to work should likewise be supported by all.
Barriers—deliberate or otherwise—against women to have careers and raise families must be eliminated. Our country’s decades-long addiction to foreign labour must also cease—and again, ensuring living wages of all classes of work is key to this.

Also, Malaysian workers themselves must strive to improve their productivity and employability. This is a holistic process that requires everyone’s support. Pakatan Harapan needs to listen, and it needs to act if it is to do right by the working men and women of Malaysia.


Reflecting On The Results Of The Rantau By-Election

The voters of Rantau have spoken and they have chosen to re-elect the Acting President of UMNO, Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan, as their State Assemblyman. I congratulate him and his team on his victory.

I also congratulate KEADILAN and Pakatan Harapan’s candidate, Dr S. Streram and our team for their hard work during the by-election. The results may not have been what we wanted—but I know they gave their very best.

Rantau is now the third by-election defeat for Pakatan Harapan. As with the two previous losses, it must be a cause for us to reflect.

KEADILAN picked the correct candidate. It was simply the right thing for us—as a multiracial, progressive and reformist party—to do.

The problem was with our messaging and the fact that we have yet to deliver the many things we promised to the people.

Malaysia’s voters owe us nothing—we must perform or be voted out. We must engage them on their terms.

These failures are collective and is our responsibility as the governing coalition.

We have yet, as a coalition, to forge a narrative that can win the support of Malaysia’s diverse electorate – particularly the Malays but for other communities too.

We have not sufficiently convinced Malaysian voters—whatever their race or religion—that we can be trusted to govern fairly, as well as create a better future for all our people.

Moreover, the many seeming U-turns over our government’s policies—and the apparent willingness of some of our leaders to abandon our Buku Harapan manifesto, has not and will not help us.

These are weaknesses we must address if we are to regain credibility with Malaysian voters.

There is still time for us to do so—but it will require courage, self-honesty and hard work.

Moreover, Pakatan Harapan must have a sense of unity and common purpose. Division means defeat and disunity is death.

Rantau should be a call for us to re-dedicate ourselves to bringing these goals about—as well as delivering jobs, reform and growth for all Malaysians.

They deserve—and we must provide them—with better healthcare, education and housing, rather than empty promises, heated rhetoric and far-fetched mega-projects.

To the people of Rantau and Malaysia, we promise to be better and do better. We know you deserve better than what we have given and will strive to build a Malaysia worthy of all its citizens.

Please keep supporting us, but also giving us honest and constructive criticism.

Creating a real a New Malaysia is our common responsibility. We hear you. We will act on your needs and work to fulfil your dreams for the future.

The buck stops here and with us.


The “Marriage” Between UMNO And PAS Means The Two Parties Are Now One And The Same

The announcement by Acting UMNO President Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan that the party and PAS would form a committee and opposition caucus in Parliament finally confirms—despite years of denials by leaders from both sides—that the two are in an alliance.

Mohamad even went as far as to describe the alliance as a “marriage”. I had declared them “married” as far back as in the Seri Setia by-election in August 2018 after all the “courtship” that emerged after the fall of Pakatan Rakyat. But with the revelation of the deals that PAS leadership took with UMNO involving monetary compensation, it seems that this is less a “marriage” but a commercial arrangement involving a willing donor and willing recipient.

After months, if not years of colluding and enabling each other—UMNO and PAS are now essentially one and the same.

It is unclear what benefit, if any, the new arrangement will bring to the wider Malay community given that both parties have lately seemed more concerned with jockeying for political power, justifying alleged past wrongdoings and attempting to stir communal feelings.

The two parties have only provided tired rhetorics without any clear alternatives, and have whittled down to become more like regional rather than national parties.

Their former leaders, in contrast, including Dato’ Onn Jaafar, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Abdul Razak, Dr Burhanuddin Helmy, Dato’ Ustaz Fadzil Noor and Tuan Guru Dato’ Bentara Setia Nik Abdul Aziz Mat, were towering Malaysians and Malays who upheld not only multiracial cooperation, but also the highest standards of integrity in public life.

The actions of today’s crop of UMNO and PAS leaders, as well as their so-called “marriage”, mean that both parties have turned their backs on the spirit as well as legacies of their former icons.