Campaign in poetry, govern in prose

The former Governor of New York Mario Cuomo once said, “you campaign in poetry, but you govern in prose.”

May 9th , 2018 remains a historic moment in Malaysia’s political history and many are still grappling with this changed reality and a new Pakatan Harapan government at the federal level.

Despite initial trepidation, most Malaysians have embraced the new government and Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad enjoys a very high approval rating as evidenced by the Merdeka Centre poll released just a few days before the 100-day mark.

While there is a lot to be digested in the poll, one can adequately deduce that Malaysians are excited about the new government and feel that the country is heading in the right direction.

It is a honeymoon that looks set to continue but it should also not dissuade anyone from asking the tough questions.

I must confess, despite being part of the previous government, I have found the institutional reforms initiated by the Harapan government as step in the right direction.

The shake-up of the Prime Minister’s Department and the placement of the Human Rights Commission and other public interest statutory bodies under the aegis of Parliament is not

only good for the country, but will ensure these bodies discharge their mandated functions without fear or favour.

In fact, Gerakan has always campaigned for this and viewed it as a "low-lying fruit", but yet the previous government balked at any such attempt.

The formation of a special committee to review the Election Commission (EC) is another initiative that Malaysians have a lot to cheer for.

In the run-up to the last general election, the EC totally failed in its duties and the delineation exercise that was bull-dozed through Parliament at the last minute angered many Malaysians and attributable to Barisan Nasional’s loss.

In fact, it is high time that the duties of the EC be confined solely to organising and managing elections and by-elections.

Its delimitation and delineation exercise should be left to a Boundaries Commission that includes representatives from all political parties so that such disproportionate constituencies that disenfranchises voters never crops up again.

In fact, despite negative connotations that are associated with Mahathirism and Dr Mahathir’s first stint in power; we are seeing a progressive, tolerant, deliberative and caring Mahathirism 2.0.

This leads me to be believe that he is the only true reformer in a government that is still learning the ropes.

Despite the many incantations of reform that was adopted by the vast majority of Harapan ministers and Members of Parliament whilst they were in the opposition, it has been muted now that they are in the government.

It is understandable that not everything can and will be changed in Pakatan's 100th day mandate.

It would be foolish to have such expectations and that is why the quote by Cuomo reminds us that during campaigns, a lot of promises are made, but when one is actually in the government, compromises have to be made.

However, values must not be dissipated, not a single bit.

The failure to curtail the marriage of a child in Kelantan and charge the suitor under settled laws to protect children was ignominious.

The continued attacks on the members of marginalised communities,  especially those who are LGBT, flies in the face of the promise of a kinder and gentler Malaysia.

Also, the flip-flops by the Deputy Home Minister on repealing laws like the Prevention of Crime Act, Prevention of Terrorism Act and Sedition Act is proof that while the government is young, it does not need to lack maturity.

In fact, a more reasoned and cerebral approach to this issue is needed because public safety must be balanced against human rights and liberties.

The comments by the Finance Minister on our debts and the alleged theft of refunds was again uncalled for because both of it have not been subject to complete scrutiny and while they serve as good political fodder; it is time for prose and not poetry.

Whatever that is said, must be said while being backed up by facts and figures.

The Auditor-General in her most recent report reaffirmed that Malaysia’s debt is not RM1tril as it was bandied about by the Finance Ministry.

It compels one to think that if the Finance Ministry cannot get our debt figures right, then who will?

And it must be challenging for Dr Mahathir to govern with colleagues who were foes up to two years ago.

The need for chemistry and alchemy is governance is important to ensure there is no dissonance and all parties are on the same page.

But these 100 days serve as an important reminder that there is much to do, and it must be done properly.

Barisan was not completely wrong on every account as it is important for the opposition (which I am part of as well) to relook at the way we intend to oppose this government.

The race baiting and religious demagoguery must give way to constructive and rational alternative policies.

The Sg Kandis by-election was a good wake up call for both Umno and PAS as dressing themselves up in religious fervour is a sure non vote-getter.

There is a huge gulf of trust between the people and Barisan and former Barisan parties, including my own, and we have to accept that.

Nitpicking and criticising the new government at every turn will not work, and a total reset is needed.

A new political compact that reaffirms our commitment to diversity, mutual respect, tolerance and understanding will be a good start.

So, the 100 days is not only about sizing up the government, but the opposition too must be subject to scrutiny.

I would not want to bandy any score, but both sides of the political divide can, and must do better.






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