Why the rush?

by Hafiz Noor Shams
The Malaysian Insider
Dec 02, 2011

DEC 2 — I had listened to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s Malaysia Day address with scepticism. Part of the scepticism came after noticing all the qualifications made by the prime minister in the same speech. The so-called Political Transformation Programme does not look so bold if one reads the fine print.

As we have learned in recent days, the actual reform does not meet the high expectations set by the prime minister himself. The manner at which the Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011 was rushed through did little to alleviate the scepticism.

In these days of scepticism, only actions command confidence. The nearly six years of the Abdullah administration justifies that attitude. The bravado of Parti Keadilan Rakyat only adds to the justification of scepticism. Indeed, political scepticism against all sides is a sign of maturity of ordinary voters.

While the scent of scepticism was strong, not all shared it. Not all ordinary voters are seasoned political observers after all. Many young Malaysians celebrated the announced reforms as if reform had already happened. And then there are other not-so-young Malaysians who willingly assume things in good faith. Because of this, the Najib administration gained some immediate political capital.

That was about three months ago.

However significant the political capital was, time is eroding it. The power of words can last only so long. The longer it goes unsupported by action, the less credible it becomes. Words are cheap. In order to arrest the scepticism and to ensure that the liberalisation exercise will translate into votes for Barisan Nasional, the promised changes will have to be instituted before the next federal election. Action is required, hence the rushing of the Bill.

Within a week, the Bill was read twice. Members of Parliament were expected to read the Bill thoroughly, consult experts as well as their constituents and then debate it intelligently within the span of a few days. That was nothing less than an ambush on the liberal camp.

The ungodly rush suggests something else as well: the federal election is coming sooner rather than later. It suggests the tentative election date has been set and all Bills need to be passed before that deadline. If that is indeed the case, then the election presents a perverse incentive for the government to act based on a misunderstanding of criticism against the previous illiberal laws.

It must be highlighted that the criticism is against the spirit of the previous laws, and not against the laws per se. With the Peaceful Assembly Bill retaining the old illiberal spirit, it is no different from the old laws. To cite another example relating back to the Malaysia Day speech, the replacement of the Internal Security Act will still grant the government the power to detain a person without trial. Yet, the main criticism against the ISA was exactly the detention without trial feature. So, what exactly will the substantive change be?

One gets the impression that the government thinks all that is wrong is the names and the initials of a certain set of laws. Change the names and the initials to something more cheery and they expect the criticism will go away. That is a gross misunderstanding.

Based on that, the government would think that rushing the Peaceful Assembly Bill and other related ones will win it votes. No, it will not.

A substantive-minded government would take a more measured pace by making the Bill and others to come go through a thorough deliberative process. That possibly means pushing the next election as far as possible into the future and holding it only after a much improved Bill is ready for passing.

The reverse — setting the election date first and then targeting to pass the Bills before that date — will result in farcical Bills.

A rushed farcical Bill benefits no one. The voters will see through the farce and BN will not win any extra votes from it. BN in fact would lose votes because new voters and those who assumed good faith would think the ruling coalition has taken them for fools. Meanwhile, Malaysians will not see any improvement in their civil liberties.

In the end, what was the point of rushing it?

  1. #1 by Cinapek on Friday, 2 December 2011 - 11:07 am

    “….In the end, what was the point of rushing it?…”

    What’s the point? Najib and BN had hypocritically promised a slew of changes to draconian and unpopular laws and acts in a bid to win votes. He had no real intention of changing them. He just wanted to win votes and get back their two thirds in Parliament so that they can tighten up further.

    But he knew he may not be able to con the people and they might take to the streets to protest. And he remembered how the street protest of 2007 dealt a fatal body blow to BN in the 2008 elections. So he had to rush through the PAB to prempt any street protest when he calls for the election BEFORE he has to deliver on any of his promised changes.

  2. #2 by Bigjoe on Friday, 2 December 2011 - 11:29 am

    The PSA bill was intended to help Najib survive the GA. It was trading in our civil liberties for his political survival. Mahathir nod meaning Najib can go ahead with GE says IT worked – at least partially.

    It only worked partially because NONE of the delegates went into a frenzy to defend the PSA, to praise it. In other words, those who would have potentially go against Najib if he did not pass the PSA, STILL want to see it work – shut down protest and streets.

    There is doubt about the pyramid scheme of lies that Najib and Muhiyiddin are pushing. Its time to tip ponzi scheme over and quickly because GE is logically set for 1Q2012..

  3. #3 by dagen on Friday, 2 December 2011 - 1:31 pm

    Peaceful assembly act would soon prove to be a most useless piece of legislation; esp the provision forbiding street protest. Street protests are often spontaneous and unplanned. For e.g. an excavator showed up one morning and began to pull down a certain structure erected by residents. Residents in the neighbourhood immediately gather round to protest the action. That is a natural and instinctive response. Of course umno is draconian. Umno seeks to outlaw even instinctive crowd reactions and not just pre-planned ones. So there people, here we are talking about a bunch of extremely frightened and desperate idiots.

  4. #4 by boh-liao on Friday, 2 December 2011 - 6:52 pm

    Well, voters WHO VOTED 4 UmnoB/BN, hv a good look at d MPs dat U voted – ALL BRAINLESS ROBOTS under d control of UmnoB

  5. #5 by monsterball on Friday, 2 December 2011 - 9:27 pm

    The Bill is like a shield…protecting them from sunburn…from foreign invaders.
    Only UMNO b crooks and hypocrites are feeling the heat.
    Malaysians….cool as cucumber.

  6. #6 by monsterball on Friday, 2 December 2011 - 9:35 pm

    Even after Najib’s so call strong speech…calling all UMNO b members to unite….some are demanding Shahrikat to explain why so much complaints by the People…not complaints by PR politicians at all.
    Hishamuddin quickly jumped in….and say..let voters decide.
    “Que Sera Sera…what ever will be will be.
    The future not ours to see….Que Sera Sera”

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