Top 10: Apa lagi rakyat mahu?


P Gunasegaram
Malaysiakini
5 Oct 2017

QUESTION TIME | BN and its component parties are fond of saying how much the rakyat should be grateful to them for achieving independence, forging harmony between the races, and fostering peace and economic development, amongst others.

They, especially Umno, even say that Malays are ungrateful if they do not support the ruling party which they claim has brought them immense development and progress over the years, much better than other Third World countries.

But they fail to realise that Malaysia was already relatively well-developed a long time ago with Malaysia and Singapore having the highest living standards in Asia after Japan way back in the 70s. So, on a relative comparison with other countries which were not corrupt, Malaysia has actually declined.

Thus the ruling party and the opposition have to understand what is it that the rakyat – the majority of the people whose income makes it difficult for them to enjoy decent standards of living – really want from the government. It’s not very difficult, you just have to stop and think.

Apa lagi rakyat mahu? What more do the people want? That question implies they already have a lot and want more. But that’s not true, they don’t have enough. What they want are the basics first from which all else follows. Here are 10 – there are more of course, but these provide a flavour.

At the end of each item, I am going to rate the government between 0 and 10 – 0 for worst and 10 for best and then total them all up for an overall score out of 100. You can rate them too and get your own score. Anything less than 50 is an emphatic failure.

1. A government that really works for the people. While there is much lip service about the welfare of the rakyat, politicians enrich themselves first. Look at how many ministers, chief ministers and others live way beyond their means – all of them claim to be great businessmen who amassed their wealth before joining the government.

image: https://i.malaysiakini.com/1129/d27fe0b0249b814f10ed8f443a2876dc.jpeg

The MACC has only to check the assets they have amassed and how they obtained them to put many of them behind bars. Umno is now filled with businessmen when they used to be full of teachers once. It looks like the government exists to enrich the few at the expense of the many.

Rating: 2 out of 10

2. A clean, corruption-free government. Do we have to go into details as far as this is concerned? The current government has brought corruption to new heights, introducing kleptocracy for the first time at the highest echelons.

It is now okay to dip your hand into the till, take away borrowed money and still be unaccountable in any way whatsoever. The public considers the police to be the most corrupt government body according to polls and the MACC, despite their recent activity, remains powerless to act against grand larceny.

Rating: 1

3. Adequate checks and balances. The checks and balances, so important to the functioning of a democratic society by holding the government and its leaders accountable through independent investigation, prosecution and judging, are now non-existent.

The legal and enforcement system has been systematically undermined since May 13, 1969, and especially from the time of Dr Mahathir Mohamad as prime minister to concentrate inordinate power in the hands of the government, much like our colonial masters did for centuries before that.

Instead, archaic laws are exploited and new ones introduced to control legitimate dissent, making Malaysia virtually a police state.

Rating: 3

4. Uphold democracy, and protect rights of everyone. Instead of upholding democracy, successive governments have eroded the rights guaranteed under the Federal Constitution, introduced divisive policies, polarised the country according to race, religion and language, cut down the wings of independence of the judiciary, influenced investigation and prosecution, changed the constitution multiple times, and did nothing to uphold the tenets of democracy.

Minority races and religions feel threatened by increasing militancy of both religious and racial bigots while the police stand by and watch when these militants blatantly violate the law to “protect” what they see as their rights. Now, even schoolchildren can wave Umno flags and it is not considered incorrect, descending to yet another new low for the country.

Rating: 2

5. A competent government. Remember ‘bersih, cekap, amanah’? Where did all that go? Even when there are competent Malays to take over key jobs in government, they often go to those who are politically compliant.

And did the prime minister have to defend the appointment of an Indian to head the Customs Department? Why? What’s wrong with giving an opportunity to all competent people within government? Are they not Malaysians?

The problem is, most of the ministers in government are incompetent and while there are sections within the civil service that are competent, that is fast eroding because of extremism and militancy by those who feel that they are entitled to power, whether they deserve it or not.

Rating: 3

6. A government that takes care of the environment. Mahathir once said the West talks about conservation when they have cut down all their trees. And it was under his administration that Kuala Lumpur abandoned a structure plan it had formulated in the 80s.

But we keep our trees for ourselves, for our own benefit. We have parks and open spaces so that our cities don’t suffocate from overcrowding. We don’t want pollution because at the end of the day we suffer from it.

While some good efforts have been made at conservation by various government departments, there is a lot more that the government must do. But corruption often gets in the way as projects are approved because money is pushed.

Rating: 4

7. Good planning and implementation. We are supposed to have great plans – the Malaysia plans, the economic policies, the multimedia super corridor, the various corridor developments, the economic and government transformation plans.

But somewhere along the way, the self-interest of politicians comes in the way. Planning imperatives fall by the wayside, implementation of various measures is stalled and progress comes to a grinding halt. Plans end up half-finished at best and not even started at worst.

Rating: 3

8. A great educational system. While private education has made considerable progress, public education has declined in terms of standards. Politicians, some of them educated at Oxford and other overseas seats of learning, maintain straight-faced that English should not even be used for teaching science and maths, depriving their own people of learning a language which increases their opportunities in the modern world.

How many Malays can’t find a job because their English is poor? If they don’t watch it, Chinese may fall into the same trap as more of them opt to send their children to Mandarin-medium schools. The standard of education has fallen while history has been rewritten in textbooks to favour current political and Islamic thinking. The independence of schools has been irrevocably compromised.

Rating: 4, because of availability of reasonably good private higher education and cheap public education.

9. A good standard of living for everyone. While living standards have increased, relative standards compared with higher income countries – not the impoverished even more corrupt countries our leaders compare us with – have by and large declined.

We are among the top 30 countries in the world in terms of income inequality (as measured by the Gini coefficient). Poverty is still very high in Malaysia and the majority of households in Malaysia earn less than RM5,000 a month. Anyone who lives in an urban area knows that is not enough to lead a decent life these days. But still, there have been good income increases over the years.

Rating: 4

10. Opportunities for all to improve their well-being. This increases only if as many people as possible are given the opportunity to rise through good, cheap education. While education has remained cheap, quality education is very expensive with steep drops in the quality of public universities, some of which were competitive with the best anywhere before.

Further, factors such as unrestrained imports of cheap labour, often illegal, impoverish Malaysian labour and make it very difficult for them to rise out of their poverty as their wages remain depressed.

Rating: 3

That gives an overall rating of an abysmally low 29% and indicates why many Malaysians are dissatisfied with the current government. Not even in one category did the current government earn a pass.

Will that translate into fewer votes for BN in the upcoming elections? Perhaps. But will it mean that BN will lose? It depends on what the rakyat think of the opposition. Will the opposition really consider the welfare of the rakyat? Will they be free of corruption? Will they support democracy? Etc. If they really do, their chances may be good.

P GUNASEGARAM is an independent writer and consultant. E-mail: [email protected]

  1. #1 by good coolie on Saturday, 14 October 2017 - 5:42 pm

    Ala, Cikgu kedukutlah! Bagilah markah lagi!

  2. #2 by Bigjoe on Sunday, 15 October 2017 - 7:00 am

    OK, so why did so few turned up for the final Kleptocracy rally? After all surveys find that most urban voters are still going to vote Pakatan?

    One can say most urban voters already aware of issue from internet and social media. Others do not support or not excited by Mahathir leadership or some liberal NGOs like Bersih are not enthusiastic.

    But my guess is most do not believe that PH has or done enough to win GE-14.

    Without another hook or push, most savvy voters just do not think PH has enough.

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