Posted by Unknown | Posted on 11:30 PG
Posted: 17 Jun 2013 10:45 PM PDT
The Malaysian Insider | Side Views
Thousands of Malaysians voted abroad during the 13th general election. Many more returned from Singapore, Australia, Hong Kong, London and Taiwan, traditionally places with large numbers of Malaysians, to exercise their right to suffrage on May 5th.
This is a peculiar phenomenon.
Why do Malaysians who have found greener pastures abroad feel compelled to return to the country to cast their ballot? This certainly goes against the thesis of Albert O. Hircshman — who argued in a famous treatise in 1970 that when people have the chance to leave, they will, especially if they have found the entity to be increasingly dysfunctional and inefficient.
Malaysia, or rather its government, over the last few decades, has certainly manifested such features.
Concurrently, those who decided to ‘stay back’ would attempt to improve the country by voicing out. Be that as it may, those who have left the country are not expected to express their voices anymore let alone to vote. Yet, vote they did.
The quick and short answer to the above phenomenon is that they care. Indeed, not only do they care about the future of their immediate and extended families still in Malaysia, but they care about Malaysia, period.
And that is where Malaysia draws its greatest pride from — Malaysians and their sense of belonging, of camaraderie.
Beyond caring, they also know, through their collective exposure in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore, if not as far away as United Kingdom, Japan and Australia, that Malaysia has been back-pedaling, especially on issues like corruption and crime let alone in building a vibrant democracy.
Take corruption, for example. The national debt to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio at 54 per cent, it is one per cent shy of the constitutional limit; and this figure is a conservative estimate. When one lumps in the debt of the government linked companies (GLCS), often with the element of corruption still at work, the ratio is easily in the range of the mid-70s.
While many do not like to use the B word (i.e. bankruptcy), the next generation is expected to foot the financial profligacy of the present one. Malaysians abroad share the same concern and anxieties with those at home.
Not surprisingly, up 75 to 85 per cent of the voters abroad, almost without fail, voted for the opposition according to exit polls.
Like the 51 per cent of the people in Malaysia, they chose to throw their lot with Pakatan Rakyat, this despite the fact that Pakatan Rakyat did not have any offices or representatives outside the country.
In fact, one may even wonder if they did so purely to register their disgust with Barisan National, rather than due to any objective attachment to Pakatan Rakyat; a trend that was discernible across all racial groups in urban areas from 2008 onwards.
Even in rural places ostensibly ‘won’ by the government, the establishment is not out of the woods, if ever they can be, due to their indulgent attitude to corruption and sheer exploitation of the natural resources that impacts rural communities directly.
My PAS colleague, Dr Dzukefly Ahmad, noted in a Malay op-ed that of the 11 constituencies with Dayak majority in Sarawak, all of them had experienced a dip of 10 per cent or more in the votes for the government.
This is unprecedented in areas that are customarily the vote banks of the state government. Thus, if Sabah and Sarawak are the ‘fixed deposit’ of the government, the yield is only decreasing, not enlarging.
Yet, this election, has allowed a minority government to be in Putrajaya, the seat of the Malaysian government. Like many in the country and abroad, the opposition is not so much shocked as it is outraged by the ‘enforced limitations’ of the electoral system; some of which are now being legally challenged by Pakatan Rakyat.
The limitations were ‘enforced’ because the Electoral Commission, which was under the Prime Minister’s Office, failed to reform the electoral system in the more than four years available ahead of the recent 13th general election, the ‘disappearing’ indelible ink fiasco included.
Electoral reforms were all the more imperative after repeated rounds of feedbacks from non-governmental groups like Bersih I, II, III, Tindak and Transparency International. But, whether by design or default, they chose to sit tight indifferent to the loud calls for free and fair elections. Even to the extent of allowing tainted electoral rolls to remain on the register, especially in my constituency that is Lembah Pantai.
In moments like these, it is easy to hate the arbitrary nature and high-handedness of the ruling government too. This is all the more the case when the ruling establishment, once again, is showing signs of attempting to remain in power on the sly.
Instead of seeking ‘national reconciliation’ advocated by the Prime Minister, the very first things that the Ministry of Home Affairs and Inspector General Police did was to arrest opposition figures and dissidents. A dragnet was imposed on those who spoke out against the unfairness of the election.
Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, the co-chairperson of Bersih, was right to affirm that “the government has been using words (such as national reconciliation), which it doesn’t even understand”; this when the Prime Minister of Malaysia Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is also a patron to a Global Movement of Moderates Foundation (GMMF) whose rhetoric is not even echoed by his own immoderate party at home.
But Malaysians near and abroad must not fall into the temptation of blind hate, just as I am reminding myself too. To do so would be to stoop to the level of extreme jingoistic and mirror the narrative of such rabid malicious press like Utusan Malaysia – the UMNO mouthpiece.
On the other hand, Pakatan Rakyat’s demand for substantive action such as the immediate removal of the Election Commission’s leadership before participating in the Prime Minister’s offer of a Parliamentary Select Committee to manage the Election Commission, which now falls under the Prime Minister's Department will test the government’s readiness for reforms.
Indeed, revamping the Electoral Commission is urgently needed, especially on boundary redelineation which have to be completed over the next two years which once again will determine the next election’s fairness.
Beyond electoral petitions and all, the opposition has to govern well in Selangor and Penang, too, without which they would not be able to arrest the growing skepticism of politicians emerging through out the country.
Pakatan Rakyat will continue to push for legislative reform in Parliament, as we have done since Malaysians gave us their mandate. The opposition mandate is to stay vigilant, alert and efficient, even as it is confronting a set of legal electoral challenges. Failure is not an option in the face of an increasingly hawkish and change-resistant minority government of Barisan National.
Indeed our march of history towards democracy will go on even if it is slightly bumpy, facing temporary roadblocks. For a mandate is still a mandate and should be the fodder for continued fortitude, determination and sacrifice for greater democracy in Malaysia.
Posted: 17 Jun 2013 08:46 PM PDT
PERTEMUAN BERSAMA MITI BERMULA DENGAN PENDEDAHAN TERHAD
Pada Jumaat lepas, 14 Jun 2013, kami bertemu dengan wakil-wakil Kementerian Perdagangan dan Jabatan-jabatan lain berkait yang diketuai oleh Dato' Rebecca Sta Maria, KSU Kementerian serta salah seorang perunding utama bagi Perjanjian Perkongsian Trans-Pasifik (TPPA), Encik J. Jaya Siri.
Sehubungan itu , rakyat Malaysia terpaksa berhadapan dengan kekangan dalam memastikan hak-hak sosio-ekonomi dan kedaulatan negara dihormati dan dilindungi. Rangka kerja undang-undang TPPA yang menyeluruh mampu menyebabkan undang-undang domestik terpinggir manakala pada masa yang sama meletakkan syarikat-syarikat multinasional di kedudukan yang setara dengan negara-negara berdaulat.
Ternyata, pelbagai isu telah di usul semasa perbincangan, yang terdiri daripada isu kawalan kerajaan ke atas pasaran kewangan, penyelesaian pertikaian antara pelabur-negeri (ISDS), harga farmaseutikal dan perubatan, serta kebimbangan umum terhadap kurangnya ketelusan dan maklumat TPP tentang pernyataan rundingan . Semasa dialog itu yang berlangsung selama sejam, perkara yang telah dibangkitkan khususnya:
1) Analisis Kos-Faedah (CBA) pada TPPA
2) Kawalan Kewangan dan Kebebasan
Selain itu, tiada maklumat pada semua rangka kerja mengenai pengurusan mengeksploitasi, penerokaan dan pembangunan hidrokarbon negara masing-masing dan sumber mineral. Ia sesuatu yang penting untuk meredakan kebimbangan dan tidak membenarkan syarikat asing untuk mendesak hak mendapatkan sumber semula jadi kita berdasarkan terma-terma TPPA itu.
3) Kos Kesihatan
Malah, masa semakin suntuk memandangkan pusingan dan rundingan TPPA seterusnya akan diadakan pada bulan Julai 2013 dan peryataan muktamad dijangka berakhir pada Oktober 2013. Walaupun kita fahami bahawa beberapa tahap kerahsiaan yang diperlukan dalam semua rundingan perdagangan secara terperinci, kita bimbang kerana kurangnya penglibatan menyeluruh terhadap orang awam mengenai prinsip-prinsip asas kedaulatan dan kesan sosio-ekonomi TPPA itu.
Kepimpinan Pakatan Rakyat
MITI ENGAGEMENT BEGINS WITH PROMISE OF LIMITED DISCLOSURE
Last Friday, 14 June 2013, we met with MITI representatives led by Dato Rebecca Sta Maria, the KSU of the Ministry as well as one of the lead negotiators of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), Mr J. Jaya Siri.
Our meeting was timely, just a day after the failed dialogue between MITI and Majlis Tindakan Ekonomi Melayu (MTEM). While we appreciate the overtures made by MITI in engaging stakeholders, especially Opposition Parliamentarians and leaders, we remain unsatisfied by the fact that the TPPA is not subject to parliamentary oversight.
This being the case, Malaysians face limitations in ensuring that our socio-economic rights and the nation’s sovereignty are respected and protected. The TPPA's overarching legal framework could render domestic laws subservient and put multinational corporations on stronger if not equal footing as governments.
Many issues were brought to the fore during the discussion, ranging from sovereign control over financial markets, investor-state dispute settlements (ISDS), pharmaceutical and medical prices, as well as the general anxiety over the lack of transparency and information the TPP negotiating texts. During the dialogue that lasted an hour, the following concerns were raised in particular:
1) Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA) on the TPPA:
MITI admitted the existence of a CBA paper presented to the Cabinet in 2010. i.e. the 2010 United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report that was commissioned by the Government of Malaysia. On a slightly positive note, we were promised a copy of the said report in two weeks’ time although stripped off its negotiating positions.
2) Financial Controls and Freedom
MITI gave verbal assurance of no loss nor dilution of Malaysia’s sovereign rights to implement economic and capital control policies by signing the TPPA. However, the recent disclosure of leaked Australian negotiation text on capital controls, and the existence of such a provision in other FTAs that the United States has signed, compels us to remain highly vigilant of the possibility of losing such rights.
Additionally, there has been no information at all on the framework on managing the exploitation, exploration and development of the respective countries’ hydrocarbon and mineral resources. It would be pertinent to allay the fears as not to allow a foreign corporation to forcefully insist on its right to extract our natural resources based on the terms of the TPPA.
3) Costs of Healthcare
The twofold issues of proprietary data and extension of exclusivity period are very important for Malaysia –we must not lose out access in the price versus access debate.
Indeed, time is running out since the next round of TPPA negotiations will be held in July 2013 and the final text is expected to conclude in October 2013. Whilst we understand that some level of secrecy is required in all detailed trade negotiations, we are alarmed by overall lack of engagement with the general public on the fundamental principles of sovereignty and socio-economic impact of the TPPA.
We applaud MITI for organizing the meeting and promising to let us have a censored copy of the UNDP report in two weeks’ time. However, we remain fully committed to fighting for greater transparency and more public engagement vis-à-vis all aspects of the TPPA. In the interest of the public at large, we would urge a bipartisan Parliamentary Select Committee on TPPA be set up immediately. We are mindful of the necessary confidentiality that comes with such a framework and will strive to fulfill our responsibility as custodians of the people's trust. We also remind the government of Malaysia that the people’s trust is predicated on transparent and responsible disclosure.
Pakatan Rakyat Leadership
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