KJ John |(Malaysiakini)
For many, the Kuala Terengganu by-election is only a state matter, or only the concern of registered voters there. To me however, this election is a crucial issue of what kind of Malaysia we want and whether we have, in fact, transformed ourselves into the federation that we claim to be.
Therefore, to me, this by-election is also about many federal issues which the Umno-types consider their ketuanan rights. I totally disagree and therefore, my vote would be for the PAS candidate if I were registered to vote in the by-election. But, I am not!
Malaysia has still not transformed itself into the federation that the constitution was constructed to be. We are still struggling with the divide and rule doctrine of our British colonial masters. We have not transitioned into the type of federalism that the founding crafters of the constitution envisaged.
The USA, Australia and Canada are better examples of such federally run states. Our so-called local heroes and leaders have blindly adopted the same divide and rule philosophy, applying it at their whims and fancies.
kuala terengganu by election dap dinner 110109 crowd outside 02Why else would the Malaysian Chinese living in Terengganu for more than 200 years not be given titles for their homes? Yes, Terengganu, unlike the straits settlements, does not have a majority of non-Malays. But, are they then not also Malaysians like all others who reside in Terengganu?
The next set of issues center on the federal versus state debate in the handling of state-based revenues. Can and should the federal government dictate the revenue allocation to the states, who actually own the land and resultant revenue sources?
I am particularly thinking of petroleum revenues. Why should the federal government control the revenue allocation when the state’s needs are as great as those of the federal government in terms of poverty eradication?
Why should Umno disburse the funds based on their whims and fancies vide corrupt agents when there is a state ruler and why should the federal government consequently undermine his rule? Did the Umno-led government become over-generous after they were check-mated by the Sultan of Terengganu?
Why was the Crystal Mosque built? Is it a monument to a more federalist approach to development focused on the material factors, ignoring the plight of the real poor in Terengganu?
Many pressing issues at hand
There are yet other concerns of mine related to the federal versus state apparatus in the other non-federated states, including the straits settlements. Can the federal government, therefore, document in Parliament the specific allocations for each state in the federation based on development projects under the 9th Malaysia Plan?
How can the federal government arbitrarily cancel such allocations already made in Parliament under the 9th Malaysia Plan after the states fell into the hands of the opposition?
If the second Penang Bridge was needed for Penang, it was needed as a basic infrastructure for the development of the Pearl of the Orient. It cannot now become “unnecessary” or be simply scaled down because the people decided that ‘enough is enough’.
The next set of issues relate to “the synergy factor” in the quality of federal administration. Can the federal government, for instance, use offices in states to undermine state jurisdictions?
My studies in management tell me that synergy happens only when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Is the whole greater than the sum of the parts in Sabah and Sarawak, Penang and Melaka?
The late Tun Abdul Razak was the greatest federalist I know. Under his term, he set up a team of state development officers who reported directly to him. I also remember my big boss in the prime minister’s department once saying to me when I was undertaking a project review in Kelantan, “The only thing that cannot be changed is the Quran. Other than that, even the Sultans can be changed!”
Once, I even saw ample evidence of this. One federal officer posted to Penang as state development officer was transferred overnight to Pahang under the direct instructions of Tun Razak. Even the JPA was shocked at this but it happened and that officer is still alive to testify to this fact.
Therefore my question, is it fair, good and right for the federal government to have such an overriding authority at every state level? Is the issue of Kemas kindergartens then not a state matter?
My final set of issues of why I would vote for the opposition in this by-election is the recent flip-fop decisions by the home affairs ministry. On one hand, we argue that Bahasa Malaysia is the language of the land. On the other, we decree that the Catholic Herald cannot use the Arabic term of ‘Allah’ in the Malay version of their newsletter.
Come on. On this matter alone, the attorney-general should resign if he cannot protect the authenticity of Bahasa Malaysia as the national language and not just the language of the Malays. This is a constitutional issue.
The Ibans and the Kelabits and the SIB Church have been using the Indonesian-based translation of Allah for more than 50 years, long before they joined the federation. Therefore, what gives any federal officer the right to say what words can and cannot be used in their Bahasa Malaysia version of a newsletter?
The issues in this by-election are all federal issues, skewed by the current over-powering federalism being practiced by the current national government. A vote for the opposition in the by-election may be the final nail on the coffin of the federal government as a harbinger of things to come.
What we need is an alternative opposition who does not have an over-powering executive authority of the Umno-kind, which rules blatantly and arrogantly.
Dear Terengganu voters, please vote wisely, keeping in mind these federal issues. May God bless Malaysia. I pray that the voters in Terengganu will seek to send a third and final signal to Umno that their time, antics, and kind welcome in Malaysia is over. Please reform or you are out!
My by-election issues
KJ John |(Malaysiakini)