Press Release from Bersih 2.0
Dated: 2nd January 2020
FOR 2020 THE PH GOVERNMENT MUST PRIORITISE INSTITUTIONAL REFORM & RESTORE POLITICAL STABILITY
The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) calls on the Pakatan Harapan (PH) to go beyond promising hope to the people and start prioritising their election promise to reform our key institutions so that they can be truly independent and function as effective check and balances to any future kleptocratic and abusive governments.
It has been more than 19 months since PH took over the government and we have seen little substantive fulfillment of their manifesto’s Pillar 2 promise to reform the institutions and political structures of this country. Instead of fulfilling the people’s expectation of a Malaysia Baru, we are fed with gutter politics, power struggles, political intrigues, racial and religious rhetorics that are destabilizing our country and causing a dissipation of hope among voters who voted for change.
Bersih 2.0 acknowledges that the PH government has ushered in a new era of freedom, rule of law, public engagement and accessibility since taking office. The media is freer and there is a greater tolerance of dissenting voices from the opposition and civil society. As far as can be observed, institutions like the judiciary, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and the Election Commission (EC) are functioning with more independence and less Executive interference. With the setting up of 10 Parliamentary Select Committees (PSC), the Parliament is under-going internal reforms that is empowering it to serve as an effective check and balance to the Executive. Through the formation of special committees like the Council of Eminent Persons (CEP), Institutional Reforms Committee (IRC) and the Electoral Reform Committee (ERC), the PH government has reached out to the public for feedbacks and consultation on areas that needed reform.
While these new freedom, separation of powers and openness are most welcomed, they do not go far enough unless amendments to laws are made and the reforms are institutionalised. New laws are also needed to strengthen the institutions and governance of this country, and some laws has to be repealed.
But these structural reforms would not materialise if political stability is not restored to the PH government who has proposed and promised the reform agenda for the nation. Any re-configuration of the ruling coalition would either dilute the reform agenda or totally nullify it and as such must be totally rejected. The people voted for a new government and for change based on what was promised in the PH manifesto, any attempt to scuttle the reforms would be a betrayal of the people’s will.
In view of the above, Bersih 2.0 would like to propose the following urgent actions for the PH government to carry out in 2020.
- FULFILL ALL INSTITUTIONAL REFORM PROMISES – Out of 19 promises on institutional and political reforms under Pillar 2 of the PH Manifesto, most are unfulfilled or at best minimally fulfilled. Key among them that are critical to reinforce the doctrine of separation of powers are limit the term and power of the Prime Minister (Promise 12), reform of the MACC (Promise 14), separating the office of the Attorney-General and Public Prosecutor (Promise 15), restore dignity of Parliament (16), reform of the election system (17), enact political financing law (18), restore public trust in judicial and legal institutions (19), free GLCs from political patronage (22), revive the true spirit of Federalism (24), strengthening local democracy (25) and abolish oppressive laws (27).
Many of these reforms can be achieved without amendments to the Federal Constitution which requires a parliamentary two-third majority and where constitutional amendments are required, the Opposition should be persuaded to support it as any reform that can counter-balance a government’s power would be in their interest as well. Such institutional reforms do not require financial resources to fulfill and where resources are needed to ensure independence of institutions, these are money well allocated to ensure that no government can commit grand larceny of the nation’s wealth.
- EXTEND THE NUMBER OF DAYS FOR PARLIAMENTARY SITTINGS – In order to have enough Parliament sitting days to carry out all the needed amendments, repeals and enactment of new laws, Bersih 2.0 proposes that the Dewan Rakyat should sit for a minimum of 100 days per year, at least for the first 3 years of the PH government until all needed legislative reforms are carried out. This was clearly promised in Promise 16 of the manifesto and yet the Parliament only sat for 68 days in 2019.
- SET A CLEAR DATE AND PROCESS FOR PRIME MINISTERIAL TRANSITION – In 2019 we saw a resurgence of gutter politics of the vilest nature with the release of a sex video allegedly featuring Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali and another male partner. It is now an open secret that there is power struggle as to who would replace the 94 year-old PM Mahathir when he steps down or to demise in office.
Bersih 2.0 once again reiterate our earlier call to PH in April 2019 to restore political stability so that the reform agenda would stay on course and not be sidetracked by excessive politicking. We opine that in our Westminster system of parliamentary democracy, it is not for the incumbent PM to choose his successor or even set the date for transition but for the parties in coalition government to make the decision. As such, it is the PH Presidential Council who should restore political stability by announcing a clear transition plan with a set date. They should also reaffirm their commitment to fulfilling the PH manifesto’s promises and the reform agenda by stating clearly a timeline for their fulfillment within PH’s first term in office.
The consequences of not having a clear transition plan in place and project their commitment to the reform agenda is far reaching. Political power struggles, conspiracy theories, rumours and fake news is creating a climate of uncertainty and instability, eroding confidence in the government of the day. Both local and foreign investors and civil servants would be taking a wait-and-see attitude, expecting that PH would be a one-term government, thus withholding their support and cooperation.
Bersih 2.0 wishes to remind the PH government that time is running out fast for them to deliver on their promises and if they do not prioritise institutional reform in 2020, they would have missed a golden opportunity to repair the damaged institutions of this country and leave Malaysia vulnerable to another kleptocratic government.
Satukan Tenaga, Malaysia Baru!
Statement issued by:
The Steering Committee of Bersih 2.0