Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Lessons of the Sarawak Elections - a Tale of Unfulfilled Promises

In today's newpapers, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said he was waiting for a report from the Sarawak Barisan Nasional and the Chinese-based Sarawak United People's Party (SUPP) on what caused the BN's defeat in nine of the 71 seats during the recently concluded Sarawak state elections. When asked why Chinese voters had not favoured the Barisan in the nine seats and what the defeat reflected, he said "We cannot be hasty in making a conclusion. We have to first study the internal and external factors as well as the specific issues."

Well, dear DPM, it won't take much study or a political genius to deduce what happened here. I can tell you what was in those voters minds when they cast their votes against the BN.

Unfulfilled promises!

The BN promised many things during the last General Election. But since then, the perception of Chinese citizens is that there has been little progress made. In some aspects, we have actually backtracked and the situation worsened.

1. Islam Hadhari

Malaysians in general, and the non-Muslims in particular embraced the concept wholeheartedly. Promises were made that Malaysia's Islam administration would be tolerant & compassionate, modern & progressive and fair & just - to all Malaysians. But what has happened? Non-muslims have been arrested in outdoor public areas for holding hands. Dress codes have been introduced compelling non-Muslim policewomen to don the tudung or head covering. Local councils are arbitrarily enforcing moral laws. The Syariah Court rules over cases where it involves non-Muslims, where their rights & interests cannot possibly be protected - as they should not be subject to Syariah laws in the first place. The highest Civil court in Malaysia is perceived by the public to have abdicated it's consitutional responsibility and overarching authority when faced with this difficult question.

2. Eradicating Corruption

The man on the street will tell you that nothing has changed. We'll seen one or two high profile ACA investigations, but surely that is not all!

3. Improving the Delivery System

There have been 2 Royal Commissions investigating the police force. We have yet to see the full implementation of the proposals. Is there further progress on the setting up of the independent body to investigate and take action on public complaints against the police force? Govt services have not changed. It still takes a long time and much hassle to do the simplest of things. Bureaucracy is still paramount in our public service. Local councils are still fiefdoms of local bureaucrats and councillors. Just the other day, the MPPJ acted to stop the PWD from erecting overhead bridges. Privatisation, GLCs and white elephants are still costing the public millions, if not billions in terms of additional fees for the consumer and the use of taxpayer money & EPF for compensation or subsidies.

4. Meritocracy

How far have we come? The BN promised much in this category, but at the end of the day - what do we get? More of the same. The NEP has been renewed in a flurry of keris waving and chest thumping (albeit with a promise of better implementation), scholarships and education policies are still causing smart young Malaysians to seek greener pastures, no action taken against govt funded scholars who don't come home, projects, tenders, licences, opportunities still not available to non-bumi firms, houses still being sold with a bumiputra discount to rich bumiputras who don't deserve it... the examples are endless but my free time isn't.

So, in summary, why have the Chinese voters in Sarawak turned against the BN... unfulfilled promises to change.

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