Veteran rights activist and former MP Kua Kia Soong has joined the chorus of criticism against Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim's Cabinet, questioning the reformasi movement long championed by the PKR chief while slamming "revolving door" reforms in the interests of politicians.
Kua, who was MP for Petaling Jaya from 1990 to 1995 and now heads human rights group Suaram, said Anwar's Cabinet was "a rude shock" for civil society activists, citing the appointment of Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as one of two deputy prime minister as well as Anwar's move to take on the finance portfolio in addition to the top office.
"A prime minister who controls the finance ministry is a return to the Mahathir era and this was the condition which facilitated Najib’s 1MDB scandal," he said.
"During the 1990s when Anwar was finance minister, there were also fabulous financial scandals when Mahathir, Daim and Anwar had their own favoured 'Bumiputera capitalists'. Kleptocracy in Malaysia certainly did not begin with the 1MDB scandal."
In a statement, he also criticised the appointment of Saifuddin Nasution as home minister, describing him as "the mob leader" in a reference to Saifuddin's role in storming the 1996 Asia Pacific Coalition for East Timor II in Kuala Lumpur during his time as an Umno Youth leader.
Citing a claim by US International Republican Institute president Daniel Twining of having funded the opposition in Malaysia since 2002 through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), Kua said this should alert civil society activists to the fact that the "partly NED-funded 'reformasi movement' was a really a convenient vehicle for regime change".
"This is an appropriate time for serious human rights defenders to reflect on the years of struggle of the 'reformasi movement' that have brought us to this rude awakening and to prepare for the struggle ahead," he said.
"This is the time for reform-minded Malaysians to reflect on what 'reformasi' and, for that matter, 'Bersih' was all about. What kind of reforms were they demanding and to what extent were they different from Barisan Nasional policies?"
Calling for reforms in matter such as race-based policies, Orang Asli rights, local governance, corruption, education and the economy, he hit out at what he called "the co-option" of civil society leaders into the PH administration post-GE14.
"How could the reform movement advance when their leaders were openly opportunistic and were happily co-opted into the exploitative state?
"Did civil society protest over PH stalling on democratic demands in the PH manifesto? Civil society expects serious transformative reforms that will reconstitute truly democratic institutions and improve the lives of the 99%, especially the B40 Malaysians," he said.
"These are some of the real substantive reforms civil society expects from the state, not 'revolving door' reforms to look after the interests of politicians in the new normal unstable governments at state and federal levels."