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Reforms are dead under Madani govt

Former Penang deputy chief minister P Ramasamy says talks about reforms are only to prolong the stay of the Pakatan Harapan-led government.

P Ramasamy
4 minute read

It is becoming a joke to associate the Madani government with reforms.

In fact, the government was elected to power on the basis of much-needed reforms – reforms to eradicate corruption, irrelevant laws, outmoded institutions, the introduction of checks and balances to the legal and judicial systems, and in areas to be identified.

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has been in office for 11 months, but there seem to be no serious discussions about the need for reforms. Reforms are often mentioned in passing, but there is no political will exhibited by the government.

Meanwhile, there are a plethora of instances that reveal that the government is for anything but reforms.

The granting of discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA) to Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was an anathema in the war against corruption and financial misdeeds.

If a sitting deputy prime minister could be exonerated from charges of corruption, then it speaks loud and clear of the government's commitment to the eradication of corruption, the main scourge of the nation.

What is worse is not the freeing of Zahid but the blatant and inexcusable reasons given by Anwar, the "king of reformasi", to defend and exonerate Zahid, supposedly a good friend of his.

Anwar, by putting the blame on the retired attorney-general Idrus Harun, sought to extricate himself from the shoddy, egregious mess.

It was not about the questionable reprieve granted to Zahid, but the heavy political and moral cost to the government of justifying corruption and money laundering.

Zahid's DNAA has once and for all nailed the reform package of the pretentious Madani, or unity government.

Anwar has shown without any doubt that, at the end of the day, his stay in power is the most important yardstick of the government and not the war against corruption.

Frankly speaking, whatever the justification provided by Anwar or the Attorney-General's Chambers, reforms have been buried deep in the ground.

If the eradication of corruption is treated so lightly, then how on earth can the public trust the government to undertake reforms in so many areas of the government?

Despite promises, draconian laws such as the Sedition Act, the Printing Presses Act, Sosma, and others continue to exist in the country.

There are no attempts to amend or remove the obnoxious aspects of these anti-democratic laws.

On the contrary, the ministers in the government are entrusted with the responsibility to justify these undemocratic laws. What a shame!

Reforms are definitely not on the agenda, but there are pretensions about them. A government based on the Madani concept has little or nothing to say about moral or ethical concerns.

What is the difference between the earlier Barisan Nasional (BN) government and the present one?

Except for a change in personalities, the actions are the same, if not worse. At least the BN government did not deceive the public with its pretentious call for reforms.

At the international level, Anwar has the habit of giving the right messages to show that he is the right person to lead the country.

His speeches are often laced with words, concepts, and historical names to give a semblance of his erudite and philosophical nature.

But on the domestic front, Anwar is not too different from earlier Umno right-wing politicians.

Due to the political threat from the opposition, Anwar has embarked on the path of appeasing the Malay-Muslim conservatives to the extent of condoning the nefarious quota system of entry into matriculation programmes and entry into the country's civil service.

Apart from repeating his mantra that the Malays, Chinese, and Indians are his children, he has stopped addressing the problems and anxieties of the non-Malays in the country, particularly the disadvantaged segments.

To the dismay of many, including the ever-critical opposition, his erudite posture was missing when he rudely answered a young Indian girl by justifying the government's quota system for matriculation intakes.

Yet he engages gleefully in presiding over a religious conversion of Hindu youth, angering the Indian community.

It is understandable that Anwar took such a long time to become prime minister. There was hope from all sections of society that he would be the leader that Malaysians had long hoped for. As leader of the opposition, he had built up a reputation as a serious-minded reformer that the country needed.

However, once in power, Anwar has shredded his earlier "skin" as a serious-minded reformer.

Presently, Anwar's duty seems not to be on reforms but on how to stay in power for at least the full term.

Yes, internationally, he can impart all the right messages that might endear him. The true nature of Anwar's leadership must be seen at the domestic level – whether he is honest and true in bringing about the much-needed reforms that were promised to the public.

As far as I am concerned, reforms are basically dead in the country.

The rhetoric of reforms will be there but devoid of any meaning or substance. Talks about reforms are basically to prolong the stay of the government. Anwar's primary objective is to serve the full-term immaterial of the rot in the political and economic systems.

Meanwhile, politically, things are not rosy for Anwar or the Madani government. He might desist from reforms, but the opposition has not let up. Starting from the last federal elections to the recent state elections and by-elections in Johor, there has been an exodus of Malays moving in the direction of the opposition Perikatan Nasional (PN).

Unless Anwar embarks on something politically drastic or unthinkable at the moment, the drift of the Malays towards the opposition is unstoppable.

The political shift of the Malays might not have anything to do with the phenomenon of the green wave; perhaps it is due to the incontrovertible fact that PN is seen as a cleaner political coalition compared to the Pakatan Harapan-BN pact.

Anyway, it is merely academic to talk about reforms under the Madani government of Anwar. It is more appropriate to talk about the end of once-promised reforms.

P Ramasamy is a former deputy chief minister of Penang.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.