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Zaid’s five steps to put Malaysia back on track

Tue 2011-Mar-22 @ +08 10:30:00 am

1. Restore real democracy
and call off the Emergency (all of them)
2. End racial discrimination
3. Protect freedom of religion
4. Restore the quality of education
5. Set up a Constitutional Court

And another thing…

Live by the Rukunegara — restore civility and good manners

By Zaid Ibrahim
Extract from a speech at the annual gathering of Malaysian Mensa on Sunday.

1. Restore real democracy

Firstly, the PM must restore substantive democracy, and by this I mean more than just having a general election. Simply casting your single vote once every five years is not all there is to participative democracy.

If we as a country have done relatively well, it is in spite of our Parliament (or to be more specific, our Members of Parliament) and not because of them. To establish a genuine democracy, the state of our judiciary must be improved, the over-compliancy of the legislature must be curbed and the iron grip on power by the executive must be tempered.

The work needs to be done from ground up. For starters, bring back local council elections whose knock-on effect would be a reinforcement of the true spirit of democracy – ‘demos’ (the people) have the power (‘kratos’).

Revoke all Emergency proclamations

Datuk Seri Najib has to declare that the Emergency proclamations now still in force be revoked. He does not need to have Emergency law any more. He must be confident that the country is safe; and that laws pertaining to detention without trial that are now in force by reason of the Emergency Rule be withdrawn. If need be, a shorter period of preventive detention against terrorists may be permissible but judicial review must be allowed.

He did after all promise in his maiden speech as PM that he would conduct a comprehensive study of these laws and the Police Act. It’s almost three years on and we are still waiting.

2. End racial discrimination

Secondly, he must deal decisively with the issue of discrimination or perceived preference given to certain ethnic groups. The people want to hear from him that our citizenship is of equal worth. The original idea to set up the Equal Opportunities Commission should have been implemented.

Discrimination can come from all quarters. The Chinese too have been accused of discriminating against the Malays in business; and Indians suffered as well in the private sector. If we have such a Commission, then all complaints can be investigated.

We must do what other developed democracies do when dealing with discrimination amongst its people of diverse races. During Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s tenure, there was even the idea of enacting a Race Relations Act but some people got cold feet. Such legislation will help improve race relations in the country. The PM should reconsider initiating such a move.

3. Protect freedom of religion

Thirdly the minorities are crying for protection or guarantees of freedom of religion. These are enshrined in the Constitution. But what good are these provisions if people cannot practice their religion and their lifestyle in the way they choose. If the Christians want to read the Bible in Bahasa Melayu, why block their access?

If some of us want to buy lottery, why should the State be allowed to prevent us from doing so?

Keep religion out of public policy

Why must groups like Abim and other organizations using religion as their shield be permitted to dictate public policies on the basis that Islam is the religion of the Federation? The status of Islam is indeed enshrined in Article 3 of in the Federal Constitution, but then again so is freedom of religion for all Malaysians in Article 11.

Religion is for human beings; not for a political construct called the Federation. That phrase ‘religion of the Federation’ can only mean the country will have due regard to Islam for ceremonial purposes; and for permitting the Government to spend taxpayers’ money on religious development and religious schools, and nothing more than that. Any other interpretation will make us a theocracy like Iran which is an Islamic State.

Of course, Mahathir also declared Malaysia an Islamic State but do we have to follow him on everything? Not if we want to progress…

Datuk Seri Najib has to leave his own mark and impose his vision by rejecting remnants of the Mahathirist past that are inimical to Malaysia’s goals for the future.

4. Restore the quality of education

Fourthly, the PM needs to address the state of our education system. The principal cause of our slow advance is the lacklustre quality of our education. Every time we have a new Education minister, we have a 90-degree turn on policies. Efforts to improve education at the tertiary level have seen some progress but not in schools. Why we need two Ministers for education escapes most people. The most pressing shortcoming is the competitiveness of our students which needs to be enhanced.

Their command of English has to be improved. The political influences on the school and university administrators must be reduced. Let the academics themselves decide on curriculum and staffing requirements. Let the best be promoted. And the University and University Colleges Act (UCCA) that has become a major stumbling block to educational improvement must be repealed.

5. Set up a Constitutional Court

Finally the government should set up a Constitutional Court where eminent jurists can decide the myriad of issues facing us. Don’t let politicians play with words and concept to suit their political agenda.

Let the courts, that people have confidence in, try to resolve some of our intractable conflicts between citizens of different ethnicity and faiths. Our Federal Court has shown its inability to decide politically charged questions of law with equanimity and justice. Let the new panel take on this difficult task.

Manners maketh the Malaysian

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to conclude by returning to the Rukunegara. The PM must embrace this set of precepts that his late father and our former leaders truly believed in. He needs to be firm and consistent so that his 1Malaysia can be understood by all. There is no need to vacillate and apologize and seek a new model or invent a new formula. Success that we had experienced in the early years of our history can be replicated.

The fifth precept is Kesopanan dan Kesusilaan. Courtesy and Morality.

Adab to me presumes the good faith that is the most necessary ingredient for law to be effective. You can craft a legal document to be however watertight but if the two sides party to it don’t have mutual trust as well as suspects the other to potentially renege, then both would not willingly enter into any kind of compact.

Although the presence of trust does not guarantee a successful outcome, the absence of it will render the endeavour futile. Adat provides us the established rules of behaviour that derive their legitimacy from long usage and general acceptance. When Hang Tuah proclaimed “Tidak Melayu akan hilang di dunia”, he meant that the Malay civility and adat will never disappear from the face of the earth.

Kesopanan dan Kesusilaan puts a seal on the civility that is our proud heritage. Truly, adab pervades the spirit of any law created for our common good. And it is this adab that lies at the heart of any good law because we are all inherently decent people.

Full text » Re-evaluating the kind of democracy we have

Zaid Ibrahim, at different times a lawyer, MP, senator, and law minister, is now president of the Kita party.

  1. Snoop permalink
    Tue 2011-Mar-22 @ +08 14:56:38 pm 14:56

    Pardon me, who needs Rukunegara?

    Your Bible is defaced, your Qur’an is, too!

    High time Rakyat tell the Gomen of the Day WHAT to do! 🙄

  2. Tue 2011-Mar-22 @ +08 22:16:45 pm 22:16

    Eaxctly two years ago, Zaid gave an impressive speech at the Rotary Club in which he essentially pronounced Najib Razak “unfit to be PM.” It appears he now accepts that Najib is PM , whether we like it or not. Obviously, Zaid agrees with Thoreau that “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of a feeble mind.”

    • uppercaise permalink*
      Wed 2011-Mar-23 @ +08 00:31:21 am 00:31

      I don’t think anyone in the Cabinet is fit to be a minister either, but they are. It’s not exactly in Zaid’s power to determine who is, is it?

  3. Lee permalink
    Wed 2011-Mar-23 @ +08 14:55:47 pm 14:55

    Dear Zaid, I once admired you greatly after listening to your brains in UCSI.When you left PKR, you spoke out -of tune for awhile and it reflected badly on you. Honestly, you should not give the public any small chance of a misperception that you are actually a trojan horse by bad mouthing PKR esp Anwar.Leave them alone and let them sort out their own problems…you must be seen to be seeing the bigger picture ie to rebuild a great Malaysia again. Be the first to speak up on matters affecting Malaysia Inc.(nuclear,defence purchases,miseducation,race/religion misgivings,rising prices,pricey houses,whatnot) the last to comment on politicians’ nutty lives (you must learn to accept that many of our men of power are a joke which is leading the country aimlessly) . So my dear learned YB, pls resist the temptation of dwelling in personalities, don’t waste the nation’s time bcos we already have more than enough jokers doing this self point-scoring job, the nation MUST move on economically and politically matured or we are all dead meat in less than a decade from now. Laos and Cambodia are coming out of age, Vietnam and Indonesia are coming on full speed.

  4. dbctan permalink
    Wed 2011-Mar-23 @ +08 15:26:49 pm 15:26

    “Manners maketh the Malaysian” but it is precisely this that is scarce not just among people in general but among our politicians too. Politicians (like Zaid), please model for us the manners that you speak of. Show us by your example what civility looks like.

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