Merdeka’s hard-fought gleam has slowly been eroded since ’57, says DAP National Vice Chairman Tan Seng Giaw. Dr Tan points to the compromised separation of powers between the executive, legislative and the judiciary as a prime example.
“The executive branch of government has become all-powerful, in some cases overriding the judiciary and parliament. After decades of one-party rule, the ruling government is now selective and not inclusive,” says Dr Tan.
As Malaysia practices a “first-past-the-post” system with proportional representation, it is important for the delineation of electoral boundaries to be seen to be fair.
Dr Tan explains that in 1956, the Reid Commission Report recommended that there should be not more than 15% difference in the size of each electoral district. In 1963 the figure was changed to 50% and by 1973, it was abolished completely by an act of Parliament.
This gives rise to a serious problem of gerrymandering. Dr Tan points out an example in Selangor, where the BN-controlled constituencies of Sabak Bernam and Sungai Besar have 31,381 and 34,073 voters respectively. However the Pakatan Rakyat controlled constituency of Serdang has 94,877 registered voters. This a clear example of unfair delineation of electoral boundaries to benefit the ruling party.
Dr Tan, the MP for Kepong, pointed out that constituency boundaries should not be drawn across district boundaries. “Voters should not have to go to different voting districts to vote for the Parliamentary and State election. The basic principles of free and fair elections must be upheld by a neutral Election Commission,” he opined.
When public institutions are perceived to be selective and not independent, the freedom that we gained would hold no meaning.
“Today, competent companies have no freedom or upward mobility when tenders are open to cronies and not the public. Projects that should cost RM20 billion are hiked up to RM50 billion at the expense of the tax-paying rakyat – who not only pays taxes through his income tax, but is taxed with every purchase, big or small. “
This gross misuse of power is abhorrent to the concept of freedom. As Dr Tan explains, a ruling government with everything at its disposal should not misuse its power to make the people suffer. He adds that free and fair elections are a mechanism to rid the nation of corruption. “The people can exercise their freedom to vote out the corrupt powers-that-be,” he said.
What does he see in the crystal ball? Dr Tan believes that the greatest challenge for this nation in the decades to come is to evolve peacefully.
“No authorities should use force against peaceful gatherings of people who rise up against abuse of power. This country cannot afford violence,” said the Kelantan-born Dr Tan.
He emphasized the importance of finding peaceable solutions to ensure that those in power do not misuse our nation’s resources, including petroleum, which accounts for 50% of the nation’s economy.