by Lim Kit Siang
The malicious and selective prosecution of PAS Deputy President Mohamad Sabu for criminal defamation should dampen the euphoria in certain quarters sparked by the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s latest gambit to brand himself as the reformer par excellence to make Malaysia the “best democracy in the world”.
The proposals to set up a parliamentary select committee on electoral reforms, to repeal the nefarious Internal Security Act (ISA) and to amend various laws such as Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) have not been able to stand up to close scrutiny that they are intended to usher in a major democratisation of the country.
The proposed parliamentary select committee will only be meaningful if it results in changes to the electoral system to ensure free and fair elections as envisaged in the Eight Demands of Bersih 2.0, and most important of all, that such reforms are all effected before the dissolution of Parliament and the holding of the next general elections.
Only promises, no serious commitment
The very fact that the Prime Minister is not prepared to give an undertaking that Parliament would not be dissolved until the parliamentary select committee has made recommendations for a free and fair electoral system and their full implementation raises the question whether this is just a political ploy or a meaningful reform exercise.
The repeal of the ISA will be tested as to whether the two replacement laws for it would only result in spawning new ISA-like detention-without-trial laws without the term of “ISA”.
The PPPA amendment to do away with annual licensing for newspapers will not lead to free and responsible press so long as the government continues to exercise a media stranglehold through other measures as licensing of newspapers and political party ownership and control of newspapers.
At a time when Najib’s bona fides for political reforms has come to the very national forefront, the malicious and selective prosecution of Mat Sabu for criminal defamation has come as a reminder that if Malaysia is to make progress towards a more democratic society, upholding human rights and the rule of law, it is equally important to end the gross abuses of power so rampant in the present system – as illustrated by the case of the malicious and selective prosecution of Mat Sabu for criminal defamation.
There are incidents galore in the past two years of reckless and irresponsible incitement of racial and religious hatred and tensions, as in the lies and falsehoods alleging a DAP conspiracy for a Christian Malaysia and and a Christian Prime Minister, but which enjoy utter immunity and impunity from prosecution.
There must not only be far-reaching reforms to abolish draconian and undemocratic laws but also a restoration of the independence, professionalism and integrity of key national institutions, whether the Judiciary, Attorney-General’s Chambers, Police, Election Commission or MACC, if Malaysia is to become a normal democratic country.
Seri Perdana and Putrjaya belong to UMNO only?
Within 48 hours after announcing the so-called reforms, Najib demonstrated that he has neither the political commitment nor the necessary mindset to “walk the talk” of making Malaysia “the best democracy in the world” when he spoke to the Association of Former Members of the Social Welfare Department (PBAKM) calling for assistance to defend Putrajaya by declaring that Seri Perdana is the residence of UMNO and a BN Prime Minister.
Najib cannot be more wrong as Sri Perdana is not the private property of UMNO and BN but the public property of the people of Malaysia, regardless of the outcome of any general election.
No Prime Minister can be serious in wanting make Malaysia “the best democracy in the world” when he refuses to accept the verdict of the people in a general election and uphold the important distinctions among public, party and personal spheres of responsibility, which is the root cause of the rampant corruption, abuse of power and flawed democracy in the country.
Malaysians are reminded of Najib’s deplorable speech at the UMNO General Assembly last year when he used the language of “crushed bodies, lives lost” for UMNO to defend power at any cost in Putrajaya.
The first thing Najib should do to demonstrate his sincerity and credibility by retracting his “crushed bodies, lives lost” declaration to the UMNO General Assembly last year and make a firm public commitment that he, UMNO and BN will accept the verdict of the people, including for a change of government in Sri Perdana, Putrajaya in the next general election.
If Najib is not prepared to make such a retraction and publicly declare acceptance of the general election verdict of the people, the sincerity and credibility of his claim of wanting to make Malaysia “the best democracy in the world” stands immediately exposed as an empty and meaningless stance.
Freedom still in fetters, judiciary still in shackles
The BN government is not qualified to talk about wanting to be the “best democracy in the world” when it has not revoked its unjustified ban on Bersih 2.0 declaring it as an illegal organisation and dropped all charges against those arrested in connection with the Bersih 2.0 campaign.
For this reason, I welcome the dropping of the charges against the 30 activists of Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM), including the six who were detained earlier under the Emergency Ordinance (EO), in connection with their support of the July 9 Bersih 2.0 rally.
The question next is when the unreasonable and undemocratic ban on Bersih 2.0 will be revoked?
Malaysia’s judiciary has a long way to go to recover its judicial professionalism, independence and integrity which it enjoyed before the series of executive assaults on the judiciary for over two decades – beginning with the 1988 judicial crisis resulting in the sacking of the Lord President, Tun Salleh Abas and two Supreme Court judges.
Malaysia cannot be said to be on the path to become the “best democracy in the world” without a total overhaul of undemocratic laws – including repressive legislation like the Universities and Universities Colleges Ac, Official Secrets Act and Sedition Act – and key institutions in the country as ensuring an independent, professional and incorruptible judiciary, Attorney-General’s Chambers, Police, Civil Service, Election Commission, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency, etc.
At present, Malaysia is among the “worst democracy in the world” where citizens could be arrested for wearing yellow T-shirts and attract the full might of the law for supporting a peaceful rally in pursuit of a perfectly legitimate and democratic campaign for free and fair elections, including mass arrests and the firing of teargas and chemically-laced water cannons at unarmed and defenceless Malaysians. -The Rocket