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Is the PH Govt for the people?
Published on: Saturday, September 22, 2018

By Datuk John Lo
The most ideal form of government is “government of the people, by the people, for the people” made famous by Abraham Lincoln.

His saying is supposed to mean democracy to be practised by the fledging American nation.

Many Americans, especially poor Americans who have not achieved or who have been excluded in the American Dream, do not believe in this definition for they think that the American government neither belongs to them, nor do they have a say in government nor the government is for them. Proponents of other forms of government can also claim the same like communism, socialism, dictatorship, authoritarian and their many hybrids.

In fact, there are as many countries as there are forms of government with most of the leaders in government unashamedly claiming to be champions of their people. Many of them are downright corrupt, selfish, self-enriching and having a good time at the expense of the people. José Mujica, the ex-president of Uruguay and Nepali Prime Minister Sushil Koirala are quite well known for their frugal lifestyle.

They are rare species, as rare as two blue moons in the sky. All heads of governments in the west are well off.

Some of them are billionaires. Many of them are already rich before taking office.

Like most ex-British colonies, Malaysian democracy is a hybrid of the Westminster model.

Adaptation of British parliamentary system by Malaysia is no guarantee of achieving Abraham Lincoln’s idealism as can be seen in recent history. The Malaysian democratic system has failed to prevent 1MDB and a few other such cases from happening. Its failure is also reflective on the unexplainable wealth of many Malaysian politicians who have held power or who has been in position of political influence in government.

For them, being multi-millionaires are nothing. As events are unfolding, politician billionaires are quite common.

How they have gotten such great wealth is a total mystery. The sad part is that in their pursuit of self-financial aggrandisement, they have abused their positions/trusteeship and have neglected their fiduciary duties to the people who have voted them into power. Malaysian democracy has nearly become meaningless in the context of Abraham Lincoln’s definition of democracy. Much more than this is that the financial/debt burdens created by uncontrolled greed for money will burden our next two generations.

Democratic institutions vital for a functioning democracy have all been neutralised or made to toe the lines of the “powers that be” using financial incentives and/or coercion. What has surprised is the complicit willingness to comply or the pure lack of resistance from Malaysia’s educated, well informed intelligentsia and elites.

Understandable if rural people have been blinded by racial and religious bigotries, not the upper echelons to fall like bowling pins.

The fact to note is that of the three points expounded by Abraham Lincoln’s “government of the people, by the people, for the people”, the last is the most important for improvements of the people’s economic welfare.

The implication is simply this – that democracy is not necessarily the only form of government that can truly work for the people. Many countries which have adapted the democratic system have failed like Nigeria, Venezuela.

Democracy has little use to Venezuelans who are suffering from 1,000,000pc of inflation, so bad that it’s currency Bolivar is depreciating by the seconds! It’s worth is 0.000017 to our Ringgit. So have many communist and socialist countries failed. The outstanding successful countries like Singapore [authoritarian style under Lee Kuan Yew] and Communist China have practiced “Government for the people” in the true sense of the word.

China has done “Government for the people” more successful than any other country in history of mankind. China has transformed herself from being one of the worst poverty-stricken countries to become the 2nd super power, now poised to take over from USA for the No.1 super power. China has transformed “Government for the people” into a new dimension by lifting 700 million of poor Chinese to middle class which is double the American population of USA within 40 years. Why would the Americans and the West want to impose their types of democracy on the Chinese? To them western form of government has no meaning other than to dominate and exploit them.

Lessons are to be learned from our recent history, from Singapore and China. Lesson 1 is that the western democratic political system is not necessarily the most effective or the best. China is the outstanding example as per above. Singapore, from being a backwater port to a super city state without natural resources except brain and brawn. A city state that has become highly respected in the world. Contrary to Singapore and China, pre GE14 Malaysia has become preeminent worldwide for all the wrong reasons.

Lesson 2. Why has Malaysia underperformed in comparation with the Asian tigers?

Three simple words, corruption, corruption, corruption. The one and only starting root cause is the deteriorating quality of political leadership when political leaders began to put their hands in the government treasury.

When this greediness spreads, it becomes an accepted culture. This deadly infection spreads down to institutions of government like the judicial system, parliament, civil service and law enforcement agencies.

The political leaders then expanded their corruption entrapment to perpetuate and legitimise their rule until financial collapse almost sets in. To fool the general population, they aroused racial, religious or nationalistic emotions to shield their misdeeds. Many countries like Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Indonesia under Suharto, Philippines under Marcos have suffered from this dreadful fate. All these “diseases” led Tun M to lament that corruption has infested the whole government structure!

Economic recovery from such extensive corruption is complex and can be long drawn out.

Philippines, without strong and dedicated political leadership, is still suffering from it.

Jokowi is doing a good job in Indonesia. Malaysia has been lucky in that the transfer of power to PH has been peaceful bearing in mind that corrupt and vested interest have entrenched thoroughly in Malaysian society.

Righting all the problems is a herculean task. Malaysians should allow the PH government time to sort out the mess and implement reform.

The PH government has all the good intentions to put things right. In post GE14 euphoria, let us remember that Tun M has many enthusiastic but “green horn” ministers in his team. It is a team that is learning as it goes along, notwithstanding many are well qualified, honest and hard working.

To move Malaysia forward, Tun M and his team are attacking the situation with a 2-prong strategy.

First prong which is being well done is the seeking out and solving major financial wrong doings including taking legal actions against perpetrators. Full mark to Tun M and his team here. Now that 90-day honeymoon has ended, the PH government can consider putting out a consolidated broadsheet on all the financial debts and one-sided agreements to help average Malaysians to digest on the depth and breadth of the financial problems facing our nation.

The 2nd prong is a lot more difficult and I don’t see the PH government is making sufficient progress to take the bull by its horns. Here are some examples.

[a] The PH government should take concrete and speedy action to reform institutions that are important for the functioning of government. Though a number of institutions have seen changes at the very top but those below are still from the previous government.

Changing them will be difficult.

[b] The PH government should consider doing away with previous government’s policy of using civil servants for its political objectives. A distinctive differentiation must be made between professional civil servants whose sole duty is to serve the government of the day and political appointees.

The strictly non-political professional civil servants serve as the bedrock of the country even though political masters may come and go.

[c] With due respect, the PH government has been slow to come up with its economic model without which, the business communities can not see PH’s direction. This lack of economic model is slowing down investments and business decisions.

[d] The natural consequence of no economic model is the lack of a set of coherent economic policies and implementation strategy. The Economics Minister has mentioned that PH government will present its new economic model nearer to budget day. Why wait? We need to see its direction here and now.

[e] Legislate against use of racial and religious bigotries to gain support/vote.

Indonesia has done it from day one.

[f] Politicians are the rogues, abusing race/religion to fan disharmony.

They must reform themselves or be forced by legislation to do so.

[g] We have been besieged with grave financial problems today because there has been a wholesale deterioration of moral values of politicians.

The PH government must address this urgently to prevent recurrence.

[h] No country can become economically successful when it is burdened down to provide rights and privileges for 60PC of its population.

NEP must be modified so that every Malaysian will be given the chance to contribute to Malaysia’s economic greatness.

[i] The PH government should resolve problems faced by average Malaysians from government offices, be it simple approvals or just getting things done.

[j] Reform previous governments’ policies of lowering performance/standards in the pretence of social restructure. in education and economics This has harmed national interest.

The correct one is to push up the standards of those in need of assistance to match with the best.

In the final analysis, I am happy with the efforts of the PH government has made in turning around the economy so far. It is in the right direction of delivering the best ethos of “government for the people”.

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