Year of stability and accountability?

07 Jan 2024 01:30pm
Pix for illustration purpose only. - Photo by 123RF
Pix for illustration purpose only. - Photo by 123RF

AS 2023 came to a close, 33 civil society organisations and 52 individuals have called for Malaysians to unite to strengthen our political system's four pillars – constitutional monarchy, parliamentary democracy, federalism and the rule of law.

They urged the government and opposition parties to engage in discussions on a peace package among parties akin to the institutional reforms proposed in the 2019 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

Their goal is to see Malaysian politics stabilise and enhance accountability by 2024.

While not a new call, its emergence as a New Year message holds significance, especially amid the speculation and concerns surrounding the Langkah Dubai, which has stirred political turmoil.

The 2024 message outlines 14 institutional reforms. To ensure political stability, two recommendations are made – (1) the establishment of a fixed-term Parliament and (2) a vote of confidence confirmation for a new prime minister.

Under the banner of parliamentary democracy, seven reforms are proposed: (1) Parliament Service Act, (2) more parliamentary select committees, (3) dedicated time for non-government business in parliamentary sessions, (4) recognition of a shadow cabinet, (5) legislation to ensure equitable constituency allocations, (6) a political funding act that brings public funding to parties, and (7) an independent and accountable Election Commission.

Concerning the rule of law, three points are stressed: (1) separation of the public prosecutor from the Attorney-General, (2) an independent Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and (3) an impartial police force.

Under the decentralisation theme, two suggestions are made: (1) "whole of Malaysia" negotiations involving the federal government and all 13 states and (2) local democracy.

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As most of these issues have been discussed in this column, they are not detailed here.

How do we realise this "New Year resolution"? In my view, we need to cultivate compliance with regulations in the political system.

Instability and breaches of trust occur when rules are violated at will and without consequences.

It is akin to cutting in line. The culture of queuing is based on two ideas – equality and justice.

We queue to wait our turn when we accept that others are equal to us, and the line is a fair rule.

We will cut the line if we see ourselves as more noble or important than others.

At the same time, if someone successfully cuts the line without consequences, justice in queuing is lost.

If those who abide by the rules suffer losses, eventually, the line disappears and chaos ensues. Respecting rules can mean life or death in a crisis.

A total of 379 passengers and crew of a Japan Airlines plane were all rescued in a collision and fire incident on the second day of the New Year.

It was not a miracle but because all passengers left the plane in an orderly manner. Many would have died in the fire if they had scrambled to escape.

In 2024, we will continue to face economic, environmental, and health crises.

To overcome these challenges, each of us – ordinary citizens, public servants, representatives, ministers, heads of government, and heads of state – should support a culture of compliance with regulations.

Respect the constitutional monarchy, parliamentary democracy, federalism, and the rule of law.

Let us step forward, not to Dubai or anywhere else.

Professor Wong Chin Huat is the Deputy Head (Strategy), Asia Office, United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN-Asia) at Sunway University.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of Sinar Daily.