Commentary Politics

The manifesto that should be thrown into an incinerator

After the many flip-flops and U-turns, who needs a manifesto?

Written by Aziz Hassan

July 31, 2018.

Recollections & Reflections – A commentary

GOSH, who would have imagined. This was a coalition of four parties that promised so much in its campaign, so much so that the people’s expectations were raised but just less than three months later you couldn’t be blamed for losing count of the number of flip-flops or U-turns.

Mind you, one or two ministers from the former Barisan Nasional ruling coalition – or what is being referred to often now as the previous regime — were slayed without mercy for twisting and turning less but new Malaysians appear more forgiving and haven’t found enough hate to condemn the same offenders from the new Pakatan Harapan federal government. Maybe, just maybe, this is why the “new” politicians couldn’t care less and simply continue to shift their positions, realising that there’s a band of all consuming supporters behind them, all willing to give them time and more time to eventually do what is right, if at all. The mentality of supporters of Malaysian politicians or political parties is such that sometimes even the fart of their favourite flavour of the moment smells like a rose.   

Granted that an election manifesto is not a holy scripture that is cast in stone but in the West it is a book of promises that people expect to be kept and fulfilled, unless under the most exceptional of unavoidable circumstances. Do something less and they will boot you out at the slightest opportunity. In our case that would mean having to wait about five more years.

So when a leader from the new government casually remarked that some of the promises were included because his coalition didn’t seriously expect to win, that translated into being nonchalant about it all, which also means that should the coalition win the people may be left to rue over some empty promises, by which time it’s too late to turn back the clock.

Some voters are said to be already regretting with kicking out the BN coalition that was unpopular and deemed to be corrupt but we can’t be sure of the numbers or how representative of the population this is.

A convenient opt out clause for the new government is to pile much of the blame on the previous administration, for instance for concealing some financial numbers which caused the authors of the Pakatan Harapan manifesto to pen their promises based on misleading or incomplete information. If that was indeed the situation these academically highly qualified authors, said to be four all with doctorates, should have included a footnote to protect their credibility should something like this happen.

Granted that the background information may have been inadequate but for many other promises, BN has nothing to do with the shortcomings of Pakatan, simply because the information was always there in the open. Thus Pakatan has to take full responsibility for being unable to abolish toll from the highways within the stipulated time promised or not having a firm position regarding the PTPTN loan repayments or wavering on the promise to pay a 20 per cent instead of 5 per cent royalty to oil producing states based on revenue from gross production are promises within the full control of Pakatan.

One example of slipshod work on the manifesto is the promise to deduct a percentage from a husband’s EPF contributions to go into the accounts of the wife — something that needs an amendment to the law because such a deduction cannot be made arbitrarily without the husband’s consent. Another issue concerns a contributor who is polygamous.

There is yet another decision that has gone against a promise in the manifesto and this was announced yesterday. You heard it right. Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has appointed himself as Khazanah chairman while Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali is one of four directors. There have been criticisms and not surprisingly other leaders in Pakatan are also out defending the move as not being in contradiction of the manifesto.

One should be reminded that previously there were criticisms about how powerful a prime minister and ruling party leader was since both were the same person but the reality is that this hasn’t changed in any significant way with the new government, with ministers stating “We’ll leave it to the prime minister” or “I’ll discuss this with the prime minister to let him decide”. Mahathir’s deputy Datuk Seri Dr. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail has said this, so too Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, Transport Minister Anthony Loke and a few others.

Who nominates or recommends the person to be made attorney-general or the chief justice or the MACC chief commissioner or who can be re-employed after going on early retirement by circumventing the Public Services Commission? Who decides the person to be made speaker of the Dewan Rakyat and the new CEOs of the GLCs and their board members? From which office does the process to appoint the armed forces or police chief start? It’s all down to no one else but the prime minister.

While the decision to make some agencies report to Parliament is one commendable move which every right thinking Malaysian must support, there was nothing in the statement on this to outline how this will be done. The mechanics of the new system haven’t been revealed to the public. No committee has been known to be formed to look into this, nothing on how a Parliamentary select committee or committees will be formed and more importantly, how they will function.

Which means that for now we are being left in the dark and can’t tell when the new system will be in place and if everything will indeed be truly transparent and above board.

And you still want to know why it’s all so muddled up? Because almost all of it has been coming from one man and one man only.         



About the author


Aziz Hassan

A journalist since July 1976 with both the English and Malaya press and was with two newspaper groups before The Mole. Does corporate report-writing and translation in his free time. Currently also a contributing weekly rugby columnist for the New Straits Times.