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Yes, Sreenevasan criticises Pakatan but Ramkarpal more forthright

Ramkarpal has been critical of Mahathir's leadership but he and fellow MP Charles Santiago need to speak at a bigger forum.

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Written by Aziz Hassan

January 23, 2020.

Recollections & Reflections

SHE was one of the more prominent activists who decided to support the Pakatan Harapan coalition before the May 2018 14th general elections and soon after the coalition came to power was appointed to the Institutional Reforms Committee.

Just like most Malaysians who were over the moon that a Pakatan led by Dr. Mahathir Mohamad was able to oust the Umno-led Barisan Nasional that Mahathir once led and ruled the country for 61 uninterrupted years since independence in 1957, lawyer Ambiga Sreenevasan found almost nothing to alter that feel good position, at least publicly.

Everything was moving forward uninterrupted, Umno leaders and civil servants deemed to be rogue characters found themselves in a corner and there were new appointments to head various agencies and government linked companies. This, they said, was what a new Malaysia was all about.

A Council of Eminent Persons was formed to listen to a cross-section of society – from senior corporate executives in both the private and public sectors, civil servants, enforcers, politicians, musicians and young business people all were given the opportunity to appear before the CEP. One outfit that reported to the CEP was the IRC. The enthusiasm and expectations were overwhelming. I too submitted to the IRC a report on corruption.

But it was a honeymoon that was not to last long. Reality then took over.

Promises contained in the coalition’s manifesto fell one after the other by the wayside, with various excuses given for the failure to deliver. Politically, cracks began to appear in PKR, one of the four parties in the coalition, which until today hasn’t been able to resolve some serious leadership issues. Sreenavasan recently went so far as to threaten that the people will take to the streets again by June if the Pakatan government fails to fulfil the promises on certain reforms.

The latest is to have Sreenevasan questioning Ramkarpal’s criticism of Mahathir and this is perplexing

Given what she has been saying lately it is thus rather perplexing to read this statement by Sreenevasan which slams DAP MP Ramkarpal Singh for chiding Mahathir on the defeat in the Kimanis by-election last Saturday because to Sreenevasan it’s all about collective responsibility.

Ramkarpal zeroed in on Mahathir as the leader who should take responsibility over Pakatan’s defeat in the five of ten by-elections since GE14 and he’s not the only one, with another DAP MP, Charles Santiago of Klang, also a vocal critic of Mahathir’s leadership.

Agreed that there is collective responsibility but many are aware that in Malaysian politics, many major decisions go to and come from the prime minister, especially on something for which there is no precedent. One was the decision by Mahathir not to make public the report by the CEP and the IRC, so much so it has become something most people have forgotten about.

The CEP started with a bang and not to have its recommendations made public only arouses the suspicion that there are things in the contents that Mahathir simply doesn’t want the people to know and which may be politically incorrect. Despite it being so high profile, everyone in the Pakatan leadership group seems to have willingly accepted the decision by Mahathir.

To quote Ramkarpal on the work of the IRC: “The IRC was set up soon after GE14, comprising eminent members for the purpose of identifying areas that need major reforms and for proposing ways to achieve such reforms.

“Surely, the said report of the IRC is crucial to PH’s reform agenda and ought to have been made public a long time ago. It is baffling why it has not.

“There must be a strong political will to implement the reforms that were promised to the people and to tackle the deteriorating race relations in the country of late.”

At least Ramkarpal and Santiago are forthright but Sreenevasan sugar-coats

The main difference between Ramkarpal and Santiago and Sreenevasan is that the former two are more forthright and call a spade a spade while Sreenevasan sugar-coats her statements, so far holding back and not naming Mahathir in her statements, preferring instead to refer to “the Pakatan leadership”. However, to be more effective and to galvanise strong support, Ramkarpal and Santiago need to speak up at a bigger forum.

A friend who knows some prominent Malaysians and how they came to support Mahathir in the run-up to GE14 recently talked about how the excitement about Mahathir amongst them had waned, with the realisation that Mahathir isn’t the man who at that time had managed to convince them about his commitment to reforms, in particularly institutional reforms.

Attorney-General Tommy Thomas was another person said to have warmed up to Mahathir because of this.

What we have thus far are the Committee on Electoral Reforms, the Parliamentary Select Committees and the National Governance, Integrity, and Anti-Corruption Centre headed by former Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission boss Abu Kassim Mohamaed which is not an operational enforcement agency but beyond these three, it has been almost inaction on everything else about institutional reforms since May 2018.

With the time needed to amend the laws and formulate news ones for the purpose of reforms, the Pakatan government may find time running out before the people are ready to vote again in GE15.

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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.