Three things Abdullah should address before end of his first hundred days Prime Minister on Feb 8 – scrap PORR, usher in press freedom and ensure the holding of the first “clean, free and fair” general election
- at Penang DAP Chinese New Year 2004 celebration
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Sunday): There are three things Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi should address before the end of his first hundred days as the fifth Prime Minister on February 8 – scrap the RM1.02 billion Penang Outer Ring Road (PORR) project, usher in press freedom so that the people can tell him and the government “the truth” and ensure the holding of the first “clean, free and fair” general election in the country without the 3M abuses, namely money politics, media manipulation and misuse of government machinery, resources and funds.
The next Cabinet meeting should specifically focus not only on the 17 km PORR project, but a comprehensive public transport system for the Penang Island to liberate it from the traffic nightmare and gridlock, particularly during holiday periods.
When he was Acting Prime Minister early last year, DAP had called on Abdullah to put the PORR project on hold until there is the fullest public consultation and review, including a new social, cultural and environmental impact assessment report. It may be understandable whey Abdullah had declined to intervene in the PORR project when he was Acting Prime Minister, but this excuse is no more tenable now that he is Prime Minister and had intervened in other controversial projects like the RM14.5 billion double tracking rail project and the RM1.1 billion “crooked half-bridge” to replace Malaysia’s half of the Johore-Singapore causeway.
The second issue which Abdullah had conspicuously omitted to address so far in his first three months in office is the lifting of all the press controls and fetters - legal, administrative, corporate, financial and psychological – resulting in one of the most cowed and suppressed press in the world, with Malaysia placed 104 out of 166 countries in the 2003 World Press Freedom Ranking released by the French-based Reporters Without Borders.
As Abdullah has said that he wants to hear the “truth” from the people, he must create the conditions where such “truths” could be told by ushering in press freedom in both printed and electronic media. Whether there is press freedom in Malaysia will be the make-or-break test of the Abdullah promises as it is the pre-condition for the fulfillment of his pledge for a clean, incorruptible, accountable, transparent, efficient and people-oriented government.
Thirdly, Abdullah should make a public commitment that the next general election would be the most “clean, free and fair” in the nation’s history of 11 general elections – conducted without the traditional 3M abuses, namely money politics, media manipulation and misuse of government machinery, resources and funds.
The Election Commission has been completely helpless to stamp out the 3M abuses in general elections, as it requires the political commitment and political will of the ruling coalition to agree to the introduction of a new political culture of public integrity with zero tolerance for corruption, money politics and all forms of political abuses during elections.
If Abdullah is serious about his pledge of an administration which is “clean, incorruptible, modest and beyond suspicion”, he must start with the most “clean, free and fair” to elect such a government. It is not too late for the convening of an emergency Parliament to introduce legislation to outlaw the 3M abuses in general elections to lay the foundation for a new culture of political and public integrity with zero tolerance for corruption and all forms of political and electoral abuses, starting with the new batch of Members of Parliament to be elected in the new millennium in the next general election.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman