The 71/2-day shortest election campaign period in nation’s history is proof that Abdullah can succumb to pressure to do unfair and unjust things and that Malaysia has not reached the stage where there is no room for corruption and abuses of power in government
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Tuesday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said in Seremban yesterday that there would be no room for abuse of power and corruption in the government he leads. He said the people’s expectations now were higher than before.
He said: “We cannot have a government that would do as it pleases with no regard to what the people want.”
I fully agree with Abdullah that Malaysia cannot have a government that could do as it pleases with no regard to what the people want, which goes against the very fundamental tenets of parliamentary democracy, accountability, transparency and good governance.
The 71/2-day election campaign period for the 2004 general election – the shortest in the nation’s history and even shorter than the nine-day campaign period for the 1999 general election which is regarded as the “dirtiest” and most undemocratic of Mahathir’s five general elections from 1982-2003 – is sad proof that Malaysia has not reached the stage where there is no room for corruption, abuses of power and where the government could not “do as it pleases with no regard to what the people want”.
I concede that Abdullah, with his reputation of “Mr. Clean” and “Mr. Nice Guy”, is a good, honest and clean leader – but the shortest and most unfair 71/2-day election campaign period is the most powerful evidence that Abdullah could also succumb to pressures to do and decides things which are just wrong, unfair and undemocratic and the vital necessity to have a proper and effective system of check and balance as by having a strong DAP representation and presence in Parliament and the State Assemblies.
DAP applauds Abdullah’s sentiments that the government cannot do as it pleases without regard to the people’s wants, but just like his pledge for a clean, incorruptible, efficient, accountable, trustworthy, people-oriented government that wants to hear the truth from the people when he was first sworn into office, there is no way he could deliver these promises unless there is a complete overhaul of the system of governance which had spawned the rampant corruption, cronyism, abuses of power, injustices and inequalities in the past two decades.
Abdullah’s crackdown on corruption, for instance, had run aground without nabbing a single “big fish” after the arrest and arraignment of two “middling fishes” - former Perwaja managing director, Tan Sri Eric Chia and a lightweight Cabinet Minister, Tan Sri Kasitah Gaddam.
While Abdullah should be commended for drawing up a more stringent test for Barisan Nasional candidates, which will lead to the dropping of a few proposed Barisan Nasional candidates, the fundamental problem remains untouched – whether Abdullah is prepared for a complete change of the system to root out the causes of the past two decades of corruption, abuses of power, unaccountability and misgovernance.
Is he prepared for instance to require every Barisan Nasional candidate to publicly declare their assets and those of their next-of-kin, which will allow the Malaysian voters the right to scrutiny whether Barisan Nasional leaders, in particular serving Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Chief Ministers, Mentris Besar and State Exco members had led a clean, honest and incorruptible life?
Furthermore, is Abdullah prepared to concede that the vital precondition for a complete overhaul of the system of governance is to lay a solid basis for a clean, incorruptible, accountable and trustworthy government by ensuring a strong, healthy and vibrant system of parliamentary democracy – with a strong DAP team in Parliament and State Assemblies to provide the necessary check-and-balance to prevent abuses of power and deviations?
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman