IT IS well and good to talk about Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s approach to broad national issues and the promised reforms.
Someone recently argued that the unity government is not about who gets what and under what circumstances but the authoritative allocation of values. Such an understanding seeks to encapsulate the divergences in the understanding of politics.
However, to say that the Madani government must be given the time to embark on reforms, I am not sure how much time is needed. Even for a start, the government has not seriously contemplated about reforms let alone the timeframe for their implementation.
The cliché that “Rome was not built in one day” is most inappropriate in the defence of the Anwar’s government. Those who built Rome might have had the luxury of time but certainly not Anwar’s unity government.
Nobody is denying that Anwar needs the full one term and beyond to implement the badly needed reforms.
With Anwar having been in office for nearly nine months, it would certainly be a Herculean task to expect him to implement reforms in the administration of the country and in critical areas such education, management of resources, separation of powers and others.
In fact, given the long rot under the Barisan Nasional (BN) government, Anwar might have to go beyond the simple and meaningless reforms. The entire system has to be overhauled.
Lacking reform acumen
Nine months is not too long but certainly not too short. By now, Malaysians would have realised whether Anwar is serious or not serious about the much needed reforms.
It is not a high expectation because the very basis of Anwar’s ascension to power was predicated on the need to bring about reforms. I wouldn’t go to the extent of describing Anwar’s reformasi as refor-mati as the opposition has termed it.
I still believe that Anwar has the opportunity to undertake the reforms if only he is not preoccupied with the need to stay in power. In more exact terms, Anwar should not be engaging himself in the game of appeasement.
There is a serious gulf what Anwar says outside the country to entertain foreign leaders and what he says in the country.
In regard to talent development, it is not enough to attract the Malaysian Diaspora from abroad but to ensure that Malaysian students are given an opportunity for further education without the encumbrances.
Domestically, Anwar is laden with an Albatross around his neck. The Albatross referred here is none other than UMNO – the party that is proving itself to be the biggest political liability to the unity government.
The discharge not amounting to acquittal (DNAA) of UMNO president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi threatens to derail not only the promised reforms but the very existence of the unity government.
Nobody forced Anwar into this mess but the question is how is he going to extricate himself from this political quagmire.
Anwar might be serious about reforms but he lacks the political and administrative ability to steer the country out of the present race and religious imbroglio. In the absence of this capability, reforms might be confined to the academic realm.
Reforms at crossroads
The building of Rome went through a long gestation period of battles, wars and regime changes. If the unity government adheres to the example of Rome to bring about reforms, then there is possibility that the government might not last that long. Anwar might not be around.
Reformism peaked when Anwar was incarcerated but whether the spirit of reformism is still alive remains to be seen in the actions and deeds of the present government.
Just because Anwar is in power, it cannot be automatically assumed that the government is by definition bent on reforms.
If Anwar could not even answer the young Indian girl about the necessity for reform in the education system, then what reforms are we talking about? For Anwar, tampering with the quota system would tantamount to spooking the Malays.
Was the conversion of the Hindu youth to Islam by Anwar part of the reform package? Didn’t he realise that such an act would hurt and humiliate the Indians, the majority of whom are Hindus?
Under the political circumstances of the Malays increasingly moving to embrace Perikatan Nasional (PN), is Anwar bold enough even to think of reforms? Can Anwar get back the support of the Malays by desisting from reforms?
Even if there are reforms, there is no way that the unity government is going to win back the support of the Malays. Because Anwar is so obsessed with Malay support, he has forgotten about the non-Malays or assumes that the DAP is there to ensure their continued support.
Unfortunately, Indians in Pakatan Harapan (PH) are seeing things differently. They have already begun the process of abandoning the PH-BN coalition as witnessed in the last state and Johor by-elections.
The concept of authoritative allocation of values as opposed to who gets what might not provide answers to why the Madani government is hesitant about pursuing reforms. – Sept 26, 2023
Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy is the former DAP state assemblyman for Perai. He is also the former deputy chief minister II of Penang.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.