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Sunday, 31 March 2013

A PEOPLE’S MANIFESTO -CPPS New Publication - Malaysian Issues & Concerns

By Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria

At a recent book launch Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, the Deputy Minister for Higher Education said that the Centre for Public Policy Studies (CPPS) new book entitled ‘Malaysian Issues & Concerns, Some Policy Responses’ is “a people’s manifesto or a third GE 13 manifesto but this time from the ground and the views of civil society”
He went on to acknowledge “the recording of the voices of the people” is an important dimension of policy formulation especially in a political climate post 2008 where there is a new governance framework and expansion of the public space. Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah had participated in a number of the twelve roundtable discussions hosted by CPPS-ASLI in 2012 under the leadership of Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam and Tan Sri Michael Yeoh of ASLI.

Datuk Saifuddin is the rare one among Barisan National Members of Parliament who is willing to engage in open dialogue sessions organised by think tanks and civil society. This aspect of a lack of engagement is one of the major weaknesses of the Barisan National politicians who seem very dynamic in their own sponsored meetings but unwilling to enter the public space to articulate and win the public debate through public reasoning. This dimension of ideological based discussions will increase in the post GE 13 political arena, where there will be a need for greater by-partisan engagement and cooperation among political parties to advance the interest of the grassroots and the general public.
This will be the new political reality where no one party or grouping of political parties control two- thirds majority in parliament and therefore need to seek support of the other for the common good. The politics of “all is bad in government” and “all is good in the opposition” or the reverse will be the politics of the past. Members of Parliament elected by the people must be respect by all and they must play their rightful and constructive role in nation building. A more matured politics must emerge where the will of the people through the ballot box is supreme. It must move away from the majority-minority syndrome or “winner takes it all notions” but it must recognise the diverse voices and seek to accommodate them in the bigger picture of democracy, human rights and good governance.

The methodology adopted in hosting twelve roundtable discussions centred on the idea of hearing diverse voice and then drawing some consensus positions. While the discussions started from an interest group positions whether ethnic, religious, regional or class, ultimately fifteen cross cutting national concerns were identified which is inclusive of all the community concerns.
The fifteen common concerns can be divided into three main parts. These are comprehensive and inclusive of all the ethnic and religious communities in Malaysia. It is building on national concerns and strengthening the socio-economic development but at the same time ensures good governance sets the firm foundation for its realisation through effective delivery and implementation. 

The first part is Nation Building Concerns.
         Ensuring equality of citizenship (holding article 8 and 153 in balance)

         Enhancing democracy and human rights
         Instilling a deeper sense of patriotism and respect for King & nation, thereby enhancing the role

of Monarchy in public life

         Increasing inter- religious understanding and ensuring a shift from tolerance to appreciation

       Strengthening national unity and integration agenda with a deeper sense of celebrating diversity

of cultures & languages of all Malaysian groups without diluting the importance of the national language

The second part is Socio-Economic Development Concerns

         Addressing poverty and inequality with a focus on the bottom 40% and intra ethnic concerns
         Empowering through education and skills training

         Enlarging employment opportunities
         Enlarging business and economic opportunities

         Addressing crime and ensuring public safety and security

The third part is on Governance Related Concerns

          Recognizing youth potential and creating new measures for engagement

         Tapping the full potential of civil society and grassroots organisations as partners in


          Ensuring effective decentralization of local government

         Fostering greater autonomy for States especially in Sabah and Sarawak
         Ensuring effective governance and implementation

Every Malaysian is important to national development
Prof Norma Mansor, the former secretary to the National Economic Advisory Council (NEAC) which produced the New Economic Model (NEM) and who spoke at the discussion after the launch recognised that many of the fifteen community concerns have been identified in the NEM and will be the focus of attention of both the Tenth & Eleventh Malaysia Plans.

She affirmed that the way forward was moving away from the ethnic labels towards enabling Malaysia to rise above the current income levels. In order to do this every Malaysian is important and must be utilised. Our current Malaysian dilemma is that about 70% of our workforce is at the SPM level and if we want to move the nation upwards towards a high income status, then human capital development of every Malaysian is most critical. In so doing we will be able to compete in the global markets.
Recognising historical and political realities

Tan Sri Kamal Salih who also made comments at the book launch indicated that while these fifteen are good and comprehensive, one must understand the historical and political realities- that the ethnic articulation especially on specific areas such as equity ownership will continue to dominate political discussions. He went on to say that public policy formulation has been about communities and political leaders making compromises in the best interest of nation building and the Tun Abdul Razak’s model of inclusivism is most significant.

In what could be called as policy maker’s confession time, Tan Sri Kamal recognised four negative outcomes of the post NEP period which requires intellectual honesty in analysis but the political will to move ahead as a nation to ensure that we truly realise vision 2020. The first is the emergence of a culture of dependency, the second the culture of corruption, third, the culture of racial envy and fourth the politics of polarization. These have impacted all sections of society including the private sector dependence on public sector licenses and contracts.
Nation Building through Inclusive Agenda

In order to ensure effective follow up and implementation, it is proposed that the Prime Minister establishes a special National Social Inclusion Advisory Panel with representatives from a cross section of Malaysian society and a Social Inclusion Secretariat with professional, academic and technical personal to monitor effective implementation.

The role of this secretariat is only to undertake policy analysis, monitor implementation, and undertake impact assessment studies. It does not get involved with the role of respective agencies and departments in the delivery of services. The National Key Result Areas (NKRA) and the coordinating agencies with Pemandu will continue to ensure this.

The Social Inclusion Advisory Panel and Social Inclusion Secretariat will play the role as an independent watchdog within the Federal government mechanism but will work in close partnership, communication and collaboration with the grassroots through a social dialogue process, a range of town hall dialogues and Roundtable discussions.

The common Malaysian struggle for nation building must take these historical and political realities seriously but must be able through political foresight and leadership through a process of compromises ensure that justice and fairness is possible for all the peoples of Malaysia.

As we cast our vote at GE 13 we need to review these developments and usher in Members of Parliament who will move beyond the ethnic or religious group and see Malaysia as First for the common good of all the people of Malaysia. Every vote is important and this is both our constitutional right and responsibility.

Source: The Malay Mail April1, 2013 page 13

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