Sandra Rajoo brings you another edition of REFSA Rojak – a weekly take on the goings-on in Malaysia by Research for Social Advancement (REFSA). REFSA Rojak – “trawl the newsflow, cut to the core and focus on the really pertinent. Full of flavour, lots of crunch, this is the concise snapshot to help Malaysians keep abreast of the issues of the day.”
2013 kicked off with an assurance that a general election would soon be held. But January moved into February, then March, and April is just around the corner with no signs of an election date.
Aren’t elections due every 5 years? PM Najib’s dithering has educated Malaysians on one aspect of our Constitution. As we’ve now found out, the government of the day can stretch its time. Our Constitution states that the parliamentary term is for 5 years. After that, Parliament automatically dissolves and elections have to be conducted within 60 days.
This current Parliament first sat on 28 April 2008 – seven weeks after the historic March 8, 2008 general elections. So, elections could be as late as 28 June this year – nearly 5 years and 4 months after the last one! Previous prime ministers had all called for elections well before time. Prime Minister Najib, on the other hand, is playing well into ‘injury time’.
Are our coffers full, after all?
PM Najib’s government is unable to commit to an election date but it has no reservations about committing taxpayer funds. This week, it doled out RM2 billion worth of benefits for civil servants, on the heels of the the equally highly-publicised RM1000 BR1M sop for poor Malaysians and lesser-known frittering away of billions on new contracts.
Are our government coffers full, after all? Is this the very same BN administration that reminded people to be wary of “what will happen later due to populist promises” and took a swipe at Pakatan Rakyat for promising the “moon, stars and the universe”? Is this the very same BN government that says GST – a tax which affects all Malaysians, even poor ones – is necessary to raise more revenue for the government?
PM Najib’s feckless spending reeks of populism. The BN government is spending like there’s no tomorrow. Perhaps it’s because there isn’t one for it?
Stretching GNI figures
On the other hand, it could be that Dato’ Sri Najib really does believe all that spending is fine because we are financially very sound and everything is hunky-dory. He boldly announced on national TV that our Gross National Income (GNI) increased by 49% from 2009 to 2011. But this is far from the truth.
World Bank data shows an increment of only 16% – from US$7,550 in 2009 to US$8,770 in 2011. Countries like Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia which used to lag behind us have surpassed us in terms of GNI per capita growth.
Election fever is debilitating
Or maybe the PM is just fatigued after too long. It’s injury time, after all, and the rest of us have also been debilitated by this election fever that’s bugged us for over two years now.
Businessmen and investors, quite sensibly, defer major investment decisions until after elections. After all, no matter which coalition wins – whether BN or PR – there will be new ministers and personalities in power. Fewer in the case of the former, a sweeping change in the event of the latter, but changes nonetheless.
In the remaining few weeks and months of this government, new economic activities will grind to a halt. The only major economic activity we have seen is wholesale spending by the now caretaker government. This is particularly galling. Eminent lawyer Tommy Thomas has pointed out, after 5 years, dissolution of Parliament notwithstanding, the incumbent government dissolves into a caretaker government, without “political legitimacy and moral authority” to govern the nation.
Time’s up. Blow the whistle please. Let the people decide who will govern us for the next five years.
PR promises ethical media
While BN promises more populist cash handouts if it remains in government, what can we expect from Pakatan Rakyat (PR) if it gets voted in? For one, it has promised to reform the media. PR wants to return “integrity” and “journalistic ethics” to the media so that truth will prevail and the spreading of “slander” will stop.
We do look forward to honest and open reporting in all media, unlike the situation now. For instance, information on the Sabah crisis was initially ‘withheld’ from the public, driving people to search for news anywhere and everywhere, and in the process veracity of information was compromised. Until today, stories are plentiful and varied and one believes what one chooses to believe.
Sarawak, the largest state in Malaysia, has fallen off the Malaysian mainstream media radar. But outside sources such as WikiLeaks have exposed Sarawak’s numerous problems, many of which stem from Chief Minister Taib who is described as “highly corrupt”. The true nature of Taib’s activities has never seen the light of day in the BN-cowed mainstream media, which bends over backwards instead to whitewash his reputation to pristine form. Bear in mind, though, that, ‘Who lies for you will lie against you’ (Bosnian proverb).
[pic credit: thermometer – [email protected]]
Why ‘Rojak’? Disparate flavours and textures come together in a harmonious mix to make this delicious but underrated concoction. Our Rojak weekly is much like this mix, making sense of the noise of daily newsflow and politicking.
It is also our ultimate dream that our multi-ethnic melange of communities can be made richer within the unique ‘sauce’ that is Malaysia. Let’s take pride in the ‘rojakness’ of our nation!
Click here for previous issues of REFSA Rojak.