PETALING JAYA: Former Law Minister Zaid Ibrahim thinks that Malaysians are generally lackadaisical i.e. they don’t get angry enough to want to fight for reform. “Public will and insistence is crucial to bring about meaningful change for better governance.”
He was speaking at a forum, The Malaysian Parliament: Reforms and Barriers, at Sunway College campus in Petaling Jaya today.
“Where is the pride? When are people in this country going to be angry enough to say, ‘enough’?”
“The people of this country must first want good government and good leaders,” said Zaid. “It (change) will only happen if people want it.”
Malaysians, according to Zaid, tend to tolerate and have been tolerating many discrepancies within the government, citing 1MDB as an example. “Everybody talks about 1MDB these days, but for so many years, they have tolerated (it). They were happy with the same fellow being the Prime Minister and Finance Minister.”
“Whenever he comes, they kiss his hands, but now we see the destruction when someone has so much power and today we have these problems,” he lamented.
Zaid pointed out that in mature democracies elsewhere, namely Australia and the United Kingdom, politicians and the elected were held accountable through structures such as Select Committees in Parliament including representatives of all elected parties.
“In an ideal world, Parliament is supposed to check on the government of the day,” said Zaid. “You as the people’s representatives having won the election, having promised them the sky and the moon, you stand in Parliament so that the leaders explain and account to you.”
“You want the leaders to explain why they chose certain policies and spent so much on a government jet, for example. We don’t have that culture in this country.”
The mark of a good Parliament, he added, was also its authority to summon anyone to explain themselves on controversial issues and punish them for contempt, much like in the United Kingdom, citing the case of media mogul Rupert Murdoch on the “phone hacking” scandal.
“But in our Parliament today, if you summon Jho Low to come and explain 1MDB, what do you think will happen? It will just implode,” said Zaid. “Because of our 1953 law, the punishment (for failure to appear in Parliament) was just a fine of RM1,000 or something.”