By Yin, Ward 5, Tanjung Rambutan
Fool me once, shame on you, fool me for decades shame on me.
Election after election politicians tell us what they think is good for us, they talk down to us as if we don’t know our minds. Never have they thought to ask us what we want.
They make promises they have no intention of keeping or that they know they cannot keep. In GE14 Pakatan Harapan’s Manifesto was a lie. Their leader Mahathir admitted as much when he said that they had no intention of carrying them out and only made them because they never thought that they would win.
So much for manifestos. It is not just Pakatan Harapan. UMNO/BN have been lying to us for decades. The sad thing is we believed them . . . again and again.
Fool me once, shame on you, fool me for decades shame on me.
The other thing about political party manifestos is that they are the manifestos of politicians who assume that what is good for their party is also good for the rakyat. This is the arrogance of politicians; they think they know best what is good for us.
Through Alice’s Looking Glass
Elections are in fact job interviews, politicians come to us begging for jobs every five years or less.
Yes BEGGING! They beg us to give them a chance. They tell us how they are going to fix our problems. They go on to tell us what we should have that is good for us. They run down the other candidates for the job; always blaming the other side for what is wrong.
Every single one of them will tell us that they will work for us and if we choose them they will be our grateful, loyal and humble servant.
Through the looking glass Alice found that everything is reversed, including logic. Similarly, through our Malaysia Boleh Looking Glass we find that servants become masters and masters servants. Only through our looking glass do you find the potential employee telling the employer what he should have and if chosen, order us (his employers) what to do . Not just that, the servants then write themselves their own pay and conditions – more on that later.
Our Future, Our Manifesto
In GE15 let us for once write our own manifesto. Let’s tell these “job seekers” (candidates) what we expect of them. Let us lay down clearly the terms and conditions of employment – make it clear they cannot write their own cheques anymore.
No more lies which pass as manifestos, discarded as soon as they get elected.
Politicians are less trusted than second hand car salesmen in the United States, a survey showed. It’s no different here. Dr Lee Boon Chye (ex-deputy minister for health) told me and a few dozen others at a public forum in Ipoh some years back, that “you cannot trust a politician”. That coming from a politician is something. Dr Lee is the most honest politician I know.
But I digress . . .
If we cannot trust politicians it’s all the more important that we dictate what we, the rakyat want; what is good for us and not what is good for the political parties.
I suggest the following as the People’s Manifesto:
1. National Unity
The party which wins power should immediately set about uniting the country because everything that affects our country stems from that.
We have a Ministry of National Unity headed by Halimah Mohd Sadique but hardly anyone has heard of this ministry largely because no one knows what it has done to unite the people of this country. What are we paying him for? The fact that we need a Ministry of National Unity is a confession that the country is disunited. It is a fact that we are a nation of Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kadazans etcetc and not a nation of Malaysians. Ex-Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin admitted as much when he said he is Malay first, Muslim second and last Malaysian. How can a nation unite when the prime minister declares that he is a Malay first, a Muslim second and then only a Malaysian. Mahathir is always about the Malay Agenda, never the Malaysian Agenda.
Najib’s 1Malaysia is an empty slogan and Sabri’s “Keluarga Malaysia” is nonsense when one child is favoured over all the others.
Until we look at ourselves as Malaysians we will be fighting our racial and religious corners – each jealously guarding its self-interests and naturally the biggest ethnic group wielding the most power will get the lion’s share to the detriment of the others. Hence we have institutional racism – the main reason why the country is divided.
To have national unity we must remove the “them” and “us” mindset where one race is given special treatment and the others not. We cannot have a two (some say multiple) citizenship of Bumiputras and Non-Bumiputras. What we need is just Bangsa Malaysia where citizenship confers the same rights and responsibilities to every citizen irrespective of ethnicity or religion. We need to apply the internationally accepted concept of citizenship which once acquired makes one equal to every citizen.
2. Bring Back Elected Local Government
Local Government Elections were suspended in 1964 after the Indonesia/Malaysia Confrontasi. It was never lifted and instead made permanent under the Local Government Act 1976. The government felt that towns were largely in the hands of Non-Malays which meant that most local governments would be controlled by Non-Malays. This was unacceptable. (An example of how race influences government decisions).
In June 1965 the Alliance Government set up a “Royal Commission of Inquiry on Local Authorities” headed by Senator Athi Nahappan. The RCI came out strongly in support of elected local councils.
Two of the more important recommendations were:
(a) Every state capital should be administered by a local authority and have elective representation. The same principle should also be extended to all local councils outside state capitals.
(b) A local authority should be decentralized and should be an autonomous body corporate consisting of fully elected members with financial and administrative autonomy but subject to control of the State Government on matters of national importance and interest.
There is no need to go too deep into the report; suffice to say it recommended that Local Government Elections be reinstated.
The third tier of government is necessary to a healthy democracy and for accountability and good governance at the local level.
What we have now are political lackeys and yes men appointed to our majlis bandaran and a bureaucrat appointed as the datuk bandar. None of them feel that they are accountable to the public. They take instructions from their political masters and mistakes are not punished at the polls.
DAP to its credit was all for bringing back local government elections. PKR and Amanah were against it. What is PKR and Amanah afraid of? If PH wants our votes the partners had better sort out their differences on this and other issues.
UMNO/BN did away with Local Government Elections and they have not changed their position.
Rural – urban migration has seen the demography of our towns and cities change. Race cannot be used as an excuse anymore not to bring back elected local government. Malays as much as Non-Malays want Local Governments which are directly accountable to them.
“No taxation without representation” I say, if you want us to pay local taxes – assessments, land tax etc – then we want a say in our local governments.
3. Revamp our Education
When a businessman who is above party politics warn that we “will doom our children and our country to a future of poverty and misery” we know he is not talking with any political agenda but with genuine concern for our country.
Jeffrey Cheah is not the only one. Academics, political pundits and ordinary Malaysians have been banging the gong on this for a long time.
One government after another has ignored this call for a comprehensive revamp of our education. Instead they pander to the language and religious bigots.
English is the language of science and technology, it is the language of international commerce and finance. English is a global lingua franca.
Yet our schools teach more periods of agama than English or STEM subjects.
The signs are clear what Malaysians think of our national schools. Even Malays have voted with their feet. There are now over a hundred thousand Malay children in Chinese Language Schools. Those who can afford it send their children to international schools; but what about the majority of Malaysians? Must we doom their future with the poor quality education we give them. Poor education leads to poor quality work force. As Vietnam, Cambodia, the Philippines and Indonesia ramp up their study of English and STEM subjects we continue to be blindly chauvinistic and religious. Where do you think international investors will build their next high tech factory?
Let us not play political football with our children’s education and their future.
It’s a long road to recover the advantage we once had.
We have no time to lose. We demand a total overhaul of our education.
4. IPCMC NOW
In 2005 a Royal Commission of Inquiry on the police force recommended the setting up of an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC). We did not get it because of complaints about the lack of consultation. Instead we got the toothless watered-down version – Independent Police Conduct Commission Bill. Needless to say the police force was not happy to be made accountable to an independent body.
How many more deaths in custody, how many Teoh Beng Hocks and how many more persons kidnapped in public and missing persons before we have a police force which is held totally accountable to the public. Internal police enquiry cuts no ice – would you ask UMNO to investigate Najib, Rosmah and others?
Suhakam has openly blamed the police for the kidnapping and disappearance of Pastor Koh. The police denied it. That was the end of the matter.Where do we go from there?
We need to be able to call into account the police force; we need the IPCMC now, not wait another 17 years.
We want a police that is seen to be above politics and not used by the party in power to intimidate activists and opposition politicians. We want a police force the rakyat can trust.
5. No More Blank Cheques
There is a petition that has gone viral about the pay and conditions of our MPs. It calls for the cutback of the overgenerous and unreasonable pay and conditions, MPs have paid themselves.
For instance, a one term MP is entitled to a pension. On the other hand, Joe Public has to give decades of dedicated service before he is entitled to one. What is worse, some elected representatives get two pensions and multiple pay and allowances.
What about the perks they give themselves which none of us in other employments get.
Below is a list of what a Member of Parliament is entitled to:
- Salary RM16,000 pm. You will need to be a top executive, with a degree and years of experience to be in that pay bracket. Yet I would venture that most of our MPs would not get a proper job if they tried – most do not have any qualifications. This is the highest paying job for anyone who has no qualifications.
- RM400 a day for attendance during parliamentary sittings. What? They are paid a monthly salary and still they get RM400 a day for doing what they are supposed to be doing? Will you get RM400 a day if you are required to attend a meeting in the office?
- RM300 a day for attending government agency meetings/workshops. Which company pays their workers RM300 to attend a workshop on top of their salary. They may pay for your expenses (supported by receipts) but that’s all.
- Entertainment allowance RM2,500 per mth. Entertaining who? They are not salesmen who need to take clients out. Do you know anyone who has been treated to a meal or a drink by his MP? Most likely it’s the other way round. Our subservient or polite manner is that we usually pay for our guests. If it is an MP most people feel they must treat them; why I cannot understand.
- Special payment for non-administration MP RM1,500 pm. I don’t know what this is. Do you? Another scam at our expense?
- Fixed Travel Allowance RM1,500 per mth. I take it that whether he travels or not he gets RM1,500. Wow! Money for nothing.
- Fuel allowance RM1,500 pm.
- Toll allowance RM300 pm. So you get a travel allowance but you also get fuel and toll allowance. Very handy.
- Driver allowance RM1,500 per mth. So even if you designate your friend or a family member as the driver you get another RM1,500 in your pocket. In fact you do not even have to have a driver. The allowance does not stipulate specifically that you must employ a full-time driver.
- Handphone purchase RM2,000 every two years. Hey, if I don’t have a handphone I will probably not get a job and my boss is not going to buy one for me.
- Telephone allowance RM900 pm.
- Purchase of computer up to RM6,000. Wow, most of us have to buy our own computers otherwise we use the office one. But here you get money to buy a computer you can keep, give to your son etc.
- Ceremonial attire allowance up to RM1,500.
- RM1,000 every three years for a ‘black tie attire’.
- Warm clothing allowance – no figure given- I suppose it’s so high that it’s embarrassing to state.
Point is which company in the private sector give you such perks. Most of us are expected to buy our own suitable attire and if we don’t have one you don’t get to attend such meetings and the boss would want to know why.
16. Free vehicle license. Which of us who use our car to work have our license paid for? What’s so different about MPs.
17. Official trips – business class travel.
17a Official trips – first class travel.
I don’t know why the difference. When or what determines whether they get first class or business class. Why should MPs travel business or first class on our money? When 99% of the rakyat fly economy. Hey, guys take a cue from President Joko Widodo of Indonesia, save the country some money and be a little more humble.
18. Domestic duties >32km from home: Hotel allowance – Up to RM400 a night. In other words an MP travelling from Ipoh to Kampar to work gets this allowance even though it is easier for him to get home.
19. Daily stipend during business trips – Domestic RM100/night, International RM170/night. What is the stipend for?
20. Food allowance when overseas RM340/night.
21. First class single room ward in government hospital – FREE.
The above is clearly MPs padding their employment remunerations.
MPs’ salary and allowances is one area where ALL MPs in ALL parties forget their differences to further their self-interests. This is one area where they all pakat to screw the rakyat.
No MP has ever said that they are overpaid.
An MP with whom I had a discussion on the above has this to say:
“Public decides if elected reps are overpaid or otherwise. . .”
How do we decide? You are the ones making the decision and it is out of our power to do anything once we make you MP. It is surely up to you to honestly assess your pay and conditions relative to what the average Malaysiann receives.
I challenged him (and all MPs) to put it to a referendum if MPs are overpaid.
As it is, the public feels that MPs are just writing themselves generous pay cheques and conditions which does not reflect their status and the work done.
Then there is the age old argument (brought out by this MP) that if we do not pay our Elected Representatives well they will resort to corruption. Really? Honesty does not depend on what one is paid or whether one is rich or poor. You mean Najib is poorly paid? Rosmah is poor and therefore had to resort to corruption?
Another argument is that unless the remuneration is good we will not attract qualified or good people to be MPs. So now you are saying we have a lot of clever and good people in parliament.
Pay and conditions is not the reason someone should be an MP; it is a public service. It is for those who want to serve the public. It is not a career opportunity or a pathway to business opportunities and wealth. It is a sacrifice. It is driven by the person’s passion to serve his fellow citizens. I concede we need to pay our MPs a decent living wage but the above is absurd. Increasingly it looks like politics is the way for those who enter it to accumulate enormous wealth.
We call for a Commission to be set up – comprising of members of the public – to study the pay and conditions of MPs (and Aduns) and come up with a solution which is fair to the public and the MPs. While we should pay our elected representatives fairly, many Malaysians feel that our MPs have taken advantage of them – to put it bluntly, they feel they have been screwed.
Put this in the manifesto for GE15.
The MP I spoke with has promised to get his party to include a study of MP’s pay and conditions in the Pakatan Harapan Manifesto.
Let’s see if he is true to his word or will it be another GE14 PH Manifesto – never intended to be carried out.
There are other issues which should be on the manifesto of political parties e.g. 1. Better funding for agriculture, state governments opening up more land for farming, so that we can attain food security 2. More affordable housing for the B40 3. A bigger budget for the Ministry of Welfare to take care of the needs of the poor especially in these trying times. (Reduce the budget of Jakim or do away with that department altogether – what does JAKIM contribute to the nation?) 4. Remember U.E.C.? PH promised it in GE14.
No doubt others have their own issues; they should let the political parties know.
Will our “servants” (potential MPs) listen to their employers (the rakyat) this time?
(The views expressed are those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of Rebuilding Malaysia.)
By Yin, Letters from Ward 5, Tanjong Rambutan