Malaysiakini: Report card II: Excellence, glory, distinction
Posted February 27, 2008on:
|Report card II: Excellence, glory, distinction|
|Soon Li Tsin | Feb 27, 08 4:57pm|
|On the eve of the 2004 general elections, the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition unveiled an impressive manifesto under the slogan of ‘Excellence, Glory, Distinction’. It contains a slew of breathtaking promises involving the economy, education and religion, among others.
Four years later, with another election in two weeks, how did the BN fare in fulfilling its promises? Here’s the verdict. Part one of the report card appeared yesterday.
Development of civic, moral and ethical values
After the 2004 elections, former ACA director-general Zulkipli Mat Noor told the press that the ACA had submitted its report on the investigation of the 18 ‘high profile’ cases to the attorney-general. However, it is unclear what happened to these 18 cases.
In 2006, former Sabah ACA chief Mohamad Ramli Manan disclosed results of his investigations alleging Zulkipli’s involvement in corruption practices to sexual crimes. Zulkipli’s contract was not renewed after the scandal despite being cleared of any corruption charges by the attorney-general.
In March 2007, Deputy Internal Security Minister Johari Baharum allegedly received RM5.5 million in bribes to release three gangsters held under the Emergency Ordinance, which allows detention without trial.
This was followed by the allegations that police chief Musa Hassan had himself pocketed RM2 million in return for the freedom of three underworld kingpins. Both have been cleared of any misdemeanour.
In November last year, Commercial Crimes Investigation Department Director Comm Ramli Yusoff, 56, was charged for failure to disclose information about two office units belonging to his sisters and his shares in a property company; and using a police aircraft to inspect one of his private land projects in the state.
He has claimed trial to all charges. Prior to the charges, Ramli made damning allegations against the ACA for compromising the identities of police informants.
As for corruption perception rankings, Malaysia has been dropping in ranks in the past years. According to the Transparency International’s (TI) Corruption Perception Index, Malaysia was ranked 39 from 146 countries in 2004. It dropped to 44 (out of 163 countries) in 2005 and 43 (out of 180 countries) in 2006.
De facto law minister Nazri Abdul Aziz responded by saying that corruption did not surface overnight and was a result of the previous administration under Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Death tolls on the highways continue to rise. The most devastating incident to date is the Bukit Gantang express bus disaster which claimed 22 lives in August 2007 – the country’s worst traffic accident. Government agencies that regulate public vehicles have been accused for not conducting proper checks on drivers and blacklisted buses.
Most recently on Jan 25, the driver of a double-decker express bus that saw three of its passengers killed in a crash near Slim River was found to have 13 outstanding police summonses issued against him.
According to statistics from Accident Database and Analysis Unit with the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (Miros), there were more fatalities and injuries sustained by people on residential and expressways between 2004 to 2005.
Fatalities in 2005 was 5,636 which is an increase from 5,536 in 2004. Slight injuries charted a massive hike from 3,099 in 2004 to a whopping 15,848 the next year. Statistics for the following years were not available yet.
Meanwhile in October last year, the Seagull Express ferry which caught fire while heading for Pulau Tioman resulting to the death of four passengers, did not have a valid ship licence and passenger certificate. A Marine Department spokesman said the licence for the ferry had expired a year earlier.
Relations between the government and NGO were strained after a coalition promoting freedom of religion sparked controversy.
In 2004, Abdullah wanted to set up an Interfaith Council (IFC) to initiate a dialogue between Muslims and Christians. However, the idea failed to take off after several incidences involving the Article 11 coalition.
In May 2006, the coalition’s dialogue was disrupted by a rowdy crowd of about several hundred gathered to chant provocative slogans.
The Article 11 coalition has submitted an open letter to Abdullah supported by some 20,000 signatures from Malaysians seeking re-assurance from him that Malaysia will not be a theocratic state. They also sought audience with the PM but this never took place.
Two months later, Abdullah said all Article 11 forums to discuss interfaith issues must stop immediately because they are deemed to cause tension in our multi-religious society,
In August 2006, the Article 11 dialogue in Johor saw 300 Muslims brandished signs that read, ‘Don’t touch Muslim sensitivities’, ‘Destroy anti-Muslims’, and ‘We are ready to sacrifice ourselves for Islam’.
The PM subsequently warned Article 11, “Do not force the government to take action” and accused Article 11 of playing up religious issues and threatening to shatter Malaysia’s fragile social balance by highlighting “sensitive” issues.
Hindraf have also sought to meet the PM, sent memoranda and thousands of letters to his office. They have never received a single reply save for a confirmation letter that one of the letters has been received.
Comment: When the country’s leaders failed to lead by example, it is not surprising that others too have no qualms in breaking the law.
Law and order
The number of crime cases has risen exponentially over the years. From 156,455 cases in 2004, the crime index figures released last year shocked the nation revealing that 224,298 cases had been recorded in 2007.
It was also reported last year that there was a dramatic 13.4% increase in violent crimes, of which rape cases were up by about 30% and gang robbery by a whopping 160%.
The proposed Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) has yet to be set up after recommendation from the Royal Police Commission in May 2005. Instead, a watered-down Special Complaints Commission (SCC) Bill was proposed in Parliament which oversee the conduct of all enforcement agencies.
Ex-commissioners and opposition politicians described it as a completely ‘different animal’ drawing stark differences from the original IPCMC. The bill has been put off to the next parliamentary sitting in March 2008.
Constitutional rights to assemble and free speech has also taken a blow since BN won the elections. After the 30-sen fuel hike, several protests were held in the city centre leading to the ‘Bloody Sunday’ protest which resulted in injuries and mass arrests.
This was followed by a series of protests against the toll hike of up to 70 sen in five expressways. Heavy police and Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) personnel are often present at these protests which are organised without permits.
In November last year, the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections (Bersih) rally saw 40,000 people hit the streets in the capital demanding for cleaner elections. 29 people were arrested and 17 were charged for illegal assembly.
This was followed by the Hindraf protest which drew 30,000 ethnic Indians to Kuala Lumpur demanding for equal rights. This unprecedented protest resulted in the subsequent arrests of 400 people with 39 charged for illegal assembly and ‘attempted murder’. The attempted murder charges were later withdrawn after a public outcry.
Five of the movement’s leaders have been detained without trial for two years under the Internal Security Act for alleged terrorist links.
On Dec 9 last year, the police arrested eight people, including five lawyers, for marching from the Sogo department store to Central Market in Kuala Lumpur to mark International Human Rights Day.
The Bar Council’s human rights committee chairperson Edmund Bon was also arrested for allegedly for preventing local authorities from performing their duty in removing banners outside the lawyers’ headquarters.
The independence of the judiciary came under the spotlight when the scandalous VK Lingam video was released by de facto PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim in September last year.
The video showing Lingam allegedly brokering the appointment of judges with former chief justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim resulted in a rare ‘Walk For Justice’ by the Malaysian Bar urging the PM to set up a royal commission of inquiry.
The royal commission of inquiry with its strict terms of references ended on Feb 15 saw hearings that were laden with explosive allegations and more judges implicated. The commission has been criticised for limiting the sessions to the tape and not the entire judiciary.
Comment: Apart from a few cosmetic measures, the government has shown little appetite to probe deep into big-time corruption cases, including the judiciary.
The size of the civil service came under scrutiny after Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced a hefty 7.5% and 42% pay rise for civil servants.
According to an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report, the ratio of the country’s civil service to the population is proportionately higher than other countries at 4.68%.
Based on a Public Services Department report entitled ‘Information on positions and vacancies in public sector’ there were a total of 166,659 vacancies in the civil service since June 2006.
The report also revealed that there was a 299,673, or 21.9 percent, increase of civil service positions from 1990 to June 2006.
Comment: Civil servants received a hefty salary hike, but its bloated size raises questions on its efficiency. Meanwhile, there is no sign that the government will bring back local council elections, which it has suspended for almost four decades.