Malaysiakini: Days of hope: A check-list for reform
Posted March 15, 2008on:
|Days of hope: A check-list for reform|
|Kua Kia Soong | Mar 15, 08 11:58am|
|When the euphoria of the 2008 general elections has evaporated and we have all come down to earth, it is time to see what is possible to reform in the states ruled by the PKR-DAP-PAS coalition.
As each community pushes forward their demands and grievances, let us not neglect the Orang Asli community, our original people who need the most assistance and are the only community that deserves affirmative action because they are still largely unruffled by class differentiation.
Basically, the whole State List and the Concurrent List of the Ninth Schedule of the Federal Constitution are potential targets for reform but feel free to add to the list. These include:
Land tenure for indigenous peoples, farmers and titles for New Villagers who have used their land for years should be settled once and for all instead of being given out only as election candy to a few at each election. Only then will landowners have the incentive to develop their land or enterprises to the benefit of the whole nation.
To regulate rent and regularise the relation of landlord and tenant, we should institute a Rent Tribunal to ensure fair rents for tenants and landlords.
Re-gazette forests that have been degazetted and rectify all the despoliation by the old regime. Allegations of corruption in these development projects involving permanent forest reserves and wildlife reserves should be investigated and the culprits brought to book. Halt all projects involving destruction of hills and forests and gazette all possible green lungs in the state.
4. Local government
Introducing local government elections is a priority. Also, services including education, housing, health, transport, places of worship and burial/cremation grounds should be brought under the purview of local governments.
Local Education Authorities should be brought back as a means not only to meet the needs of the various ethnic communities but also as an effective way to stop the politicisation of education. Allocation for the various services including the different language-stream schools would then be on the basis of proportionate need.
5. Water supply and rivers
Each state under PKR-DAP-PAS should implement a State Water Policy as an example for the other states. This would incorporate water conservation; water demand management through pricing and fiscal measures; re-piping; cleaning up rivers and preserving our natural water catchments. All new water supply projects should be halted in view of this state water policy and until proper evaluation and peoples’ views have been heard.
6. Libraries, museums and heritage protection
The PKR-DAP-PAS-run states should be an example in providing excellent libraries in every town and city; aim toward having at least one good museum in their state, and gazette as many heritage buildings as they can throughout the state.
7. Social welfare and social services
Priority should be given to lifting the livelihood of the poorest in the state, especially the indigenous peoples, plantation workers, urban settlers, and farmers; more facilities for women, young persons, children and the disabled; a system of mean testing to ensure that the poorest are helped and a sliding scale of diminishing assistance for those higher up the scale. Throughout this exercise, emphasis should be on empowering the communities concerned and encouragement of self-help.
Awarding of scholarships should be based on merit although consideration should be given to under-represented groups. Grants and loans should be based on means testing according to a sliding scale of affordability.
A new housing policy would ensure decent housing for the lower income groups and adequate compensation for those who have to make way for new housing or development projects.
The PKR-DAP-PAS-run state governments should implement a truly multi-cultural policy by giving adequate allocations and encouragement to all cultures and language streams. Thus, they can compensate for the federal government’s discrimination against Chinese and Tamil schools in terms of financial allocation by providing much-needed assistance.
DR KUA KIA SOONG is director of human rights group Suaram.