Malaysians Voice their New Year’s Wish: Less Talk More Action from PH

Last Updated on Feb. 28, 2019, 2:52 p.m.

PETALING JAYA: Seven months after the historic May 9 general election shook the nation, Malaysians are now looking forward to 2019.

Do they enter the brand new year with the same optimism that gripped the country back in May?

Or are the very same people who voted for the PH government already losing patience with them?

Several ordinary citizens shared their thoughts with FMT.

Tenaganita is a human rights organisation protecting migrants, refugees, and women. Executive director Glorene A Das said it is still unclear how policies affecting migrant workers are formulated by ministries, but she is still hopeful that PH will bring positive changes.

“There is a lack of government engagement with non-governmental organisations like us,” she said. “The former administration viewed us as trouble makers because we are not afraid to call for change. We name and shame.

“Many of our friends are now in the government, which gives us hope. But we are well aware that it may take several years to get rid of toxic structures.

“We hope that PH will make decisions through more consultative processes. We would like more engagement with the government.”

She pointed out that there have been no significant changes so far, as the government has yet to eradicate corruption in the system.

“One difference from before is that PH have called us in for many dialogues, but ad-hoc policies are still being rolled out and we don’t understand where they are coming from.

“For instance the Human Resources Minister, M Kulasegaran, has promised to meet us next year but he recently announced several new policies that were quite shocking to us.

This was referring to the Ministry of Human Resources proposal that employers deduct 20% of their foreign workers’ basic salaries to prevent them from fleeing, a major cause of financial loss for employers.

Engineer Jarod Khoo, 39, based in Kuala Lumpur, said while there are no immediate changes or reforms noticeable, political awareness among the public has definitely increased.

“I see now on my social media that people are more aware of political issues. They want to be part of the decision making processes” he said. “The big thing they are still worried about is that it will be all talk and no action, which will take us all back to square one.”

Jamilah Hashim, 42, an environmental activist based in Penang said that while there seems to be more freedom of speech under the PH government, there is still a reluctance to speak freely in Penang.

“During the Barisan Nasional (BN) administration, people didn’t speak up because they were afraid that they would be arrested. Now we don’t feel that threat, but in Penang we do feel that we are being ignored, especially when we want to engage the state government on environment-related issues.

“It’s actually worse now, because the people who are ignoring us are in cahoots with the Federal Government, so they can ignore us with no repercussion and enforce laws without consulting with the public.”

Similarly, Devi Ganesan, 36, said the state government is engaging in selective engagement with the public. “The state government ignores the people’s voices over contentious issues.

“Look at Gurney Drive and the reclamation happening there. What will happen to existing businesses? How will people earning a living there now fare after this?

“There is a lot of talk about preserving local heritage and this is surely something which needs to be preserved. The excuse the powers-that-be give is that they are planning for a better Gurney Drive.

“Why not give the existing area a makeover instead of reclaiming new land and putting nature at risk? There is also land being reclaimed near Queensbay Mall. It feels like the entire island is expanding into the sea,” he said.

Fanny Lim, 26, who lives in Kuala Lumpur and is pursuing her masters, said, it does not feel like there is much difference yet under PH. “It’s only a few months after they took office, and now they are fighting against each other within the coalition.

“That’s frustrating for us because we voted for them when they said they were united to clean up the country.

“There are so many issues that they need to solve, rather than the squabbling that is the centre of attention now,” said Lim.

Denissa Looi, 50, an accountant, thinks PH is turning out to be the ‘same old, same old.’

“The newspapers that we read are still not free and independent,” she said. “They are still politically linked. I thought PH promised more press freedom. I don’t even know what kind of news to read or believe these days.

“These are the same newspapers which once praised the former BN administration and acted as their mouthpieces. Can we now trust them to deliver us news that is reliable and dependable?” Looi asked.

Reportedly, 35 laws needed to be amended to allow more media freedom in the country. These include the Anti-Fake News Act, the Official Secrets Act, the Sedition Act, the Printing Presses and Publications Act, and the Communications and Multimedia Act.

Entrepreneur and cafe owner, Chan Hee Meng, 38, said more policies and laws are being implemented, but it’s not clear how the government intends to enforce these laws.

“We have enough laws which were introduced by the former BN administration. What we need is proper enforcement so that these laws can really be effective.

“Instead, we see more new laws, such as the ban on smoking in public areas, and the reintroduction of past taxes such as the Sales and Services Tax.

“Do we really need these? Why not study where we failed in the past and try to improve on existing laws?

“When the government keeps introducing new laws, people get confused. And when they get frustrated, that is when they feel rebellious. They give up trying to keep up with the new rules,” he said.

Hassan Abdul Halim, 27, a sales executive, said it is business as usual at his work place. “Honestly, I don’t see any change. Some may say the new government needs more time, but how much time is enough?

“There are still too many illegally parked vehicles; every road in the Klang Valley seems to be under construction, thefts are still rampant. So what has actually changed? To me, nothing,” said Hassan.

The only thing Sarah Chew, 30, is optimistic about under this new government is that they still promise to prioritise change. “We saw how the people came out in droves to vote for a new government and major reforms.

“Although things seem to have currently hit a brick wall, I still believe that our new ministers, if they can stay clean and not give in to corruption, will ultimately change things for the better.

“But they have to keep their word, and stop delaying the changes people want. We voted for change, not for the same old political tricks.”

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