Ambiga: Deliver Reforms by June or It’s Back to Street Protests

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National Human Rights Society (Hakam) president Ambiga Sreenevasan has promised to take to the streets if real reforms do not take place by June, a forum heard today.

  • Time running out for PH to deliver some of the key promises
  • Government has no courage to release IRC report to the public
  • Fearless leaders became fearful when they went into the government

Ambiga, who is a prominent lawyer, said civil societies have given the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government enough space to act on its promises.

“In the first year, we wanted to give them a chance and many of us held back for a long time.

“However, I have told some people in power that if there are no reforms on IPCMC, Sosma, etc, we will take it to the streets in June,” she said during the Institutional Reform Committee (IRC) Report: Why the Secrecy? forum held at the Kuala Lumpur Chinese Assembly Hall.

Speaking to the press later, Ambiga said time is running out, and she fears PH cannot deliver some of its key promises.

“Some of these are already drafted, if these things can’t be pushed through (by) June, it is a total failure of Pakatan Harapan’s commitment to reform.

“Reluctantly, we never thought we would have to go to the streets in relation to this government, but if it has to be done, it has to be done.

“They (PH government) really need to get their act together this year.

Nazir Sufari/TMI

“I am not saying the government hasn’t done a good thing. It has done many good things.

“But my fear is time is running out for it to deliver some of the key promises.

“Come next year, everyone is concentrating on the next election.”

On the Institutional Reforms Committee (IRC) report, Ambiga said the government should have at least disclose its summary to the public.

The recommendations contained within the IRC report relate to good governance, she said, but releasing the report to the public is also about good governance.

“If they can’t even take the first step, what are they looking at all the other recommendations about good governance for?” she said.

She said the government in the past was used to hiding everything because they do not have the courage to release pertinent information to the public.

She described the former government’s motto as ‘if in doubt, hide’.

That could be the principle in play right now, with regards to the current government’s refusal to publish the IRC report, she said.

“I am trying to hazard a guess as to why they are not releasing (the report) and maybe I can give you a couple of reasons why.

“Perhaps one, they do not want the public’s expectations to be raised and then if they do not deliver, it’s a reflection on them.

“The other one is they do not want any negativity or cold water being poured on any of the suggestions…now that’s a very charitable way of looking at their reasons for not releasing (the report).

“But I think it is the ‘if in doubt, hide’ principle that’s at play,” Ambiga said.

She reminded Putrajaya that if it wanted the people to put trust in the government, it must first start trusting the people.

“At least, release a summary of the recommendations because what we need is public feedback.

“If you hide information, you will lose the trust of the people.”

The former Bersih 2.0 chairperson said a pilot test can be conducted if the government fears public backlash if the entire report is released.

Ambiga was part of the IRC, which falls under the Council of Eminent Persons (CEP), was set up to look into the reform of key institutions such as the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC), the police force, the MACC and the Election Commission (EC) among others.

Aside from Ambiga, other members of the IRC were retired Court of Appeal judges KC Vohrah, Mah Weng Kwai, National Patriots Association president Mohamed Arshad Raji and constitutional law expert Shad Saleem Faruqi.

They submitted their finalised report to the CEP and the Prime Minister’s Department in July 2018.

Ambiga also said she no longer recognises some of those in Pakatan Harapan who were so fearless before they became part of the government.

“It takes courage to do things differently from the way it has been done in the past.

“That is why we voted this government in because when they were the opposition, they were incredibly brave actually. You know in Bersih and such, they had no fear.

Hari Anggara

“So, I don’t recognise some of these people who have gone into the government and are now so afraid of the people who put them there. I find all that a little bit alarming,” Ambiga said.

Today’s forum was moderated by Prof Gurdial Singh of Universiti Malaya, and also attended by lawyer Siti Kasim and Suaram executive director Sevan Doraisamy.