The threat of a government collapse is still imminent without the implementation of reforms, Bersih chairperson Thomas Fann said.
Speaking at the launch of Bersih’s 2022 Annual Report online on Facebook today, he said that the reforms were needed to not only bring long-term political stability but also to take away any pressure for a change of government.
Fann said this is because the nation is now in a similar situation to where it was after the 14th general election (GE14), when Pakatan Harapan took office.
“When Harapan first formed the government in 2018, everybody’s expectation was that they would have a four- or five-year term to bring in important institutional reforms. But they only had 22 months (in power).
“The concern is still valid now, simply because the political situation is still pretty much status quo, as per GE14. There is the possibility that this government may not last.
“And that is why (we see) the political manoeuvering by their partners to get Najib pardoned and to drop charges against Deputy Prime Minister (Ahmad) Zahid (Hamidi).
“All these are speculations and behind-the-scenes manoeuvres,” he said.
Thus, Fann called on the current administration to implement parliamentary reforms that allow MPs, both government backbenchers and those in the opposition, to play active roles in Parliament.
“This would take away some of the pressures for a change of government because, if they know that they influence (decisions) or have their voices heard, there will be fewer chances of them being impatient,” he explained.
Fann added that another “low-hanging fruit” was the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), which aimed to provide all lawmakers with allocations for development projects and assistance for their constituencies.
He said that Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim should give the funds to the opposition so that they have the resources needed to run a constituency and serve the people who elected them.
While the CDF was part of Pakatan Harapan’s manifesto, Anwar, who is also the finance minister, did not announce funds for opposition MPs in the re-tabling of Budget 2023.
Constituency allocations for government MPs for 2023 were also reduced by over 70 percent for this year, from RM3.8 million to RM1.3 million.
Fann noted possible misuse of the fund but added that any issues could be mitigated through checks and balances.
He also reiterated demands for the enactment of the Political Financing Act and the separation of the public prosecutor’s office from the Attorney-General’s Chambers.
Meanwhile, Fann urged all states to enact the anti-hopping law ahead of the forthcoming state elections.
There are six states in Malaysia that have yet to implement anti-party hopping law, namely Johor, Malacca, Pahang, Terengganu, Kedah and Sabah.
Sabah was of a particularly concerning state, he said, due to the events that transpired in the state government post-GE15.
In January, the Sabah government under Hajiji underwent a brief period of instability after Sabah Umno chief Bung Moktar Radin withdrew BN’s support for the state government.
Also withdrawing support were three assemblypersons from Kesejahteraan Demokratik Masyarakat (KDM) including its president Peter Anthony, the Melalap representative.
At the time, Anwar suggested the creation of a unity government in Sabah as a solution to the political impasse. – Malaysiakini