Tuesday, January 3, 2023

What people expect in this brand new year - 2023.

It may be a new year may but I believe the hopes and expectations of the Rakyat remain the same in principle. 

Firstly, we all want to be able to live a life of dignity and have equal opportunities. Dignity is something essential to all human beings. It means being worthy of respect and honour. The opposite of this clearly means being treated as worthless or being disrespected. A true leader would do his/her utmost to ensure that the citizens have the opportunity to lead dignified lives. Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood”. 

A person’s self-worth and dignity can be lifted or destroyed by government policies and the laws of the land. A child who grows up being discrimination or ostracized from mainstream society simply because of the accident of his/her birth may become unhappy adult who feels oppressed. Only a leader with compassion, good conscience and who truly “fears” God can understand this. Therefore, a compassionate government should ensure that policies and processes exist that provide ample opportunities for those with talent to thrive. Policies should also exist to ensure the less fortunate among us, whether socially or economically, can lift themselves by way of positive assistance. 

Cruel discrimination in the name of race, religion or social status should never be allowed to be part of society, especially in a society that has a majority Muslim population like Malaysia. This is because any policy which is race based is clearly against the teachings of Islam. 

Furthermore, under the heading of “human dignity” are also economic and employment opportunities, positive working conditions, and equitable distribution of resources. I think it is time the government focuses again on small and medium enterprises, and cottage industries. There has been so much focus on mega projects that do not seem to benefit the common rakyat. Development in the country has also been too Klang valley-centric while the rest of Malaysia does not benefit. A proper policy would be able to create employment opportunities outside the Klang valley so that more balanced development can take place in Malaysia. 

Secondly, the government and political leaders should properly understand the provisions of fundamental liberties enshrined in Part II of the Federal Constitution – articles 5 to 13. Citizens themselves should familiarize themselves with these important provisions. You can only protect your rights if you know you have them. 

The Government should ensure that whatever policies that are passed strengthen these fundamental rights and not whittle them away. Parliamentarians should be engaging intelligently in debates and committed in ensuring that whatever bills that the Government passes does not contravene these Constitutional provisions. The Rakyat would be pleased to benefit from positive contributions from the minds of the parliamentarians rather than annoying sounds from their mouths. 

Thirdly, I hope that this Government is serious about and courageous in fostering true national unity. It is very sad that after more than 60 years of being independent we still allow blatantly divisive speeches, statements and politics to flourish in this country. 

I am not only referring to unity between the Malays and the non-Malays but between every Malaysian. And the Government ought to be wary of efforts to divide the Malays themselves for political reasons. They should also be vigilant of the rise of religious extremism which seems to be creeping quietly into Malaysia, posing serious security threats. 

Hence, it is my hope that this government addresses the issue of national unity substantially and designs long term policies that can unite Malaysians in striving for a common Malaysian Dream. Obviously, this effort must begin in the formative periods of Malaysian children. 

Fourthly, there needs to be serious efforts made to halt or reduce corrupt practices in all of our institutions and in all spheres of society. Corruption is not only cruel in the sense that scarce resources are diverted to feed the greedy rather that help the rakyat, but it also increases the costs of living. The negative effects of corruption are well known and I would not want to repeat it here. However, I have to emphasize that if there is real political will and efforts made, corruption can be significantly reduced. 

The Government should establish a task force or a committee with powers to come up with a way to tackle corruption in all institutions in the country. It is no doubt a major task but one that needs to be urgently undertaken. The corruption agency can audit lifestyles of even past political leaders to take back wealth that has been stolen through corrupt practices. If there is will, there is a way. The laws are certainly there.

Lastly, there needs to be continued respect for and upholding of the rule of law. Rule of law is a vast area that includes equality before the law, equal access to the law and so on. Essentially, adherence to the rule of law is the ordinary citizen’s last line of defence against oppression by the privileged or the powerful. Hence, our parliamentarians must ensure that any law approved is just. 

It is also important to ensure that whenever discretionary powers are given, as may be necessary, there are effective checks and balances. This is because, discretionary powers may also result in corruption, abuse and oppression. 

With this, I wish the readers: Happy new Year ! 

Jahaberdeen Mohamed Yunoos.