Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Report on The Forum : Pakatan Rakyat's Common Policy Framework ---- Meeting Voters' Expectations? Held in Penang on Feb 5, 2010.


Part 1 
 by Masterwordsmith. This report also appears in her blog HERE.

In his opening speech at the Sembang-Sembang Forum last night, YB Malik Kassim (Batu Maung) expressed his hope that the exchange at the forum could provide the Penang State government the necessary input for the government to rule with CAT philosophy to enrich and empower Penangites.

                Anil Netto introducing the panel of speakers 

The moderator for the evening, Anil Netto, then posed three questions to the speakers for the forum -YBM Senator Tunku Abdul Aziz Ibrahim (Vice-Chairman DAP) Founder of Malaysian Chapter of Transparency International, YB Dr. Dzulkefly Ahmad (Central Committee Member PAS, MP Kuala Selangor) and YB Sivarasa, Vice-President of PKR and MP for Subang as follows:

1. The economy of Penang has been tested with the drop in FDI. How different will be the economic model for Penang if Pakatan Rakyat comes to power? Will it be one that will still be driven by FDI?

2. To what extent will PR empower marginalized groups given that property prices are increasing and many are unable to buy their own properties?

3. In the past, TDM advocated a neo-liberal economy with a two-tier system that affected many areas in society, including health care. How different will it be under PR?


YBM Senator Tunku Abdul Aziz Ibrahim's Opening Address

  YAB Senator Tengku Abdul Aziz Ibrahim stressed the 
         moral and ethical aspects of the Common Policy Framework. 
YBM Senator Tunku Abdul Aziz Ibrahim affirmed his stand that he is opposed to race-based parties and emphasized that we need a government that is established on plans, programmes and issues which are not based on race. He said:

    "We have to realize that even after over 50 post-independence years, we are still a country without a united nation. We have a country that has well-defined physical boundaries but can you say truthfully that we have a united Malaysian nation? We get along but analyze the way we live. We live our separate existence. We cannot wait for another 200 years to say we can't live together. We have to realize that cultural diversity is an important part of nation building."

He clarified that the Common Policy Framework is a means of bringing people to put a credible and reliable alternative government in the driver's seat and pushes the whole issue of race-based policies which are simply not sustainable into the back seat.

With much feeling and conviction, YBM Tunku Aziz said:

    In national development, we face difficult choices. We need to weigh all options open to us. The future of the nation depends in the integrity of the leadership. It does not need much intelligence to take the country backwards.By default and because of the years of adopting a corrupt economic system, we find ourselves a country desperately trying to find an honorable place in the sun. We have been shortchanged because we were stupid enough to trust those who promised us the sun and the moon. Countries who were once behind us are now overtaking us - such as South Korea and Vietnam and we cannot take things easy.

    We have an alternative - a glimmer of hope. Given the sincere desire of the three parties, the day will come when we can say here is a party which will make a difference in the way this country is run.

    The CPF is not about material benefits. We do not need to be fed on promises but on those things that will make our life better."

YB Sivarasa Rasiah (MP Subang, Vice-President PKR )

                            YB Sivarasa Rasiah emphasized the historical importance
                                          of the Common Policy Framework. 

YB Sivarasa began his speech by expressing his deep concern that the CPF is not generating enough conversation amongst citizens. More have to be made aware of this framework to understand PR and its aspirations for the country.

He then gave a chronological account of how the CPF was drafted and how it was deliberated at the convention by members of the three parties. He emphasized how the delegates deliberated and negotiated the CPF line by line and word by word. That inaugural meeting showcased a commitment by the top leadership to find common ground to build the country. They considered our sense of value system, the principles we stand for and also their differences. YB Sivarasa emphasized that they are all fundamentally democrats.

He also expressed his concerns about relations with the federal government.For far too long, BN has concentrated power in Putrajaya. For example, he said that Selangor pays RM16 billion taxes a year but gets back RM400 million. Penang pays RM3 or 4 billion in taxes and gets back RM 300 million. This imbalance has to be put right.

YB Sivarasa stated that what is happening in East Malaysia is similar to what our colonial masters did to us in the past. There has to be a commitment to real democracy to see a real separation of power in the judiciary and legislature. He clarified that fundamentally, under the PR regime, this country will have truly free and fair election. Taking over power does not mean maintaining the unfair practices. PR is also committed to reducing the voting age to 18 years and to ensure that everyone will have an automatic right to vote.

He also affirmed his stand against any form of race politics that has cursed this country. We need a multi-racial paradigm. PR will endeavor to introduce a Race Relations Act that will ensure that race politics will be a thing of the past.

YB Sivarasa said that because of the current divide and rule policy, our country has become a pressure cooker - cooked up once in a while to raise the temperature. The ruling government is watching the conflicts that are happening but are not doing enough. He cited examples including the body-snatching cases, arguments of inheritance and stressed that we cannot sit and pretend or be in denial that everything is fine.

He clarified that in such a situation of social conflict, there must be a mechanism such as a Royal Commission of Inquiry to sincerely resolve problems. The current value system is pluralistic so PR wants to bring the people together because we have been previously separated. In the past, we had a mixed social milieu but not now. PR wants to create the democratic space. As time passes, because of all the wrong in the past as a result of a market-oriented approach developed by leaders, a two-tier society developed where there is small group at the top and a large group left at the bottom which can lead to social dissatisfaction that can cause more serious problems due to the inequitable distribution of wealth. We can see it now in terms of the Mat Rempit problems and the increase in crime rate.

YB Sivarasa also said that PR will refocus the resources of this country into the public health care system. He stressed that while private health care system has developed, the bigger damage is that public health care resources such as nurses and specialists are being sucked out into the private health care sector. Now, our public health care system is no longer amongst the best in the world like it was in the past.

He emphasized that the government should be the primary provider of health care which cannot be delegated to the private sector.

He ended his speech by stressing that citizens cannot be passive and leave the business of governing the country to politicians but that citizens must keep an eye on politicians to ensure that they toe the line in such a way that values and principles must conform to state policy.

Part 2

by Masterwordsmith. This report also appears in her blog HERE.

Moderator : Anil Netto ( Independent Journalist )

                                 Anil posed tough questions.
After YB Sivarasa's speech, Anil said that there are three issues that concern the rakyat which are health care needs and services, the economy and agricultural issues. He expressed his hope that the plans outlined in CPF will happen. Such concrete ideas are significant as a positive beginning for PR. The rakyat can then hold them to their words as to what was said. 

Following that, he introduced the next speaker for the evening, YB Dr. Dzulkefly Ahmad.

Dr. Dzulkefly Ahmad (Central Committee Member PAS, MP Kuala Selangor).

                     Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad expounded his views 
                     on the Common Policy Framework from an
                     Islamist democrat's standpoint. 

He began his talk by comparing the current scenario with the unbearable delivery pangs and suffering of the long awaited deferred birth of a new nation.

"We are witnessing the dawn of a new Malaysia," he proclaimed emphatically."It is going to come but it will not be easy safe through the sacrifices and commitments not just of politicians but also from the rakyat - the enlightened ones and the electorate."

March 8 2008 was a victory of the people, voters and the electorate who now believe that they must bear the responsibility to make the courageous step of voting for change for another term.

He emphasized his belief that the policy is put forward to the nation as an alternative. The new politics has debunked the politics of race and narrow ethnic policies. PAS has decided to be part of the coalition pact because they have come a long way to understand that there is a greater contingency to move away from their Malay stronghold.

He then gave a detailed explanation of the paradigm shift that PAS had which made them join the Pakatan Rakyat coalition. He shared the conviction that together in a multi-party system, they can advocate policies on development for the good of the rakyat and not because of religion per se. He added that there are the changeables which must be contextualized to the needs of space and time and done through the doors of the legislative process.

He hoped to see a level playing field where democracy is truly vibrant and everyone is given a chance to advocate their beliefs. To this end, voters and candidates must have access to information that is functional, viable and mature. The rakyat must realize that we are all on a nation-building mission with an agenda of establishing justice to end injustice. He stressed that PR is doing it because of convictions and not because of politics.

Dr. Zulkefly observed that the economy has been stagnating leading to low economic growth, low value added and low productivity. Ten years ago, the GDP of the service sector was 48.18% and has since stagnated to attain only a 0.2% increase over the past decade. He said that according to the World Bank abnd IMF, real wages have increased by 2.8% for the entire duration of the last eight years.

He also noted that the World Bank report mentioned that Malaysia has rich resources. In terms of resources per capita, Malaysia ranks one of the highest in the world. However in terms of Income per capita, Malaysia ranks very low. In other words, the resources of the country has not generated wealth for the enjoyment of the population thereby indicating that the rich natural resources of the country have been squandered.

Our country is also the only one that experienced negative FDI and a high level of movement outwards of local deposits that resulted in negative capital gain. The inflow into the country via Foreign Direct Investments is less than the outflow of local capital to overseas. There is a high level of movement outwards of local monetary deposits. 

Dr. Dzulkefly expressed his concern about the outflow of professionals in our country and said that this brain drain is largely because they are not being paid what they are entitled to. He stressed that it is not just the remuneration issue but the environment of the country must be right for people to want to live and work here.

He also noted how there is an urgent need for a shift to a high-performance economy which must be premised on a knowledge and skill-based workforce based on individual needs. YB Dr. Dzulkefly emphasized that we need to look back and address many issues and see how we can prepare the population for the various sectors. One of the issues is  the education-industry mismatch in our tertiary education system. A re-planning of the entire education system is needed if we were to produce a competitive workforce.

The various sectors of the economy have to be re-organised. These cannot be successful if we continue to have crony capitalism and handouts. As such, the economy has to be democratized to a people's economy in terms of wealth creation and wealth distribution. Let not the wealth of the nation revolve round a few hands!

Currently, there is inter and intra disparity in various groups. The Gini coefficient, which is an index commonly used to measure inequality in wealth and income, is high among the bumiputras. This reflects the disparity between the majority of the bumiputras who are poor and the few Umnoputras who are very rich.

There has to be transparency and we must reject privatization that burdens the rakyat. He condemned "piratization" and profitization.

Towards the end of his speech, Dr. Zulkefly emphasized his belief in balance in programmes and development and the decentralization of power in Klang Valley. He concluded by stressing that the CPF is based on needs and merits.

The Question and Answer Session

                    The panel of speakers listening to questions 
                    and suggestions attentively. 

Q: Dr. Pa highlighted Dr. Colin Abraham's comment sent via email that the CPF lacks a concrete follow-up program and suggested that a book be written to this end.

A: YB Sivarasa questioned the need for a book as the policy is already documented. He acknowledged that there are parts that need detailing work. More discussion is needed before there can be talk about the publication of a book.

Q: Mws asked two questions on behalf of her blog reader JTBA - How many laws need to be changed/amended before the CPF can be executed? The second one was about whether entry to public universities would be based on merit regardless.

A: YB Sivarasa gave a few examples - Media and Printing Presses and Publications Act, New Information Act, ISA, OSA, Sedition Act etc. as part and parcel of making changes for a new country. He emphasized that there needs to be lots of housecleaning for the next few years before we can see changes and development. He clarified that there is no need to worry about these changes but the point is that we have to make the change. We have to have a new political system that listens to the public.

In response to the second question, YB Sivarasa said that it is definitely merit-based.

Q: Another observer asked who would be next in line if DSAI goes to jail and if there is a hierarchy of potential replacements.

A: YB Sivarasa advised us not to be so pessimistic as the current political landscape is different from what it was when DSAI was jailed in the 1990's. Then, the coalition and PKR did not fall apart with the absence of DSAI. Wan Azizah filled in the gap beautifully then and will do so again if the need arises. He emphasized that Wan Azizah is a relentless realistic optimist and all believe in collective leadership and mutual respect, unlike BN.

Q: Madam Kwok Pow Lin requested that PR let us know the follow-up results of plans and projects carried out in East Malaysia and highlighted the fact that East Malaysians use an indigenous Bible.

A: The speakers replied positively. YB Sivarasa expressed hopes that this time round, PR can make a bigger dent in the East Malaysian state elections.

Q: Andrew asked the panel for their stand on party-hopping.

                  YBM Tunku Abdul Aziz answering a question.

A long debate followed. YBM Tunku Aziz said that when partaking in party-hopping, one is shortchanging the electorate. He reminded the audience that the voters did not elect the candidate per se but the fact that he/she represents the party. He affirmed his view that party-hopping is unethical and that one has to play by ethical values and standards.

YB Sivarasa then shared various perspectives. He said that we have to consider on what grounds he is party-hopping. He highlighted that to him, it is wrong if the party-hopping was carried out for monetary gain as that would be a crime or if the representative did it out of duress and as a result of threats. He referred such line of argument to the careful deliberation on the same topic by our country senior constitution lawyer Mr.Tommy Thomas. 

He also cited examples of British MPs changing parties on the ground of principles. He clarified that this is not possible in our country as it is prohibited by the government due to an amendment (Article 46 of the Constitution) whereby those who resign from a position will be barred from standing for election for five years.

YBM Tunku Aziz said that there has been no one in Malaysia who has resigned on the basis of principles. This problem, he said, will be eventually sorted out by the voters who will punish such candidates when they stand for election.

The forum ended with a vote of thanks to the panel of speakers.

(The editors wish to thank Masterwordsmith for writing this report.
Readers can access the author's blog here. )



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