Dear Dr M,
In this, my third letter to you, let me say all your recent actions, especially your turnaround and support for dreaded security laws, show that you are not on the promised broad reform agenda which enabled you to become prime minister under an arrangement within Pakatan Harapan. Surely you must realise the aims of the reform – one of the key ones was to reduce the powers of the prime minister.
Let me give you one example of you reneging on a promise that you made publicly, instead of recently supporting the police when they used the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma) 2012, a particularly despicable law introduced by your predecessor Najib Abdul Razak to consolidate his iron grip on the country.
It was widely reported on July 23 last year, barely two months after your return to power, that you will repeal the hated Sosma. Here’s a partial quote to jog your memory, if you have forgotten. You said: “The government will repeal laws that are oppressive, especially the Sosma… which was introduced during the former prime minister Najib’s administration and allowed the government to arrest anyone without having to go to court.
“Najib´s law allows a person to be arrested and not to be taken to court, and if that person died, there will be neither inquiry nor action taken against those who killed him. That is the law passed by Najib and we will repeal that law.”
Then, when the police arrested and detained 12 Malaysians of Indian origin under Sosma, including two DAP politicians, you supported their actions. They were subsequently charged under the Penal Code for supporting a defunct terrorist organisation, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
Here is what you said, according to a report in The Star on Oct 12, in defence of the police action: “The police have briefed me. They have reasons to take action. I am satisfied with the actions taken and the reasons that were given… In the absence of alternative laws, Sosma Act can still be applied.” What a cop-out!
As you very well know, your predecessor introduced the law in 2012 to replace the Internal Security Act (ISA), which you used in 1987 under Operation Lalang to detain over 100 people on the pretext that they were a threat to the country, the largest detention under the ISA since the engineered racial riots of May 13, 1969.
You clearly used that to consolidate your waning power in the wake of a bruising election battle for Umno’s presidency shortly before that with Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, where you barely managed to win.
When your victory was challenged in the courts on the grounds that it was rigged, and the courts deemed Umno an illegal party, you formed a new party, Umno Baru, and transferred all assets of Umno and largely your own supporters into the new party, forcing Tengku Razaleigh to form Semangat 46 and splitting the Malays. That was the first major split among the Malays – and not the last.
Later, in 1988, you responded to a challenge by senior judges to your moves to restrict their independence through constitutional amendments when they wrote directly to the rulers, by convening a tribunal which resulted in the suspension of five judges. And the end of judicial independence as we knew it up to that point of time. The judicial services are still trying to erase that taint.
As prime minister and with the wide powers you had, including a two-thirds majority in Parliament, you bulldozed measures to increase the already considerable powers available to the PM, making yourself a virtual dictator.
Also, you made it nearly impossible for any person to fight against the incumbent president of Umno through a new party constitution, which many of your coalition partners emulated, putting a tightening noose around the available democratic space in Malaysia.
This is what resulted in Najib Razak (above) becoming a kleptocrat because the accountability of the government had been reduced and the mechanism for his removal as head of Umno was made very difficult in practice, emboldening him to borrow money and then steal it. He used his wide powers to remove those who would bring him to account, and used as well dreaded oppressive laws to hound and imprison his opponents.
There was plenty of reason for Pakatan Harapan, the coalition you joined very late in the day, initially to just remove Najib so he does not become PM again, to make manifesto promises to limit and devolve the powers of the PM.
Dear Dr M, we did not collectively give power to Harapan to historically kick out an Umno Baru PM just for you, a former Umno and Umno Baru PM, to use the most oppressive law we have in the statute books again. You simply cannot condemn Sosma and then use it, even if you are Mahathir Mohamad.
Let me remind you of Promise 12 of the Harapan Manifesto. And this is not one of those that you cannot fulfil because the government has no money due to the crimes committed by the previous government, as you are fond of saying. All it takes is your commitment and you convincing the Cabinet, many of whom have become yes-men and yes-women to you.
I quote two excerpts from Promise 12: “Under the administration of Umno and Barisan Nasional, Dato’ Sri Najib Tun Razak has monopolised all important powers, and Cabinet Ministers have become nothing but mere yesmen. Pakatan Harapan will reform the role of the Cabinet and the Prime Minister’s Department as a whole so that the collective Cabinet administration system can be brought back into Malaysia.
“The Pakatan Harapan Government will also remove the Prime Minister’s ability to manipulate key institutions by creating stronger check and balance mechanisms. Relevant powers will be decentralised to other bodies, including to the Parliament.”
What has happened to these reforms? Why has nothing been done? Is it because you want to retain the powers under existing legislation to bolster your own standing and use it when it is necessary to maintain your position?
Here’s a partial list of laws and areas that the Manifesto promised to reform:
Promise 12: Limit the Prime Minister’s term of office and restructure the Prime Minister’s Department.
Promise 14: Reform the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and strengthen anti-corruption efforts.
Promise 15: Separating the Office of Attorney-General from Public Prosecutor.
Promise 16: Restore the dignity of the Parliament.
Promise 17: Ensure the transparency and robustness of our election system.
Promise 19: Restore public trust in the judicial and legal institutions.
Promise 27: Abolish oppressive laws. These include the Sedition Act 1948, Prevention of Crime Act 1959, Universities and University Colleges Act 1971, Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, National Security Council Act 2016, and mandatory death by hanging in all Acts.
Also, it promised to abolish draconian provisions in the following Acts: Penal Code 1997, especially on peaceful assembly and activities harmful to democracy; Communications and Multimedia Act 1998; Sosma; Peaceful Assembly Act 2012, and Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) 2015. Not even one of these measures has been executed.
On top of that, you have not made public the recommendations of the Institutional Reform Committee which submitted them to the Council of Eminent Persons or CEP.
Dear Dr M, most Malaysians thought you were a changed man when you put your shoulder behind the Harapan wheel and the Harapan cause. Are you? This is an opportunity for you to put matters right and this country on the correct path. You can do it and if you do, the nation would be grateful to you and truly believe that you tried to rectify the mistakes of the past, including your own.
But if you don’t, history will surely judge you harshly, but more than that, you will contribute yet again to the deferment of the inevitable change this country has to make to become more progressive, give all its citizens an equal chance at success and to be forever free of oppressive governments and leaders.
Dear Dr M, surely the choice must be crystal clear to you, like it was to us who, through Harapan, put you back in power, believing in your ability to finally reform yourself and do good.