Monday, October 2, 2023

Navigating realpolitik


Sunday, 01 Oct 2023

MALAYSIA, a country renowned for its cultural diversity and economic potential, has undergone significant political shifts over the years. As an Opposition leader, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had long advocated for reforms in Malaysia’s political and socioeconomic landscape. As Prime Minister now, Anwar’s vision for a better Malaysia has captured many hearts but the path to achieving these reforms is full of challenges. While many are impatient to see his reform agenda implemented, Anwar has to grapple with the realpolitik in the country.

As Prime Minster, Anwar’s vision for reform in Malaysia encompasses a wide range of issues, ranging from political and economic to social reforms. He envisions a more inclusive and accountable political system, a fairer distribution of economic benefits, and improved social services for all Malaysians. 

However, translating this vision into reality is a complex and time-consuming process. The full impact of his reform, if implemented, will touch the fundamentals of Malaysian society. Hence, decades entrenched bad habits will be his major opponents.

Unfortunately, every issue in our country has become insanely political because for decades we allowed our politicians to behave like warlords over us. 

Real issues concerning the rakyat have been deflected from deliberation by politicians playing up racial and religious drama.

The structurally-weaker Malaysia that we have today is the product of enforced “idolisation” of recycled and incompetent leaders who have been allowed to amass power and wealth for decades. 

With this power and wealth, they were able to persist in power and conceal their incompetence by buying public relations expertise and cybertroopers.

These leaders for the past many decades had failed to steer our country to the greatness that it can accomplish. What’s my evidence? 

We just have to compare our country’s overall progress with the progress of other countries, neighbouring and far off, in the same time period.

It is a sad fact of democracy that citizens do not have access to full facts and information to evaluate efficiently the performance of any political leader. 

In such an imperfect situation, loud, crass and powerful political leaders using race and religion are able to play on the emotions of unthinking citizens and stay in power to further loot the country.

It is against such a complex social, economic and political backdrop that PMX – as the 10th PM is popularly referred to on social media – has to gradually implement his reforms.

Hence, the first opposition that Anwar will face will be political opposition from entrenched interests and corrupt leaders. Even though Barisan National has lost its dominance in Malaysian politics, the musical chairs of politicians from one party to the other has helped to maintain certain political values and cultures that oppose fundamental reforms.

Secondly, reforming Malaysia’s bureaucracy is another high hurdle PMX must overcome. Government institutions, particularly those that have been under the influence of previous governments for extended periods, may be resistant to change. Bureaucratic inertia, red tape, and a reluctance to relinquish power can impede the implementation of reforms. There is also the challenge of entrenched mindsets.

Thirdly, economic reforms, such as addressing income inequality and promoting fair competition, will be met with resistance from powerful business interests. Some economic elites may be reluctant to see their privileges erode, making it challenging to push through the necessary changes. Anwar’s commitment to levelling the economic playing field will face opposition from vested interests.

Fourthly, Malaysia is a diverse country with a multiethnic population, and societal divisions have historically been a source of tension. Reforms aimed at promoting equality and addressing issues related to race and religion can trigger objections from groups that fear a loss of privilege or identity. Balancing the aspirations of various communities is a delicate task in a country where the evil technique of divide and rule has been and continues to be openly practiced by politicians.

Fifth, reforming the legal and institutional framework of Malaysia is indispensable for sustainable change – to ensure the independence of prosecution, for example. However, this requires amendments to existing laws to uphold transparency and accountability. Such changes may face legal and constitutional objections, due to fear or political manoeuvring by vested interests.

I believe PMX’s reforms aim to address deeply entrenched problems that have plagued Malaysia for decades.

Corruption has been a persistent issue in Malaysia’s political and economic landscape. Rooting it out is a critical aspect of Anwar’s reform agenda. However, dismantling deeply embedded corrupt practices within institutions is a painstaking process that requires time and persistence. Furthermore, do the people around the Prime Minster understand his passion and can they carry out his reforms?

Difficult effort: While the path may be long and arduous, the Prime Minister’s vision for reform in Malaysia embodied in his Madani concept is ambitious and commendable. — ART CHEN/The Star

Secondly, income inequality remains a significant concern in the Prime Minister’s *Madani economy. Reforms aimed at narrowing this gap require substantial changes in economic policies, taxation, and wealth distribution. These changes may encounter opposition from those benefiting from the current system.

Thirdly, ethnic and religious diversity have long been exploited for political gain in Malaysia. Anwar’s reforms are uncompromising when it comes to bridging these divides and fostering a more inclusive society. It is an unfortunate trait of Malaysian politics that there is more of an emphasis on projecting who is more Malay Muslim than everyone else rather than on addressing fundamental issues plaguing the nation.

Fourthly, the culture of political patronage is deeply entrenched in Malaysia, with political leaders often using government resources for personal or party gains. Reforming this culture requires strong political will and the willingness of leaders to relinquish such privileges.

Fifth, improving education and healthcare systems is essential for the future of Malaysia. However, deeply-rooted problems such as inadequate funding, unequal access, and outdated curricula may obstruct progress.

Despite the numerous challenges and objections, PMX must remain steadfast in his commitment to reforms. But what can be done to navigate these obstacles and move closer to the vision of a reformed Malaysia?

First, PMX can seek alliances and build coalitions with like- minded individuals, organisations, and political parties that share his reform agenda. A united front can provide the strength needed to push through reforms despite opposition.

Second, he needs to engage in constructive dialogues with opponents to help build consensus and mitigate objections. Open and transparent discussions can lead to compromises that make reforms more palatable to different stakeholders. This will also act as a shield against political saboteurs.

Third, the Prime Minister should provide support for efforts aimed at raising public awareness and support for his reforms. This can create pressure on those resisting change. An informed and engaged citizenry will support the reforms.

The Prime Minister’s vision for reform in Malaysia embodied in his Madani concept is ambitious and commendable. While the path may be long and arduous, the pursuit of a better future for all Malaysians is a noble endeavour.

I will repeat the same message I have conveyed to previous prime ministers: May the PM be given the wisdom to recognise citizens and bodies that will fight with him towards making Malaysia better.

*Madani is an acronym for the government’s overarching policy that embraces six core values: keMampanan (sustainability), KesejAhteraan (prosperity), Daya cipta (innovation), hormAt (respect), keyakiNan (trust) and Ihsan (compassion).

Senior lawyer Datuk Seri Dr Jahaberdeen Mohamed Yunoos is the founder of Rapera, a movement which encourages thinking and compassion among Malaysians. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

No comments: