Policies for Politics: Fixing Malaysia's Broken System
Malaysia—delicious food, atrocious politics? Combine both—get roti's and teh tarik at your favourite mamak joint, over which scrumptiousness your friends/family yak away about the latest outrageous instalment in the drama that is Malaysian politics. Whilst commending the food that's filling your belly, you're condemning the crooks who're fleecing more money. Such chats typically end with despair: what to do, emigrate?
Here's a better way to keep the conversation going: genuine solutions! Mid-last year, our office begun work on an 80-page toolkit of political, economic, and social policies to fix our country. We're glad to present to you our first instalment on political policies, i.e. institutional reforms to the Malaysian political system that, when implemented, will mend our country into a real and mature democracy. I (Tania Loke here, having typed heaps) admit the paper is a wall of text. But it's walls like these that will be the building blocks of a better Malaysia. Plus, perhaps at your next extended-family gathering (over more delectable delicacies), you can complement the moans & groans about politics with actual solutions and real hope. So, read on!
Already arguably an illiberal democracy, Malaysia’s extractive and, at times, oppressive political institutions have laid the groundwork for a failed democracy. Political reforms thus take foremost importance in reshaping our country’s future. This paper sets forth some policies to that end.
Recognising the need for constitutional changes, we propose such steps to restore the separation of powers between the executive, the legislative, and the judiciary. These include: 2.1 Enforcing greater checks and limits on the executive’s powers, such as by: limiting the Prime Minister’s tenure to two electoral terms; reducing the size of the Cabinet to 20 ministries and no more than 45 members; boosting the independence of external enforcement agencies from the executive; practicing collective ministerial responsibility; and slashing the Prime Minister Department’s annual budget by some 90% to RM2bil. 2.2 Strengthening parliamentary sovereignty and the legislative process by: increasing the number and oversight of parliamentary select committees; improving parliamentary question time; providing MPs with sufficient resources to research policy and legislative issues; and engaging stakeholders throughout the law-making process. 2.3 Ensuring an independent judiciary by: recommending judges to the Federal Court and Court of Appeal via a parliamentary selection process before proceeding to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong for appointment; making the Judicial Appointments Commission independent of the executive; and matching judges’ remuneration to upper-level salaries of senior lawyers, engineers, and doctors in the private sector.
Additionally, we outline policies concerning the civil service, the federal-state government relationship, the rakyat, and political party funding: 3.1 Rejuvenation of the civil service through: freeing appointments and promotions of civil servants from any undue political influence; selecting top public officials via a parliamentary selection process, subject to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s final approval; establishing a separate Public Services Commission for Sabah and Sarawak, helmed by Sabahans and Sarawakians themselves; focusing on private-sector growth to incentivise civil servants’ transition from the public sector; and embarking on a zero-tolerance corruption policy preceded by an amnesty for minor corruption. 3.2 Redressing the relationship between the federal and state governments by: tasking a Royal Commission to study and recommend reforms to the federal system of government; returning 20% of state-generated revenues to the respective state government; prioritising the development of the poorest states in allocating the federal budget; rightfully executing the terms of the 1963 Malaysia Agreement; and determining and devolving suitable ancillary powers to state governments, particularly to those demonstrating good governance. 3.3 Championing human rights for the rakyat by: creating a legislative environment that allows for a free press, including a Freedom of Information Act and enhanced whistle-blower protection; repealing draconian laws; enlarging the financial and monitoring capacity of SUHAKAM; and ratifying of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1951 UN Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. 3.4 Promoting accountable and transparent political party finances through: direct government funding of political parties based on votes garnered in the latest general election to alleviate political parties’ need for external donations; limiting donations a party can receive to RM20,000 per donation, from individual donors only; and limiting assets a party can own to RM200mil at any one time.
While extensive, our list of proposals is by no means exhaustive. Nonetheless, we believe that any government that implements these policies will truly serve our country’s present and future generations.