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How Pakatan is shackled within the old paradigms of government

By Murray Hunter - posted Wednesday, 12 June 2019


The Pakatan Harapan coalition promised massive reform leading up to the election that unexpectedly swept them into office in May 2018. However after more than a year in government, Pakatan appears to be deeply shackled within the old paradigms of government.

The Pakatan cabinet led by the stalwart Mahathir Mohamed is comprised of a couple of experienced members from previous Barisan Nasional governments like Muhyiddin Yassin, a small group of ministers who had state administration experience like Lim Guan Eng and Azmin Ali, and a very large group of inexperienced ministers.

Although some ministers like Dr Wan Azizah Ismail, the deputy Prime Minister from PKR, Mat Sabu, the Defence Minister from Amanah, and Teresa Kok and Gobind Singh from the DAP have extensive opposition experience, they had no experience in running the machinery of government, especially at ministerial level. Some like Dr. Maszlee Malik, the current Minister of Education was only elected to parliament last year, and consequently doesn’t even have any parliamentary experience.

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In Pakatan’s dramatic rise to power riding on the hopes of those who elected them, it appears the cabinet and the whole business of government has just slipped into the same paradigms of doing things like its predecessor did.

The Pakatan Government has not been without a wide range of criticisms. Criticism has come even from within the ranks of its own membership. However this has been largely muzzled with senior politicians like Daim Zainuddin and Rafidah Aziz making public statements that people must give the new government more time to get its act together and implement the much promised reforms pledged before election.

Even vocal PKR Vice President Rafizi Ramli has been relatively muted of late about government performance. The DAP altruist and soul of reform Lim Kit Siang, who specifically chose not to take any government position,  has been side-tracked with the Najib and 1MDB saga to take government to task on its poor handling of the process of government.

Only the daughter of the current deputy Prime Minister Dr. Wan Azizah and “Prime Minister in waiting” Anwar Ibrahim Nurul Izzah, who is also MP for Permatang Puah and a former PKR Vice President has taken a stand. She disassociated herself from the government, quitting all her government and party posts because she believes the government is on the wrong track. 

The Pakatan Harapan coalition made many popular promises prior to the election. However it has been impossible to unite these promises into some form of coherent policy base that the government could operate upon.

Alarmingly, what is coming out of the Pakatan government’s actions is a philosophy still based upon Ketuanan Melayu-Islam in a long string of decisions made within the economic, social, and education spheres.

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However activity centred around Malaysia’s administrative capital Putra Jaya suggests that Pakatan is busy trying to form a series of new policy packages at ministry level. Each ministry has formed several working committees and engaged consultants to formulate policy plans.

The inputs for this new policy making process is not party based as one would have expected from a new regime taking power in a parliamentary system. The majority of policy making has been left to civil servants and consultants seconded to ministries, rather than coming from any party philosophy. Thus it still appears the conservative Ketuanan Melayu orientated civil service is still very much responsible for policy generation rather than the new regime. This is very much a continuation on what the last government did.

These conditions seem to suggest that there will be very little policy reform, particularly with the Finance Ministry playing the role of scrooge in these processes, due to the government’s massive funding problems.

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This article originally appeared in the Asia Sentinel.



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About the Author

Murray Hunter is an associate professor at the University Malaysia Perlis.

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