PAC U-turn shows us dictatorship is no longer in fashion


PAC U-turn shows us dictatorship is no longer in fashion
By Zan Azlee

How can one not be sceptical of a government that is led by an individual who used to rule the country for 22 years under the authoritarian party that was just recently voted out of power? As much as we wanted a change, we have to admit that we were all very wary despite the jubilation.

The best case to illustrate this is the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) issue. The PAC is a group of parliamentarians who are tasked with conducting inquiries into issues that are questionable. For the most part, many Malaysians have never heard of the PAC.

The PAC really came into the limelight when a certain DAP politician who goes by the name of Tony Pua became a member and started tirelessly questioning issues surrounding 1MDB. Suddenly, the PAC started making headlines in the news all around the country. Before that, you could even say that the PAC was like Asean – a lame duck.

When Pakatan Harapan became the government, one of their promises was to make sure that the chairman of the PAC would be from the opposition. This makes sense democratically because it would be a conflict of interest is the chairman was from the ruling party. The committee is, after all, suppose to question the ruling party’s actions.

And the Pakatan government actually did it. They appointed Umno’s Ronald Kiandee (pic) as PAC chairman. However, since it no longer serves the personal interests of many Umno politicians to be in Umno, Kiandee, like many others, defected and leaped frog over to Bersatu, the prime minister’s party.

Naturally, this should have rendered his appointment as PAC chairman void, as he is no longer in the opposition. But, despite the many protests from politicians, both from the opposition and also from his own coalition partners, Mahathir insisted that Kiandee stay on as PAC chairman. It really looked like our scepticism was well justified.

Luckily, times have indeed actually changed. Members of his own party and coalition were not having it. DAP’s Lim Kit Siang was and is adamant that the PAC chairman continues to be from the opposition. Keadilan’s Nurul Izzah Anwar, who is a member of the PAC voiced her disapproval too.

All these protests and displeasure was simply brushed off by the prime minister. He said that it was fine to keep Kiandee on as chairman. And the scepticism we all had was even more justified!

But, as I had mentioned previously, times have really changed. The protests grew louder and Nurul Izzah even resigned from her membership in the PAC.

Like it or not, Tun Mahathir had to heed the call. He needed to realise that, as much as people still respect him as an elder statesmen, the elections were about change. It was a change that was supposed to empower the people after more than six decades of authoritarian rule. Well, to be honest, not all of that six decades were bad. The early few were quite okay.

So at the end of the day, Mahathir will table a motion in Parliament for Kiandee to go and a replacement to take his place. Now, the candidate as the chairman of the PAC is Noraini Ahmad. She is Umno Wanita’s chief and the Member of Parliament for Parit Sulong.

It’s good that there are many politicians who are now in the government are staying true to what the elections mean. It is slowly allowing me to erode the scepticism that I have.

But of course, we can’t be too complacent. There is still a huge amount of inconsistencies when it comes to manifesto promises and the actual implementation of it.

The gender quota Pakatan promised is still not fulfilled. The issue of child marriage and marital rape is still not resolved. The archaic and stringent Islamic outlook is still plaguing our society. The issue of racial and ethnic polarisation is still a big problem that we can’t seem to shake off.

So I hope that the issue of the PAC can be a small reminder to Pakatan that they do not have a safe seat as the administration. They need to be very aware that if the people are not happy with the things that they do as the government, they will be kicked out.

Remember, times have changed. People just won’t stand for any nonsense anymore.

[This article was originally written for and published at Malaysiakini.com]

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