When Malaysia’s Prime Minister-inwaiting and leader of the Parti Keadilan Rakyat, Anwar Ibrahim spoke at the Singapore Summit on 15 September to talk about the state of his country, the lessons he shared were arguably true in Malaysia as they are for the fledgling democracies of the Pacific.
He spoke about how the traditional strongholds of the previous government fell like dominos in the 9 May general elections. It was a nationwide tsunami, he said and the result was unprecedented as its impact cut across national and provincial governments.
On at least four key subjects of anticorruption, the judiciary, free media and the economy, he shared the following reminders:
Anti-corruption:“Strengthening the institutions of governance so that never again will we allow the executive to wield so much power and do so much damage to the nation. The anti corruption body, the MACC used to be answerable only to the Prime Minister is now made accountable to parliament. One of the great failures that we will be paying the price for years to come was that the anti-corruption commission was not able to function independently.
“The auditor general’s office has also been earmarked to be independent of the executive. This will go very far in ensuring that real effective oversight of Malaysia’s finances. “
Judiciary:“We also need to ensure that the judiciary is independent and misconduct by judges and lawyers carry swift significantconsequences. Judges must be insulated from political interference.
“Billions of dollars were siphoned off across the global network of enablers of money laundering and grand theft. I must commend some authorities including the Department of Justice of the United States for giving us the support in the investigations to be able to secure at least some of these money squandered from the nation.”
Free Media:“The importance of free media cannot be overstated. I have shared that this free media sounds nice to some people but for those in power its not something that is well cherished, and that it would take discipline, tolerance and commitment to be able to support this initiative because it is an antidote, the most effective antidote to the arrogance of power.
“The media is certainly free now to report the truth. To interpret the truth or to debunk some of what was considered at least sacrosanct in our country. Unless those issues of governance and accountability are addressed then the credibility of media in an era of fake news would remain suspect.”
Economy:“To suggest that our government has inherited a fiscal mess would be an understatement. As we enter the ministries and started taking controls of the reigns of power, we are learning the full extent of how the previous administration mismanaged the country.
“I will go as far as to say that it was a case of criminal financial mismanagement not withstanding that we have had accolades from analysts, from rating agencies but now when we go through the accounts, horrendous crimes were committed at the expense of the country and the masses.”