Monday, July 8, 2013

The Government Engages the Rakyat and NGOs on Key Reforms

There can be no doubt that the Government is serious about building consensus in the wake of GE13, and listening to the rakyat is the cornerstone of that strategy.

It has been announced that the Home Ministry and Attorney-General's Chambers will meet with NGOs and community leaders for feedback on the proposed special preventive law to replace the repealed Emergency Ordinance (EO).

Speaking of the need for the law Sunday, Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said: "We were pressured to abolish the Internal Security Act (ISA) and EO. Look at what happened after that, the crime rate increased and organised and petty criminals came out of the woodwork."

So a law is needed to replace the EO, and the consultative process will ensure not only that the new law is acceptable to the rakyat but in turn, these NGOs understand the need for the law.

This is the right way to include the community in such a legislative process. The wrong way was that of so-called human rights group Suaram last week, which shrieked about the new law being a "ploy" despite admitting it hasn't seen the draft legislation. Considering the Pakatan-friendly group contains more than its fair share of lawyers, one would have hoped they would instinctively ensure they were properly briefed before airing their views. This was not the case.

On Friday, there was even more tangible proof that the Government is not only prepared to listen, but to back down when it needs to. The Government shelved the legislative changes that would have allowed a minor's conversion to Islam with just one parent's approval – a proposal that proved to be hugely contentious with the Chinese in particular.

The decision was made by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who said: "We also want to give time to the government and all parties to review the bill holistically and will only re-table the bill once we achieve a consensus."

And even more evidence of this open approach has come with the news that the Government will meet manufacturers, wholesalers, and importers to find ways of controlling the prices of essential goods.

"We want to strengthen networking with the industry players," said Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Datuk Hasan Malek when he announced the initiative.

"We want to get a commitment from them to work with the Government to help control the increase in prices of goods."

Once again, the Government believes engaging with the key players in the industry will be more effective than dictating price controls from above.

What is happening in Malaysian politics is a federal Government doing what it said it would do at GE13 – getting on with the job of running the country and seeking reconciliation – not just with other political parties, but also with NGOs and community leaders.

It's a far more constructive way of moving forward than refusing to accept the outcome of GE13 and promising to hold more disruptive rallies.

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