Pakatan reaffirms promise to engage with civil society
The Malaysian Insight June 26, 2018
THE Pakatan Harapan government promises to continue engaging with civil society organisations to resolve a myriad of human rights and institutional reform issues, said the coalition's chief secretariat, Saifuddin Abdullah. Saifuddin reaffirmed the coalition's commitment to reform as cited in its election manifesto, adding that short-term action would include setting up parliamentary select committees when the Dewan Rakyat convenes in three weeks. "We will look at the full list of portfolios and see how can we match good members to select committees," he told representatives from 45 organisations at a briefing at the Royal Selangor Club in Kuala Lumpur today. Present to hear their presentation were 23 PH MPs. No lawmakers from Barisan Nasional were present. Saifuddin said the select committees would "definitely" include matters of education, foreign policy, economics, and fiscal policy. "Consultation should not be limited to the parliamentary level. Ministers should form consultative platforms in their own ways and states, and after them the backbenchers," he said, adding that government department heads and representatives of organisations must be included. The organisations also handed copies of their proposal papers submitted to the institutional reform committee. Calls for reform include electoral processes, parliamentary procedures, the economy, inter-ethnic relations, the judiciary, detention laws, Islamic laws, child rights, and local governments. Several groups, including Suara Rakyat Malaysia, called for the release for juveniles detained under the Prevention of Crime Act and Security Offences Special Measurements Act. Groups also called for an immediate halt on the use of detention without trial. They also called for formalised relations with the government. "It has to be institutionalised. It cannot be because I know Fahmi (Lembah Pantai MP) or I know Hannah (Segambut MP)," said Promotion of Human Rights secretary-general Ivy Josiah. Human Rights Commission of Malaysia commissioner Jerald Joseph, who moderated the briefing, added that groups were not entertained by the previous government. "I know you will be caught up with so many things, but please don't say you will be busy," he said. During the two-hour briefing, Saifuddin, who chairs PH's manifesto committee, attributed the coalition’s win at the May 9 polls to the organisations. "One of the major factors that influenced the (election) result was the role of the organisations. GE14 is the accumulation of the good things civil society has done in many areas. Political awareness (of these issues) came about because of the good work of the civil society. "The former regime had very little respect of civil society. The state, the business, and civil society – these are three circles. The ideal situation is for the three circles to intersect, that would be the perfect governance framework. "In the old regime, the three circles were not (all) connected. You had the state and business circles very close together. That explains the corrupted practices. And they were condescending to civil society." MPs are to be sworn-in on July 16 and their questions to the cabinet will be submitted on July 29. – June 26, 2018.