By RAHIMI YUNUS / Pic By RAZAK GHAZALI
THE appointment of the eighth Prime Minister (PM) Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin (picture) is expected to be greeted mainly by the public’s pressure for the new administration to uphold its integrity, while continuing the country’s reform agenda with impartiality.
After all, Malaysia was already on the path of major institutional and legislative reforms under the previous Pakatan Harapan (PH) government.
Among the reform measures are limiting the PM’s tenure to two terms, as well as reviewing the Printing Presses and Publications Act, the Sedition Act, along with the Prevention of Crime Act and the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act.
Some of the efforts that had already borne fruit include the lowering of voting age to 18, repealing the Anti-Fake News Act and amending the Peaceful Assembly Act, which were all linked to PH’s manifesto.
Stakeholders and the public will now be keeping a close watch on Malaysia’s reform journey following yet another shift of power as a result of a one-week political roller coaster ride.
Universiti Malaya’s constitutional law expert Prof Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi said any government of the day shall pursue the reform agenda without partisan interference.
“Whichever government that is in power, it shall pursue the agenda for reform and do it without the matter of partisan. These changes are of national interest,” Shad Saleem told The Malaysian Reserve yesterday.
Shad Saleem, who was named one of the Institutional Reforms Committee members, said it is hoped the reforms will be continued for justice and the good of the country, while improving Malaysia’s standing in the world community.
He said reform is a controversial matter, but what is right must be done.
“As the saying goes, leaders of substance do not follow opinion polls. They mould opinions and create support like how Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery and how Jawaharlal Nehru eliminated the caste system,” he added.
It remains to be seen how Muhyiddin’s leadership would spearhead the reform agenda, especially with the support from “scandal- ridden leaders” in the coalition.
Amnesty International regional director Nicholas Bequelin said in a statement that changes in the Malaysian government must not stall vital human rights reforms.
“It would be disastrous for a new government to come into power and reverse this reform agenda. Any new leadership in the country must commit to fully respect, protect and fulfil all human rights.
“A litmus test will be the progression of crucial reform processes, including the abolition of the Sedition Act and the mandatory death penalty in full, as well as undertaking other rights reforms that were promised to the Malaysian people when they elected the government back in 2018,” Bequelin said on the non-governmental organisation’s website last week after the resignation of the seventh PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Bequelin said up to now, the government’s commitment to human rights change has been slower than desired, but nonetheless commendable as first steps.
During the Barisan Nasional government, Malaysia saw several directives that threatened press freedom.
The Home Ministry suspended publishing permits of two newspapers for three months at the height of the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal in 2015.
The publisher said a letter from the Home Ministry stated that the two publications reporting on 1MDB was “prejudicial or likely to be prejudicial to public order, security; or likely to alarm public opi- nion; or is likely to be prejudicial to public and national interest”.
Last year, Malaysia jumped 22 spots to 123rd in the World Press Freedom Index as compiled by Reporters Without Borders.
The country bested Asean countries with Indonesia at the 124th, Philippines (134th), Thailand (136th), Myanmar (138th), Cambodia (143rd), Singapore (151st), Brunei (152nd), Laos (171st), and Vietnam (176th).