Kuala Lumpur, 4 March 2020 – After a week of political turmoil that exposed deep fractures within our political system, IDEAS urges the newly formed coalition government to focus on rebuilding trust, promote inclusivity and economic growth.
IDEAS is encouraged that the new government led by the country’s eighth prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is committed to a national agenda of “inclusive prosperity” and “institutional reforms.” IDEAS has always placed great importance on the structures and institutions that govern our democracy. Independent, respected and robust institutions are able to endure and withstand political interests and ambition, serving as an anchor in which the public can place their trust. We urge the new government to continue the reforms initiated by the previous government such as regulating political financing, making asset declaration compulsory for public officials and strengthening the role of Parliament as an institution.
Furthermore, the new government must continue the push to abolish oppressive laws, particularly the Sedition Act 1948. Constitutionally enshrined freedoms such as freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association must be upheld. Civil society’s efforts to reform the electoral system must also be taken seriously by the new government.
On the economic front, we face several challenges from sluggish growth in the last quarter, the US-China trade war to the threat of COVID-19, all of which have caused some distress in the business environment. Therefore it is important that the government focuses on implementing the stimulus package and define a new strategy for economic growth.
What needs to be done more urgently is to rebuild trust. Trust between the people and government, as well as trust between Malaysians. The political crisis engulfing the country has widened the trust deficit between people and politicians – a trust that needs to be rebuilt by shaping a narrative of inclusivity, acceptance of differences and ultimately, embracing Malaysia’s diversity as one of our greatest strengths as a nation. Policymakers must play their part by embodying policies that do not favour or discriminate one group over the other, sending the message that the distribution of Malaysia’s wealth is not a zero-sum game. Trust between Malaysians of different races and religions is not only critical for the country to fulfil its true potential but essential in building a nation where everyone feels a sense of purpose and belonging.
There is also an urgent need for the Opposition coalition to quickly rebuild, regroup and focus their efforts towards being a responsible force to ensure a check and balance on the government’s power. Now is the time for these democratic norms to be instituted and for Malaysia to chart a more positive future. IDEAS remains committed to engaging with the government of the day and to provide support in continuing the reform agenda.
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