Kuala Lumpur, 27 August 2018- On 25 August 2018, the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) and the London School of Economics Alumni Society of Malaysia (LSEASM) jointly organised a public forum “The Status of Institutional Reforms After 100 Days.”
Before the forum began, Dato’ Azman Shah Mohd Yusof, President of LSEASM launched the MalaysiaFloor@LSE initiative, aimed at raising funds to contribute towards renaming a floor in the New Centre Buildings currently under construction at LSE, due to be completed in 2019. The floor which will be named “Malaysia Floor” will house the Department of International Relations and will showcase Malaysia’s history and achievements, arts and crafts, and highlight latest developments in Malaysia. Also included is an annual centrepiece “Malaysia Lecture” to be delivered by a prominent Malaysian about Malaysia, at the LSE Theatre. The amount needed is GBP500,000 and so far, LSEASM has collected GBP280,000. Another GBP220,000 needs to be raised by November 2018.
The panellists during the forum were YB Michelle Ng (ADUN Subang Jaya), Shahril Hamdan (Deputy Chief of UMNO Youth), YBhg Dato’ Mohamad Ariff Yusof (Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat), YBhg Tuan Tommy Thomas (Attorney General of Malaysia) and YB Dr. Ong Kian Ming (Member of Parliament for Bangi). The forum was moderated by Aira Azhari, Coordinator of Democracy and Governance at IDEAS. All the panellists and moderator are alumni of LSE.
All the panelists had positive comments regarding the progress of institutional reforms thus far. Shahril Hamdan commended the government for appointing an opposition member as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and for granting freedom to the media. YB Michelle spoke of how Selangor was the first state government to implement an asset declaration system for their Exco members, pass an enactment on Freedom of Information and institutionalise a select committee system. Dato’ Ariff pointed out that six special select committees have been mooted and are soon to be administered, these select committees include one on Rights and Gender Equality as well as Defense. YB Kian Ming mentioned that one of the most important changes the government has made is to separate the posts of Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance.
Furthermore, Tuan Tommy Thomas added that he fully agrees with the important reform to separate the Attorney General’s role from the Public Prosecutor’s, as it not only prevents conflict of interest but eases the burden of the office holders as well.
The panelists also expressed some reservations and gave suggestions on how reforms should move forward. Shahril Hamdan cautioned against some actions by the government such as continuing the tenure of the Council of Eminent Persons. On the role of women in politics, YB Michelle noted that many challenges remain, and added that Malaysia needs a paternity leave scheme to compliment the current maternity leave system that we have. On parliamentary reforms, Dato’ Ariff mentioned the need for a Special Chamber to discuss matters of general public importance. He emphasised the need to create a new parliamentary culture where debates are conducted with more maturity.
Regarding the Pakatan Harapan manifesto, YB Kian Ming emphasised that it is important for voters and civil society to hold the government accountable for the promises they made. When asked about the government’s stance on LGBT rights, YB Kian Ming affirmed that any physical violence directed towards any community is wrong and will not be tolerated by the government.
The public forum was a success and the organisers are hopeful that it will kick-start further similar discussions in the future.