Notes on a New Nation, Day 6

Notes on a New Nation
Day 6, Post-GE14 (15 May 2018)

The slowest news day since the election, so we shall keep it short.

Last evening (14 May), the Agong released a press statement stating that he was satisfied with the necessary procedures by the Royal Pardons Board, and that the meeting with Anwar Ibrahim had been set for the following day (15 May) at 11am. He also pointed out that the Prime Minister’s Office had requested for that meeting to be postponed to tomorrow (Wednesday, 16 May) at 11am, and that this would be finalised as planned on 16 May 2018 accordingly. It is unclear why the Agong felt the need to include this final factoid into his statement, unless to point out that Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir had intentions other than to ensure the early pardoning, and hence release, of Anwar Ibrahim. There are internal dynamics at work that one cannot readily comment on without knowing further details.

The ‘Team of Eminent Persons’ wasted no time today in setting up a new committee on Institutional Reforms, consisting of retired Court of Appeal judge Datuk K.C. Vohrah; retired Court of Appeal judge and former Suhakam commissioner Datuk Mah Weng Kwai; National Patriots Association president Brig Jen (Rtd) Datuk Mohamed Arshad Raji; Tunku Abdul Rahman Professor of Law at Universiti Malaya Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi; and Hakam president Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan. In a statement released today, it said the committee would advise on the institutional reforms needed for the country. It would present its findings to the Team of Eminent Persons, and the latter would present its report to the Prime Minister. So far, we have had two teams being formed within one week, to deal with economic and institutional reforms.

The statement did not specify which institutions would be the primarily targeted ones, but from the PH manifesto, there is a laundry list of institutions that the coalition has committed to, including the MACC, Election Commission, AG’s Chambers, and providing parliamentary oversight on the National Audit Department, Petronas, Bank Negara and the Securities Commission. The PH also committed to being part of some international good governance platforms like the Open Government Partnership, Open Budget Initiative and the Open Contracting Partnership, incidentally all of which IDEAS as a think tank has been championing for many years. There are also reforms needed such as on federalism, where Sabah and Sarawak’s position in the federation would need to be restored to the commitments as laid out in the Malaysia Agreement 1963. The manifesto is long and cumbersome, but on institutional reforms it is solid and bold.

Tun Daim also said elsewhere that Tan Sri Abu Kassim formerly of MACC and Shamsiah Yunus, the former deputy governor of Bank Negara, would both be part of the new taskforce to reopen investigations into 1MDB. They were both previously part of the old taskforce set up for the same purpose, until the taskforce was disbanded upon the removal of then AG Gani Patail, as well as the dismissal of Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yasin, and Tan Sri Abu Kassim himself.

Tun Dr. Mahathir was said to have met with several prominent individuals today, including former AG Gani Patail, Bukit Aman Commercial Crime Investigation Department director Amar Singh, and Chief Justice Raus Sharif. Mahathir has said that PH would probably have a case against Najib Razak and be able to charge him soon.

In other news, different actors seem to be taking on their own moves. For instance, Media Prima removed Ashraf Abdullah its group managing director and replaced him with Manja Ismail today, seen as a move to appease the new federal government administration.

The state of Perlis seems to be unresolved – there is no news about its MB having been sworn in yet. The Pahang state MB was sworn in today (15 May), Wan Rosdy, of UMNO. It is interesting that the incumbent MB Adnan Yaakob, was not retained in his position. There were rumours that the position was not as highly sought after as previously, given the state’s poor finances and how it would now be in opposition at the federal level. As for Sabah, although Shafie Apdal was sworn in as the new Chief Minister, there are some developments with regards to political parties, where the creation of Gabungan Sabah (a BN-friendly alliance) is taking place (PBS will take in remaining followers and former party members of UMNO, UPKO and PBRS to form “PBS Plus”, after which an agreement will be signed between PBS Plus and Sabah Star to form Gabungan Sabah) (from Malaysia Decides app).

And of course, there will be a flurry of news tomorrow once again with the release of Anwar Ibrahim, much awaited and to-be-celebrated by his supporters. Today scores of PKR members visited him in Cheras Rehabilitation Hospital, anticipating the release tomorrow, and it is expected that there will be a celebratory gathering at Padang Timur in Petaling Jaya, well into the night – one final evening event the likes of the campaign ceramahs over the last few weeks.

The day after tomorrow marks the first day of Ramadhan, so perhaps the last few weeks’ exciting – and equally exhausting – days will come to an end, as our Muslim friends quieten down and pace themselves for a period of reflection. Much has happened in our country in the past week, but reforms will surely not take place overnight. It is time we all Malaysians also used this period wisely to be introspective, listening more to each other, both friends and foes.

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