Governance between Idealism and Realism

Farish A. Noor

Malaysia-watchers would have noticed by now that cracks have begun to appear in the opposition People’s Alliance (Pakatan Rakyat) and that recent events have given some cause for worry.

Notably, public spats and open rows among PR leaders in state assemblies have not given us any reason to be confident about the coalition’s future, and at the rate that the PR is going today one is not surprised to hear much speculation about the impending fall of two more state assemblies.

There are, understandably, many reasons for these rows to have come into the public domain – though none of these reasons could justify such acrimonious and self-defeating displays by public politicians whom we expect to behave with more decorum and professionalism.

One of the reasons, we are told, is the constant bickering and demands that are coming from the business community – predominantly in Selangor and Penang – who feel that their earlier support for the Pakatan should now be reciprocated by the handing out of lucrative development projects and other perks and bonuses that come with political sponsorship and patronage. This, however, is precisely the root of the malaise to Malaysian politics, and was one of the primary reasons why the vote swing in March 2008 was as strong and vocal as it was.


It is known to many in the business world and corporate sector that the mode of governance in Selangor has changed: Calls for transparency and accountability have been met with a more stringent form of quality control and hands-on management. Contracts have to be tendered for openly, and the accounting has to be visibly cleaner and more transparent. Likewise the very nature of the development contracts have changed as well, with environmentally-dangerous forms of development (such as hillside development) put on hold for the moment.