Engage people openly, meaningfully and consistently

(The Star) – OVER the past two days, the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on electoral reforms held public hearings with several public interest groups in the country.

It is a welcome move by the Government to engage the people and their representative groups on matters of great public interest.

This element of participatory democracy, as set within the context of a parliamentary democracy, would serve the nation well.

Both the Government and the governed share the objective of ensuring that all aspects of the coming general election will be above board and beyond reproach.

Greater transparency in formulating measures towards this end is therefore only to be encouraged.

Nonetheless, some doubts may remain over how exactly these deliberations with the PSC would translate into policy and practice.

For the Government to assuage public concern over this matter, which it must surely do, all reasonable proposals that have been put forward should be considered.

Whether that will happen can be seen in how the various issues raised are handled from now.

For the PSC’s engagement with the people to be meaningful, it cannot be mere window dressing.

All legitimate reservations and grievances should be addressed competently and satisfactorily.

The more diverse the respondents’ backgrounds, the more fruitful the discussions ought to be.

There can no longer be any hesitation in doing what is right, no equivocation on what must be done, and no partisan second thoughts about the public duties at hand.

Another means of ensuring that public interest is served, and is seen to be served, is for public sector agencies in general to be consistent in seriously engaging the people constructively.

There is much that Malaysians in their private capacity can contribute by way of suggesting best practices.

The ultimate purpose of public service is surely to serve the public conscientiously, regardless of individual likes and dislikes.

The public sector should be ready to acknowledge that as a maturing democracy, Malaysia comprises citizens of different preferences and persuasions.

The art of public administration therefore lies in managing these differences within the scope of a larger national endeavour for the greater benefit of the nation as a whole.

A maturing electorate is also one that would assess an administration on both what it resolves to do, and how it chooses to do it.