Faded hopes

It looks like the PM is not very much concerned about institutional reforms but the control over PAC’s operation.

Lim Sue Goan, Sin Chew Daily

PM Mahathir is steering a U-turn again. This time, he has reneged on his election pledge of appointing an opposition lawmaker to chair the Public Accounts Committee, allowing instead Beluran MP Ronald Kiandee, who has left Umno for PPBM, to continue chairing the committee.

Tun Mahathir’s explanation is hardly convincing, arguing that Kiandee’s defection was a personal decision and was totally unrelated to whether PH had reneged on its election pledge.

The thing is: the election manifesto clearly stated in black and white that the position should go to an opposition MP, and now that the chairman is no longer an opposition MP, a new chairman must be appointed.

It looks like the PM is not very much concerned about institutional reforms but the control over PAC’s operation. Now that Kiandee has joined PPBM, he will have to take instructions from the party’s leadership.

If PH is not as corrupt as the previous BN administration with the notorious 1MDB scandal, why should it worry about an opposition lawmaker as PAC’s chairman?

By denying an election pledge, it shows that the new government is still very much run by “rule of man” and not “rule of law”.

When he was still new in office last year, Mahathir announced that MACC, EC, Suhakam and the National Audit Department would all function independently. Will he forget this promise and make another U-turn again?

We can see that neither a written nor a verbal promise could offer any assurance. The Constitution, laws and regulations must be amended to specify that the PAC chairman’s position will only go to the opposition so that no one can change his mind or try to do something funny.

If the other PH component parties are serious about reform, they should call a presidential council meeting to draft a timetable for the amendment of the Constitution and relevant laws in order to free MACC and other major institutions from the control of the prime minister’s office, and give the Parliament more power to effectively check the executive agencies.

The prime minster’s recent remarks show that he likes to do things his way and make all the major decisions himself, making it no way for the PH presidential council to intercept, in the end hurting the credibility of the ruling coalition.

Tun Mahathir has promised to hold the office for only two years, leaving the new leadership to fix the mess.

The things he did in the past few months show that he is still very much embracing his old obsessions, such as the national car project, and conflicts with neighboring Singapore.

As a matter of fact, he does not need to worry so much about the next general elections as he will only be PM for two years. He should be bold enough to institute all the reforms. The repeated U-turns he has made shows that reform is not really in his mind, not because he is not capable of delivering it.

The prime minister also lacks the determination to expedite country’s economic recovery. Although the PMO announced on February 11 the establishment of the National Economic Action Council, the first meeting was not held until April 4.

It has been reported that local varsity students could only afford one meal a day. It looks like the government really has no time to lose now!