Janji Dinanti | Selangor Times
Issue 118


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Janji Dinanti
Writer: Lee Hwok Aun
Published: Fri, 17 Aug 2012

My secondary schoolmates gathered recently for a reunion. Many of us hadn’t met in 20 years, and in some cases couldn’t match names to faces.

There were of course the weight gainers, and those who have shed a few pounds. A bunch had sleeker eyewear than the gigantic-rimmed goofiness of the early 1990s; a few had lasered away their spectacles. 

We reconnected and relived those happy, barrier-free days, chatting, bantering and guffawing the night away. Then, amidst the cacophony, one fella said something that struck me: I wasn’t sure about your face – but I recognise your voice.

Yes, there is something enduring and powerful about one’s voice. Our voices identify, connect, empower and harmonise us. 

To have a distinct, shared and heard voice – including in sign language – is a key element of personal relationship. 

And I have to say, of development and democracy as well.

The United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Reports have highlighted how economic growth, where it is not inclusive, fails to foster human development. 

It works both ways. Lack of development in human capabilities and freedoms can also constrain economic growth.

Inclusive growth generates good jobs, promotes justice and creates a sense of belonging. It gives voice to the people.

More and more, Malaysians are demanding a bigger voice in the affairs of this nation. 

At the same time, our pathway to a more advanced economy and mature society increasingly depends on exercising that voice to hold government accountable, to monitor public funds and to check against greed.

We are in the thick of a great contest over the voices that get to speak and be heard in the Malaysian public square.

PKR’s strategic director Rafizi Ramli, who has been instrumental in exposing the National Feedlot Corporation fiasco, is being prosecuted for disclosing bank account information that are protected by secrecy clauses in the Banking and Financial Institutions Act (BAFIA).

Rafizi is assuredly voicing the suspicions and frustrations of countless Malaysians who are fed up with chronic corruption, dishonesty and abuse of the public trust, backed by crisp investigative work and evidence. 

The authenticity of what he has disclosed is not being challenged; he is prosecuted only for releasing certain private information to the public domain.

Does law enforcement serve private or public interest? Will voices that confront power be guaranteed space for a fair hearing? Will they be muffled by legal proceedings, or gagged by official urgings to quietly report misdeeds committed by people in power to the not entirely independent authorities (like the MACC) which report to the people in power?

We wait to see the trial of this curious summoning of the otherwise mundane BAFIA law. Other moves by the government, though, show hints of creeping state control and arbitrary power over peoples’ voices.

The amendments to Section 114A of the Evidence Act, passed in April and gazetted on July 31, outline multiple and breathtakingly loose ways persons or persons in disguise can be “presumed” guilty of publishing or re-publishing content, “unless the contrary is proved”. 

Kim Jong-Un and other despots might want to take note. No confessions need to be extracted; presumption takes care of business.

Of course there is lots of nonsense, malice and slander out there, especially on the Internet. 

Just as there is plenty of lively conversation and constructive debate, plus credible exposés of corruption, fraud and dubious features of the electoral roll. But there are far better and fairer ways to sift through the messy mix than by spooking any party associated with any posted comment with the threat of being presumed guilty unless proven innocent.

Access to information and protection of informants, especially where it serves the public good, requires a legal mandate. 

Over 80 countries around the world have instituted freedom of information laws. Public documents are the main focus, but in some countries the law also binds private companies involved with government contracts or licences.

Among the usual suspects are high income regions of Europe, North America, and Northeast Asia. But there are also upper middle types like Brazil and Mexico. 

It’s clearly possible for countries at similar levels of development as ours to broaden the right to seek information, as well as to express opinions.

Selangor under Pakatan has made a start, with a significant but limited freedom of information law. 

Under the BN administration at the federal level - where it really matters -  this remains one Janji Dinanti.


 Selangor Times



Also by Lee Hwok Aun:

Voting by manifesto

I REALLY want to compare two election manifestos, but as I write only one exists.

The bounteous taking before generous giving

Sunnier days for workers?

Guarantee or speculation?

COME Dec 31, if Planet Earth continues orbiting the sun and twirling on its axis, 2012 will run its full term.

Dr Syed Husin – Justice For All

Don’t address him YB. If there is one who deserves to be honoured by us the rakyat, it’s him. But Dr Syed Husin Ali prefers not to be called Yang Berhormat, especially outside of the parliamentary chambers where he is Senator. You will not find a whiff of false modesty in his words. 

Education blueprint falls short

At last, some official confession of how bad things really are in our schools. 

Poser over NEP exit

Are we ready to exit the New Economic Policy?

Stop bullying tactics

Is Vision 2020 delusionary?

Looks like Vision 2020 is riding back into the limelight. With elections around the corner, as they have been for about a year, and destiny’s date now just eight years away, UMNO-BN fires a cocktail canister of pleas: so little time, so much to do, and only they will get us there, only they know how. It almost brings tears to my eyes, tears of…

Good conduct Bill for MPs?

Let’s say we table a Members of Parliament Proper Conduct Bill, and inserted sub-section 15(4) of the current Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA) Amendment Bill. Why not? Both are institutions meant to pursue truth and generate debate.

Minimum wage still in infancy

It looks like we are rather conscious these days of lowly incomes and lofty inequalities.

What educational reform?

You might think, as we get closer to the promised reforms to the University and University Colleges Act (UUCA), that public authorities and education institutions would want to show some change of heart and mind. Think again.

Why settle for minimum wage?

THE lowest- paid workers in Selangor’s state agencies stand to gain from a wage boost next year. The state government’s recently announced RM1,500 minimum wage moves us in a fair and progressive direction.

Landing softly, hardly taking off

So the teaching of maths and science in English, and acronym of the year PPSMI, has been piloted to a soft landing. There’s a bit for all interested parties in the final give and take.

Malaysia should focus on education

2011 will have to go down as the year of the occupied square. The Occupy Wall Street month-long encampment at Zuccotti Park in Manhattan follows a motif painted from Tunis’ Kasbah Square to Cairo’s Tahrir Square, among the more epic places of revolutionary gathering.

Subversion and division

A subversive document lies before me. Brazenly, some Malaysians think “only those countries that undertook a systematic programme to transform the underlying structure of their economies … were able to rise from middle-income status to become high-income countries”. And these people say we should do likewise.

Whither BN’s logic?

When Nick Leeson, the infamous rogue trader, was convicted in 1995, his lines of defensce did not include “I lost money, how could I have committed fraud?” When professional cyclist Bernard Kohl was found guilty of doping in the Tour de France, he did not plead: “I didn’t win the race, how could I have cheated?”

Wither minimum wage bill?

In my last column I wrote about our rush to meet grandiose targets and end up with partial or delusional solutions. Right on cue, Datuk Seri Idris Jala disclosed on April 26 that Pemandu is expecting do deliver a modus operandi and quantum of minimum wage by the end of this year.

Country in a hurry

We are a country in a hurry: we want high-income status by 2020. We are also a KPI-driven nation: we speedily devise and monitor a litany of key performance indicators. And we are an ambitious lot: we set high targets and want fast results.

Malaysia’s "Me, too!" mentality

Murderously deforested Sarawak goes to their state polls soon. The world remains transfixed on the frenzy to cool down Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi power plants. And the Malaysian government refuses to impose a moratorium on its plans for nuclear energy.

The right answers or the right questions?

Did you hear a collective groan last week, emitting from the likes of Pantai Dalam, Serdang and Bangi? It's back to the semester grind for students at Universiti Malaya, Universiti Putra, Universiti Kebangsaan, and Malaysia's public universities and their now synchronised calendars.











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