|Using wisdom to chart Malaysia's course|
|Sunday, 27 January 2013 09:37am|
©The New Straits Times (Used by permission)
by A. Jalil Hamid and Yushaimi Yahaya
WORK-IN-PROGRESS: It's a tough job but somebody's got to do it. Having held the unenviable portfolio of the home minister under challenging circumstances for the past four years, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein has, by his own admission, weathered many a storm in carrying out his obligations. He is not ruffled by attempts to rhetorically deride the government. The transformation brought about in the last four years will do the talking for the government of the day, he argues. Here, in the first part of a two-instalment interview, he candidly shares his thoughts on the country's Political Transformation Programmes exclusively with A. Jalil Hamid and Yushaimi Yahaya.
DEFYING a persistent torrent of criticism, the Political Transformation Programme (PTP) has implemented positive changes and results that even the fiercest of detractors would have a hard time rebuking.
For Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, who heads the operational aspects of the programme's implementation, the changes brought about by the programme would be the best initiative to counter misrepresentations and wild accusations levelled against the government.
"A lot has been done in the past but no one has articulated it. Closer to the general election, there are a lot of accusations hurled at the government," he said.
"While the picture is clear on the achievements of the Government Transformation Programme and Economic Transformation Programme, there has been no real effort to articulate the PTP's achievements."
The time is right to share the government's efforts, said the Sembrong member of parliament, looking resplendent in his blue baju Melayu at the interview at his Putrajaya office on Friday.
Hishammuddin, the son of Malaysia's third prime minister Tun Hussein Onn, said he would reveal more details in a series of interviews lined up with the New Sunday Times.
"Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had initiated changes under the PTP that were both 'bold and precise'. These are brave moves considering the new landscape of politics, not only in our country but everywhere else in the world."
He said the abolishment of many archaic laws under the programmes, including the much-maligned Internal Security Act, for example, was a commitment by the government to act responsibly for the sake of all Malaysians.
"Wisdom has guided our decisions in the nation's transformation. It is also pertinent to note that this is work-in-progress.
"The progress made must be communicated to the public in a transparent manner without fear or favour as we move forward."
Hishammuddin, who is also Umno vice-president, explained that due consideration had been given to strike a balance between national interest and rights, as well as between national security and freedom at all times as part of the nation's transformation.
Such considerations, he said, had led the government to abolish and review laws such as the ISA, the Emergency Proclamations of 1966, 1969 and 1977; Banishment Act 1959, Restricted Residence Act 1933, Printing Presses and Publication Act 1984 and Section 27 of the Police Act 1967.
The last legislation was replaced by the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012.
He said the government would also look at the effectiveness of the new laws introduced to replace the old laws.
This, he said, would also include the Sedition Act 1948, which would be replaced by the proposed National Harmony Act, that focuses on inculcating the spirit of harmony and mutual respect in Malaysian society, which is made up of various races and religions.
On the rationale behind the PTP, Hishammuddin said this was in keeping with the changes of the internal and external political landscapes.
"There comes a time when we have to look inside and realise that we cannot continue the way we have done things for the last 55 years," he said.
"This fact has been realised all over the world, whether it is politics, economics or security. We can see it happening in the Eurozone and the Middle East, and everybody's got to find their own way to chart their course.
"Malaysia is the same. Whether the changes are adequate or not depends on the public."
Here are excerpts from the interview:
On the repeal and amendments to archaic laws:
"Just amending the laws alone is not enough. It needs a mindset change in our leadership.
"The Home Ministry, after four years, have carried out massive transformation. That is the hardest part, to change the mindset of the leadership is not easy.
"You can build the highest building in the world, you can build huge structures, you can institutions and centres but these buildings need to be filled up with leaders who understand the challenges of the future."
"We cannot use outdated laws to face new challenges. We also realised that we cannot keep archaic legislations and try to deal with the present day challenges because the public is more informed and educated.
"We are dealing a generational change. Our children cannot see the link between the emergencies of before with modern day threats."
On the ISA and emergency ordinance:
"Instead of amending the ISA, which has been demonised, rightly or wrongly after 55 years, the rights of detainees, the issue of detention without trial are all very close to the people's heart.
"Maybe there were one or two incidents but while this doesn't meant the Act was abused, these cases had tainted the ISA.
"If it had been used to counter terrorism or snuff out human smuggling, then it doesn't tantamount to abuse. But if you use it to arrest a reporter, for example, it is hard for the public to accept."
"Since the ISA had been demonised, it is pointless to keep it.
"It is the same for the emergency ordinance. It is better to look forward, look at legislations that are still relevant."
On challenges posed by the repeal or amendment of old laws:
"We see that the challenges we face today can be handled in many other ways.
"There are new laws to counter these. There has to be more professionalism on the part of the police.
"I have been working very closely to forge links with other countries to tackle these challenges.
"We have signed bilateral agreements with many countries like the UK, Australia, Saudi, Bangladesh, Singapore and soon, Thailand.
"You may wonder why the Home Ministry is involved in bilateral relations but the world is now borderless.
"Globalisation has allowed the free movements of drugs, human trafficking, smuggling of weapons, money laundering and worst of all, that of terrorists
"It is very important for us to have links with these countries, to share information with their authorities.
"We are dealing with it either at three stages of movements, namely the source, transit and destination countries.
"The issue of security must be looked at from a more holistic viewpoint, now that the present day offers cheap flights, open sky policies and fluid information movement via cyberspace.
On his role in PTP as Home Minister:
"I am thankful and grateful that we have worked very hard in the last four years. I have never worked so hard in my life.
"We realised that if we don't do something in the context of politics, we would end up like the Kuomintang in Taiwan, the Liberal Democratic Party in Japan, Golkar in Indonesia, the Indian National Congress in India.
"These four years, we have worked very hard to show the Political Transformation Programme is not only rhetoric. However, while it is a courageous move, and we are not 101 per cent certain how it's going to develop or unfold in the future, we have not chucked everything out of the window.
On the way forward:
"We've done all these in four years, and if you like it, give us four more years. We'll prove to you that this is not for fun. This is a lot of hard work.
"To hurl accusations, to sow hatred, to divide a multi-racial and multi-religion society is easy.
"It is not difficult to accuse anyone of corruption, or other abuses.
"For example, are all officers with the Selangor, Penang and Kedah governments corruption-free? I am not accusing them of such an offence but if you want to look for those who are, it would be easy.
"But we do not have the heart to sacrifice our pride, the nation that we have built together and the tolerance and respect we have for each other just to chase a position.
"Closer to the general election, there are a lot of accusations. Nobody sees what the Home Ministry has done in the last four years but through these interviews with NST, we will explain the issues and list down what we have done."
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