Thursday, August 21, 2014

Selangor: In self-destruct or restart mode?

wan azizah300
In weeks past, the coalition partners in Pakatan Rakyat (PR) were forced to push either one of two buttons – “self-destruct” or “restart”.

Although PAS suggested two names to be forwarded to the Sultan (as Selangor Menteri Besar candidates), the coalition’s partners made a clear stand to present only one.
It was a journey marred by anger, frustration and bruised egos. It was also a period of painful “detoxification” where basic core values were revisited and fresh agreements reached.

The Selangor crisis nearly degenerated into that of the Perak crisis with the possibility of PAS and Barisan Nasional joining forces.
If this had taken place, the Selangor government would have been at the mercy of “leaping frogs”, more than willing to sell their ideals for short term benefits.
However this period also saw the emergence of a new phenomenon – that of the “principled katak (frog)” in the form of PAS’s Saari Sungib and Hasnul Baharudin who broke ranks with their party to stand with their coalition partners in support of Wan Azizah as Menteri Besar (MB).
Where do Selangorians stand in all this? Many are disinterested and disheartened. Does it matter whether BN or Pakatan wins?
In between elections, we citizens are non-entities to be ignored as politicians battle to consolidate their own personal agendas and secure party positions.
We are the proverbial pelanduk in “Gajah sama gajah berjuang, pelanduk mati di tengah-tengah” (elephants fight and the deer caught in the middle, dies.)
Thankfully, there are also principled politicians who care for the people and put the people’s interests first even when doing so jeopardises their personal party positions.
These two politicians are a rare breed and stand as a credit to PAS, making up for their party’s delayed reaction to the MB crisis.
Pending the Sultan’s consent, we can look forward to the first woman MB.
A change in leadership style
Many are concerned Wan Azizah will bring an unfamiliar leadership style flawed by her lack of experience.
But what about the impact of Khalid’s leadership style?
  1. Being tight-fisted, he accumulated RM3 billion in reserves. This is only good if he invests this money in projects that attract additional value-added activities so Selangor can address the issue of poverty in the state.
  2. The hoarding of money while ignoring the needs of Selangorians is wrong. Poor public transportation, poverty, high dengue cases and poor garbage collection is made worse by local councillors who are repeatedly under spending.
  3. An over-confident attitude has led to an increasingly autocratic management style where unilateral decisions are preferred.
Albert Einstein once said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them”.
We live in a world that is increasingly complex where one unattended problem is interconnected to other problems.
If left unattended, it will fester into societal wounds that may take ages to solve. Poverty if left unchecked, will result in increased crime, which will in turn discourage investments.
The management style of Azizah
Being a first-timer is an advantage as she will probably be humble enough to seek feedback from her Exco before making a decision.
Pakatan has less than three years to prove they have the interests of Selangorians at heart.
Catchphrases like “Ini Kali Lah” will not influence voters anymore. The public will start to vote for principled politicians rather than their political parties.
Their performance records will be more important than their ceremonial roles as words give way to structural, institutionalised changes.
Important changes that must be achieved within the first year include the following:
1. The institutionalisation of Local Agenda 21 (a programme aimed at implementing sustainable development at the local level) to ensure proper public participation and continuous feedback from Selangorians.
2. The empowerment of Excos and ADUNs to carry out their respective portfolios by engaging with their constituents.
3. The insistence that all Excos and ADUNs demonstrate an attitude of servitude.
4. Increased commitment to the portfolio of Local Government.
5. The guarantee that all Exco portfolios are synergised instead of operating in silos.
6. The commitment to seek public feedback.
7. The insistence that all political party members maintain a record of community engagement and allow promotions and appointments based on proven track records.
8. The revamping of the local councillors’ appointment system to be more merit based.
9. The empowerment of civil society to nominate their own councillors for the NGO quota without interference from local politicians.
10. The implementation of local council elections within two years.
11. The commitment to keep track of service delivery chains to ensure all people along the chain work in a holistic manner.
The final result would be that most, if not all, problems in Selangor will be solved through an efficient system by the local council.
Are we ready to press the “reset” button now?
Jeff Phang is a FMT reader.

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