Over the past weeks, two separate pro-establishment Facebook pages have made attacks against the new Malaysian government for seemingly frivolous reasons.
One example is a meme posted on the 23 May by Shut down TRS, questioned whether cutting the pay of “already low” Ministers would encourage even more corruption.
Despite such an allegation, the page could not show any evidence of kickbacks by the new adminstration, or that the new administration was more inclined to accept kickbacks.
A day later, Fabrication About The PAP, a Facebook fanpage that supports the People’s Action party, posted the second meme allegedly quoted the current Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad as saying that he had received 40 horses as gifts.
Separately, the Pakatan Harapan manifesto also sought to increase Malaysia’s place in the Corruption Perception Index to the Top 10.
Such attacks come amidst hopes that Singapore can build a strong relationship with Malaysia. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had said that he hoped to build a constructive relationship with the new Malaysian government.
After meeting Mahathir on the 19th May – which he described as “warm and fruitful” – PM Lee said that he hoped to continue the regular retreats that the Prime Ministers of Singapore and Malaysia have been holding. He added that he looked forward to receiving the Malaysian leader at the ASEAN summit in November.
New Malaysian government sets new standards for transparency and accountability
As the fanpages make their groundless criticisms, the new Malaysian government moves on to set new standards in terms of transparency and accountability.
Last Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said that the Pakatan Harapan coalition will require all its Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Members of Parliament to declare their assets. Seeking to distinguish themselves from Najib’s unexplained wealth, Dr. Azizah said that it “is part of our management’s way of doing things”.
Three days later, the designate for the next Premiership said that he would be monitoring the performance of the coalition government and would seek to narrow the country’s economic gap through various policies. In the spirit of accountability to the electorate, he has urged Malaysians to be the judge for themselves and be critical of the government’s performance.
This freedom to criticize was consistent with what Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo said earlier, when he sought to repeal the fake news law implemented by the previous administration. Minister Singh said that he was “[finding] ways to improve the freedom of (the) press in the country” and is “committed to do so”.
In terms of economic reform, the new Pakatan Harapan government has also pledged to remove the 6% GST, while replacing with another tax “that is more fair and not burdensome to the people and businessmen”. To make society a more equitable place, they are also looking to introduce a pension plan for housewives while lifting minimum wages.
Institutionally, they are also seeking to remove the “Prime Minister’s power to manipulate important national institutions” while giving the Central Bank a mandate “to develop a strategy to return the ringgit to its actual potential within 3 years”.
While the results are too early to be seen, the new government looks set to improve Malaysia as a whole.
An Academic’s Perspective
Academic Donald Low, former associate dean of Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, wrote on his Facebook page to express his views on the opinions of pro-establishment individuals voiced on the development of Malaysia following the General Election.
He wrote, “Ultimately though, I think the reason many pro-Establishment people want to see the Mahathir government fail is that they seem to be doing everything that our Establishment says cannot or should not be done”.
He went on to state, “Its success would cause them cognitive dissonance and discomfort. So to preserve the coherence and consistency of their worldview, they are willing to put Singapore-Malaysia relations at risk.”