Victory only marks a new struggle

Posted by SM Maulana
Tuesday, 17 June 2008

by Pauline Puah

KUALA LUMPUR: The shocking news that they had wrested control of a state from Barisan Nasional (BN) on the evening of March 8 has not faded away, but already a new struggle is playing out for the Pakatan Rakyat assemblyman in Selangor.

They are just beginning to find out how inconvenient it is to govern a state without the full cooperation of its civil servants.

“In my case, only two files were left in my office. So, our learning curve is very steep… A lot of the time, we have to be guided by common sense,” said Ronnie Liu, the executive councillor who oversees local government, research and development.

“A handful of government servants or government-linked company officers are not very cooperative with the new government because of their political inclination. Some of them are still under the pressure of the previous government,” he said.

Liu said on one occasion when the state government wanted to invite an open tender for a project, a civil servant, without reference to the Exco concerned, advertised that the project was only for bumiputeras.

“But when I double-checked, the project was not for bumiputeras only… They sabotaged us. They don’t give us the information. So, we need to be firm and persistent,” said the Pandamaran state assemblyman.

An aide to another Selangor state exco said he found it very hard to source for information from some civil servants. “Even if I used my boss’ name to ask for certain information, they either just ignore me or take a very long time to sort out a simple thing,” he lamented.

After denying BN a two-thirds majority in parliament, Pakatan Rakyat is eager to show the people that it offers a better government, at least at the state level.

And in Selangor, Liu said the new government wanted to move forward as much as possible. “But it is only possible if we have a system that has been overhauled,” he told The Edge Financial Daily recently.

Dr Ariffin Omar, associate professor of political science at Universiti Utara Malaysia, noted that the Pakatan Rakyat state governments had been trying to discontinue BN policies that were seen as anti-rakyat.

“Giving land titles, grants, improving basic services and ensuring that there is some degree of transparency are what they have done,” he said via email.

He said the new state governments could only move forward swiftly “when the mess created by the former BN state governments has been cleared up”.

“Going forward is only possible if the way is clear, but land issues and previous policies still in place that retard any progress must be dealt with,” he said.

Responding to criticisms by the previous state government that the new government was only capable of finding fault, Liu said the state Excos had to administer from “zero”.

Ariffin advised Pakatan Rakyat assemblymen to make more attempts to meet the people and discuss their needs.

“Penang, for example, needs a truly efficient public transport service. Trash collection has to be improved, water supply adequate, and government departments must be more people-friendly,” he said.

He added that it was still early to judge the performance of the new state governments. “But it is clear that so far, they have been careful to ensure that the policies they implement do not antagonise the rakyat,” he said.

While the Pakatan Rakyat state governments need more time to prove their worth, they should always be mindful of how the people abandoned BN at the last general election.

“Malaysians are now willing to take political risks in order to look for new ways of improving the political atmosphere in the country,” Ariffin noted.

The Edge Daily

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