democracyMAY 18 — If Pakatan Harapan (PH) was serious about reform, it would immediately assure all Opposition representatives and Opposition-held states that they would receive fair and equal allocations of funds, even if Barisan Nasional (BN) refused to do so in the past.

This would remove any need for BN representatives to defect to PH, ostensibly for the purpose ofserving their constituents.

The previous PKR-DAP-PAS administration in Selangor in the past term allocated some funds to Opposition assemblymen (RM200,000 annually), even though it was over three times less than allocations for government assemblymen (RM700,000 to RM800,000). Government-linked constituency co-ordinators in Opposition constituencies received RM500,000.

The DAP administration in Penang also previously gave allocations to Opposition state assemblymen. But BN representatives in both Selangor and Penang had rejected them, likely because the BN federal government had state development offices in Pakatan (and other) states under the Prime Minister’s Department that could undertake development work, which sometimes clashed with state government’s local planning.

The assurance from the state governments of PenangKedah and Johor that Opposition representatives would get some allocations is welcome.

However, all elected representatives should receive equal allocations because the money does not belong to the government; it comes from taxpayers of all stripes, including those who voted for the Opposition and non-voters.

The solution is also not to divert some of the funds away from Opposition assemblymen to constituency “co-ordinators” appointed by the state government. Decisions on resources should be made by elected representatives, not by government appointees.

States, including BN and PAS-held ones, should also receive a fair amount of federal funding, depending on their need and the amount of tax they contribute.

PH must avoid the old BN politics of patronage and focus instead on crafting a specific ideology to retain voter support beyond the 14th general election. PH should also decentralise power to all state governments to keep the federal government in check.

Umno and BN are floundering now because they never bothered creating a race-blind party philosophy and had made their access to resources as federal government their main selling proposition.

If Umno and BN state and federal representatives receive equal allocations, then the party and coalition (whatever’s left of it) can figure out what they stand for and represent the people accordingly.

To make Malaysia a better functioning democracy, PH will have to cede some power, even if it means possibly losing the subsequent election because of a more empowered and demanding electorate.

That means avoiding shortcuts and following due process when it comes to things like pardon hearings for convicts, or replacing the heads of crucial institutions like the Attorney-General, Chief Justice, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), or the Election Commission (EC).

It’s fine if they resign on their own, but if they do not quit, they must be given a fair hearing and there must be just cause for any sacking. If complicity in corruption is suspected, it must first be investigated.

Top-ranking civil servants cannot simply be sacked based on the mere perception that they favoured the previous administration. There must be evidence of wrongdoing.

Hopefully, as Malaysia goes through the next five years, the country would have matured so that top civil servants remain apolitical and can keep their positions even if the government changes again.

PH should also resist the urge to appoint their friends from civil society to head the institutions meant to keep a check on their government.

As qualified as some of these activists are, openly stumping on the campaign trail for PH means that they are no longer neutral and may be reluctant to take tough measures, if needed, against their friends in power.

This is not the time for citizens to sit back and let the new PH government work out its kinks. Like everything else in life, there will be a tendency to follow old ways, simply because they may not know what to do.

So Malaysians must constantly keep the new government in check and demand the protection of their interests and rights every day until the next general election.

This is how we ensure true change; not by replacing one political master with another, but by reminding the government that they are our servants.