Sarawak inherits democracy without essence

Julian Tan

KUCHING, Dec 19: The Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) government should learn from the Perak government, especially in giving equal allocations to all constituencies, so the people will not be ‘punished’ for supporting the opposition.

Julian Tan, special assistant to Chong Chieng Jen, highlighted this in referring to the confidence and supply agreement (CSA) signed between Perak Menteri Besar Saarani Mohamad and the state opposition which marked a new political milestone of reform in the country.

“The GPS government should abandon its archaic practices of the last century. They have been running Sarawak in the most exclusive and opaque manner.

“The CSA agreement that requires the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman must be an opposition assemblyman is the beginning of check and balance, which is the essence of democratic governance we all need and can be proud of,” he emphasised in a statement today.

In depriving opposing assemblymen of constituency allocations, Tan said the government is undermining and discriminating Sarawakians of their democratic rights and voices, especially so when the opposing assemblymen were also excluded from various action committees and PAC, a practice which is observed by a healthy and progressive democratic country.

“It is only during PH (Pakatan Harapan) government time that the PAC chairman was held by the opposition to provide better check and balance on the executive’s power, (thus) effectively returning the people’s right to know and scrutinise how the government of the day spends taxpayers money. A good and clean government can withstand intense scrutiny and criticism,” he said.

But sadly after over 50 years, he added that Sarawakians have no idea how the billions of State funds were utilised or that it was tally in terms of development that should have been, pointing out that this was demonstrated when the opposition questioning the details of major state agencies such as Development Bank of Sarawak (DBOS) and Petroleum Sarawak Berhad (Petros) was turned down.

“Without transparency and check and balance, we risk wastages that otherwise could be used to fast-track the development in the State.

“Progressiveness and speedy development are only possible if the essence of democratic governance is retained; namely, accountability, check and balance. Only when a healthy democracy is in place that its citizen can be treated fairly without discrimination,” he said.

Sarawak, he continued, has inherited a democratic process of governance without the essence.

“The government of the day has basically ‘absolute power’; senators were appointed, and with no local council election, mayors were also appointed. It is no surprise that those appointed tend to sing the tune of their political master,” he added.

The old narration that seats held by the opposition parties have missed out on urban development and will not be given priority, he pointed out, was nothing but an embarrassment to Sarawakians.

“It’s the exact opposite of a progressive government that Sarawakians need. Sarawakians should not be held ransom on what is rightfully their democratic rights.

“This is one reason why in many first world countries that we envision becoming, mayors were elected by the people and not appointed as currently practiced by the GPS government. An elected mayor is the sole chief of the executive branch of the municipality.

“They are supposed to be apolitical, and this will ensure competency, transparency and accountability, which are clearly in the best interests of the people in each constituency,” he said.

Therefore, Tan added that it was not surprising that the GPS government was not supportive of the then PH government plan to proceed with the local government elections in 2021 which requires the people to vote for their mayor.

“Silencing the voice of Sarawakians and depriving us of our rights for a check and balance and the right to appoint those whom we see fit to run our cities,” he criticised. — DayakDaily