So Parliament has been dissovled.
And Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi has got off to the worst possible start over something as critical as the date for the dissolution of the Federal Parliament to pave the way for the 12th General Election.
It was only yesterday that he denied that Parliament would be dissolved today. I mean, how can Malaysians trust such a leader?
This was the Malaysiakini report yesterday:
PM: No Parliament dissolution tomorrow
Feb 12, 08 9:50pm
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi today dismissed speculations that the Parliament would be dissolved tomorrow to pave way for the general election.
“No, not tomorrow,” he told reporters after attending a function at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia this evening.
He also dispelled the media’s queries if tomorrow’s cabinet meeting would be the last one before the election is called.
“What makes you think it’s going to be the last cabinet meeting?” he asked.
“The cabinet meeting will go on, go on and go on. You are the smart aleck, you all enjoy circulating the rumours,” he said with a smile.
Abdullah and Najib did not look as if they were brimming with confidence at the press conference.
So why did the PM do it now? In my book, it all boils down to money i.e. the state of the economy.
Apart from the Anwar factor, Abdullah must feel that the longer he waits for the polls, the worse the economy is likely to get – especially in the light of the US sub-prime financial crisis, which has snowballed into a full-blown economic crisis that could lead to banks going under in the West and bond insurers collapsing. This could lead to a prolonged recession – or even depression – in the United States, in turn affecting Malaysian exports to the United States. The United States accounts for a fifth of Malaysian exports.
Oh, and they are probably itching to raise the oil price!
Since Penang is supposed to be a “front-line” state, here is something for the Prime Minister and the Penang Chief Minister to chew on. It’s a letter from Ahmad Chik of the PGCC Campaign Group:
I refer to Goh Ban Lee’s very timely column in today’s Sun.
As a concerned Penang citizen I agree entirely with his views. No city in Malaysia needs local plans more than George Town, and yet for over 20 years this fundamental planning requirement has been delayed for one excuse or another. This omission amounts to nothing less than a failure of the state and local governments, and has had serious consequences: deterioration of the quality of life, unsustainable developments, destruction of valuable heritage enclaves, traffic congestion, loss of property owners’ rights and conflicts, leading to serious social and political problems.
The PGCC Campaign Group is extremely concerned and has made a strong appeal to the MPPP to impose a moratorium of all major developments in Penang until local plans have been gazetted. A post-card and letter writing campaign will be launched soon and we would invite other concerned groups to support us. We would also invite all prospective candidates for the coming election to take a stand on this important issue.
It is rumoured that local plans for Penang are in the works, but the process, which by law should be open and transparent, is shrouded in mystery and opacity. The public has not been consulted, does not know who is responsible or the status of the plans.
At this crucial time the public has to be kept informed, and as a start we would urge the MPPP President or YB Dato Teng Hock Nam, the EXCO member for local government, to make a comprehensive statement to clarify the situation as soon as possible.
Malaysians should ask their political parties to state their position on such local plans. More than that, we should demand the return of local council elections so that our councillors can be held accountable to the public.
Apart from this, Malaysian workers must also ask the various parties what their stand is on the trade unions’ call for a minimum wage to be introduced. Remember, the MTUC has called for a minimum wage of RM900 and a cost of living allowance of RM300. Don’t talk about wiping out poverty when you can’t even introduce a minimum wage to stop the exploitation of workers.
The rising price of food and health care, the crime rate and freedom of religion are the major issues that Malaysians are concerned about. Some of these issues can be traced to the model of development we have pursued that emphasises top-down economic planning and the “liberalisation” of markets, which are increasingly dominated by huge corporations and wealthy shareholders. It is a model that has led to weaker protection of workers, thus widening the gap between the rich and the poor. It is also a system that promotes the exports of cash crops – displacing many farmers and smallholders – rather than organic, traditional farming of essential foodstuffs for the population.
But are the opposition parties capable of looking at alternative models of economic development – or are they too beholden to the deceptive lure of corporate-led globalisation (as opposed to people-centred globalisation)?