Monday, January 30

‘I promise you the moon and the stars…’

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The devil of any manifesto is in the details, says the columnist.

WELL, before the polling day on Saturday, Nov 19, 2022, many voters in Malaysia and abroad should have access to the contents of the manifestos of the various political parties and independent candidates contesting in the forthcoming general election. And the candidate wants to reach as many voters as possible within the time allowed for official canvassing for support by personal contact or any other means of communication.

He needs a platform if he is to be taken seriously.

A manifesto is a public declaration of policy and aims of a party or a candidate, addressed to the voters for their acceptance and endorsement, and for the general public who may like to keep tabs on the political developments in the country.

With certain exceptions, I’m referring to the manifestos produced and publicised by political parties and individuals in Sarawak. For the first few days since the start of the official campaign period from the nomination day, I have had access to the salient points of their manifestos only.

I am sure the details would be made available during this week. Not on time for this column this weekend.

The issues such as the state rights, the policies on the have-nots in society, on education, healthcare, agriculture, industries, Internet connection, water and electricity supplies, are either undergoing solution or put on the back burner for the time being.

Promises, promises! I wish there were concrete and specific plans of implementation of each proposal.

With regards to issues such as the restoration of state rights and interests, it is great to note that there is a meeting of minds between the Sarawak Premier and leaders in the opposition; this is truly reflecting how passionate the Sarawakians are about the restoration of their rights and interests.

Hear ye, the Sarawakians are speaking in or with one voice!

The devil of any manifesto is in the details. What I would like to see are the specific measures clearly spelt out for implementation, taking into account any adverse social and financial implications.

For example, YB Dr Kelvin Yee will push for the elder-friendly policies if his party forms the next government. That is a sound policy statement, which is practicable and implementable by a government worth its salt.

YB Lo Khere Chiang asks for autonomy for certain government departments, saying: “Although they are federal agencies, we don’t want the federal government to interfere with the running of these JKR, DID and JBALB agencies.” (The Borneo Post, Nov 9, 2022).

Candidate Phang promises to ‘fight for education autonomy to be returned to the state, so Sarawakians will have quality education’.

What about PBDS’ idea – the appointment of the TYT by rotation on an ethnicity-basis? Fresh, harmless proposal!

With the best intentions in the world, not all the promises and the pledges written into a manifesto can be implemented to the letter. Some are simply not feasible; those are promises made by the woolly-thinking character in the Malay folklore called ‘Mat Jenin’.

The proposals must be realistic and practicable, taking into consideration the constraints in terms of the availability of competent manpower, experience and expertise, technology, and not least, the political will.

The lack of political will is the stumbling block to development plans on paper.

Once a government begins to administer the affairs of the country, it need not strictly stick to the manifesto. It has to play by ear. After all, the offers of service and undertakings, even though written into the manifestos, are not like the contracts of sale and purchase the breach of which involves payment of damages or of specific performance on the part of the one who fails to carry out his part of the bargain.

So take those promises and the undertakings with some intelligent reservation – if you want to be generous, just say: “I will see when it comes.”

Or by being inquisitive: “What’s there in it for me, for the community/ locality, and for my country?”

‘An allergy’

So far, I have noticed no mention in any manifesto of any party participating in the GE15, which advocates the restoration of local government elections. I don’t know why there’s an ‘allergy’ to local government elections in Sarawak whereas it is legally possible to conduct them simultaneously with the other elections, state or federal.

The candidate who will address this issue in Parliament gets my vote.

Outstanding issues

The pressing issues of bread and butter, healthcare, education, economy, and food security have been written into election manifestos for the past 50 years.

Result? Not much, or they wouldn’t have to be repeated again and again!

A report card

There should be an independent body to monitor the progress of every development project over the period of five years, beginning with the tenure of office of a new government. Of course, there is the Planning Unit and there are other agencies to brief the government from time to time of the progress, but shortcomings are not stressed enough because the politicians in the government prefer to hear about a success story to tell to the ‘press boys’.

In the institutions of higher learning, the scholars who specialise in political science and economy talk learnedly to their counterparts; we, the ordinary mortals, don’t need to understand, it seems.