The yin-yang of political change

FOR philosophical reasons, my favourite design is the yin-yang symbol. Two "commas" interlock within a circle; one comma in black and the other in white, symbolising the positive and the negative. At the centre of the "bulbous" head of the white comma is a barely noticeable dot in black; similarly, there is a white dot within the black comma.

In my view, the symbol suggests two complementary philosophical ideas: first, balance in life is achieved by moderation instead of opting for either extreme and second, the zenith of success contains the seed of defeat while the nadir of failure also incorporates the genesis of triumph.

Likewise, Harapan leaders should balance the overwhelming need for change with the equally compelling requirement for stability.

Every policy launched by former premier Najib Abdul Razak shouldn't be jettisoned; neither should every individual appointed by the previous administration be replaced. Admittedly, many initiatives and individuals must be changed but a few may be worth retaining; the critical issue is how to differentiate between the worthy and the unworthy. That the head of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, the secretary-general of the Ministry of Finance and the attorney-general have been speedily sidelined is commendable.

More thought, however, should be given before accepting the resignation of individuals like Tan Sri Shahrir Samad.

Since his appointment as chairman of the Federal Land Development Authority in January last year, Shahrir improved significantly corporate governance and management in Felda.

Similarly, all mega contracts – including those involving foreign countries like China plus those wholly Malaysian – should be scrutinised to ensure the benefits are commensurate with the considerable costs. No exception should be made for state government projects like massive land reclamation, building an undersea tunnel and million-dollar transport projects.

Worldwide, the bedrock of businesses is the certainty offered by mutually-agreed contracts. If Harapan uses legislative fiat to terminate contracts without regard to contractual terms, investors – both local and foreign – could be troubled.

Putrajaya must weigh the cost of terminating these agreements and paying compensation – even if the amount is deemed unfair and could be financially prohibitive – against unilateral revocation that could jeopardise this country's standing among investors. Another Najib legacy is Zhejiang Geely Holding Group's involvement as shareholder and in managing Proton, Mahathir's brainchild. Despite receiving RM13.9 billion in grants and other assistance, including taxes foregone, from the government, the national carmaker's sales last year totalled 72,290 units – less than one-third the 207,110 cars sold by second national car Perodua.

At a time when Putrajaya needs to count its ringgit, a balance must be struck between nationalistic pride and financial imperatives.

In contrast, two incidents suggest a change in mindset is badly needed.

One is Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Osman Sapian's assertion the state government will deny funding to BN state assemblymen because of financial constraints.

Sapian's view was challenged by Muar MP Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman who said BN assemblymen should be funded to provide a strong check and balance.

Equally welcome was Bersatu president and home minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin's directive to Sapian to rectify his refusal to provide funds for the state opposition and his suggestion the state provide funds for assemblymen to set up service centres to help their constituents.

Syed Saddiq and Muhyiddin's views encapsulate one fact Sapian has overlooked. State funds don't belong to Pakatan but are sourced from taxpayers and should be available to all. As Muhyiddin said "no one will be punished for his political ideology".

Sapian's intemperate view underscores the crucial need to ensure individuals appointed as ministers, mentris besar, exco members, heads of government institutions and government-linked entities aren't BN clones with old mindsets.

Another example where change is needed is Pakatan's continuing acceptance of crossovers from Umno. To form the state government in Perak and Sabah, Pakatan needed additional support from a few BN assemblymen. Pakatan should stop boosting its tally of assemblymen and MPs.

Encouraging defections from Umno is deleterious for two reasons – it will nurture a culture of party-hopping and encourage dictatorial tendencies within Pakatan leaders. If major legislative changes are necessary, this should be done through persuasion campaigns rather than political dominance in the legislature.

If the public agrees or rejects a proposed policy, it is inconceivable lawmakers will disregard the wishes of their constituents.

As Pakatan seeks to transform Malaysia's political, economic and social landscape, may I offer American theologian Dr Reinhold Niebuhr's amended Serenity Prayer?

"May God grant Pakatan politicians the serenity to accept the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things they can, and wisdom to know the difference."

Opinions in this article are the personal views of the writer and should not be attributed to any organisation. Feedback: siokchoo@thesundaily.com