Get set for constitutional reforms

WITH a full Cabinet to be announced by July 2, the next order of business for Pakatan Harapan would be to convene Parliament and push for reforms with a mandate granted by the people.

The first session of Parliament for the Pakatan government will take place in the middle of July, and there are a slew of reforms promised that should be the priority. With Sabah and Sarawak lawmakers now out of the Barisan Nasional, it is possible for the Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad-led government to get the two-thirds majority required to amend the Federal Constitution.

That being said, reforming the laws as read in the Buku Harapan, as well as constitutional reforms to make government appointees answerable to Parliament, can be achieved in this "new Malaysia".

From abolishing the laws allowing detention without trial, usurping the power of the king to declare an emergency, restricting the freedom of the press, to the reintroduction of local council elections within three years, most of this are now on the table for the next session.

There is also the need to consider who is the head of Opposition and whether or not this new government will actually give him or her an allowance as mentioned in the PH manifesto.

At the same time, amending the EPF law to allow deductions for housewives can also be introduced in the new session. However, there are a few more bills pending approval.

First, the anti-racism bill, which was put aside after years of study, is still pending. Similarly, a bill on political financing reform never saw the light of day. Regulations on crypto-currencies must also be looked at seeing how the Bitcoin boom has now gone bust.

A lot of reforms have been promised from the legislative side that will probably take two sessions to pass, and even longer to implement. Of course, two sessions could extend to three or even four, if Pakatan keeps to its word to allow extended periods for proper debate.

A lot has happened without a full Cabinet thus far, or even a parliamentary hearing in terms of appointees, which some will look at as a breach of Pakatan's manifesto. Perhaps it was a necessary evil that may be corrected in time with proper amendments to the Federal Constitution.

That being said, the ball is now in Barisan Nasional's court to do what Pakatan couldn't from the opposition benches: to form a shadow cabinet. This should be done once Umno settles its general assembly and presidential election.

While Umno is going through a reform phase that has seen a radical conservative win its youth wing leadership and proposing the concept of religious oaths to stymie the outflow of parliamentarians switching sides, it is clear that whatever party reforms might be a shift further to the right rather than towards moderation.

This seems in line with its delegates' desire to cooperate with PAS rather than the wish of Khairy Jamaluddin to become more liberal and open up Umno to all races. Meanwhile, the silence from PAS over what the party is going to do is deafening.

In Kedah, PAS is dealing with Pakatan to elect a speaker for the state assembly. This seems to showcase the party's ability to work with anyone and claim independence from either side even with allegations of donations.

The bottom line is this – the nation is still divided and the change of government with promises of reform needs continued public scrutiny, lest it stalls due to either infighting or a total regression due to the outspoken conservative side gaining a louder voice.

Either way, it is clear that come mid-July, BN will be asked about its shadow cabinet and Pakatan will come under pressure to fulfil its pledge on reforms. PAS and lawmakers from Sabah and Sarawak will be the kingmakers to determine whether those reforms come to pass.

For myself, I'm just waiting for the RM100 monthly rail pass to ensure a faster commute into the city compared to the increased traffic congestion expected with the boom in car sales triggered by the zero-rated goods and services tax.

Hafidz Baharom is a public relations practitioner. Comment: letters@thesundaily.com