Saturday, June 22, 2013

Government rules, opposition checks

Friday June 21, 2013

NOW that the general election is over, the Cabinet appointed and Parliament to be sworn in next week, it’s perhaps a good time for us to reflect on what government means.
I say this because there still seems to be a lack of clear understanding of the roles and functions of government, along with those of the opposition.
I refer in particular to misguided statements from various quarters to the tune that certain areas are being neglected or under-developed because they are now represented by opposition members and that only Barisan Nasional can bring development.
Some go further to say that the opposition cannot build roads or schools or hospitals, it cannot deliver or implement any projects and it has no funds to allocate to constituencies — in short, it cannot do anything.
Such statements point to a wrong understanding of what the government and opposition do.
It is not the job of the opposition to carry out development projects or give out funds. Simply put, their role is to provide checks and balances in Parliament and state legislative assemblies, by giving voice to dissenting views and alternative proposals to government policies and programmes which, to them, are flawed or do not serve the public interest.
They do this by debating in Parliament and bringing up issues of concern to their constituents. Of course, as all elected representatives must do, they also have to serve their constituents to the best of their ability.
On the other hand, it is the government’s job to introduce and implement policies as well as development plans. It’s misguided to say that only Barisan can bring development, because that is what the government is supposed to do. It would be more accurate to say that the government can — and must — bring development, not just to selected areas where their candidates won but to the whole country, regardless of how people voted.
Those who lament that opposition-held constituencies will now be left out of development are missing the point. If indeed these areas are being neglected, the question they should be asking is why the government has no plans or funds for them.
Furthermore, since “only Barisan can bring development” and Barisan is now the government of the day, why is it then not fulfilling this particular promise?
Sarawak PKR chairman Baru Bian put it well last week when he said Barisan representatives should not blame the opposition for the lack of development in rural constituencies because it is the government’s responsibility to provide development.
Baru, who was elected Ba’Kelalan assemblyman in the 2011 state election, was responding to a call by Lawas MP Datuk Henry Sum Agong for Barisan to wrest back Ba’Kelalan from PKR in the next election.
Ba’Kelalan and Bukit Sari are the two state seats which make up the Lawas parliamentary seat.
Sum had said that Barisan must win back Ba’Kelalan or it would remain as a backwater.
“The villagers will continue to suffer as those outsiders who made the loudest noise (during the polls) to get the people to oppose Barisan are now gone and back in the comfort of their towns,” he was reported as saying.
But Baru pointed out that Sum, as a Barisan MP, was in the government along with his other Barisan colleagues.
“If there is any neglect of the area by the government, they should be blaming their own representatives,” he said. “Barisan has been the government for the last 50 years. Any neglect then and in the coming five years should fall squarely on Barisan.
“As the government of the day, Barisan is now responsible for bringing development rather than blaming everything on the opposition.”
Indeed, if opposition representatives were to start sourcing development funds to build roads and schools, they might as well be in government because they would be doing the government’s job.
When politicians spread this misconception that only Barisan can bring development, they do a disservice to their constituents by perpetrating a wrong understanding of government.
Worse still, it could be construed as a form of intimidation or blackmail, particularly among rural voters who lack political awareness to see through the misconception that development will be delayed or withheld if they do not vote for a certain party.
To deny development on the grounds of how people voted is completely unjustifiable. This is something no responsible and well-meaning government would do.
If you really care for the people’s interests and welfare above and beyond their votes, and if you see yourself as a just and accountable government, you would provide development equitably across the nation and especially in the areas that need it most, and whether the people there voted for you or not should be the least of your considerations.
~ The Star

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