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Mar 12, 2008

Proud to be Selangorian


I cannot help this feeling. These past few days, I have been feeling a greater sense of pride with my home state, than I have for a long time. For pretty obvious reasons.

I am proud firstly of my Sultan. Tuanku has already impressed me immensely with his previous actions - in investigating the state of the Firefly colony of Kuala Selangor and hauling (Allahyarham) Zakaria Deros up for an audience over his various controversial matters. I am also proud of the fact that he takes a keen personal interest in matters such as constitutional law - he attended the lecture by US Supreme Court Justice Kennedy alongside the host, Sultan Azlan Shah of Perak.

And now, I am proud of him because he has moved with caution over the appointment of the next State Government. His decision to interview the heads of the three parties forming the new coalition shows that he has given the matter a great deal of thought. After all, we are talking about three parties which have never governed Selangor before, of which two (PKR and DAP) have no experience governing any state at all. While some of the PKR people were part of the establishment, they had long since left and have had to operate with a machinery far less lavish than that of the BN. And the three have never worked together on any level more serious than campaigning for one another and divvying up seats so that there would be no three-way fights. He has every reason to be concerned about how the people charged with managing our state will go about their business together.

Coupled with these concerns is that obvious fact that these guys had never actually expected to take control after Saturday. Fair enough that they did have some plans about how to operate together, but I suspect that most of it was more rhetorical than concrete, since they hardly felt likely to be putting them into action. Well, like it or not, it's showtime.

I am proud of my fellow Selangorians for making an unexpected choice. Granted, most, if not all, of us had not expected so many of us to vote the way we did together. That is why we - BN and 'Opposition' politicians and members, pundits and journalists, foreign observers and us the ordinary man on the street - were as surprised as we were. Whether or not the surprise was a good one or not depends on your point of view. Some are elated, some dejected, and some feel like mice scampering off the sinking ship.

In hindsight, I think the decision to be more good than bad. It has demonstrated beyond doubt that we are ready to become an ordinary democratic nation, in the sense that a different party could in fact take office peacefully. It was a transition that we probably had to have some day. Just as Mexico finally shrugged off the decades-long dominance of the PRI recently, we too are on the verge of doing so. Note that I am not saying that the new state administrations will necessarily be good for certain. That part, only time would tell.

I think, as far as Selangor is concerned, there is another reason why this has turned out to be an unexpectedly good outcome. We have probably traded in a dentist with limited experience in administration work and rather bad English for a former CEO of a major corporation for Menteri Besar. On paper, at least, that seems to me to be a good trade. And he has made tremendously progressive (but feasible) sounds in his first few days - openness in government records, regular press briefings on the state of the state. Now, of course, he will have to walk the talk.

Many of the other members of the State Assembly also appear to be pretty promising. Although young, most are highly educated, aware of wider issues apart from those functional matters such as drainage, roadworks and public amenities, and willing to work hard, speak up and be there for the people. I expect much from this team. Despite the fact that Selangor will probably have to fight with the Federal government for its rights to its own resources, and for an equitable share of what the Federation collects on behalf of all of its citizens, I expect this state to thrive as it never has before. I expect this because we now have people who have said that they will work harder and smarter than the previous administration, and they have won their offices because we believed them.

It is ironic that the BN has been bundled out the way they have been. Because it would have been so easy for them to retain this state. All they really ever needed to do was perform the jobs that they were charged with. Fixing public amenities is just the tip of the iceberg. They had to be there for legal reform (many of our laws are actually ordinances and enactments from the British era, which I find somewhat humiliating since they remain the law of our land so many years after independence), equitable distribution of resources and ensuring totally efficient government service for all. They should have operated with probity and humility. They would also have been expected to speak up regularly against various injustices and wrongs. Tiada pilih kasih.

And so the net effect is that we are out on our own as never before since perhaps 1969. And even that for only a brief moment. One thing that many probably would not have noticed is that we are now more autonomous than ever before. The past two Menteri Besars had more or less been appointed by the Prime Minister from ranks of the UMNO state representatives. Now, we have one who is selected from amongst the leaders of the state PKR, with the support of DAP and PAS. We will have to defend our own state ourselves, and assert state rights as never before wherever they might need to be asserted. Since our MB no longer answers to Putrajaya, we will inevitably be more autonomous than we have been since the British came!

My expectation for my home state alone is that we should be better off in 4-5 years time than we are right now. I expect better traffic conditions, less and lower tolls, a more open and efficient state administration, better schools and hospitals, a fuller state coffer, better town planning, better environmental controls through transparent development procedures and cleaner air. I expect busways, walkways, bike paths, a move towards lower emission vehicles and a move towards real renewable energy use. I hope to see more investments not only in manufacturing but also in R&D, agri-horticulture, media/arts and financial services sectors. We shall lead the nation and not merely struggle to cope with whatever comes our way.

I do not say the same of the other states further north because, to be frank, I do not feel as positive about those places, for various reasons. But let us watch them all show us.


Anonymous said...

yes...ppl of selangor had made changes...but i dun think that the new state gov could lower toll rates , etc..as this is under fed gov concern.

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