Malaysia

Reforms delayed despite looming polls

The delay in the introduction of new laws to the June parliamentary sitting suggests that polls will not be held before then. — Reuters picThe delay in the introduction of new laws to the June parliamentary sitting suggests that polls will not be held before then. — Reuters picKUALA LUMPUR, April 4 — The clock is ticking on Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s promises of reforms, with several proposals now delayed to June despite Parliament extending its current sitting by a week.

A number of legislative changes including the removal of annual print media licences, increasing the retirement age, and reorganising the People’s Volunteer Corps (RELA) are now slated for the next sitting, casting doubt over reports that the prime minister will call for polls within three months.

“PPPA, I don’t think so, not yet,” de facto law minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz told The Malaysian Insider yesterday, using the abbreviation for the Printing Presses and Publications Act, which gives powers to the home minister to license print publications.

Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri S. Subramaniam also said a proposal to increase the retirement age for the private sector to 60 will be tabled at the next parliament sitting in June.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein has repeatedly insisted over the past few weeks that Putrajaya is still on track to dump the Internal Security Act (ISA), which allows for detention without trial, during this parliamentary sitting but two replacement laws are still being drafted by the Attorney-General.

He also said in December that a new law to reform RELA to help deal with “new threats” such as drugs and human trafficking would be tabled last month.

But a home ministry official told The Malaysian Insider “to be honest, the RELA Act is on the backburner because we’re all rushing to push through the Internal Security Act repeal.”

A minimum wage policy was also to have been introduced last month but pressure from employers forced the Najib administration to go back to the negotiating table.

The Malaysian Insider also reported yesterday the A-G’s Chambers has yet to release a final draft of amendments to the Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA) to allow students above the age of 18 to join political parties.

A source said it will only be tabled on Monday despite earlier being slated for a first reading yesterday.

But Nazri told The Malaysian Insider both the amendments to the UUCA and the repeal of the ISA will take place during this sitting, which will now end on April 19.

“No, that’s why we extended another four days,” the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department said when asked if the government was rushing through its reforms.

However, the Padang Rengas MP said he will only find out in Friday’s Cabinet meeting when these reforms will be brought to Dewan Rakyat, which will not sit next Wednesday and Thursday due to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s coronation.

Najib has dropped heavy hints that he will dissolve Parliament soon, with Bloomberg citing three government officials as saying that June 3 has been earmarked for polling day.

A survey conducted by independent pollsters Merdeka Center February showed the Umno president’s approval rating had surged by 10 percentage points to 69 per cent on the back of RM500 cash handouts to all households earning below RM3,000 a month, which makes up 40 per cent of the population.

The poll found that nearly four in every five households earning RM1,500 or less per month supported the Barisan Nasional (BN) chief.

But he had promised last year to implement reforms to give Malaysians more freedom including a parliamentary select committee on electoral improvements whose findings were adopted by Dewan Rakyat yesterday without debate despite the opposition’s insistence on a minority report.

Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said the prime minister was only serious about reforms “to gain a feel-good factor among urban voters.”

“But he has realised that it makes no difference to the rural Malays,” the former deputy prime minister said, referring to the Umno-led ruling coalition’s main vote bank.

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