Or is it a ploy to buy time?
Apparently bending to widespread criticism of a government crackdown of a July 9 march demanding electoral reform, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak said Tuesday that a parliamentary select committee is to be formed as soon as possible to seek to reform the current system.
The announcement appears to answer a central demand of the reform group Bersih, a coalition of good-government organizations backed by opposition parties to clean up the electoral process.
The big question, however, is how soon the select committee will meet, and whether the reform provisions it comes up with – if any – could be put in place before national elections expected to be called late this year or early next. In that, the announcement of the committee carries certain dangers. If the committee is still meeting when the election comes and goes, the decision to create it is likely to be regarded as a public relations gesture.
Wong Chin Huat, one of the leaders of Bersih, told Asia Sentinel that Najib must hold up the polls until the reforms can be implemented.
Bersih itself, in a prepared statement, said it welcomed Najib’s announcement of a bipartisan committee, asking that immediate reforms be carried out before the next state and general elections and that other reforms be put in place within two years after the formation of the committee.
The process is bound to be complicated and subject to possible delay. The Malaysian constitution must be amended after the legislative, policy drafting and enforcement mechanisms are finished, then laws must be put in place by the executive branch to carry out the mandate