Eight New Year’s resolutions for the government from Malaysians

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 2 — Malaysians are ready for a better 2023, especially after a challenging 2022, marked by not only the Covid-19 pandemic, but also political instability and economic uncertainty.

From education issues to climate-related matters, however, there remain many areas of concern that require the government’s attention.

Malay Mail has compiled a wish list of ‘resolutions’ that those polled hope the new administration in Putrajaya will fulfil with an improved, more liveable nation in mind.

No more education U-turns

The Primary School Achievement Test (UPSR), which was abolished in 2021, may be reinstated, along with the Form Three Assessment (PT3), which was abolished this year.

The Education Ministry recently said that the reintroduction of UPSR and PT3 will depend on the results of the tabling of the Malaysia Education Development Plan 2025 (PPPM 2025) that is due in three years’ time.

This development has caused consternation among some parents, and May Chan, 38, is one of them.

“My wish for 2023 is that the government stop flip-flopping on the school syllabus. It is not only making children confused; it is even confusing parents.

“Get it straight and sort it out once and for all. It is hard for us as parents to plan our child’s education path. Can you imagine what our children are going through?” Chan, who is a public relations executive, said.

Flexible working hours

Flexible working hours shouldn’t end just because the world is now learning to live with Covid-19.

For Liliyana Baharuddin, 40, it is her hope that the government enforces this as an option for all industries able to accommodate this practice.

“Not every household has a mother-in-law they can depend on to care for their newborn or toddler.

“That is why you find many women retiring from the workforce just to become a stay-at-home mother so that she can care for her children.

“On the other hand, people wonder why there is a lack of women in the workforce. This is why, and I think it is time the respective ministries look into this,” Liliyana, who is a marketing executive, said.

Longer paternity leave

Although Malaysia’s paid paternity leave has been increased to seven days, for many mothers, it still is not enough.

Finance analyst Jerry Low, 43, said he has friends who work for foreign companies that allow male employees to take up to six months’ paternity leave, of which a certain amount is transferable to the other parent.

“Having a newborn in the household impacts every member of the family and directly the parents of the child.

“You can’t expect a person who has just delivered a baby to recover in a few days and get back on her feet to take care of the newborn child,” said Low.

Maintenance, maintenance, maintenance

As she goes about her daily life, Melissa Chow has encountered many public facilities that are poorly maintained.

For example, the 35-year-old who often commutes by public transportation said it is increasingly inconvenient to get from point A to point B.

“I hope in 2023 that the government practises a better maintenance culture for all facilities and infrastructure; for example, public transport, roads, playgrounds, parks and drainage.

“Focus on these things instead of what is happening now — there is still much incitement and fanning of racial and religious sentiments,” she said.

In her long list of wishes, Chow said she hopes the government invests more in sectors such as sports and the performing arts and is proactive when it comes to tackling climate change and taking better care of the environment.

No more potholes

On the subject of roads, Jerrod Pillai, 30, a sales executive who travels by motorcycle, said it feels as though the roads in the Klang Valley have not been fixed for 20 years.

“I know it sounds like I am exaggerating, but when I think about it, it feels as if I haven’t driven on a road that has a smooth surface for a long time.

“It is especially dangerous for motorcyclists like me, because if you accidentally hit a pothole, it will send you flying if you are travelling at a fast speed.

“I am sure the government is aware that so many accidents these days involve motorcycles and most of them are due to us trying to avoid the potholes,” he said.

This applies to cars too, he said, as potholes dent tyre rims.

“Not only that, if the damage is bad enough it will puncture the tyre, which could lead to an accident if the driver loses control of the car,” he added.

Human rights matter

Human rights advocate Nalini Elumalai is looking forward to the government taking human rights seriously.

“In 2023, I hope to see the government working on human rights reforms, taking human rights education more seriously, and making it a part of the school curriculum.

“It is important to counter hate speech, and it takes a whole-of-society approach. We can’t just rely on legislation and authorities.

“The complexity of this issue becomes evident when we analyse how states’ restrictions on freedom of expression and information have failed to provide space for people to debate and have constructive dialogue because so much expression is restricted and labelled as ‘sensitive’ or even illegal,” she said.

She added that more speech must be permitted, and the atmosphere of intimidation must disappear to allow discussion of important topics.

“Education must be at the centre of our efforts, especially as a tool to spread awareness and promote pluralistic ideas.

“I also want to see problematic laws that work against human rights abolished, like the Sedition Act 1948 that has been pending for many years.

“Besides that, I want to see the government protect the rights of every individual in this country without any discrimination, while providing an inclusive environment for all, including the marginalised and minorities in Malaysia,” she said.

Fair treatment

As for Susana Talib, 38, she wants to know why only civil servants got RM700 in aid, when it could be extended to the entire workforce.

“That RM700 aid given to civil servants, what about us? Why is the aid only given to civil servants?

“We are also working people and facing the same problems with the rising cost of living. So why the double standard?” Susana said.

A total of 1.3 million civil servants in Grade 56 and below will receive a one-off special financial assistance of RM700 on January 17, as a token of appreciation for their contributions in public service delivery throughout the year.

It was reported that the special financial assistance will also be received by public service officers in management and professionals, as well as the implementation group still serving on January 17, 2023, covering permanent, temporary, and contract-of-service appointed officers; officers on full paid leave; officers on half-pay leave; and officers on leave without pay.

Appointed officers under the Malaysian Short-Term Employment Programme who have served for at least six months in 2022, and are still serving under the programme on January 17, 2023, are also eligible.

This same aid was also given during the Barisan Nasional (BN) administration under Budget 2022.

Better public healthcare

Improvements to the country’s public healthcare services are long overdue.

IT specialist Desmond Tan, 40, said, for example, his recent visit to the Kuala Lumpur General Hospital gave him a fright.

“I felt really depressed looking at the patients there and I really hope that the government pays more attention to this sector.

“For those who can afford private medical services, they are safe, but a large percentage of the population still relies on the public healthcare sector.

“The smallest thing could be providing more patient-friendly meals. How do you expect a patient, who has one arm injured, to eat meals that require both hands?

“Try deboning a fish with one hand. Most of the time, from what I observed, the food goes to waste and the patients end up not eating,” he said.

Tan also felt that something needs to be done to boost hospital staff morale so that they are motivated to work and treat patients better.

“When I was there to visit my friend, I was told that the way they handled his X-ray for a wounded limb was as though he was just another piece of raw meat.

“From what I learned, it is due to underpaid and overworked hospital staff. If this could be improved, it is a win-win situation for both staff and patients.

“Right now, if you mention public hospitals, most people have a horrific impression of their medical services,” he said.