On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Budget posturing in polls run-up

It appears to be a case of tit-for-tat  as the political temperature soars in  the run-up to the coming general  election.

Just a few days earlier, Umno had  hit
out at DAP deputy chairman Karpal Singh, questioning his ethics as a  lawyer. The MP for Jelutong was  criticised for allegedly abusing the  courts for his political agenda.

To emphasise the ideological differences of the Opposition, the MCA  rapped PAS deputy president Abdul  Hadi Awang for his attempt to table a  Bill to curb the propagation of religions
other than Islam.

The message was clear: PAS is bent  on
setting up an Islamic state and the  DAP
is guilty by association.

The latest relevation by Murad will  work
two ways. To reformasi supporters, the allegations of huge slush  funds would just be another government
conspiracy to discredit Anwar,  while
allegations made by the Opposition, particularly PAS, are believable and

No amount of explanation by Barisan leaders would make a difference.

Murad's expose would, however,  make an
impression on the fence-sitters. It could damage Anwar's credibility and set
back his campaign.

More importantly, the various issues over the past week have put the  Opposition on the defensive.

For the last six months, the Opposition has come up with all kinds of issues
ranging from the construction  of
Putrajaya to the alleged arsenic 
poisoning of Anwar.

The poisoning episode, however,  proved
to be damaging to the Opposition as tests carried out locally and  overseas have proved negative.

With no arguments left, the Opposition resorted to calling for a Royal  Commission of Inquiry to be set up.

In a bid to return to the spotlight,  the
Opposition unveiled its election 
manifesto last week. Although Malaysian elections have never been  won on manifestos, the move by the  Opposition is refreshing.

As our voters become more educated and urbanised, they would want to  study the programme and written  promises by political parties. It is  likely to be a trend in the coming  years.

The biggest achievement by the 
Opposition is, perhaps, the decision 
by PAS to drop its “Islamic state'' demand in the manifesto. This
must  have been the result of a
compromise  among the leaders of Parti
Keadilan  Nasional, PAS, DAP and

The Opposition was clear on its decision to repeal the Internal Security  Act if it comes to power.

The biggest flaw, however, is the  lack
of clarity on other laws which  the
Opposition has claimed to be draconian in nature.

Despite its talk of justice, the Opposition is only ready to commit itself to
review laws such as the University and University Colleges Act  and the Printing and Publications  Act.

Setting up committees to review  these
laws with no time-frame will be  perceived
as a delaying tactic with no  sincerity
in abolishing these laws.

The Opposition's follow-up action  of
presenting an alternative budget  was an
unprecedented move although  it received
scant attention.

In fact, it would do the Malaysian 
political system a lot of good if they 
take it a step further by setting up a 
Shadow Cabinet.

If Dr Jomo Sundram has drawn up  an
alternative budget, along the lines  of a
shadow finance minister, surely  Keadilan
leader Irene Fernandez can  be shadow
human resources minister. It would be interesting to see  what she has to offer Malaysian  workers, after fighting for foreign  workers for years.

The biggest blow to the Opposition  must
surely be Budget 2000 tabled by  First
Finance Minister Tun Daim 

Call it an election budget if you  must;
the fact remains that it is a bag  of

So what if Budget 2000 is aimed at 
getting votes? After all, the whole 
point of an Alternative Budget is to 
win votes.

Civil servants, some of whom have  been
involved in anti-government activities, should be grateful for the increase in
wages and other perks.

Unlike workers in the private sector, they enjoy job security or what is  known as the “iron rice-bowl'' during  an economic crisis.

Now that the Government has been 
generous in the budget, civil servants 
should focus their attention on improving efficiency and

More important, the budget will  lead to
a trickle-down effect, so the  economic
recovery can be felt by all 

With the euphoria over the budget,  it
won't be long before the general 
election is called.