Selangor Journal

Selangor’s 15 years of progress

By Ida Nadirah Ibrahim

FIFTEEN years have passed since Pakatan Harapan (Harapan) — a direct successor to the now defunct Pakatan Rakyat — took over the management of Selangor.

The March 8 general election (GE12) in 2008, dubbed a ‘political tsunami’, not only brought changes but a breath of fresh air to how Selangor was run.

Pakatan Rakyat’s 2008 victory in Selangor was significant as Barisan Nasional (BN) had previously never lost control of the country’s most populous and prosperous state.

At the time, Pakatan Rakyat aspired to position Selangor as an alternative federal government, and moving forward 15 years later, the state has indeed successfully placed itself as a model state, with some of its initiatives not only modelled after by other states but by Putrajaya as well.

In the recent Budget 2023 announced on Feb 24, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim introduced several programmes that were inspired by state initiatives, such as Skim Perubatan Madani, which is modelled after the state’s Iltizam Selangor Sihat (ISS).

Selangor Journal speaks to current and former Selangor state representatives on the state’s prospects in the years to come.

Putting the people first

As the state’s ruling coalition, Harapan has implemented a number of reforms, but most importantly, it has established people-centric measures to ensure inclusivity for its citizens of all races and religions.

Former Seri Setia state representative Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, who witnessed Pakatan Rakyat’s 2008 victory in Selangor, said that the day was significant as BN not only lost Selangor, but also Penang, and at the federal level, the two-thirds majority.

Nik Nazmi represented the state constituency of Seri Setia from March 2008 to May 2018 and is now the Setiawangsa Member of Parliament.

The third meeting of the fifth term of the 14th Selangor State Legislative Assembly, Shah Alam, on November 24, 2022. — Picture by FIKRI YUSOF/SELANGORKINI

“I believe Selangor plays an important role because many Malaysians work, live and even have relatives in the state … They may be voters elsewhere but they are based here. Previously, it didn’t dawn on many people that they were living in a richer state but after Pakatan Rakyat and Harapan, they saw Inisiatif Peduli Rakyat (previously Merakyatkan Ekonomi Selangor) which was people-centric,” he told Selangor Journal.

Nik Nazmi, who is the current Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change Minister, said other reforms brought by the Pakatan Rakyat administration include lengthening the Selangor State Legislative Assembly sitting, which previously sat for only one or two days, enhancing the position of the state Opposition leaders and the role of the select committees, and introducing asset declaration.

“I believe this is important as it shows that all this talk of reforms is not just slogans but also policies that we can implement.”

Being visionary

Under Harapan, the state administration has consistently been visionary and diverse.

State executive councillor for socio-economic empowerment, development and caring government V Ganabatirau said that the multiracial element in the Pakatan Rakyat and Harapan state governments shows that it is progressive.

Menteri Besar Selangor Dato’ Amirudin Shari (centre) with state executive councillor for socio-economic development V. Ganabatirau (second from right) presenting mock cheques and trophies to the winners of the colouring competition during the closing ceremony of the Selangor Indian Empowerment and Entrepreneurs Development (i-SEED) Carnival at Dataran Chetty in Klang, on October 9, 2022. — Picture by HAFIZ OTHMAN/SELANGORKINI

“I have had the honour of serving under three Menteris Besar, all of whom were visionary and championed sustainable development. We can especially see the dynamism in Dato’ Seri Amirudin Shari.

“The Harapan government not only thinks of the present, but we think ahead for the younger generations. When we won in 2008, we had Merakyatkan Ekonomi followed by Inisiatif Peduli Rakyat and now Iltizam Selangor Penyayang.”

Ganabatirau said that the state has also continued to be the choice of foreign investors, and has kept its position as the largest contributor to the national gross domestic product (GDP).

In year 2008, Selangor contributed the highest percentage share of the national GDP at 22.1 per cent, and in 2021, the state continues to be the largest contributor at 24.8 per cent.

“Under Amirudin’s leadership, Selangor has been able to maintain its momentum in development. Amirudin is also successful in drawing up the First Selangor Plan (RS-1), something we don’t see the other states doing,” said the Sentosa state assemblyman.

Transparency in governance

The incumbent Bukit Lanjan state representative of 15 years, Elizabeth Wong, credits Selangor’s style of governance for Malaysia’s current level of political maturity.

“Since we took over the state in 2008, we have introduced a number of reforms, including open data, more transparency, implementing the Freedom of Information Enactment 2011 and also building the habit of having more open meetings with stakeholders, which were things you didn’t see prior to 2008.

“After 15 years, it has become almost like an institution and I believe it is good that we have managed to introduce these reforms and make it a little more ingrained in the state.

“Of course, we are not perfect and there is a lot of experimentation, a lot of hits and misses but at least we were doing things a different way which culminated in what we have now in the current Federal government. We placed little stones bit by bit to get to what we have today.”

Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional flags are put up along the roads ahead of the 15th general election (GE15) at Jalan Permatang Damar Laut in George Town, Penang, on November 6, 2022. — Picture by BERNAMA

Wong said moving forward 10 to 15 years, she hopes that the nation would be a leader in democratic rights and transparency.

“We are on the way … I’m pleased to say that at least we know what is wrong, what is not right in the system and we are making sure that we are taking steps to overcome those hurdles.

Avoiding complacency

With the recent shifts in the country’s political landscape, none of the governing parties can claim to be in a comfortable position, even in Selangor.

As the Selangor state election draws closer, Nik Nazmi cautions that Harapan must not be complacent as voters are likely to cast their ballots based on performance rather than loyalty to the party.

He said that the state must keep introducing fresh faces who can continue the reforms introduced over the years.

“We have achieved a lot. We must own it and be proud of it and tell the story. We must bear in mind that some people may take it for granted but there was a time when we had the Khir Toyo administration and people who still remember it, the older generation, appreciate what Pakatan Rakyat and Harapan have brought because we value the youth, and we value integrity, capability and cultural diversity.

“In 2008, people like the Menteri Besar (Amirudin), myself and Hannah Yeoh contested, we were the fresh faces … I was 26, Amirudin and Hannah were 28 and 29, respectively. But now we are in the Federal government, so I think it is crucial to always have new faces.”

Wong echoed Nik Nazmi and recalled how, prior to 2008, the public had very little say against the administration.

“Back then, everyone was so scared of the government … they would be scared to protest, scared to even write a letter.

“The younger generation will not realise that a lot has changed because we managed to bring about a different way of governing,” she said.

 

This article first appeared in the Selangor Journal monthly March edition, published on March 6, 2023.

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