Baffling PN MPs

While happy that Convent Bukit Nanas got an extension of its land lease by 60 years, I was surprised by the decision and the speed with which the Prime Minister’s office (PMO) made the announcement.

Such a quick decision by Prihatin Nasional (PN) leader Muhyiddin Yassin in response to public outrage and regarding a Christian school is a little short of a miracle! From the moment he was named as prime minister by the Agong, he has not once responded positively to public opinion.

The day after he was named PM, his coalition lost its majority because former prime minister and his then party president, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, got the backing of 113 MPs in the Dewan Rakyat but Muhyiddin seemed to have kept quiet about it and went ahead with the swearing in when he should have told the king that he had lost his majority and resigned. This may be history but it shows how he operates.

Then, there was a huge hue and cry asking him to validate his appointment by facing a no-confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat. He kept quiet and, instead, fired the then Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat and appointed his own candidate without an election which was unconstitutional. Despite the furore, he kept quiet and didn’t yield.

This was followed by endless requests to face a no-confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat. He made no response, maintaining his silence and continued as the government of the day without the mandate of the people.

When his coalition partner, bitter about not being given the chief minister’s post in Sabah, threatened to destablize his coalition, he sought emergency powers from the Agong but failed to get it. He made no comment and bided his time.

Early this year, when Umno MPs Ahmad Jazlan Yaakub and Mohamad Nazri quit the PN, it lost its majority again but Muhyiddin remained silent NOT doing what all right-thinking prime ministers do when they lose the majority — resign. He kept quiet like a child keeps quiet hoping no one finds him out, but when one of his lackeys was able to lure an opposition MP to join him, he quickly made a public appearance and claimed he had a majority.

But, during the few days he didn’t have a majority, he had no right to function in the role of prime minister but he quietly continued in the role and went to see the Agong and sought emergency powers and suspended Parliament. The emergency powers were meant to manage the covid-19 pandemic but he and his Cabinet started performing other duties as well and no one could do anything about it despite the numerous online petitions asking him to resign, and resign and call for the reconvening of Parliament. He remains silent and immovable.

Then, suddenly, when the Convent Bukit Nanas issue cropped up on April 19 when the school was granted leave by the Kuala Lumpur High Court to challenge the non-renewal of its land lease, which is due to expire on September 6 this year, there was a public outcry to extend the lease and in just three days — yesterday — the PMO released a statement saying that the lease has been extended by 60 years!

What made Muhyiddin cave in to public demands when right up to this issue he totally ignored public opinion? What or who influenced him? It would be interesting to know. Just like that Convent Bukit Nanas got a land lease extension, yet after a year of repeated public calls he doesn’t resign and he doesn’t call for the reconvening of Parliament. Baffling!

What else is baffling is that the MPs in his coalition are fully aware of all the unconstitutional acts and double standards committed by the PN yet they remain in the coalition. With the exception of Umno MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah who withdrew support for the PN on the grounds that it was not an elected government and one which didn’t get the mandate of the people through a no-confidence vote and, therefore, unconstitutional, not one other MP has resigned, not wishing to be part of an unconstitutional government.

If one or two MPs from among the 222 elected MPs turned rogue and acted unconstitutionally, I can just accept it as a case of a few rotten apples. But when more than one third of them don’t seem to have the moral courage nor will to disassociate themselves from unconstitutional acts, and stand up for parliamentary democracy, you begin to wonder how these MPs got elected. It doesn’t inspire confidence in Malay-majority leadership, at least, not among the non-Malays even after an “acquiescence” like the Convent Bukit Nanas land lease extension.

The two other Umno MPs who resigned did so not for constitutional reasons, but for political reasons; they were unhappy at the way Umno was treated in the PN. It really is baffling why, like Razaleigh, not even one other PN MP would choose to resign for constitutional reasons.

The people need to vote these MPs out in the next general election. How can we trust them to abide by the rules of parliamentary democracy and uphold the federal constitution?

Time’s ripe for a new coalition to emerge

Until Members of Parliament act swiftly to form a new Malay-led majority coalition, the Prihatin Nasional (PN) alliance will continue in government by default.

So, if MPs want the PN coalition to step down, emergency lifted and Parliament restored, their parties need to realign themselves and coalesce into a new coalition which can offer itself as a legitimate alternative. When that happens and Umno withdraws from PN, PN will have no choice but to resign. And, it must because a viable alternative has presented itself, proving that PN has no majority.

There will be no need for a general election that would only be a strain on the national coffers and voters tired of Malay politics. The new coalition faces a vote of confidence and if it wins it, wins the mandate to form the new legitimate government until the next general election.

If MPs don’t form a new majority coalition now, there’ll no difference in the outcome of results should a general election take place and PN, though a minority coalition, might still be installed as a caretaker government and it will stay on in government until a majority coalition is formed, which may take a long time to happen if it can not happen now.

It appears as if efforts are afoot for a new coalition to be formed and the immediate strategy of MPs must be to make it happen to bring about PN’s resignation. With an alternative coalition poised to take over and with Umno withdrawing from PN, the latter has to step down.

That would consequentially level the playing field. PN would lose the advantage it now has to attract MPs because of the RM3.5 million allocation available to its MPs for community servicing. With the RM3.5 million bait gone, MPs will have to chose sides based on what is best for their constituents. And some may even leave PN to join the new coalition.

What options do the MPs have? With Umno out of it, PN will become a much smaller entity. With PAS in it, it is unlikely to get the majority support of Christian-based Sabah and Sarawak parties which means it will not be able to get a majority.

The best possibility for a majority coalition is Pakatan Harapan (PH), comprising Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), DAP and Amanah — if it can get the support of Sabah’s Warisan and Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) and former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s yet to be registered Pejuang. GPS has pledged support for PN but if PN resigns because an alternative exits, GPS may change its mind. In fact, it should; any alliance with a coalition in which PAS is a member will backfire on it.

Today, at the end of its two-day retreat in Port Dickson, PH named PKR president Anwar Ibrahim as its candidate for the prime minister’s post in the 15th general election (GE15) due in 2023. However between now and then, PH’s leadership is left open, which means there is a chance for Mahathir to return or someone aligned to him to return to lead a PH Plus majority coalition.

The Mahathir factor should not be excluded because he could rally the support of Warisan and perhaps GPS too and even some Umno MPs to join forces with PH to form PH Plus which would have a very comfortable majority, at least until GE15.

Umno’s future is uncertain. It’s court cluster leadership is being asked to make way for new elections. So, there will be new leaders or some MPs may break away. In either situation, there would be possibilities to negotiate with Umno or its breakaway MPs to join or be friendly towards PH. By itself Umno can’t form a coalition. If it joins forces with PAS no one else will join it. By allying itself with PH it can survive in some way.

If PH Plus can be a convincing majority coalition, PN will have to resign and a caretaker government or new government under a leadership that can ably manage the transition period can be formed to last until GE15. It’s the best option to move forwards and it’s up to the MPs to make it happen.

Where is honour among MPs?

On March 26, the White House uploaded on its website a statement announcing the list of countries whose leaders have been invited to attend a virtual Leaders Summit on Climate that US President Joe Biden will host on April 22 and 23. The countries invited included the G7 nations and China, Russia, India, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Brazil, Israel, Japan, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Turkey, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam. Notably absent in the list was Malaysia.

The leading democratic nation of the world apparently has no confidence that the present leadership of Malaysia with its rich resources is a worthy partner in the worldwide effort to manage the climate which is becoming the predominant issue of the world. Malaysia used to be the leader in Asean in representing regional issues but it appears as if Indonesia and Singapore are being recognised as the leaders best able to lead this charge into the future.

But does the Prihatin Nasional (PN) coalition care how it is viewed by the rest of the world? If it doesn’t care how it is viewed by its own people, would that matter? Well, it may not matter now because the world is still grappling with the covid 19 pandemic. But as the world gradually opens up to rebuilding the economy, Malaysia will find limited sources of funds and may end up like former Prime Minister Najib Razak looking to China and Saudi Arabia for funds and paying a heavy price for it. How will the PN be any different from Najib’s government then?

At least, the Najib government was legitimate because it was an elected government with a proven majority. But, can the PN government claim that legal and constitutional standing?

PN needs to take a good look at itself and consider how it is being viewed and why. Then, perhaps, it will realise that it has no standing to stay in government — not even under emergency — and resign. The reason why it has left a trail of political instability is because of questions of its legitimacy. That may also affect the way the world views it. How can democratically-elected governments recognise Malaysia as a peer among them when issues of its legitimacy remain unresolved? Demonstrate able leadership by convening Parliament and face a no confidence vote or resign.

Resigning is a way of making a dignified exit when you know you have lost, but Malaysian politicians apparently know nothing about honour. Their motto: Cling on because you can to stay in power. Honour is irrelevant if you can’t stay in government.

GPS is no different

Following the recent High Court decision, when PN sent the “Allah” issue to the rulers for a deliberation, Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) went into a huddle. The decision would affect the constitutional rights of 40 % of Sarawak’s population who are Christians and ethnic non-Malay bumiputeras. GPS’ alliance with PN has put the constitutional religious rights of this the largest community in Sarawak at risk. Yet, its MPs have chosen to align itself with PN and yesterday expressed their support for Muhyiddin as prime minister.

GPS has seemingly sold off the constitutional rights of its own people for federal government support. The logic behind the decision escapes me.

With Umno now having declared it will pull out of PN after Aug 1 when the emergency ends, PN is on its way out, unless PN leader Muhyiddin Yassin intends to stay on by not upholding the constitution and proving its majority in Parliament. Perhaps, GPS suspects that is what will happen and have decided to throw in their lot with Muhyiddin. Common sense, however, dictates that with Umno out, PN will have no majority and GPS will be unable to be kingmaker. Why is it allying itself with a coalition that has no standing to remain in government and which will put the constitutional rights of its own people at risk?

It would be interesting to see how its voters will react regarding this issue in the upcoming Sarawak state elections. GPS may still win but my prediction is that it will lose its comfortable majority and it will lose its position to be kingmaker.

GPS’s decision to support Muhyiddin makes no sense. GPS should resign and be independents in the Dewan Rakyat and protect the interests of its people. But, apparently, typical of Malaysian politicians, political expediency for whatever misguided reason comes before duty to your voters. No honour in that, it appears!

The Opposition that isn’t the alternative

To be fair to GPS, it faced a difficult choice. It did not have a viable alternative to join and did not have the guts to go it alone. If Muhyiddin is responsible for the continuous state of political unrest we are in, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) has only itself to blame for being unable to provide an alternative.

PKR is realising that without former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the Opposition alliance Pakatan Harapan (PH) is facing an issue of credibility. Neither PN nor Umno/BN wants to ally with PH. Without Mahathir, neither GPS nor Sabah’s Warisan will join it. PH with PKR, DAP and Amanah can together have about 88 MPs on its side. That is insufficient to form a majority coalition and it can’t lure other parties to join in.

PKR president Anwar Ibrahim thought he could get the court cluster of Umno MPs facing criminal charges in court to join PH but Umno president Zahid Hamidi poured cold water on that prospect when he said at the Umno general assembly last weekend that there would be no alliance with PKR or DAP.

Umno apparently has been given a lifeline and it is resurging and feels confident it can go it alone. But like PH and PN, individually, none of these coalitions will get a majority. So, even if elections are held now, the outcome would be no different from the current political situation.

But if PKR decides to work with Mahathir, PH could get the support of both Warisan and GPS and that would be a clear majority coalition which neither Umno/BN nor PN will be able to match. This is the rightful government of Malaysia which won the mandate to govern in GE14 in 2018.

Again, the logic escapes me as to why Anwar will not respect the GE14 mandate of the people just because he doesn’t want to work with Mahathir. Personal reasons should be set aside and the mandate of the people should be respected. If Anwar will not take the lead to restore the GE14 mandate, it is not surprising that parties like GPS and Warisan are abandoning it and finding politically expedient ways to hold on to power.

If Anwar follows the spirit and intent of the constitution and pushes for the restoration of PH Plus, he would solve the current impasse and demonstrate his ability to abide by the constitution even if it means he wouldn’t be prime minister. He will win the respect of the people and he might still become PM in the near future.

Anwar can resolve the current stalemate. The question is whether he sees honour in doing so at personal cost.

Putting the interests of voters first, over political expediency, for the good of the nation is honourable. I am waiting to see who among our MPs will demonstrate such honour. I am still waiting …. .

Allah issue, Sabah and Sarawak MPs to blame

Apparently in reaction to the recent High Court decision to allow non-Muslims to use the word “Allah” in their published contents for education purposes, some Peninsular Malaysia leaders are alleging that the use of “Allah” in Bahasa Malaysia Bibles is aimed at misleading and confusing Muslims in order to convert them to Christianity.

Nothing can be further from the truth! Where Bible translations are concerned, the objective is always to use the correct vocabulary of the language being translated to that is in use at the time of the translation. When the Bahasa Malaysia Bible was written more than 400 years ago, the word for God used by the Malay-speaking peoples then was “Allah” and Bible translators kept to the word to stay true to the meaning.

There was no malicious intent to use the word “Allah” to mislead and confuse anyone. This has been pointed out again and again in the debate over the Allah issue over the years and in court cases but it apparently remains an issue with Peninsular Malaysia Muslim leaders. They seem to see the ghosts of misperception in this issue especially when they want to win support from Muslims.

When will Malaysian leaders learn to stop exploiting religious sentiments to get votes?

Muslims in Sabah and Sarawak are not making an issue of the High Court decision because they know how to co-exist with their parents, siblings, relatives and extended family members and members of the community who are Christians and who use the Bahasa Malaysia Bible. They are not threatened nor paranoid over the use of “Allah” in the Bahasa Malaysia Bible. They live in peaceful harmony and mutual respect.

Peninsular Malaysia Muslim leaders should follow in their example and stop acting like colonial masters and imposing their will on the practice of faith by Sabahans and Sarawakians. Sabah and Sarawak ethnic parliamentarians have already expressed their concern to not appeal the High Court decision because many ethnic Sabahans and Sarawakians are Bahasa-Malaysia speaking and those who are Christians use the Bahasa Malaysia Bibles.

The Attorney-General’s Chambers however have announced that they would appeal the case. Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Ahmad Marzuk Shaary also announced that the government plans to introduce a Control and Restriction on the Propagation of Non-Muslim Religions Bill. Why would that be necessary when the constitution already states that proselytising Muslims is prohibited?

The issue has now been taken up to the Conference of Rulers, and the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) and other Islamic religious agencies have announced they will take appropriate action on the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims after they get consent from the Conference of Rulers.

Will this mean that the court decision will be by-passed and the rulers’ decision followed?

Sabah and Sarawak MPs to blame

We have come to this point under the Prihatin Nasional (PN) coalition where leaders in Peninsular Malaysia will be deciding the practice of faith of Sabahans and Sarawakians and no one is to be blamed but the Sabahans and Sarawakians. They were in favour of joining an unelected Malay-Muslim majority coalition whose majority remains suspiciously suspect and which includes an extreme far-right Muslim party like PAS.

Any government which includes PAS as it is now under Hadi Awang and which PAS can influence will lead us to the place we are in now: facing a royal decision on the practice of faith of Sabahans and Sarawakians.

Sabah and Sarawakian MPs should be held responsible for facilitating a government that is seeking royal help to resolve this issue which is already being addressed in the courts.

Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (Star), Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP), Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), Parti Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu (PBB), Sarawak United Peoples Party, Parti Rakyat Sarawak and the Progressive Democratic Party will have a great deal of explaining to do with their supporters.

It is surprising that these parties are not aware that any alliance with a conservative Malay-Muslim coalition would inevitably undermine their own constitutional rights. Hopefully, now they know.

All other non-Malay parties like MIC, MCA and Gerakan need to take note.

If these parties truly represent the people, they will resign from PN and put a stop to PN’s wielding of power without the mandate of the people.

The biggest political ‘joke’ that isn’t funny

Like what veteran Umno politician and former deputy prime minister Musa Hitam said, the current political goings-on in the country is a real “joke”.

Indeed, it is. For Musa what was a joke was all the defections that are taking place now. For me, yes, that’s a joke but what is a more serious and real joke is that a coalition remains in government without proving its majority and uses its incumbent position to lure Opposition MPs to join it to get a majority! How absurd is that! How can that be constitutional? So funny!

What is even funnier is PN leader Muhyiddin Yassin taking a picture with two Opposition MPs who claimed to have become independent and defected to the PN and using that photo opportunity to announce, “I have 111 MPs”! How would he know if other MPs in his coalition still support him? What a joke!

Immediately after that announcement, Parti Keadilan Rakyat president Anwar Ibrahim claimed that he, too, had a majority.

Now, who really has the majority? Claiming a majority with a few defections isn’t proof of a majority. Besides, any MP can claim to have a majority.

A majority can only be proven when a party or coalition passes the test of a confidence vote in Parliament. Until that happens any coalition’s claim of a majority is questionable.

From the moment Muhyiddin was sworn in as prime minister, his majority in Parliament was suspect. From Day 1 in government, he sought to maintain a narrow majority by poaching MPs from the Opposition supposedly with all sorts of enticements.

Apparently, he was never certain of his majority because he was not willing to face a confidence or no-confidence vote to prove it. Questions can be asked as to whether that was constitutional. Secondly, when Muhyiddin lost his tenuous one-MP majority early this year, he didn’t resign. Following the loss of a majority, he sought emergency powers saying it was solely for the purposes of managing the covid-19 pandemic and continued to remain in government.

Like Musa, so many leaders and the public have called on Muhyiddin to prove his majority. The most recent was Umno veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah who withdrew his support from the PN coalition and in recent statements has declared that the PN needs to show its majority.

Despite the clamour over the PN’s legitimacy, it shows no inclination to prove its majority in the Dewan Rakyat though it has made a public claim it has “111 MPs” and refuses to resign. A real joke.

Now, the PN coalition has introduced an emergency fake news ordinance and, according to Law Minister Takiyuddin Hassan, saying that the PN sought emergency because it lost its majority is fake news! Another joke!

I give up being rational and sensible! Too many jokers around.

Umno in strategic position to change its future course

Umno has officially declared that it will not join the Perihatin Nasional (PN) coalition in the next general elections. That might be a good move on Umno’s part if it reflects grassroots disillusionment with its coalition partner junior party Bersatu which wants to call the shots.

That grassroots disillusionment is a good sign; it shows that Umno’s Malay grassroots have realised that Umno’s majority position in PN will not be to its advantage if it undermines Bersatu’s desire to remain in power.

With Umno out of PN, PN can no longer claim that it is a Malay majority coalition. Any other coalition is now poised to assume the role of a Malay-majority grouping if Umno plays its cards wisely. Umno should be prepared to sacrifice its “court cluster” leaders facing criminal charges in court for the sake of political survival.

If Umno has severed ties with PN from the next general elections, why doesn’t it withdraw from PN now? It should heed its adviser Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah’s call for its “cluster of ministers” to resign from PN now to uphold its dignity.

Umno MPs in PN may not want to resign for the same reason PN doesn’t want to resign although it can’t prove its majority. These Malay MPs need to be in government to have access to funds to pour into their constituencies to ensure continued support.

Giving funds to MPs is not the issue. But to deprive Opposition MPs or coalition MPs who do not support the PN of such funds is childishly punitive.

But, that’s the PN’s style of leadership. Unable to use theirs skills or (perhaps, lacking in them) and resources at their disposal through negotiations and proper management, they resort to the big stick. If you don’t support PN leader Muhyiddin Yassin, we’ll punish you. If people will not abide by our requests with regard to covid-19, we’ll  seek emergency to force compliance. (They never thought that maybe they should dialogue with stakeholders to get their support or maybe they just don’t have abilities to do that and so threaten them with emergency.) If Umno threatens to pull out of PN, we’ll seek emergency from the Agong. If MPs want to question our legitimacy, we’ll advise the Agong to prorogue Parliament.

We need laws to protect the people from leaders who abuse their position in government for self-serving  interests. Any new government must also consider levelling the playing field for all MPs. Instead of the ruling government determining how much of government funds each MP gets, MPs’ allocations should be determined by Parliament with every MP getting the same amount. The allocation must be disbursed irrespective of which coalition is in government.

This will remove the need to switch parties or stay in government illegitimately in order to get funds to pacify voters so as to win elections.

So, yes, it is obvious why PN won’t resign and neither would Umno’s cluster of ministers in PN, although the latter should if it has any sense of dignity and allegiance and loyalty to the party.

The loss of government funds would only be for a short while if the new government reforms fund allocations to MPs. Hence, it would be advantageous for Umno’s cluster of ministers to resign. It shows they can’t be bought and that might work in their favour in the next general elections.

To make things easier, it might be better for Umno to pull out of PN now, thus, its cluster of ministers will have no choice but to resign. If they don’t, it means they have interests outside of Umno and that’s a big risk they would be taking because it may cost them votes in the next general elections.

If Umno pulls out of PN now, Parliament must be convened to test PN’s majority. If it loses a confidence vote, PN must resign.

That’s a cheaper and constitutionally correct way of testing support for a party or coalition then wielding the big stick of a general election which is very costly and will be disruptive in the aftermath of the pandemic and in which Bersatu stands to lose rather than gain.

A pause and a reset under Dr M is the way forward

It seems a little strange that the topic of an imminent general election has come up again when the Agong has said Parliament can be convened during the current Emergency, which suggests that the possibility of that happening precedes a general election.

So, why aren’t the politicians raising a hue and cry to call for the convening of a sitting of Parliament? Surely, that should be a priority so that they can establish the legitimacy of the Prihatin Nasional (PN) coalition since it has lost its majority, and demand its resignation?

The legitimacy of the PN government should be top on the agenda of any parliamentary sitting. The PN coalition should be made to comply with the Federal Constitution and if it doesn’t it should be removed and an example set so that future coup plotters know what to expect.

As I have said in my last post, the best option for the PN coalition now is to resign. It would save the Malay race, religion and royalty from any further embarrassment domestically and internationally than it has already caused. With the court cases that have been initiated against PN coalition leader Muhyiddin Yassin, the PN needs to ask itself if it has made race, religion and royalty look good or made a spectacle of itself and these — the very things it claims to represent and stand for. Better to resign and save face.

The resignation of the PN coalition will result in one very good thing for the nation. It will halt the clamouring of Malay politicians to become the prime minister through illegitimate means. It will put national politics at pause, giving political parties a breathing space to examine their options and choose the right leaders to represent them in the future. Politics will be forced to return to the normal correct procedures of choosing leaders and short-cuts will be aborted, thus maintaining adherence to the federal constitution.

Calling for a general election now will simply continue the cockfights among competitors and the chaotic unconstitutional political environment. A pause will get politicians out of the cooking cauldron and gain a fresh perspective on the directions to take within the scope and leeway granted by the federal constitution.

Right now, the best person to manage the nation under pause is former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. He has no future ambition except the good of the nation and during the pause he will also be able to reset the nation on course in accordance with the federal constitution.

The past year has shown several loopholes and the opportunities they offered to political parties to seize the government. Questions have to be raised and addressed so a repeat doesn’t happen. For example, when a ruling coalition loses power mid-term and another party or coalition claims a majority, should its nomination for prime minister be sworn in before facing a confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat? If competing coalitions claim a majority, what is the process to test which coalition has a majority?

Can an interim prime minister call for a parliamentary session so that a coalition with a majority can be found and tested in Parliament? Who then should call for a Dewan Rakyat session and how?

When a party or coalition refuses to resign when it has lost its majority, how will it be removed? Should laws be set in place to empower an official in authority like the Opposition Leader or chief secretary to the government to speak to the Agong and advise him to direct the police and armed forces to escort the rogue and his cabinet of cohorts out of their offices? These are issues that need to be addressed.

In developed democracies, procedures are set in place so that leaders who stage a coup can be escorted out of office and that is the reason why they don’t have coups. When former US President Donald Trump threatened to refuse to recognise the results of the presidential elections and stay on in the White House, the democrats were calm, simplying stating that they knew what to do to get him out of office.

Our democracy was tested this past year and in anticipation of future claimants to power, laws and the correct procedures to facilitate a change of government in mid-term should be set in place so that an illegitimate government can not be formed.

Such changes may require a two-thirds majority for amendments to be made in the Dewan Rakyat and right now there’s only one person who can command such a majority and that is Tun Dr Mahathir.

Unlike other Malaysian political leaders, Tun knows the proper procedures to maintain constitutional integrity and he should be allowed to return as prime minister to reset the political temperature so that laws can be introduced or streamlined to ensure political instability is managed without disrupting the life of the nation.

Political leaders desiring to become the prime minister or parties wanting to lead the government should temporarily abandon their private agendas and ambitions and give Tun all the support he needs to form a majority government after the PN government resigns.

Tun would likely remain as prime minister until the next general elections, but, by that time, with the support of the majority, he would have set in place the right government structures to curb corruption and laws and regulations to make a coup in Malaysia impossible. Parliament must hold him to these ideals.

If Malaysian leaders genuinely put the nation first, those who should resign will resign and others will help Tun to form a coalition with a majority to take over.

A pause and a reset will pave the way for a more stable political future than what we have witnessed this past year and enable new leaders to emerge in the proper way, through their party channels and eventually through a general election.

The only option left for the PN coalition

I’m dumbfounded after reading a news report which quoted two local “political analysts” who claimed that the call for a parliamentary sitting was aimed at questioning the government’s legitimacy for having lost its majority.

In a Malaysiakini report today, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) geostrategist Azmi Hassan said, “The problem is when the Parliament sitting is exploited for political agenda, such as to pressure the prime minister to resign, to dissolve the Parliament, to question the majority, and so on.” And that it is not used for check-and-balance of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Thinking along the same lines, another political analyst, Jeniri Amir, said that the Parliament sitting can be resumed “if the lawmakers only focus on five aspects – namely Covid-19, security, education, the people, and policy”.

Unbelievable! This coming from so-called scholars! Firstly, if such scholars need to be told that a government can’t operate unless it is legitimate, I don’t know if it’s worth considering their input. Secondly, if such scholars are advising the Prihatin Nasional (PN) coalition, then, it’s no wonder that the coalition refuses to resign from occupying the government of Malaysia.

I wonder if people who hold such notions understand democracy and democratic practices and conventions. The fundamental basis of democracy is rule by the majority. If a party or coalition can’t get a majority, it can’t rule.

Any democratic government must first establish it has the support of the majority. If it can’t prove that support, it can not rule. It’s as simple as that! Parliament’s role includes establishing if a ruling government has that majority. It’s not a case of “politicking”; it’s the MPs’ job to ensure that the votes of the majority are respected.

Scholars need to be told all this?

Does Muhyiddin Yassin, Bersatu president and head of the PN coalition, need to be told this? Is he adhering to democratic principles or using political expediency to remain as prime minister?

On Jan 9, when the Machang MP Ahmad Jazlan Yaakub (Umno) withdrew his support for Muhyiddin and the number of MPs supporting Muhyiddin dropped to 110 of the 220 MPs in the Dewan Rakyat, the PN coalition lost its majority. The PN government automatically fell on Jan 9 and it should have resigned and advised the Agong to call for a new government with a majority. But, it didn’t do that.

It continued to remain in government although it is now an occupying government — not elected, a minority and operating without legitimacy. On Jan 12,  the Padang Rengas MP Nazri Aziz (Umno) announced his withdrawal of support for Muhyiddin and the number of PN’s MPs went down to 109, clearly showing PN has lost its majority. Why didn’t PN resign?

Instead, as an illegitimate government, Muhyiddin ran to the Agong and sought for Emergency purportedly to manage the covid-19 pandemic, which he got, and when it was gazetted, the government prior to Jan 11 (the day he saw the Agong) was retroactively recognised as the government of the day. But, between Jan 9 and Jan 11, the PN coalition was an illegitimate government. So, an illegitimate government was allowed to rule under Emergency, thanks to Muhyiddin’s clever politics.

Since the Emergency was declared by the Agong, everyone is respecting that decision and not questioning it. But, does Muhyiddin realise that since he was given emergency powers only to manage the covid-19 pandemic, all the decisions he can make can only be related to the management of the covid-19 pandemic?

Neither he nor any of his Cabinet members can represent the government of Malaysia in any other capacity except in relation to the management of the covid-19 pandemic. They can’t make official visits abroad or locally. They can’t make any appointments or policy decisions. They can’t make new allocations. They can’t make public addresses. They can’t do any of the above or any other aspect of government except where it concerns the management of the covid-19 pandemic.

If the PN emergency government does anything other than that related to the pandemic, all of it can be thrown out when a new government takes over or challenged in court.

The best option for the PN coalition is to resign. It’s not just the person assuming the prime minister’s position who should resign, but all the PN members assuming Cabinet positions must resign. The reason for this is because it is an unelected minority government that was not reinstalled officially when it lost its majority on Jan 9 and automatically fell as a government.

If the PN coalition had resigned and then reinstalled by the Agong as an interim government until a majority government is formed, there would be no question of its legitimacy. But if the PN government resigns and another coalition is able to command a majority, that coalition becomes the new government.

It is when a ruling party or coalition loses its majority that it falls — automatically. It is not when the prime minister resigns that the ruling party or coalition falls. When a PM resigns because he has lost the support of the ruling party or coalition, someone else from the party or coalition can become the PM. But if the ruling party or coalition loses its majority, the prime minister must tender his resignation and the resignation of his entire Cabinet.

That’s what has happened in Italy. The previous Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned when the small Italia Viva party withdrew from the ruling coalition leaving him with a minority. He didn’t resign because he lost the support of his party. Italian president Sergio Mattarella then called on former European Central Bank president Mario Draghi to form a majority. He succeeded and faced a confidence vote in Parliament which he won handsomely.

That’s the procedure for forming a majority government when a ruling government loses its majority in a democracy. If that procedure was followed in Malaysia, we would not be in the state we are in now.

A year ago, when former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad resigned, the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition remained intact. Bersatu, his party then, could have replaced him with another candidate and submitted that name to the PH coalition for consideration. PH could have accepted, rejected and/or nominated its own candidate until a consensus was reached through negotiations.

However, that possibility did not materialise because, within hours of Mahathir’s resignation, Muhyiddin withdrew Bersatu from PH causing it to lose its majority and hence that government fell automatically. Muhyiddin was subsequently named as PM because he could get a majority with Umno’s support. The expectation was that that nomination would face a confidence vote in Parliament and there was still time for another coalition to be formed. Within a day, Mahathir was able to form another coalition with 113 MPs’ support, which means Muhyiddin lost his majority.

By right, Muhyiddin should have told the Agong then that he had lost the majority and advised him to contact Mahathir to test his majority. That’s how it is played out in a democracy. But, Muhyiddin did not do that.

One year later, Muhyiddin has done the same. He lost his majority on Jan 9 and he should have resigned. He didn’t resign and is continuing as an uninstalled government. He may have non-democratic reasons for wanting to remain in government. If that is so, he should announce what those reasons are and seek reelection and if he gets a two-third majority he can amend the Federal Constitution to suit his purposes. Until then, he has to abide by the Federal Constitution and follow the correct procedures of establishing a legitimate government. Failing to do so would simply make the PN coalition an illegitimate government. He needs to speak with constitutional experts to guide him in the decisions he has to make.

If Muhyiddin is serious about setting a good example for future potential prime ministers, he and his Cabinet will resign. That’s the only option left and the honourable thing to do.

Gong Xi Fa Chai!

Wishing all an OXpicious Chinese New Year as you usher in the Year of the Ox! With nothing much to do under the Movement Control Order (MCO), enjoy the basics — family and relatives and friends in close contact with you — over good food!

Don’t let the political situation in the country wear you down any further than it already has. You know the saying, when you hit rock bottom you can’t go down any further except up! So, be hopeful for a better future and enjoy the present and wishing everyone health, safety, wealth that’s enough and always a better tomorrow!

Happy Chinese New Year!

The need to resign and the Opposition’s primary task

In Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s address to the nation yesterday when he announced that the government will give free vaccines to innoculate 26.5 million or 80% of the population against covid-19, he also said that when the emergency is lifted he would dissolve Parliament to make way for a general election.

He, I am sure, will keep to his word but I’m a bit perplexed here. When the emergency is lifted, what is the status of the Prihatin Nasional (PN) government he leads now under emergency declared by the Agong? That government reverts to its state of not only being a minority government but one without the authority of the office to remain in government.

The term of the PN government that began when the Agong swore in Muhyiddin as the prime minister automatically ended on Jan 9 when the Machang MP Ahmad Jazlan Yaakub (Umno) withdrew his support for Muhyiddin and the number of MPs supporting Muhyiddin dropped to 110 of the 220 MPs in the Dewan Rakyat. That number dropped to 109 on Jan 12 when the Padang Rengas MP Nazri Aziz (Umno) announced his withdrawal of support for Muhyiddin, leaving the latter with a clear minority. A minority government can not continue to govern unless it has resigned and is reappointed by the Agong for an interim period until a majority government can be formed.

Since the minority PN government did not resign, when the emergency is lifted we will have a minority and illegal government, one without the authority of office to govern. So, with what authority can Muhyiddin dissolve Parliament and call for a general election? If he does, I suspect his decision — like his decision to advise the Agong to agree to an emergency — can be challenged in court on constitutional grounds.

This is common sense. Looking at all the practising democracies of the world, it is clear that there is a sequence of steps that needs to be followed to legitimize a government. Take Itay, for example. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned last week when the small Italia Viva party withdrew from the ruling coalition leaving him with a minority. Subsequently, the process began to form a government with a majority.

Why do PN leaders and their supporters feel they don’t have to follow these democratic conventions? Or, they just don’t know? This is the real reason how PN came to power — not because the previous prime minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, resigned.

Mahathir resigned because he lost support from his party. But, what followed was chaotic and in the swift succession of events, some constitutional steps were overlooked, either out of ignorance or political expediency. The process to form a new government with a majority begins with the resignation of the incumbent government when it has lost its majority.

It, indeed, will be interesting to see how the courts will rule on these issues and if the judiciary is able to recognize the constitutional relevance of the cases that have been brought to its attention and the urgency of the need to address them. Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Anwar Ibrahim, former Umno leader Khairuddin Abu Hassan and a number of NGOs have started legal proceedings against Muhyiddin and Attorney General Idrus Harun regarding the constitutional basis of their decisions/advice to the Agong.

If the courts don’t throw out these cases, and a clear decision is made, future prime ministerial candidates will know in black and white what they can and should do and can’t and shouldn’t do according to the federal constitution.

So, when the emergency is lifted the first thing Muhyiddin and his Cabinet need to do is to resign and advise the Agong to call on the leader who can muster a coalition with a majority to form the government. Instead of bickering and blaming each other,  the Opposition needs to set their differences aside and present themselves as the only united, cohesive coalition with a majority under one name as the prime minister.

The Opposition has to stop blaming Mahathir for the fall of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government. It fell not because he resigned but because Muhyiddin pulled Bersatu out of PH and it lost its majority. Mahathir still got a majority after Muhyiddin was named the prime minister but he lost communication with the Palace and his majority was ignored as Muyhiddin took power.

Subsequently, there were a couple of opportunities when the Opposition could have taken control of Putrajaya but their efforts fell through and that wasn’t due to Mahathir’s doing. So, why aren’t these people being blamed? Everyone knows PKR created a ruckus over Anwar’s position. With PKR demanding a timeline for the transfer of power how could Mahathir be sure of their support?

The blame game will lead to nothing but recriminations and accusations, which means the Opposition will lose the chance to offer itself as a strong and united coalition with a majority in the event the PN coalition resigns from government.

The primary task facing the Opposition now is to reconcile, forge together in unity, agree on one name as prime minister and wait for the PN government to resign.

A general election after the emergency is lifted is bad timing because people would want to first find jobs again and start over their businesses. They wouldn’t want it to be disrupted by an election. It would be better to wait until life goes back to some semblance of normalcy before a general election is held.

A general election now would also mean that political parties as they are now — divided — will be unable to form a majority and political instability will continue unless the Opposition is able to present itself as the sole alternative that has a majority.

I believe the Opposition will have a comfortable majority if they stopped attacking Mahathir and closed ranks and got ready to take over when the opportunity lends itself.

It might come sooner than we think.