10th PM: Is it an earned sweet victory?

Anwar Ibrahim has now become Malaysia’s 10th prime minister, and with Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) joining the Pakatan Harapan (PH)-led unity government, the new prime minister has announced that he has a two-thirds majority in the Dewan Rakyat. A commendable achievement.

Nevertheless, it is worth examining if he earned it.

Winning only 82 seats in GE15 with its ally, Muda, against its opponent Perikatan Nasional (PN)’s 73, PH was unable to form a majority government. Neither was PN. Anwar approached GPS (which won 23 seats) who apparently initially declined, then Barisan Nasional (BN) who wavered to commit to PH. Meanwhile, PN claimed to have a majority while the criticisms rose to give the coalition with the most seats the first chance to form a majority.

After two days the Palace summoned both parties and suggested the plan of a unity government which PN outrightly rejected on the basis it had the majority. The king did not accept the claim and neither did he ask Anwar to form the government.

At this point, Anwar was in the position face-to-face with the king to tell the reigning monarch that according to the federal constitution, he should be called to form the new government. We don’t know if he did. And, if he did, neither were we told of the response.

It was an opportune moment for Anwar to prove his willingness to fight for the upholding of the constitution which every prime minister-designate must demonstrate. In our form of constitutional monarchy-parliamentary democracy, it is the prime minister who leads the fight to ensure that in all his/her dealings and in the affairs of government, he/she and the government abides by the constitution in every way.

Anwar missed that chance. Understandably, he lacked the confidence to assert his claim because he was unsure he could muster a majority. Or, he may have been beholden to the king as, after all, he was pardoned by the reigning monarch after serving time for a sodomy charge when PH was in government.

Whatever his reason, he failed to demonstrate that determination to advise the constitutional monarch to abide by the constitutional requirement to let him as the leader of the coalition with the most seats to form the majority government.

The king may not have listened but Anwar would have made the point clear: it is the prime minister who advises the constitutional monarch when the latter steps out of his authority as stipulated by the constitution and gets involved in government affairs and political manoeuvering and assumes the role of kingmaker. A prime minister-designate should be able to say so.

Anwar did not stand up for the constitution and the king went about summoning BN and Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) who went along with the king and agreed to join a PH-led unity government. GPS only agreed after it demanded an apology from PH component partner DAP for saying that the state government would go bankrupt with its hefty spending bills. DAP humbly apologized and GPS accepted and joined the unity government and gave it a majority.

The king then called for a ruler’s conference and it was only after that that he named Anwar the 10th PM and called on him to form a majority government.

Now Anwar is beholden to the king because without his “help” he could not have formed a majority government. Yesterday, the Johor Sultan congratulated Anwar and it is left to be seen to what extent Anwar will maintain the independence of the government without interference from royals.

Anwar is also indebted to the DAP who make up nearly 50% of the 82 seats PH won. But he now has to pay the price of winning the most seats on Chinese support in order to become PM. As a result, the conservative Malay heartland swung to PAS (42 seats) and its ally Bersatu (30 seats).

GE15 has exposed PAS president Hadi Awang’s influence and the country is now even more polarised in Peninsular Malaysia between the rural Malays and the urbanites and between their religions and it poses a threat to national integration. To diminish that threat, GPS and GRS came to Anwar’s rescue to form a majority government. The alternative would have been a PN-led PAS-influenced conservative government going backwards. Anwar is indebted to both GPS and GRS.

Yet, all of this could have been avoided if Anwar was willing to give up his desire to be PM and worked with former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Gerakan Tanah Air (GTA) which was wiped out because it went alone in GE15 without the backing of a coalition. With GTA and Mahathir in it, GPS might have joined it and PH would have won more seats — albeit without Anwar — to confidently form a majority government indebted to no one.

That, perhaps, is what Mahathir had in mind. Mahathir is always 10 steps ahead and if people can’t catch up to him, he is mistrusted and or demonized. But, he is far-sighted politically. PH missed that opportunity because of its insistence that Anwar becomes PM. Now, Anwar is, but lacking in confidence because he is indebted to everyone who put him there.

To strengthen his confidence to lead this nation and become a “PM for all” as he has declared, he must face a confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat and win it. His coalition partners who must be credited for admirably putting the nation first and joining the PH-led unity government must give him their full support. A PN-led alternative with PAS as the dominant partner will be disastrous for the nation.

Before the vote, however, Anwar must show in the selection of his cabinet that he will do the right thing and put the nation first. He must choose a solid candidate for the post of deputy prime minister who has the backing of his coalition partners. Anwar will be facing a sodomy case in court and should he be found guilty, he will have to step down and let his deputy ride out the full term of this unity government.

Anwar must demonstrate his willingness to conform to the constitution and uphold the rule of law by doing the right thing. Though convicted, he stood for election. That certainly isn’t a demonstration of complying with the rule of law. He will have no confidence to stand up to opposing forces unless he demonstrates a willingness to do the right thing according to the rule of law. The people accept nothing less. And when he does, his victory will be sweet.

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GTA promises a realisable solution to corruption

Under-the-radar Gerakan Tanah Air (GTA) has out-smarted all other coalitions by promising a practical and realisable top priority plan to wipe out corruption in government in its GE15 election manifesto. If it wins at the polls, GTA plans to put the appointment of nine key government officers under the purview of Parliament where they will be selected through select parliamentary committees.

The key officers are the attorney-general, inspector-general of police, chief justice, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission chief commissioner, armed forces chief, chief secretary to the government, Treasury secretary-general, auditor-general, and the Bank Negara Malaysia governor.

Selected by Parliament rather than appointed by the executive, they will be answerable to Parliament which means they will no longer be influenced by the executive. What makes it a remarkable plan is that it can be accomplished within the first session of the new Parliament. Once approved by Parliament, corruption in the government will be staunched overnight!

Other manifestos also have an anti-corruption plan. Perikatan Nasional’s (PN) is to create an anti-corruption court; Umno-Barisan Nasional’s (Umno-Barisan) is to upgrade the Institut Integrity Malaysia into a commission. Pakatan Harapan (PH) has a list of improvements in procedures. All these will take time and resources but not solve the problem as GTA’s.

GTA’s other plans include enacting a political funding law, declaration of assets by top politicians and government officers, establishing a special commission on integrity and corruption, addressing the rising cost of living, raising incomes and creating more jobs, giving access to higher education for B40 students, developing comprehensive food and energy sustainability and security, and implementing laws on climate change.

PH, PN and Umno-Barisan have similar plans but GTA’s No 1 priority of putting the selection of the top officers in government under Parliament is the single most effective solution to corruption in the government. Once implemented, the tide of the spread of corruption stops immediately.

This point alone should draw more to vote for GTA.

GTA, still unregistered, is fielding its candidates under its component party Pejuang. If these Pejuang candidates win enough seats, a government with GTA will not only deliver the corruption-free government all Malaysians want but it will be a stable coalition free of corrupt diva Umno which is prone to tantrum-throwing and causing political stability when it doesn’t get what it wants.

Such a coalition will also be free of incompetent PN which is influenced by the Medieval-minded religious zealots of PAS, both of which are a bane to progress and religious freedom.

A GTA-membered coalition will also mean that Anwar will not be the Prime Minister, which may be good for the country. It would be another “national embarrassment” if a sitting PM faces a sodomy charge in court and loses.

GTA’s No 1 corruption-free priority will also remove the opportunities for abuse of power and a repeat of all the abuses of power and constitutional lapses we have been witnessing since jailed former prime minister Najib Razak’s time, will not occur.

The government will finally be free to get on with the business of governing and taking care of the people.

A vote for GTA is a vote for a stable and corruption-free future Malaysia. I hope Malaysian voters see it.

Candidates who should sit out GE15

For the first time in Malaysian history, candidates who are facing court charges have been selected for election in GE15. They are Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi for the Bagan Datok seat, Pakatan Harapan chairman and PKR president Anwar Ibrahim for Tambun, DAP chairman Lim Guan Eng for Bagan, Muda president Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman for Muar and Sungai Besar Umno division chief Jamal Yunos for Sungai Besar. Adding to the list are Zahid’s court cluster cohorts in Umno.

Technically, they can claim that they have not yet been found guilty and therefore are innocent. However, Anwar was found guilty of a previous sodomy charge although pardoned. But, he still faces another sodomy charge that is yet to be disposed of. Hence, the question has to be raised as to why he is standing for election.

His case is no doubt not a criminal case like Lim’s, Zahid’s and his court cluster’s and Syed Saddiq’s, but it is still a case that tarnishes his moral standing and until he is cleared in court, Anwar should not stand for election.

Anwar can argue that he was pardoned when PH was in government but that was before the new sodomy case was initiated. He may also argue that if Zahid can stand for election so can he. Well, Umno politicians are unscrupulous and will do anything to gain power. Is Anwar like them?

Jamal, unlike Umno’s court cluster, is in the middle of bankruptcy proceedings initiated by former Seputeh MP Teresa Kok who said in a news report today that he is likely to be declared bankrupt. He has stated that as long as he has yet to receive a bankruptcy order from the courts he is qualified to run in the polls.

Zahid and his court cluster, Lim and Syed Saddiq, who are facing criminal charges in court, should also sit out this general election until they are cleared by the courts.

Should all these candidates facing court cases be found guilty or declared a bankrupt, they would have to step down and by-elections would have to be called, which is a waste of taxpayers’ money. Their political futures too would be in question.

Zahid and his court cluster and Jamal, of course, can’t be expected to conduct themselves in any better way other than the way they have conducted themselves. But opposition candidates?

It is extremely disappointing that these opposition politicians who have always held the high moral ground with regard to jailed former prime minister Najib Razak’s financial muddling, have failed to apply the same standards for themselves.

Understandably, Anwar and Lim who are at the end of their political careers can go for broke. Make it or break it. But Syed Saddiq, 29, should not jeopardize his political career by standing for election while his criminal case is ongoing. It will come back to sully his chances for a controversy-free political future.

Nobody expects Zahid, the court cluster or Jamal to set the example and pull out from the elections, being from a corrupt party, but more is expected of Anwar, Lim and Syed Saddiq unless, of course, their supporters have lowered their expectations quite drastically in favour of political expediency!

Anwar and Lim as veterans should set the example and not stand for election so that potential young, future leaders such as Syed Saddiq follow suit and step aside in order to keep their reputations intact.

The participation of the elder two in GE15 is as baffling as the silence they have maintained over the recent reports of alleged negotiations taking place between PH and Umno. The leaders of all the PH partners have noticeably not said a word on the issue.

Their silence can only mean guilt or a compromise to enable them to form a government with Umno. It is an option PH may be keeping open and one that must be made public.

Any kind of cooperation with Umno must be revealed to the voting public because, unlike all the other parties and coalitions, Umno is toxic and any alliance with it will only continue the political instability the country has been experiencing since the Sheraton Moves.

PH should not risk the political stability of the country in order to form a government with Umno with Anwar as prime minister.

Anwar recently appealed to fence-sitters to give PH a solid majority in GE15. He needs to understand that these fence-sitters are urbanites in the traditional opposition strongholds who gave their votes to PH to boot out Umno from the government in 2018. To expect them to support PH to bring Umno back into the government is to consider them fools. If, somehow, they are fooled to give their support, and after the elections find they have been played, PH can expect a defeat at their hands in subsequent elections just as they were punished in the Malacca and Johor state elections.

Happy Deepavali, folks!

May the light of Deepavali fill your celebrations with joy and good food! Prices have shot up and the economic future — like our political future — looks extremely uncertain if not actually bleak. But, for this long weekend, let’s forget about the harsh painful reality and believe that the light will break through!

So, folks, enjoy Deepavali, and may the refreshing break clear our minds and give a more insightful perspective of the options before us as we prepare to cast our votes in the general elections on Nov 19. There really is only one option: anything other than an Umno/BN-led government or any coalition government which includes Umno i.e. if you want a corruption-free government.

As Hindus celebrate the triumph of light over darkness, the rest can enjoy themselves with them and after that to be prepared for the heavy task before us to choose a corruption-free government.

Happy Deepavali! May light always triumph over darkness!

Sabri’s last national duty

Prime Minister Ismail Sabri has announced the dissolution of Parliament, paving the way for the 15th General Election (GE15) to be held within 60 days, but his job is not yet done. There is still one more very important national duty to perform before he leaves office and the next government takes over.

Sabri’s last task is extremely crucial. It is overseeing the formation of the next coalition government according to the rule of law within the ambit of the federal constitution.

As it is, no party or current partnership is going to win a majority of seats in GE15 to form the next government by itself. The party/coalition with the most seats will have to seek other partners to form a government with a majority.

The caretaker government under Sabri’s leadership will have to ensure that a procedure is set in place for the party with the most seats to form a government. Right now no such procedure exists and a repeat of former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s coup when he seized control of the government based on his appointment as prime minister by the Agong without proving his majority must not happen.

Sabri needs to seek the counsel of constitutional experts and work with the Attorney-General’s Chambers and the Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat to develop a procedure for politicians to follow once the election results are out. He should also advise the Agong on the procedure as it is the Agong who installs the new government if he is sure it has a majority, as stipulated by the constitution.

A good example to emulate is the British Parliament where a party that fails to win an outright majority seeks partners and faces a confidence vote in Parliament. If the party wins the confidence vote, it meets the head of state, King Charles III — in Malaysia, it is the Agong — who then installs the new government.

In this model of parliamentary democracy, the majority is proven in Parliament first and then the vote is presented to the head of state as proof of a majority. It is indisputable because Parliament has proven it and has records of it.

If a procedure is not devised before GE15, chaos will follow the elections, especially if no party/coalition/partnership has a majority. Parties will do all sorts of things to grab power in the name of “Malay unity”, “saving Malaysia” and/or “national interests” and ignore the rules. If Umno/Barisan Nasional wins the most seats, one can expect this once-favoured spoilt brat to throw tantrums and get away with it as it always has.

To avoid this period of political instability, it would be wise for Sabri to give priority to putting in place a procedure to ensure an orderly and constitutionally acceptable search for partners to form a coalition with a majority.

The normal procedure is for the Agong to first call the party/coalition/partnership with the most seats to seek a majority with other partners. If it fails, the next party/coalition/partnership will be called to do the same and if that fails, too, the next will be called until a party/coalition/partnership is formed. That has to be proven by a confidence or no-confidence vote in Parliament. Only then does the prime minister-designate meet the Agong and a date is fixed for the installation of the new government.

Sabri can not and must not leave this matter unaddressed. Neither should he leave it to the Dewan Rakyat Speaker to manage the formation of a government with a majority. Not being a parliamentarian, Speaker Azhar Harun may be unable to perform this vital duty to manage a smooth transition of power to a legitimate coalition government. If he is left to undertake this responsibility on his own, it may end up in controversial decisions as in the past.

As the current Speaker was appointed and not elected, he is beholden to the executive and this is one occasion when the prime minister can and should direct him to introduce a confidence or no-confidence vote in Parliament to prove a coalition’s claim of a majority.

If Sabri does this last job well, and a new government is formed and installed legitimately and orderly without the chaos of unanticipated disorder, he will earn his place in history among the leaders who contributed meaningfully to national development. If he fails he will be ranked with his predecessor Muhyiddin who helmed an illegitimate government which Sabri continued because both failed to grasp what parliamentary democracy is and the primary role the prime minister plays in upholding it.

Here’s an opportunity for Sabri to redeem himself and put the nation’s interest first and undertake to oversee the smooth and orderly transfer of power to a legitimate government. I have only suggested ideas here; he must get the input of professionals and constitutional experts to ensure that the transition to the next government is not fraught with shocks due to constitutional transgressions as what followed the Sheraton Moves and that political stability is maintained while a new government is being formed.

The people need Sabri to do this.

Rural Malay voters will be the kingmakers in GE15

Despite the bombastic rhetoric by Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi — who is facing corruption charges in court — and his party cohorts — who are also facing corruption charges in court — that the Malays will only vote for Umno, that opposition parties can’t handle a general election during the monsoon period and that they are doomed to lose, they don’t seem entirely convinced.

If they were, they would go into the 15th General Elections (GE15) alone with its small Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition in a do-or-die fight. For a long time, Zahid declared that Umno/BN would go into GE15 alone without its former coalition partners Bersatu and PAS. But, yesterday, Zahid gave orders to its cyber troopers to stop attacks on PAS, which can only mean, at the barest minimum, that Umno is now open to working with PAS again and especially as a partner in an expanded BN coalition.

Either Zahid wants to go along with PAS’ notion of a united ummah (Muslim community) or he knows but does not want to publicly admit it for fear of losing Malay votes that he is not confident of en bloc Malay support for Umno/BN in the Umno heartland and need partners to form a government.

The battleground in GE15 will be the Umno heartland where its Malay majority voters will become the kingmakers of GE15. It would do well for all political parties to factor this fact into their election campaign strategies.

The Malay rural heartland is synonymous with the Umno heartland because this is where most of the Malay constituencies are found and which traditionally gave Umno its unassailable majority. Though the number of Malay voters is a minority as the majority have left their rural homes to the urban areas where they are now a majority, the number of parliamentary constituencies there remains the same and advantageous for Umno to defend and hold.

But in GE14 that Umno stronghold broke when former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was able to swing about 10% of the rural Malay vote to Pakatan Harapan (PH) which he led to form the next government. PH lost much of that vote back to Umno in byelections and due to other factors, the PH government fell.

The point, however, is that a 10% swing in rural Malay vote was possible then. Is a 10% or more swing possible in GE15? It is possible on one factor alone — former prime minister Najib Razak’s conviction and incarceration.

In Malaysia, there has been no precedent of a former prime minister being sent to jail. Now, one has and GE15 will show if there will be a fallout that results in a change in the voting patterns of Malay voters who once supported him.

GE15 will prove whether Malay voters in Umno’s traditional stronghold have been convinced of Umno’s culpability and buckle the traditional trend of blindly voting for Umno, or not.

Right up to Umno’s successes in recent elections Najib was still a free man and he could present an image of himself as being still innocent until proven guilty. But, he is now in jail and his fellow cohorts in Umno will find it difficult to sell his innocence to their Malay voter base.

Najib’s jailing and the appeal of Zahid’s recent corruption case will cast doubts on Umno’s narrative that the corruption cases are “politically-motivated”. So, Umno will suffer some loss of votes but the extent of it is what GE15 will show and will be of concern to political parties.

Where will Umno’s loss of votes go to? There are only two other parties that can offer any challenge to Umno in its stronghold, namely Bersatu and the new NGO, Gerakan Tanah Air (GTA), led by Mahathir’s new party Pejuang. Both will pick up some votes. Whatever votes GTA gets will show the level of support it has in the Malay heartland. Against Mahathir, Bersatu is unlikely to win enough votes to gain an advantage over other parties.

Bersatu and PAS, due to their association with Umno and their poor performance in government should also expect a loss of votes, which would turn out to be to GTA’s advantage.

Treating GTA as unproven and irrelevant would be a grave mistake. As events have turned out up to now, GTA is the only untainted organization that can offer Umno a good fight. Umno would want its voter base to believe Bersatu is its threat but it isn’t because against it, Umno is likely to win because it is more experienced. Against GTA, it is harder to predict now.

However, GTA is alone in the fight to defeat Umno. Even if it wins a number of seats it may not be able to form the next government unless opposition parties choose to ally with it. Opposition parties stand to gain much more if they allied with GTA than stand against it.

In the urban areas where opposition parties have solid support, diehard supporters will continue to vote for them. It is the fence-sitters who failed to support them in the recent state elections who need to be wooed. Among them are those who are dead set against any alliance with Mahathir and those who are not.

By allying with GTA, opposition parties stand to lose the support of the anti-Mahathirists but may gain the support of the rest because an alliance with GTA could mean a return to government which opposition supporters may want. The latter strategy holds greater sway over the former because a government with GTA and its allies would mean that Umno will be unable to form the next government.

The strategy for GE15 should be to ensure that Umno does not return to government. An Umno government will hold the nation to ransom to compromise national institutions so that Umno leaders get what they want for themselves as evidenced in the past.

As long as opposition parties keep a distance from GTA, they are communicating to the fence-sitters that they are leaving open the possibility of a tie-up with Umno/BN. They would then lose the support of the non-anti-Mahathirists. Whether the latter is a bigger majority than the anti-Mahathirists is left to be seen but it is a risk that should not be taken because any union with Umno/BN is detrimental to the nation and should be ruled out completely.

A loose tie-up with GTA as an ally, on the other hand, will send a clear signal to voters nationwide that opposition parties are keen to form the next government without the Umno/BN baggage and will present a united front to achieve that objective. That message may appeal to the majority again, including urban and rural voters.

It will certainly give rural Malay voters who wish to abandon Umno the hope that their votes won’t go to waste. That would definitely break Umno’s stronghold in the Malay heartland.

For that to happen, PH must be prepared to give up PKR president Anwar Ibrahim as the next prime minister. Whether with Umno or GTA, Anwar will not be prime minister, that is certain.

In a government with GTA, in the absence of experienced candidates for the prime ministership, Mahathir may be needed, preferably, in an advisory capacity with a prime minister-designate he can work with. Opposition parties need to work that out among themselves.

The conclusion is simply this: Working with GTA will give rural Malay voters a boost to consider a practical and real alternative and give hope to the rest that a non-Umno government can be formed which can only mean more votes for opposition parties. Working against GTA will leave the status quo unchanged, which means woe upon Malaysia!

GE15 date must be good for Malaysia, not Umno

Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has been acquitted of all graft charges by the Shah Alam High Court in his case involving the Foreign Visa System. Umno’s Baling MP Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim has been granted a discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA) by the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court with regard to corruption and money laundering.

To the layperson, the question is why were these politicians even charged in the first place if they got off the hook so easily? Didn’t the prosecution do its job? Or were they and the courts influenced by the tirade of criticisms against the authorities over former prime minister Najib Razak’s conviction?

If one Umno politician went free, the judge’s reasons can be accepted as independently arrived at even if many may be disappointed by the decision. But, when two from the same political party as the prime minister get off scot-free on the same day in different courts, in the current context of questioning the independence of the judiciary, the question does arise in one’s mind if justice was done?

We will never know but it presents the same lack of credibility that has characterised the Malay-majority governments of the past two years. It has been a government by political pacts and Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and not a government by constitutional rule. As the former, decisions are made according to what has been agreed upon by coalition partners in a pact and that takes precedence over constitutional rule.

This is so clearly apparent in Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s indecisiveness in naming the date for the 15th General Election (GE15). It was a hotly debated issue in the media but we are yet to hear of his decision and we may have to wait a little longer because he is not in the country. He is in New York to attend the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly.

A general election is necessary to restore constitutional rule in Malaysia, the fundamental basis of which is obtaining the mandate of the people. No doubt it is difficult for Sabri to choose the right date as his hands are tied.

Apparently, according to media reports, a document was signed between him and Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin that elections should be called only after consultations with Bersatu. At the same time, he is being pulled in the other direction by Umno members who want an early election.

An election is urgently necessary so that the country has a prime minister who is not bound by pacts and loyalty to a party president that he can’t make independent decisions based on the rule of law.

The only good reason to not hold the GE15 in the coming months is the risk of floods that may cause the loss of life. This may lead to a low voter turnout which may benefit Umno as its supporters may come out to vote but the majority may not.

A low voter turnout in GE15 will be unfavourable to all parties, except Umno. It could mean that Umno may win a number of seats on a smaller percentage of votes and form a coalition with other parties with even smaller representation to form a minority government.

A date must be chosen which will bring out the most number of voters so that a government is formed on a majority in order to ensure political stability.

While in New York, out of the hot seat where he is pulled in many directions, hopefully, Sabri will clear his head and arrive at a date for GE15 which will draw out the most number of voters so that the government that follows will be a majority government and good for Malaysia.

Happy Malaysia Day!

Today we remember and celebrate our diversity. We are indeed a nation of diverse peoples — bumiputra Malays, bumiputra first peoples of Sabah and Sarawak, Chinese, Indians, the Orang Asli (the first peoples of Peninsular Malaysia), a small community of Portuguese even, and pockets of Bangladeshis, Filipinos, and Indonesians.

Our diversity is our strength for each people group has strengths that can be built on to uplift and unite the whole. Generally, we Malaysians are quite sensitive to each other — only when we come to politics then our differences become points of conflict.

Such conflicts are most evident between not the people groups but between two economic classes — the poorer rural Malaysians the majority of whom are bumiputras and who are the majority in the country and the richer urbanites, the majority of whom are Chinese. When these two groups are in conflict, it often takes on racial undertones when in fact the real issues are economic rather than racial.

Malaysians need to understand that our diversity is not only in the various people groups that form Malaysia but also in the distinct economic classes between the rural communities and urbanites which include the urban poor.

The political parties representing these groups often reflect the bias of their voters and when in a coalition tend to ignore the rights of the other groups in wanting to advance their own respective agendas.

This Malaysia Day, I would like to suggest that the urban rich who have access to the most resources in Malaysia demonstrate more tolerance in considering the rights of the rural and urban poor. The urbanites are richer, more educated and more developed than the rural and urban poor and want higher standards of living and performance by public servants. While these are good objectives to aspire to, urbanites need to understand that these can not be achieved at the expense of the poorer communities.

So, I hope urbanites will be more accommodating of the parties representing the rural communities and elect candidates who can form an effective team in marshalling our diverse strengths to build up the poorer among us and bring about reforms that will benefit all Malaysians.

That is my Malaysia Day wish!

Azalina an example, not the rest

Umno MP Azalina Othman Said’s resignation as the special adviser to Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob was the right thing to do. She questioned the absence of his decision to change the Attorney-General publicly at her party’s special meeting. That isn’t what an employee would do to his/her boss. Azalina did it and faced the consequences.

The Pengerang MP must be commended for going without a fuss. Not only did she embarrass her boss, but she also undermined his authority. As a special adviser, she could have settled her differences privately which she didn’t do, and instead made a public statement that made her boss look bad. Resigning was the right thing to do and she did it without further ado.

This is how politicians should conduct themselves. Not remain in a coalition and create a ruckus for being badly treated as Azalina’s party, Umno, has done. Umno has demanded, intimidated and threatened as a partner in the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government but didn’t do the one thing it should have done if it really felt betrayed by Bersatu and PAS — resign.

If Umno is not happy to be in a coalition government with Bersatu and PAS and is disappointed with its vice president who is the prime minister, just resign. Why huff, stomp and create a cloud of hot air but remain in government?

If Umno or any of the other PN coalition partners resign, Sabri’s government will fall and a general election will be called. There would be no need to pressure Sabri for an early election.

The suspicion is that none of the PN partners will resign and trigger a general election because at the back of their minds they are aware they may not be able to form a majority without one of the other partners’ support!

So, they rather stay in government and create a lot of trouble as we have seen in the past two years but not collapse the government because they may need each other to form the next government. Instead, they put pressure on their prime minister to name the date of the general election and leave the option open to a continuing commitment with PN partners.

Contrary to what they say about themselves, this is the style of PN/Umno politicians: say one thing and do another!

Voters must judge according to the actions of the candidates standing for election. Listen to what they say but feel free to reject their candidature if their actions do not measure up!

A tough decision for Sabri

Former prime minister Najib Razak’s conviction by the High Court for abuse of power, criminal breach of trust and money laundering was upheld by the Federal Court and he is now in jail beginning his 12-year sentence. He has been proven to be guilty. So, it is mind-boggling that his supporters are demanding a royal pardon!

He hasn’t even served one week in jail and his supporters are already clamouring for a royal pardon. Blinded by loyalty, they can’t see that if their request was granted, it would put the royal institution in a bad light — as one which does not respect the judgement of the courts. I like to think that the king with good counsel at his disposal will not play into the hands of Najib’s supporters.

It is unbelievable that Najib’s supporters want a royal pardon — as unbelievable as former prime minister and Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin accepting to be installed as prime minister when he knew he could not prove a majority.

This is what happens when power is put in the hands of Umno and former members who abuse the power of their positions. They use power for their own ends even if it goes against the rule of law. We have seen it in the way Najib ran the country and he is in jail now for it! We saw it in the way Muhyiddin governed by installing a huge bloated Cabinet and luring MPs to join it with all sorts of enticements although he got away with it. And, we are now seeing it as Najib’s supporters demand a royal pardon for him.

The fear is he will get away with it too if his supporters have their way! Although Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob is a vice-president in Umno, in this case, he should not be swayed by party politics. He should think of restoring the good name of the nation already marred by the 1MDB scandal and act according to the rule of law and ensure that Najib, too, doesn’t get away with it!

Najib must first serve a portion of his sentence and complete all his court cases before he is considered for a royal pardon. If Sabri caves in to the demands of Najib’s supporters, he will be proving what all of Malaysia except his supporters knows — that Umno will use its privileged position for personal gain rather than national gain.

Hopefully, Sabri will make the right decision though it may be a difficult decision. It may cost him his premiership but it would make him look good in history for not letting a crook off the hook!