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.

The vital non-Malay factor

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned on Tuesday when the small Italia Viva party withdrew from the ruling coalition leaving him with a minority. In Malaysia, on Jan 9 the ruling Prihatin Nasional (PN) government lost its one-MP majority when the Machang MP Ahmad Jazlan Yaakub (Umno) withdrew his support for Muhyiddin. The PN government fell on Jan 9 but the minority coalition continues to occupy the government.

The occupying coalition continues to operate under the emergency ordinance it declared on Jan 12. On the that same day, the Padang Rengas MP Nazri Aziz (Umno) announced that he has withdrawn support for Muhyiddin. The PN coalition now has 109 MPs in Parliament, two fewer than the 111 required to form a majority to govern as according to the Federal Constitution.

The PN coalition has ignored the democratic principles of the constitution and has set itself in government in the name of the Malay majority. Is this the kind of Malay leadership we want?

I can understand why the Malays the PN represents support it. These are the simple-minded voters who are happy for the little cash their leaders put in their hands and are nice about it. Their leaders can cheat, resort to political chicanery, make pacts with politicians facing criminal charges and stage coups but as long as they are “nice” about it they show how caring the Malays are and if their supporters can get some cash in the process, the latter will give their support without realising that they are being taken for a ride.

This is Malay majority politics and the abilities of their leaders to govern are what we have witnessed since the Sheraton moves last February. The PN coalition in government has only one issue to tackle — the covid 19 pandemic. Under its government, Malaysia has moved from the lower half to the 29th position in the list of countries with the highest number of cases. It has dropped six places to 57 in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index. There has been no new prosecution on those connected with the IMDB scandal. 46 charges against former Sabah chief minister Musa Aman were dismissed. Is the judiciary independent? Is Parliament independent with an appointed Speaker?

Is this the kind of Malay-led government we want?

Thank God for the faction of the Malay population that does not support the PN coalition! These are the progressive Malays who are mostly in the Opposition. Unfortunately, their numbers are not as large as the PN supporters but they provide full support to the Opposition in the urban areas. If they were a majority, the PN would never have been formed!

This latter group of Malays is represented in Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), Amanah, Warisan and Pejuang and together they form a dominant representation in the Opposition with the solid support of the non-Malays. Malays and non-Malays in the Opposition understand the significance of constitutional integrity and the need to abide by the constitution and so can work together. That is what as Malaysians we want — Rule of Law. And Malay leaders who uphold it.

That is also why it is puzzling why non-Malay bumiputras in Sabah and especially Sarawak support the unelected minority PN coalition. Do they not know that if the PN failed to follow democratic processes, what can stop them from sacrificing non-Malay and non-Malay bumiputra constitutional rights for the sake of remaining in power in the name of the Malay majority?

Non-Malay bumiputras in Sabah and Sarawak need to think through carefully about which coalition they should join, especially if a general election is called soon. The PN coalition can not be trusted to respect the constitutional rights of Malaysians because they have so far NOT shown compliance with the constitution when their own survival is at stake.

The head of the PN coalition, Muhyiddin Yassin, as leader of a small party (Bersatu) in a minority coalition, will always be insecure of his position and will seek to prop himself up in any way possible in order to stay in power, including sacrificing non-Malay and non-Malay bumiputra rights. Non-Malays need to be extremely wary of such a leadership and seek alliances where the Federal Constitution is followed to the letter by the prime minister and his or her cabinet.

In the absence of a more politically knowledgeable Malay majority, as fellow Malaysians, we, the non-Malays, should fill the vacuum and provide the majority to the Malay-led Opposition which has the experience and scholastic understanding of the Federal Constitution to provide the leadership for an inclusive Malaysia that protects the rights of all, the majority and the minorities.

Sabah and Sarawak PN parties need to urgently rethink their allegiances.

NEXT WEEK: Why a general election now will not restore political stability

Muhyiddin’s political misadventures continue …

First, in February 2020, we had a coup when Muhyiddin Yassin became prime minister when the Agong swore him into the position although Muhyiddin’s coalition did not have a majority. Now we have another coup as Muhyiddin’s Prihatin Nasional minority government is recognised as the government of the day when the Agong acceded to the prime minister’s request to declare an emergency.

According to the details of the Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance 2021 made public by the Attorney-General’s Chambers today and reported by Malaysiakini, it is to be applied retroactively from Jan 11, 2021.  Malaysiakini also reported that “for so long as the emergency is in force, the prime minister and the cabinet existing immediately prior to the issuance of the Proclamation of Emergency on Jan 11, 2021 have been conferred executive functions and shall continue to exercise the executive authority of the federation”.

There you have it! Through a declaration of an emergency, Muhyiddin has ensured that his minority PN government will continue to govern until he decides to end it. What is the significance of this? With Parliament suspended, Muhyiddin gets sweeping powers without the checks and balances of Parliament.

Muhyiddin said the emergency declaration was sought to give the government more powers to combat the third wave of covid 19. His motives, however, remain unclear. Is he trying to manage the health problem or save his PN government? His actions, however, raise more questions than provide solutions.

On Jan 9, Machang MP Ahmad Jazlan Yaakub (Umno) withdrew his support for Muhyiddin’s government leaving the latter with only 110 MPs. That was exactly 50% of the 220 lawmakers that make up the Dewan Rakyat. 50% is not a majority but technically the PN coalition was still the leading coalition, albeit a minority one.

Suddenly a minority unelected government — even if it’s the biggest minority component — with what authority did Muhyiddin seek an audience with the Agong as the head of government without first resigning? An even more important question is why did the Agong entertain and accommodate the head of a minority coalition and accorded it the status of a government without the former resigning first?

Isn’t that how a parliamentary democracy works? When the ruling coalition loses its majority, it must resign first. The leader of that coalition then tells the Agong that it has lost its majority and resigns. The Agong then may ask him to seek a majority. If the leader fails, he goes back to say so to the Agong who then seeks the next coalition who he thinks has a majority. When all the coalitions fail to get a majority, the Agong is free to appoint a minority coalition who he thinks may have the majority and appoint the leader as PM.

This is the democratic process. Why did Muhyiddin fail to follow it?

An honourable leader committed to parliamentary democracy will first resign. He will not seek to continue to govern as if he has the right to govern when he has lost a majority.

Muhyiddin announced a return of the Movement Control Order (MCO) on Monday, Jan 11. On Tuesday morning, Jan 12, he announced a nationwide state of emergency. Later in the day, Padang Rengas MP Nazri Aziz (Umno) announced that he has withdrawn support for Muhyiddin. The PN government now only has 109 MPs, clearly no longer a majority.

Why didn’t Muhyiddin resign when he clearly lost the majority in the Dewan Rakyat? Instead, and, today, Friday, three days later the Attorney-General’s Chambers makes public the Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance 202 that retroactively recognises the PN government from prior to Jan 11 by fiat.

Does this show an effort to curb the covid 19 pandemic or that Muhyiddin used the royal institution and the advantage of being the incumbent government to enforce emergency for political purposes?

At the least, Muhyiddin’s actions show a leadership lacking in confidence in using the skills and resources at its disposal to manage a national crisis. The covid 19 pandemic is no doubt a threat to the nation but it isn’t a runaway health problem as it is in the United States or UK or France or Brazil that it requires emergency powers to deal with.

The US recorded 22.4 million cases and 373,000 deaths (WHO statistics) in comparison to Malaysia’s 147,855 cases and 578 deaths (Star Online). The US hasn’t declared an emergency but we with much, much lower figures have. This only shows the PN leadership does not have crisis management skills and instead of resigning and letting others who have take over, it is hanging on to power.

Malaysia’s covid 19 cases are high with most of its cases coming from Selangor. But former health minister Dzulkefly Ahmad who now leads the Selangor Task Force for Covid-19 said in December that cases were expected to rise because of aggressive testing in the state, especially mandatory testing of foreign workers.

In a Malay Mail report on Dec 12, 2020, Dulkefly said that the high numbers should instead be viewed as the efficacy of the additional testing in weeding out Covid-19 cases that would otherwise not have been detected. Discovering and isolating such cases was crucial in order to contain the pandemic, he added.

It was a similar strategy that Singapore used during the first MCO in March last year. While our daily figures were in low triple digits for cases and double digits for fatalities, Singapore’s figures were shooting into four-digits. But, a year later its figures are much lower than Malaysia’s at 58,946 cases and 29 deaths (WHO statistics). Its cases are classified as sporadic while ours are classified as clusters.

Apparently, Singapore’s strategy worked. Their leaders trusted their health professionals and when figures were rising supported the health system solidly without panicking and resorting to extreme measures that ours have.

The fact that Muhyiddin has resorted to relying on an emergency is clearly an admission that his health policies have failed. By refusing to resign although his PN coalition is now a minority, he has created a constitutional crisis. Thanks to his leadership, we now have to deal with a health and a constitutional crisis. We can’t continue to have such leadership.

The Opposition needs to wake up to the options available to them now. It’s not enough for Pakatan Harapan leader Anwar Ibrahim to call on the MPs to call on the Agong to rescind the emergency order. As Opposition leader, he has every right to seek an audience with the Agong to say that the PN government is a minority government and should resign and that the Agong should facilitate the process of finding a majority government.

The Opposition needs to take the bull by the horns. Perhaps, seek the advice of former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad on how to handle this situation. We no longer want backdoor governments. We want constitutionally approved governments and we want to see Opposition leaders demonstrate a better leadership than what we are seeing in the PN government in restoring parliamentary democracy.

Enough of talking. Make it happen.

Capitol riot, PN leaders and the rule of law

The riot at the US Capitol when President Donald Trump’s supporters breached security and entered the building has besmirched the reputation of western democracies which have always prided themselves on their non-violent adherence to the rule of law — no doubt. Yet, despite the initial chaos and melee, eventually, the rule of law was restored.

The supporters were egged on by Trump to gather at the rally as he made unsubstantiated claims that the election was stolen from him although he had lost both the popular and electoral votes. The rally was meant to be a last-ditch effort to prevent Democratic candidate Joe Biden from being confirmed as the presidential election winner by the US Congress.

At some time during the rally, the crowd surged and pushed past the security officers who retreated, followed by the crowd who entered the building. One person was shot and killed and three others died of medical emergencies during the seige.

It was mayhem but the leaders didn’t fail the nation nor the democratic processed. The election was held, the votes were counted and recounted and congressmen met at the Capitol to confirm President-elect Biden as the winner. And when the siege happened, the National Guard was called, the Capitol building was secured, and a number of Democrats started calling for Trump to resign. A day later several Republicans in Trump’s own staff handed in their resignation. And Trump finally announced he would ensure a smooth and orderly transition of power to Biden. The rule of law upheld.

A democratic tradition does not mean that everything will go by the book. People being human will do all sorts of things but good leaders — not necessarily great leaders — are those who will adhere to the rule of law. In the Capitol siege, in the end, there was resolution because the leaders, including Trump, followed the rule of law. And political stability was restored.

Here in Malaysia, we have Sheraton Moves, Sabah moves, dismissal of all 46 corruption charges against a former chief minister, failure to face a no-confidence vote in Parliament, sacking of an elected Speaker, the appointment of an unelected Speaker, vote-buying, MP-buying …  Where on earth is the rule of law?

The Prihatin Nasional (PN) claims to be a caring coalition but it does what it likes and calls it the new normal. What we are seeing in the PN is simply a law unto themselves.

Look at its coalition partner Umno who has been threatening to leave the PN since the Sabah elections when they didn’t get the Sabah chief minister’s post. It had on two occasions in the past, working with Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Anwar Ibrahim, threatened to pull out of PN but it never materialised. Now it plans to discuss the cutting of ties with Bersatu, the small party which insists on leading the PN government, at its general assembly on Jan 31.

Will it materialise or, like always, at crunch time, they quietly back out after kicking up a fuss and creating a storm of hot air? Bersatu president and Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin will maintain a strategic silence and wait to see if it actually happens. If it doesn’t happen, he escapes by the skin of his teeth!

Maybe, he knows what I suspect, that Umno will not carry through its intention. He is willing to risk instability in order to remain in power. That’s all PN leaders want — power. But how they wield is beside the point.

Take Umno secretary-general Ahmad Maslan who has publicly declared that the reason for his party’s gripe with Bersatu is due to the latter’s “cruelty” in continuing with the corruption cases involving Umno members. Maslan and Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Umno adviser and former prime minister Najib Razak are among a number of Umno members facing criminal charges in court.

“Cruelty?” Don’t only little boys cry “cruelty”, “unkind”, “you’re hurting us” when disciplined and try to weasel their way out of facing the consequences of their actions? Maslan is so wounded that he doesn’t realise he is suggesting executive interference? Bersatu is to be blamed because it invited this party lead by people facing court cases to join the PN. Where on earth is the rule of law? That was sacrificed for the sake of political expediency.

The actions of Bersatu ministers are also suspect. The appointed Speaker refuses to exercise the independence afforded to him under the law to decide on a no-confidence vote unless he gets a directive from the minister. Just recently, former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s party, Pejuang’s, and former minister Syed Saddiq’s Malaysian United Democratic Alliance’s (Muda) applications to be registered as political parties were rejected.

Tun said at a press conference that the Registrar of Societies said that Pejuang’s application was in order but it had to be referred to the minister, the Home Minister in this case.

Is this the rule of law? Any Malaysian’s application for registration of a society or party must be approved if it’s in order. A minister can’t reject it for whatever reasons especially when the reasons are not given. That’s denying citizens our right of association.

We want the rule of law, not leaders who are a law to themselves. Such leaders should never be allowed to govern.

The Opposition needs to take up the cry for the rule of law. They are being too quiet. There should be loud demands for the PN government’s resignation. And, responsible ministers in PN’s government must resign on their own volition. They need to put the nation first.

Learn from the US experience.

Happy New Year! Or, another bleak year?

Annus Horribilis is past and I’m hoping against hope that this will be annus mirablis: a year of auspicious events or miracles!

On a personal level, I hope, individually, after that terrible 2020, there will be some favourable news or even a miracle for each of us. The new vaccine to fight covid-19 is in some ways a miracle. After all these years when we were unable to find a vaccine even for the common flu, it is amazing that just in one year a vaccine was discovered to fight covid-19. There is still much about the vaccine we don’t know and especially about its side effects but the fact that it is available offers hope that people don’t have to die from the virus.

Politically, I am not optimistic that this year would get better. I think we are stuck with the Prihatin Nasional (PN) government not because it has earned the right to govern but because the Opposition failed to unite as a singular force to reckon with. That is largely due to Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s (PKR) refusal to go along with its partners in its Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition.

There were several occasions in the last year when PH could have restored the 2018 mandate of the people but that never happened due to the conflict between former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and PKR president Anwar Ibrahim.  Tun’s most recent statement that it will be difficult to work with Anwar seems to suggest that he has other plans besides the possibility of forming a grand Pakatan Plus coalition.

Well, until the Opposition unites as a single united force, we can continue to expect the petty blaming bickering that the Opposition is currently engaging in and the blundering and bungling and bumbling of the PN.

If the Opposition wants a reset of the political climate — as what most people want — it needs to rise against petty loyalty to certain figures and look at facts. One clear fact is that in the current scenario, Tun is the best candidate to lead the Opposition to form a government. Any other candidate will not get the combined majority support if PKR doesn’t stand in the way. Amanah and DAP are open to working with him. With Tun at the helm, there is also the slim chance that some MPs in PN may switch for the sake of the nation rather than for personal agenda.

A credible leadership will seize such an opportunity as 13 men did in the last Dewan Rakyat session when only they stood up to seek for bloc voting when voting was called to pass Budget 2021 at the policy stage. They read the situation clearly. It was a fluid state with Umno members seething over not being given the chief minister’s post after the Sabah elections and there was a chance they might vote against the government. These 13 men stood up and if Anwar hadn’t sent a message to stop the rest more might have stood up and who knows PH might be in government now.

Frankly, it appears as if there are only 13 MPs who will put nation first and seize the opportunity when it offers itself.  We need such leaders, not those who play games and form pacts with unsavoury characters for the sake of political expediency.

With Tun at the helm, a reset will be inevitable. But, it must happen soon not at the next general elections. A Tun-led Opposition needs to take over Putrajaya from PN sooner rather than later. When that happens, it will give time for ALL political parties to elect the leaders they want to lead them into the future. It will offer a chance for a new crop of leaders to emerge and stand for election in the next general elections.

If the PN government is allowed to continue, the same leaders will stand for elections and the status quo will remain. The same people will be reelected and PN will continue to lead the government. It will be same old, same old!

If Tun leads the charge for a change in government, it is unlikely that he will stay in politics beyond the next general elections and it is very likely we will see new leaders taking over the government.

The Opposition needs to think carefully what strategy it wishes to employ rather than be swayed by emotion and seek its own personal agenda. If they want a reset, the path before them is clear. If they don’t want a reset, that path is also clear. The question is whether Opposition leaders have the will and guts to stand up for the nation and make a reset happen! That will make this year annus mirablis!

Merry Christmas, all!

It’s a muted Christmas, no doubt, thanks to the covid-19 pandemic. But, take heart. This is the season to do something to take your mind off your worries and find a little relief or comfort or joy.

Remember, the first Christmas was no merry event. A couple could not find a room so that the wife could deliver her child. They were driven to a stable where her baby was born. No family was around, no relatives or friends. Her visitors were strangers, the local shepherds and three kings from faraway. But, look at the song that came out of that lowly birth which is sung all across the Earth on Christmas day and every day for more than 2,000 years! A song of hope, love and life!

It’s an occasion to celebrate. Do what we can to find some enjoyment. If we don’t feel good despite the celebrations, that’s alright. Just taking part in the celebrations will make us move forwards and aid in eventual resolution. But don’t work yourself up to a climax and then hit a low the next day!  Enjoy quietly!

So, have yourselves an enjoyable time, this Christmas!

 

‘Tis the season of hope …

It’s Christmastime! This is the season when hope abounds. The whole world may have ground to a halt due to a mysterious invisible virus, money may not be enough, relationships may be wavering, jobs are lost, the future looks bleak, but its’s Christmas! It is a celebration of hope in the midst of adversity!

So, friends, take the hope the season offers. No matter the gloom and doom around us! That’s reality and that’s why we have Christmas — to offer hope that we can get out of this mess. If we are true to hope we will do everything we can to realise our hope. It may require us to adjust to the situation or rise above it or change course or give up the thing hoped for. As we do these things we will grow and even if sometimes we don’t get what is hoped for, we discover we don’t go down under either. We can live and live to the fullest and able to consider alternatives and move on.

Never think we are stuck in a situation we can’t get out of and we have no choice. Don’t believe it! It’s a lie that makes us hopeless and helpless, leading us to resort to underhanded methods to get what we want. Hope, instead, always makes us move forward.

That’s why Christmas means so much to me and no matter what my circumstances are, I enjoy it. It wasn’t always like that and there were many miserable Christmases but hope kept me going and over time every day eventually became a Christmas day and when the season comes around I set out to enjoy myself. It is a celebration of the life I now live because hope brought me through!

Hope took me through my darkness. Living was painful in dealing with depression. But faith gave me hope through a promise. It was the strongest motivator to live that I had. Through the decades of tripping and relapsing, I clung to the hope of the fulfilment of the promise. In the process, I confronted every skeleton in my closet, every demon that reared its ugly head and buried them all one by one never to haunt me again because I wanted to live to realise the promise of a future!

So, I learnt to live and living wasn’t painful anymore. I saw limitless possibilities before me and knew myself enough to know what I wanted and what I didn’t want and made my choices accordingly. It set me free and soon the promise that I held on to in hope wasn’t important anymore. I could let go of it because I saw options and choices before me. If one failed, another worked. And it was exciting finding my way through the options and choices.

I would never have reached this place of mental rest if I hadn’t latched on to the hope of a future. It took years but hope enabled me to persevere and here I am!

So, friends, if everything looks bad just take the hope of Christmas and let hope lighten your burden. Hope will give you the will to fight for your breakthrough.

I’m waxing philosophical this season! Enjoy the season!

Conservatives or progressives? Which side to choose?

All of a sudden Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has turned “religious”. In his policy speech at the third annual general meeting of Bersatu, the party president said that it was “God’s will” that Bersatu and the two other Malay-based parties, Umno and PAS, came together to form Prihatin Nasional. The same point was echoed by his Senior Minister Azmin Ali in an interview he gave to The Star last Sunday.

Well, I could have explained to both of them the reason why these parties came together without bringing God into the picture! The answer is simply birds of a feather flock together. Umno was thrown out of government in the last general elections. PAS, by virtue of its extreme Islamic beliefs, is marginalised. Bersatu is a minority party leading the government. All three saw in Muhyiddin’s misadventure an opportunity to get into the government and coming from a common background found it convenient to band together.

What has God got to do with this? This is base greed for power. The fact that the Bersatu leaders expressed their religious sentiments is not the issue of contention here. What is of concern is that they refuse to see their actions as plain basic human nature and are hiding behind this notion of “God’s will” because then they don’t have to assume responsibility for undertaking an unconstitutional coup.

Muhyiddin, of course, is playing to the gallery as appealing to Muslim-Malay characteristics and unity resonate with his Malay support base. That is a political ploy and it should be seen for what it really is — cleverly crafted words aimed at winning support and deflecting attention from the legitimacy of the PN government.

It also shows the direction in which the Prime Minister is leading the PN government — a step towards conservatism.  Like it or not the PN is a conservative coalition. Its parties range from the less conservative — like Umno — to the far-right radically Islamic — like PAS. Bersatu is somewhere in between. PN upholds the conservative agenda of race, religion and royalty and, under the PN leadership, we can expect these to be reinforced and strengthened.

If the PN government were conservative but respects the parliamentary democracy we practice and abides by it, it can be accepted as an alternative coalition but up to now, we don’t see it upholding the constitution.  Instead, it is apparent that it is bypassing the Dewan Rakyat or, at least, diminishing its relevance to legitimising a government.

Already, we are witnessing more and more conservative positions being expressed in the public domain with little dissent. The PN government was aided to function without legitimacy from the Dewan Rakyat. The previously elected Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat was dismissed and replaced with an unelected Speaker ignoring questions on the constitutionality of the decision.

A PN MP freely puts down other religions in the Dewan Rakyat such as the comment that the Christian Bible is altered and just recently the same PAS MP made the ridiculous call to term the US a “terrorist country”. Such comments are akin to hate speech and should never be uttered but the PAS MP gets away with it.

In Kedah, a Hindu temple is demolished for being “illegal” when its history shows it was built with approval. According to coalition partner MIC, the Kedah Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor (PAS assemblyman) made a unilateral decision without consulting with the MIC as agreed upon under a prior arrangement. MIC deputy president and Human Resources Minister M Saravanan said that Sanusi had broken his promise.

Should that surprise anyone? When dealing with a conservative coalition or an ultra radically Islamic party one can expect multi-culturalism and the progressive policies of peaceful and respectful co-existence and modernization to take a backseat to religious, race and royal priorities.

Clearly, knowingly or unknowingly, the PN government is pushing forward a conservative agenda. Allowing this coalition to govern will inevitably lead to a course backwards not forwards.

That’s the sole reason why PN allies such as the MIC, MCA and Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) need to rethink their participation in this coalition. Will a conservative agenda protect their interests or sacrifice them in the name of race, religion and royalty?

There are also liberals and progressives in PN. If the conservatives who carry the majority of the votes become stronger — they will if they continue to stay in power — will the voices of the liberals and progressives be heard or drowned?

MIC, MCA and PBS and the non-conservatives within PN need to understand that the issue before the Dewan Rakyat with regard to Budget 2021 isn’t about partisan politics. It is an issue of voting for conservatism or progress. The former would mean strengthening the institutions of race, religion and royalty on which the PN came to power which consequently would lead to the weakening of parliamentary democracy in the country.

If they favour progress, then they should choose a course of action which upholds parliamentary democracy which would take this nation forwards, not backwards. They need to keep this in mind when they make a final vote after the third reading of Budget 2021 in the current Dewan Rakyat session.

If the Opposition will unite as a single bloc and stand up for a division vote after the third reading of the Budget, who knows, it may inspire the liberals and progressives in the PN to vote with them. It will be a vote for progress, not regress, cutting across party lines.

The Budget may be defeated and cause the fall of the PN government because MPs chose parliamentary democracy over the parochial agenda of race, religion and royalty.