Why PH shouldn’t be afraid of an election

What was accomplished by yesterday’s special parliamentary session held to discuss the recent flood disaster? Apart from Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob pointing fingers at the Selangor government for failing to galvanize immediate rescue efforts and Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders pointing to Cabinet ministers for failing to provide federal-level crisis leadership (both points of view, by the way, are valid), what was achieved?

At the end of the debate, there was no motion or bill tabled and put to a vote to give a stamp of approval to the government’s national policy on managing and preventing floods. So, what was the point of the parliamentary session?

All the points that the Cabinet ministers made could have been made when the floods occurred from Dec 17 to 19 during the parliamentary session which was ongoing at that time. Why didn’t the government make its defence then and, instead, chose a more expensive way of doing it by calling for a parliamentary session three weeks later?

I suspect the reason for the delay is that Sabri and his Cabinet ministers were unable — despite their numerous advisers and government staff at their disposal — to move their personnel to issue press statements in swift responses to the crisis and keep the people informed of what they were doing. The government behemoth, perhaps, was just too much for Sabri and his ministers to move to act swiftly? Hence, the need for more time to prepare their defence and for an opportunity to present it to the public — through a parliamentary session.

If it were a public relations exercise and nothing more, then, Sabri stands accused of trivialising Parliament and reducing the august assembly to nothing more than a glorified press conference. The Dewan Rakyat Speaker, too, must be held responsible for not protecting the sanctity and independence of the House and acting as an appendage of the executive.

Sabri may think he has won in the public relations war to win support. But, he needs to keep in mind that the voters in urban areas and especially in Selangor, which has the most number of urbanites, can not be so easily fooled as the B40 group which forms the bulk of his support base. The latter trustingly may believe whatever their leaders say but the former know better.

While many urbanites in Selangor may still be angry with the state government for failing to provide a swift response to the floods last December, they would be able to see through the Sabri government’s charade. As long as the Sabri government keeps covering up for incompetency, people will be able to see through it.

And as long as the Sabri government is kept going, we can expect more such failures in government. This time, only PH is to be blamed for supporting this government through the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) PH signed with it.

PH goes all out to criticise the Sabri government but will continue to support it. PH’s reluctance to break up the MoU is understandable. It would trigger a general election and, after the lashing it got in the Malacca and Sarawak state elections, it evidently isn’t confident it can deliver the votes to form an alternative government.

PH is so scared of a whipping in an election, it has offered a “commitment of stability” to the Johor state leadership to prevent state elections. Like the MoU, this commitment will only give the state government unfair advantage over the opposition. It may give the PH time to recoup but what guarantee is there that it will do better in a future general election than one now?

In a comment piece in Malaysiakini today, Setiawangsa MP and PKR chief organising secretary Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad discussed the various ways opposition party PKR can win back the support of voters. He targets the Undi18 voters who may be more aligned to PKR’s progressive policies than other parties. He then suggests that PKR develop a viable policy on climate change and demonstrate an uncompromising commitment to full responsibility for the welfare of the people and national interests.

Nik Nazmi’s ideas are worth considering. If the people see that their politicians are serious about putting their interests first, they may back them despite their past failings. The way the Selangor state government — which is PH-led — manages the state is crucial. If it clearly puts into place the ideas Nik Nazmi suggests and delivers, it will be an example of good government and may continue to get the support of the people.

The first half of this year is not a good time for any election because of the omicron threat. If Johor goes ahead with state elections, the people may not be pleased and may take out their frustrations through the vote.

It’s thus best for opposition parties not to negotiate with any government. Opposition parties should be prepared for any election. If they develop a realizable manifesto with emphases on a clean government and climate change, demonstrate a commitment to competency and professionalism and multi-culturalism, they should take the calculated risk of facing any election at any time. Urban voters, which is the opposition parties’ political base, can think for themselves. They should be allowed to make their choice at a time that does not burden them.

How S’ngor govt can man up and win back the people

Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob has called for a special session of Parliament on Jan20 as an extension of the fourth session of the 14th Parliament to discuss long-term flood management and flood aid following the recent floods that took the lives of 54 people, the highest flood death toll so far.

I’m puzzled as to why Parliament must be called to discuss a natural disaster that is now over and which the people suffered through alone without government help. For two days when floodwaters filled up homes in Taman Sri Muda, Shah Alam, Selangor and residents found refuge on their roofs, their plaintive cry was, “No one came!” For two days they had no help and no food. The government was nowhere to be seen. Now the Sabri government wants to discuss this debacle of government failure in Parliament?

The Sabri government probably thinks that a parliamentary session on the flood issue may make them look good, conveying the message to their voters that they are doing something about solving the problem. Well and good, except for the fact that the incumbent government probably won’t last long enough for it to put into place a comprehensive flood mitigation plan in the country.

Could an underlying motive be to expose the Pakatan Harapan (PH)-controlled state government in Selangor, which ultimately must also assume responsibility for failing to provide a swift rescue response in the flooded areas and immediate aid?

If Sabri has thought through the decision to have a special parliamentary session on the flooding fiasco, he would realize that it would also expose the federal government’s paralysis in taking control and implementing a swift disaster response. MPs are going to expose each other’s failures and what good would come out of that?

The Selangor state government would likely be most exposed because the state government is best positioned to provide immediate aid to the people in the face of a disaster. It might be an attempt by the Umno-led government to make the opposition look bad.

But, it can be preempted! The Selangor state government must quickly shift into damage control mode. The first thing to do is to face the people. They may resort to throwing brickbats at it. Take it like a man. After all, the state government is at fault.

Honestly tell the people where the mistakes were. But, more importantly, show them your dead seriousness in identifying the problems and in finding solutions so that when a natural disaster happens, its effects will be manageable.

Don’t be like the Perikatan Nasional (PN) and Sabri governments who keep silent in the face of a crisis and appear only to feel important giving aid after the disaster and using it for photo opportunities, and driving around in black convoys!

Beat them to the game! Not by bribing and giving aid — the latter is necessary in the face of a disaster — and political out-manoeuvering but through good, responsible government. The Selangor state leadership has a number of good people. Selangor Mentri Besar Amirudin Shari should sit down with them and discuss a practical and viable comprehensive statewide river management plan to mitigate the effects of floods and prevent water cuts.

A task force should be set up to identify the problems in river and rain management and suggest solutions, which must be enforced strictly. From the data gathered, a water consultant may need to be hired to develop a statewide river and rain management plan and the setting up of a swift first responder network to provide immediate rescue in the face of a disaster.

Once the planning is complete, hold a press conference and tell the people that mistakes have been identified, and list out the immediate practical steps the state government is undertaking to address the issue. Show them proof of the early steps taken and tell them of the long-term plan.

The people may still be angry but they will take note of the state government’s hard work and effort to prevent a repeat of the Dec 22-23, 2021 flood fiasco, and may be appeased. The state government may still win their support.

But, all this work must be done and the press conference held before the parliamentary session on Jan 20. PH MPs will be in a stronger position to counter the criticisms of government MPs who, because of the Selangor state government’s practical efforts at water and rain management, may lose the grounds to mount an attack on PH MPs.

The Selangor state government must act fast, if it wants to win back support from the people.

Time for closure and to start a new chapter

It’s time to bring the chapter in Malaysian history that opened two years ago with the Sheraton Moves to a close and start a new chapter. The Sheraton Moves and the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government that followed resulted in three major consequences that were and still are detrimental to the country.

Firstly, the PN government seized power outside of Parliament without proving its majority and, in doing so, contravened the federal constitution but expected to be recognized as legitimate. To this day, it has failed to address its unconstitutional origins and has installed a coalition party member as the prime minister. Ismail Sabri Yaakob followed the precedent set by his predecessor, Muhyiddin Yassin, and likewise failed to prove his majority.

By failing to prove their majority both PN leaders have shown disdain for the constitution and refused to recognize that they set themselves up as the prime minister unconstitutionally, creating a constitutional crisis that is yet to be resolved.

Secondly, the PN government brought former kleptocrat premier Najib Razak back close to the corridors of power. The convicted criminal now openly and fearlessly campaigns for the candidates of his party, Umno, on the election trail. No one can do anything about it because the courts have stayed sentencing over his conviction. Not only is he moving around freely but apparently has the support of some Chinese factions which encourage China-Malaysia ties and who — with no respect for the judiciary’s decision to convict him — invited him to open the 11th World Chinese Economic Forum.

I am flabbergasted that there are Malaysians who have lost all sense and will openly go against the constitution and get away with it and who without a blight of conscience invite a convicted premier to open an international forum and get away with that too!

Thirdly, the Opposition has proven itself powerless to stop constitutional violations and convicts from roaming freely for the simple reason it was more interested in petty personal politics rather than putting the nation first and seeking to work together for the good of the people and demanding compliance with the law of the land.

For two years we have had to put up with a poorly-performing government, a national embarrassment and a weak opposition. Malaysia’s saving grace is the great spirit of the people to help one another in the face of crisis. As Klang MP Charles Santiago has described it, the recent floods have shown that the government is “redundant”. It’s an apt description.

The question to address now is: Why are we supporting such a useless government?

There’s only one group of people who can stop the current government: the Opposition — if it can work together and seize the opportunities that lend themselves to take the government back constitutionally. So far it has missed all the opportunities that came its way. Now, it has to create a new opportunity to retake the government or force a general election.

Retaking the government may be out of the question now because it might not get a majority. Malay-based PN parties Umno and Bersatu have declared they won’t form a pact with the opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition. Opposition party Pejuang seems to be going solo and may not join PH. That means the only alternative left for PH is to force a general election.

Some analysts claim that now is not a good time for PH to seek a general election as voter sentiments are not in favour of PH parties PKR, DAP and Amanah considering their losses in the recent Malacca and Sarawak state elections. But after the failure of the PN government to provide swift rescue to the people in the recent floods, it would mean that neither are the PN parties popular with the people.

Faced with a choice between PN parties and Opposition parties, there’s a good chance the people may choose the opposition parties, especially if the latter stand on a national policy of sustainable development, environment preservation and reforms. That’s the new chapter we need to start, one that begins with an elected government committed to good governance and with the will to execute and enforce policies that bring direct benefits to the people.

The recent floods and water cuts have clearly shown that river and water management and maintenance in the face of climate changes need to be the focus of any national policy without sacrificing development objectives for the majority in the bumiputra semi-urban and rural regions. The lack of a swift disaster management response by the National Disaster Management Agency reflects on the inability of the current government to handle such crises or any crisis for that matter! That should be the last straw in supporting an unelected and unable government to remain in power.

Should another disaster occur, there’s no evidence so far that the Sabri government will be able to handle it. Even with the covid 19 pandemic, although the daily active cases have dropped, the fatalities though dropping are still high. Malaysia’s daily covid 19 death toll is in the lower double digits (41 on Dec 28) although we are nearly 80% vaccinated compared to Indonesia’s single-digit deaths (7 on Dec 30) with only 41% of the population vaccinated.

In terms of disaster management, the Sabri government can’t be relied upon and we can’t risk another disaster in its hands.

PH has to think through carefully what it intends to do for the good of the country. It needs to ask itself if the Memorandum of Understanding it signed with the Sabri administration is beneficial for the country or has it removed any real and effective check and balances of the government?

So far, all its advice and criticisms and calls for improvements have fallen on deaf ears. Sabri has responded to no issue and changes have been negligible. Is there any point in continuing with the MOU?

If the MOU is torn up, it would trigger a general election which may be what is needed for a reset. But PH has to think through very shrewdly as to how to face a general election.

Perhaps, like Pejuang, PH parties should go solo in the next general election. If there’s a hint they may form an alliance with Pejuang, urban voters who right now see former premier and Pejuang chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as a liability may stay away from voting. If Pejuang joins forces with PH, the former may be unable to lure the Malay-majority votes it is targeting because of its association with non-friendly urban non-Malay voters.

This is the political reality because Malaysian voters have not matured enough to understand the special problems of specific races and accommodate them. The more developed urban voters should, by right, show greater magnanimity than they have shown so far and be more inclusive of the still-developing semi-urban and rural bumiputra voters. The progressive leaders understand the conflict in values between the two groups but, unfortunately, the voters see it as a race issue rather than a development issue.

PH also needs to know which Malay-based party to support to form a coalition post-election. If it supports Umno, PH will be facilitating the return of kleptocrats unless the current leaders are removed during Umno’s party elections. There’s no time, however, to wait for that to happen. If PH supports PN, it will be facilitating the return of incompetence personified! The only choice is to support Pejuang, which, apparently is seen as a threat to PN and Umno but not proven yet until tested in a general election.

If as individual parties each wins enough seats, it can regroup as the PH coalition and seek more partners to form a comfortable majority post-election.

The point is that PH has to think through very carefully exactly what it intends to do to remove the Sabri/PN government. Supporting the current administration will be putting the nation at risk.

In the hope PH will act for the good of the nation, I wish you all a Happy New Year!

Tidings of comfort …

… the past week excellently demonstrated the pathetic and dismal failure of the government to take care of its people. There was no evidence of disaster management in the face of an unexpected natural disaster. And no demonstration of remorse on the lack of governance. For that, we stand in solidarity with all those who suffered losses and distress caused by the sudden floods which took the lives of 41 people, nine in Taman Sri Muda, Shah Alam alone.

But, once again, the people have shown a remarkable spirit to help one another in the face of adversity. The way Malaysians rallied together to mobilize aid, resources, and food to the flood victims — while the government stood aside in paralysis — will become the stuff of legends!

We are truly a great people with a great capacity to help one another and for that we rejoice, and know for sure we will pass around good cheer!

and joy! Not only are Malaysians making a name for ourselves worldwide for our admirable ability to help one another, but we are also emerging as fearless voices seeking accountability from the clueless, hopeless, and hapless leaders (more on this after Christmas!). This is the good that has come out of this sad episode: Malaysians are speaking up — loudly and angrily — demanding explanations from their absent leaders.

This Christmas that is what I celebrate, being Malaysian, one of the 39 million, many of whom are beginning to assert their right to demand accountability from their leaders. I look forward to the new year when I hope to see their numbers rise and rise!

It is Christmas and I can hope! I have a reason to wish you all “good tidings of comfort and joy”!

Merry Christmas!

Perhaps, the key is getting enforcers to do their job

Christmas puts me in a good mood. So, rather than chastize and criticize, I’m going to charitably offer a few tips on how a couple of our authorities can do a better job of dealing with recurring problems.

Firstly, let’s draw attention to Air Selangor. The Klang Valley suffered another unscheduled water cut yesterday because of a petroleum odour in Sungai Semenyih. Water was restored by 1am today but it would be one of a number of times water was cut this year because of water pollution. I hope it will be the last.

I must congratulate the sniffers at Air Selangor for their skill and quick action in sniffing out the odorous problems and cutting off the water supply so that Klang Valley residents don’t get polluted water! They do their job and that’s commendable. But, why has water pollution become a recurring cause of water cuts in the Klang Valley?

Why are the authorities unable to solve this issue once and for all? While the sniffers are doing their job, are those whose job it is to prevent the rivers from being polluted doing theirs? Are they ensuring that the upper reaches of the waterways right up to the treatment plants are protected so that it is impossible for anyone to pollute them?

It is not enough to identify the problem early and turn off the water supply immediately, and inconvenience thousands of households. This is one of the few instances when water pollution shouldn’t happen. Are the authorities doing everything they can to ensure it?

Are the upper reaches of rivers fenced sufficiently away from the river banks so that no one can throw their waste into the rivers? Are these fences patrolled and guarded against polluters and saboteurs? Are there housing and industries in these areas that are spilling their wastes into these stretches of water? If there are, are there not sufficient legislation to move these homes and industries to alternative sites and the owners provided with adequate compensation?

Investing money to enforce existing legislation to ensure the purity of the upper reaches of waterways to prevent water cuts caused by water pollution will make the state government look smart, capable, proactive and firm in solving a water problem that is needlessly causing a great deal of inconvenience to households and industries.

Perhaps, the key is enforcement. If Air Selangor can ensure its enforcement officers are doing their job and not letting off offenders lightly or with a little palm greasing, this problem will, in time, be resolved. The question is whether the Selangor government and Air Selangor have the moral will to enforce enforcement to prevent water cuts due to water pollution from recurring.

Enforcement, perhaps, is also an overlooked factor in seeking amendments to the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act (Act 342). The act imposes a maximum fine of RM1,000 on individuals for flouting standard operating procedures (SOPs), such as not wearing masks in public places.

The amendments seek to increase the fine to a maximum of RM100,00 or a jail term of not more than seven years or both. Opposition parties have announced they will not support the amendments as they were too punitive and open to abuse.

Due to opposition, the fines were reduced to a maximum of RM50,000 and a three-year jail term limit for individuals, and a maximum fine of RM500,000 (from RM1 million) for a corporate organization.

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin in seeking the amendments said that the fines were raised to act as a deterrent to repeat offenders.

If they are repeat offenders then the fines they pay would add up to much more — if enforcement officers were doing their job and the Health Ministry doing its job in ensuring that the enforcement officers did their job!

Are the repeat offenders many or few? If few, why penalize the majority with hefty fines? I suspect introducing legislation is the easier way out than enforcing existing laws.

Like I said earlier, a key overlooked factor is enforcement. If enforcement is firm but fair with enforcers penalized for not enforcing, many of these recurring issues will disappear.

The question is whether ministers will enforce enforcement.

In a season of hope …

It’s the end-of-the-year holiday-cum-Christmas season again — a time when we are full of hope that the troubles of the year will be left behind and we can look forward to something better in the year ahead. So, we celebrate, through a holiday or staycation while Christians celebrate the birth of The Child who gives us hope always.

My one hope through this Christmas season is that Malaysian politicians will disentangle themselves from the current self-serving political culture of making deals in the name of political expediency and sidestepping the constitution in doing so, which was how former premier Muhyiddin Yassin and incumbent prime minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob operate. Make deals, claim a majority but don’t prove it, and remain in government at taxpayers’ expense irrespective of whether it is constitutional or not.

Hopefully, after the Malacca state elections, both would have realised that their claims of a majority remain unproven and that the proper conduct of politicians claiming a majority is to first prove it by facing a no-confidence vote or an election. They would have seen the significance of it if they were aware of the norms and conventions of democracy and understood the words, spirit, and intent of the constitution and the will to set the example of upholding the constitution to the best of their abilities.

Sadly, negotiations and pacts take precedence over conforming to the constitution. The PN and Sabri governments have a long list of constitutionally questionable decisions — from the Sheraton moves to emergency to withdrawing emergency, suspending Parliament, withdrawing Umno support, Muhyiddin’s resignation, Sabri’s appointment and the signing of the MoU before the Sabri government proved its majority by facing a no-confidence vote.

Then, there are all those blunders Cabinet members made. The latest is the debate on price hikes in the Dewan Rakyat which has been moved for discussion in special chambers and not in open debate. An issue of such public significance should be debated by all the MPs not just some. Doesn’t the Speaker grasp the democratic principle that issues of public importance should be debated in public, not hidden in special chambers?

When Seputeh MP Teresa Kok asked for black and white guidelines on the liquor ban at the Dewan Rakyat yesterday, Federal Territories Minister Shahidan Kassim said that a consensus was reached among stakeholders and if an application for a liquor licence was rejected the applicant can appeal.

Without clear guidelines, on what grounds would the application be rejected or accepted?

If Shahidan were professional and grasped the concept of good governance he would have understood that it is better to spell out guidelines rather than leave it to civil servants to decide according to vague consensual agreements rather than black and white rules to accept or reject an application on a sensitive issue such as a liquor licence.

Such poorly thought-of practices have become the norm and the standard of governance we are now stuck with. If I kept highlighting it, it would get depressing!

But, this is the Christmas season! A season to celebrate the reason to hope. So, this season I want to consider something more uplifting in politics — that by the next Christmas season the last two years will be behind us and left better forgotten!

The only way forward is now a reset. That reset will come after the next general elections which we hope will be held sooner rather than later. The sooner we hold it the sooner we herald a better Malaysia.

That’s my one hope for Malaysia this Christmas! A better Malaysia! I believe it will happen!

Factors to consider in strategies for GE15

There are two distinct outcomes of the Malacca state elections to take note of seriously in preparing for the upcoming 15th General Election (GE15).

Firstly, opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan (PH) should realise by now that it would be foolhardy for it to go into an election alone. PH, led by PKR president Anwar Ibrahim, entered the election without the help of other opposition parties like Pejuang, Muda and Warisan.

Warisan is Sabah-based and could not have been much help but Pejuang and Muda, which are Peninsula-based, could have lent their election machinery or shown their solidarity with PH parties by their presence on the campaign trail. Muda president Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman’s statement that Anwar should consider other opposition parties in seeking cooperation is telling.

Muda had wanted to contest in the state elections under PH but apparently changed its mind when PH decided to accept the two Umno assemblymen from the four who withdrew their support for the Umno-led state government causing the Yang Di-Pertua Negeri Ali Rustam to dissolve the assembly and call for fresh elections. The two were then sacked from Umno but PH coalition parties PKR accepted one and Amanah the other.

Muda apparently did not want to be associated with a coalition that accepted the defectors whose action triggered the state elections. Both Muda and PH might have had their reasons for making the decisions they did but Syed Saddiq’s point is worthy of note: PH should consider the sensitivities of its fellow opposition parties rather than choose a course of action where they go it alone.

Pejuang had previously announced it was not participating in the state elections but if PH had cordial relations with Pejuang the latter might have helped in some other ways that might have worked in PH’s favour.

Yet, Pejuang chairman helped from a distance. On the eve of polling day, Pejuang chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad asked for bloc voting (where every MP’s vote is recorded) rather than voice voting in passing Budget 2022 at the policy stage at the Dewan Rakyat. He failed in his attempt because PH MPs bound by the MoU did not vote for it. A minimum of 15 MP’s votes is required before the request is carried through.

If bloc voting was allowed and the Budget was defeated or won by a very close margin it might have affected the votes in the Malacca state elections. A strong united assault by the opposition would have suggested a possibility that it could win and swing more votes to PH.

It was a missed opportunity and we will never know how it would have affected the state elections. It just showed that PH failed to seize an opportunity that offered itself and use it to its advantage. PH demonstrated that same indifference in not voting against the previous Budget last year and in failing to do so legitimised an unconstitutional government. It did the same when former premier Muhyiddin Yassin resigned in August. PH could have approached Sarawak’s GPS to join it to gain a majority or let Warisan president Shafie Apdal take the lead in approaching GPS. That didn’t happen. So, we will never know now if PH could have succeeded on any of these three occasions.

These events were missed opportunities for PH to show it can work with and lead a multi-party coalition to win. If the PH leadership can not demonstrate the resolve to unite the opposition to face GE15, it will be unable to form the next federal government.

Secondly, the bank of votes in Malay-majority constituencies are no longer guaranteed to Umno. According to DAP’s Bangi MP Ong Kian Ming, Barisan Nasional’s (BN) vote share in the Malacca state elections saw only a slight increase of 1%.

However, political analyst Bridget Welsh, who is also an honorary research associate of the University of Nottingham, in her preliminary analysis of the state elections said that while Umno got a 5% increase in votes PKR lost only a small share of the vote, from 10% to 9% in its wiped-out seat losses. In eight seats Umno won by narrow margins of less than 5%.

This suggests that with a concerted and united effort, PH may be able to win back the seats it lost and, perhaps, even win new seats.

Of all the parties that took part in the state elections, it is said that Bersatu performed beyond expectations because it was expected to be wiped out but, instead, won two seats in Sungai Udang and Bemban. Welsh attributes this to the younger voters who were looking for alternatives to Umno and found it in Bersatu.

Bersatu president Muhyiddin however may not be jumping for joy. With all the cash that he poured into the hands of the B40 group during his administration under the guise of covid-19 aid and which continues under Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, Muhyiddin believed he could make a clean sweep. After all, just before he resigned he did say that “millions” supported him.

That would be a sobering fact that the support he thought he had was illusory.

The Malacca state elections reveal that the Malay-majority voters have seen through the antics of their leaders and have not fallen for it. Voter turnout was low at around 66%; cash aid didn’t tempt voters to surge out of their homes to vote. Fear of covid-19 and being fatigued by self-serving politics could be the reasons for the poor turnout. But, it can also mean that an increasing number of Malay voters are now ready to vote for candidates other than Umno.

If Umno believes its performance in the Malacca polls will be repeated in GE15, it is going to be disappointed. Malay-majority seats will become the battlegrounds in GE15 and it will be fought hard by multiple parties in multi-cornered fights.

Umno, Bersatu, PAS, Amanah and PKR in some cases, and Pejuang will be contesting in the Malay-majority seats. Pejuang has already announced that it intends to contest in 120 of the traditionally Malay seats held by Umno.

Malay votes are going to be split. No one Malay party is going to get a majority to form a government on its own. It will be forced to form coalitions. The Malay parties like Umno, PAS and Bersatu may go it alone and when unable to get a majority will join forces together with Sabah and Sarawak parties, post-elections.

If, however, Pejuang emerges with a significant number of Malay seats, it would be interesting to see how the coalitions change to accommodate it. The first choice of Malay-based parties will be other Malay-based parties, which means PH will only get the leftover parties and it may not be enough to form a government.

It would be in PH’s interests to preempt that possibility by entering the elections with an already firmed-up coalition. Otherwise, it may be left in the cold on the opposition bench.

The Sarawak elections on Dec 18 will see if Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) will slice into GPS’ super majority. If it does, that is another party PH has to consider to form a PH-Plus coalition.

PH should first consider fellow opposition parties like Warisan, Pejuang, Muda and PSB to form a PH-Plus coalition. It will be the only progressive coalition that will be led by both urban and non-urban Malays and represent all the major people groups that make up Malaysia. It will be a formidable coalition that will be hard to defeat.

That is an opportunity that GE15 offers. PH should make sure that it does not become another missed opportunity. It is up to Anwar to make sure that that opportunity happens.

Will the Budget be passed?

Likely? Maybe? It has already been passed at the policy stage by a voice vote. Warisan, Pejuang and Muda MPs’ request for a bloc vote — which would have recorded every MP’s vote or whether he/she abstained — was rejected because it failed to get the minimum 15 MPs’ votes needed to allow it.

Pakatan Harapan MPs, bound by the MoU they signed with the Ismail Sabri Yaacob unconstitutional government, did not support the three other opposition parties’ request. That is a pity because a bloc vote would have revealed the actual level of support for Budget 2022. Now, we will never know because the MoU has prevented the gauge of actual support.

Understandably, MPs in the Sabri government who may not be supportive of the race-centric budget did not support the request for a bloc vote. They, too, upheld the pacts their parties made with partners in the government.

As a result, because of the pacts made, MPs have their hands tied up and have failed to follow the norms of parliamentary debate and use the tools available in a parliamentary democracy to vote according to the interests of their constituents.

What checks and balances are there now in the Dewan Rakyat? They have been neutralised by the pacts political parties have made with each other. PH MPs do question the government and express their criticisms but the government continues as it likes. What is evident is that more MPs have become silent.

In the face of a weak Dewan Rakyat, the government continues to function with impunity. This isn’t what we, the people, elected our MPs for.

In this culture of pact-beholden compromised MPs, it is heartening to see Pejuang, Warisan and especially Muda MPs conducting themselves in the way parliamentarians should — as free agents in the Dewan Rakyat.

Muda’s young MP Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman stands out for supporting the request for bloc voting. Though young, he understands the significance of an MP’s vote and knows how the game should be played according to the rules of the Dewan Rakyat, discerning when to support an initiative and when not to. My hope is that he doesn’t get sucked into the current culture of making pacts to get what the leaders want.

In answer to my headline question, Budget 2022 will likely be passed at the final stage because PH will honour the MoU. Unless, however, the outcome of the state elections in Malacca tomorrow favours PH and it forms the state government.

If PH wins, it might reject the budget — on the confidence that the people may be willing to vote for it — and trigger the process to form a majority coalition in the Dewan Rakyat or be prepared for a general election, following a defeated budget.

PH got a helping hand from Pejuang chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who exposed former premier Najib Razak’s request for a piece of free land — under an Act that offers such gifts to former prime ministers — in the Dewan Rakyat. Najib has been convicted and found guilty of corruption charges. Until the Appeals Court rejects the High Court decision, he is considered guilty and Mahathir questioned why the current Cabinet was considering such a request from a convicted premier.

That expose might cost Umno candidates some votes that might benefit PH. We will have to wait to see the results of tomorrow’s election to know for sure. My inclination is for PH to win because it is the logical best choice for Malacca.

Whether PH wins or loses tomorrow’s elections, it is hoped that the coalition will initiate or support a request for bloc voting when Budget 2022 is presented for final reading.

It’s the people’s right to know how their elected MPs voted with regard to the budget that will affect every citizen. No pact or deal should deprive the people of that right.

Should this Budget be passed?

In Malaysia’s RM332.1 billion Budget 2022 — the largest Budget so far — RM11.4 billion have been allocated to bumiputras and only a 2.6% equivalent or RM300 million to non-bumiputras. This works out to RM577 per bumiputra and RM75 per Indian and RM15 per Chinese. How on Earth can Members of Parliament ever pass this brazenly racist, grossly unbalanced distribution of wealth to citizens with a clear conscience?

Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s government no doubt represents the more undeveloped bumiputra majority and allocating more funds to this community to develop and bring them up to par with the more developed urban communities is justifiable. But the Ismail government is an unconstitutional government waiting to hold a general election as soon as possible, perhaps, as early as next year, to seek legitimacy. If so, how much of that RM11.4 billion plus all the other allocations for Islamic development and such will go into actual development plans for the bumiputras in so short a time before the elections?

The most the Ismail government can do is to find ways to put that money as cash in the hands of the target community which is their political base to ensure their support in the event of a general election. If the bumiputra allocation was a moderate sum calculated based on the cost of programmes to bring about long-term benefits to bumiputras with a similar need-based allocation for the Indian community and a sensible allocation to help the Chinese especially during these trying pandemic times, such allocations would be acceptable because it is need-based and fair, even if the bumiputras got more.

As it is, the RM11.4 billion for bumiputras is clearly not need-based. It is an inordinate sum diverted to the Ismail government’s political base and combined with the one-off RM700 handout to civil servants are evidently aimed at ensuring the survival of the current leaders in the face of a general election. It’s as good as broad daylight highway robbery because much of that money comes from taxpayers the majority of whom are not the bumiputra majority.

The people can no longer be foisted with an unconstitutional government and one which uses taxpayers’ money to ensure its survival rather than make funds work for the people. This government can’t be allowed to continue to govern with impunity.

It does not heed constructive criticisms and compromises the law as it plays politics among the coalition partners in order to maintain a simple majority and at what costs?

The prosecution looks suspiciously compromised. Former prime minister Najib Razak who was found guilty of corruption walks around free and is able to get his passport to visit his daughter in Singapore who is about to deliver a baby. A three-judge panel gave him the approval.

Similarly, Kinabatangan MP Bung Moktar Radin obtained a 13-day release of his passport for a business trip to the Middle East this month from the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court where he is facing criminal charges. While we do not question the judges’ rulings, we certainly question why the prosecution didn’t raise objections. Would the judges’ decisions have been different if the prosecution had raised objections?

Najib was convicted by a court and Bung Moktar is facing criminal charges of corruption yet they got approval to travel out of the country. If it had been any other citizen, would the prosecution have been so caring and lenient?

MPs should have grilled Attorney General Idrus Harun to answer why Najib is walking around free. No doubt he is appealing his conviction but why is the appeal not being heard soon as if it isn’t a priority?

This is the kind of AG and prosecution we’ll have under the Malay-majority government.

Businesses, especially small-and-medium-sized ones, are floundering with little support from the government. Despite former premier Muhyiddin Yassin helming the National Recovery Council, we see no concrete course of action to stimulate economic recovery and Bursa Malaysia remains in the doldrums. The business community apparently is showing no confidence in either Muhyiddin’s or Ismail’s leadership.

We may have achieved close to a 76% vaccinated population (latest Health Ministry figures as reported in The Star on Nov 13 (updating figures)) but the more than 2.5 million active covid 19 cases and a fatality count of 29,535 as of today is on Muyhiddin’s and Ismail’s governments. The figures might have been less if aggressive testing, contact tracing, and vaccination were conducted earlier on. But, we will never know why that didn’t happen.

Prime Minister Ismail seem powerless to control his own party; he was unable to prevent the Malacca state elections, appearing beholden to those who put him in that position and failed to advise the state leadership and prevented unnecessary state elections.

Why are the people stuck with such leadership? Won’t our MPs do what we elected them for? Act on our behalf.

Happy Deepavalli!

As Hindus celebrate the Festival of Lights, Deepavalli, I hope all Malaysians will get a needful present from Budget 2022 tabled today at the Dewan Rakyat. But, don’t be too hopeful. It’s expected to be an election Budget which means, the government’s political base, namely the M20 and B40 groups will get most of the goodies.

Even so, the rest of us might get something. Pakatan Harapan (PH) will be waiting to see if its proposals under the MoU it signed with the current government have been included in the Budget. If the proposals are met, under the MoU, PH will not vote against the Budget or any money bill in order to topple the government.

The current government, however, is an unconstitutional government and for that reason alone — even if they present a forward-looking budget — PH should vote against the Budget. Government revenue and taxpayers’ money should never be put in the hands of a government that has not received the stamp of legitimacy by surviving a no-confidence vote in Parliament.

Should the Budget be passed, the only solution left is to call for elections which I hope will happen sooner rather than later.

So, we are going through uncertain times. But it’s Deepavali, celebrating the hope that light eventually always triumphs over darkness! So, enjoy the festival (which by the way falls on next Thursday) and the holiday it offers and just get on with our lives — until general elections. Then, we will tell our MPs exactly what we think of them!