What is most worrying about the current crop of national leaders is their willingness to play politics to the extent of compromising the law and getting away with it in the name of race, religion and country.
Politicking, it appears, is the predominant means of securing power. Rule of law and strict adherence to the processes, norms and conventions of parliamentary democracy which this country practises sometimes are obscured by desperate politicking.
Take the former chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Datuk Noraini Ahmad’s now famous (or infamous) conclusion that about RM19.4 billion of GST funds was “unlawfully diverted” by the Najib Razak administration for the “good of the country” but it wasn’t “robbery” in rebuttal to former Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng’s description of the missing funds as “robbery”.
Without having to split hairs over the definition of “robbery”, the obvious conclusion is that if it was “unlawfully” moved, then it is wrong — it went against the law and the lawbreaker must face the law, not wiggle his way out of it.
The tendency to politick is a way of thinking that has been bred by Umno over six decades of rule. If Umno politicians find power slipping out of their hands, they politick and look for backing from a higher authority like a superpower like the US or China or a rich nation like Saudi Arabia or the royals to stay in power. But, they do not rely on democratic practices.
If you want to get your leader out, whip up enough support to hold party polls and vote him out. Or build up your team and support until the next general elections and vote him and his coalition out. All the politicking that is done will be carried out within the ambit of the law and democratic practices. The constitution provides the boundaries we can go up to and not beyond. When politicians go beyond the law, the Dewan Rakyat is duty-bound to call them out.
Failing to fall back primarily on the rules, norms and conventions of our parliamentary democracy is the reason why we have reached this state where an illegitimate government continues to govern without the stamp of approval of the Dewan Rakyat.
Until the current Prihatin Nasional government wins a confidence vote from the Dewan Rakyat, it has no constitutional authority to claim to be a prime minister or government of the people or to introduce policies and bills in Parliament. It must legitimize itself first, and then it receives the mandate of the people to govern. Isn’t that how the law works?
Perhaps, Umno-bred politicians are not aware of the demands and expectations of the constitution and the parliamentary style of government Malaysia practices. Now is the time to study the law and the constitution so that they learn how to follow their tenets.
Perhaps, the Dewan Rakyat can get constitutional experts like Shad Saleem Faruqi, who is a law professor with Universiti Malaya and currently holding the Tunku Abdul Rahman Chair as Professor of Constitutional Law, to conduct sessions with lawmakers as to what they can and can’t do under the law.
It would help in creating a political culture where adherence to the law and the constitution becomes the predominant overriding context in which public office and debate are conducted.
The people deserve lawmakers who strictly follow the law and the parliamentary democracy we practise.