Just in case politicians in positions of power and privilege feel they have the right to act on expediency and get away with it, the High Court has given clear directions as to what is not permissible behaviour, in its judgement in the SRC International Sdn Bhd case involving former prime minister Najib Razak.
In finding Najib guilty of all seven charges against him in the SRC case, High Court Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali described Najib’s lack of action to recover funds from SRC International as “very puzzling” and he proceeded to list what Najib did and didn’t do that was questionable behaviour.
Leaders in top positions need to examine the judge’s judgement in-depth and learn what they should and should not do. The High Court has sent a clear message in defining — in this case — what constitutes abuse of power. Politicians need to realise that if they behave outside of the rule of law, they can be taken to court. That should act as a strong deterrent to abuse of power and position.
Yet, Umno politicians don’t seem to want to learn to operate within the rule of law. Even before the dust had settled on the SRC case, former chief minister, Musa Aman, launched an attempted coup to take over the Sabah government, saying that he has a majority of state assemblymen on his side. Incumbent Chief Minister Shafie Apdal preempted him by dissolving the state assembly and called for snap state elections.
Some of the assemblymen who joined Musa were sacked by their respective parties in Shafie’s Warisan-led coalition after the coup attempt.
If the coup had succeeded, it would have been another example of a backdoor government without the mandate of the people just as the current Prihatin Nasional (PN) government is.
It appears as if Umno, after the Najib conviction, is frantically trying to form the government, again through the backdoor. With the most number of MPs in the PN government (Barisan Nasional(BN) has 43 MPs (Umno — 39) and Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s Bersatu party has 31), Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has announced that it will not be a part of the PN coalition but will continue with its collaboration with Islamic party PAS in their Muafakat Nasional alliance.
Muafakat Nasional has extended an invitation to Bersatu to join the former. If Muhyiddin joins Muafakat, Umno will become the leading party; if it leaves it, PN will fall and snap elections will have to be called.
It serves Umno to work with PAS because the latter will give its support in order to influence decisions to be more “Islamic”. Whether such “influence” would be constitutional or not will be questionable but it puts Umno in the driving seat to protect its interests as it sees fit. It would be as “legitimate” as the PN government is.
Whether these manoeuvres taking place now are constitutional or not isn’t the issue anymore; political expediency has taken over. Why bother about the constitution when a political party can assume power by coercing elected MPs to join it with the promise of money and position?
This is the political chaos Malay politics has descended into and it seems as if non-Malay parties have to play ball in order not to be left out — for the time being until we get back to adhering to the constitution. Amanah and the DAP, parties in the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition, have said they would support Muhyiddin if he refuses to join Muafakat.
The ball is in Muhyiddin’s court. What is apparent is that a Malay-majority only coalition cannot get the majority in the Dewan Rakyat without former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s support.
Umno, PAS and Bersatu in the PN represent about 70% of Malay votes. It’s a majority but it excludes the about 20-30% of Malay support for Tun and Parti Keadilan Rakyat( PKR). This Malay support comes primarily from the urban and semi-urban areas where the progressive Malays are found who have no issue working with non-Malays and hence they get non-Malay support. The Malay intelligence is mostly in this group; they are the educated and skilled Malays who are in the position to lead but are now in the opposition.
If Malay-based parties continue to act in their backdoor ways, more and more Malays, especially the younger and educated ones are going to join the opposition which respects the constitution. Right now with the offer of money and position, Malay parties may be able to hold on to power. But in future elections, they will see their support dwindling as disgruntled younger voters swing to the opposition.
This segment of Malay voters may be a minority now but it will be a growing minority as evidenced by much of the positive comments on Najib’s conviction. They are like Judge Nazlan who can distinguish between abuse and rule of law and they prefer an elected government which conforms to the constitution.
Umno and PAS are thinking of the moment, the former about protecting its interests and the latter to make the government more “Islamic”. If Muhyiddin is sincerely thinking of the good of the nation, it would serve him well NOT to antagonize the smaller but growing Malay voter segment who may be the future leaders of this nation and who want a commitment to the rule of law.
It may be well for him to return to the PH, restore the mandate of the GE14 and prove to this nation and the world that he stands for the rule of law and will conform to it. There will have to be give and take. My own feeling is that unless the original GE14 mandate of the people is fully restored, political stability will remain elusive and we will not be able to move forward.