Progressive or not?

When ministers, in defending their actions, make statements that reveal what they do not know, we should call them out.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of Parliament and law Takiyuddin Hassan stirred a controversy when a picture of him, his party (PAS) president Hadi Awang and other PAS leaders with former prime minister Najib Razak taken on the night of the latter’s sentencing last week went viral.

He said there was nothing “abnormal” about the visit because former PAS president Fadzil Noor had paid a similar visit to Anwar Ibrahim when he was first sentenced to jail. Perhaps not “abnormal” but definitely inappropriate because Fadzil Noor wasn’t a Cabinet minister at that time of the visit but Takiyuddin is.

What does a picture of a minister of an incumbent government with a person facing corruption charges in court say? Does it say he supports the judicial process or that he is dismissive of it? Sure, his visit may suggest the solidarity of friends but Takiyuddin needs to understand that he is a minister of the government of Malaysia and not a kampung committee member and accountable to a higher standard of public behaviour that affirms his support and respect of the constitution. Does that picture reveal that?

Then, there was Deputy Youth and Sports Minister Wan Ahmad Fayhsal Wan Ahmad Kamal who said in a recent interview that his party Bersatu was the “most progressive thus far among all the Malay parties” because “we are more nimble, we are more flexible, and we are more open”.

These are his criteria for “progressiveness” and we are expected to take his word for it. But what about leading a coalition without the mandate of the people? How progressive is that? What we see is a party who sneakily ignored the fact that its chairman had more numbers to form a majority but its president went ahead with the swearing-in of a minority government. Since then it has been making all sorts of offers to get a majority and still can only manage a wafer-thin majority yet to be proven because it will not face a no-confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat. Progressive?

Wouldn’t it have been more “progressive” to admit the party president didn’t have the numbers and backed off and called for a party meeting to discuss the next steps instead of clinging to royal help and taking over and squatting in a government without the mandate of the people? Progressive?

Then, it unceremoniously threw out its chairman, former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamd, and its youth leader, Syed Saddiq bin Syed Abdul Rahman, and a few of their supporters. There were no mechanisms in the party to deal with dissent, conflict and a change of leadership? That’s what a progressive party would do?

Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz said in the Dewan Rakyat when queried about the government’s RM3.9 billion settlement with US investment bank Goldman Sachs that it was an out-of-court settlement that bettered the previous Pakatan Harapan government’s offer. Former attorney-general Tan Sri Tommy Thomas had said in his statement that court cases were initiated against Goldman and 17 of its directors as leverage to maximize the payment by the bank.

The PH government was in the middle of a deal and nothing was definitely concluded so how could Zafrul say it was a better deal? Did Zafrul comprehend Thomas’ strategy? Thomas has since denied reaching any deal with Goldman.

Did Zafrul also fight hard for the nation to get the maximum out of Goldman or did the Prihatin Nasional (PN) government play nice, serving them tea/coffee and snacks with a picture taken to show how nice they are while Goldman got off with a sum that, perhaps, might have been higher if the finance minister knew how to play hardball — a necessary prerequisite when dealing with very experienced and sophisticated investment bankers like Goldman who will fight for the best deal at minimum cost?

Are all these examples of a government led by a progressive party or are they retrogressive steps? There are more examples but I’ll stop here to ask the following question: Are we moving forward as a modern nation committed to the rule of law and abiding by the constitution and operating at a level of ability required in governing a nation rather than, perhaps, a kampung as would be required of a progressive nation? The rules are different but the PN government is yet to prove it has broken out of parochialism and mastered the rules and culture of governing a modern nation like ours which is multi-racial, multi-cultural and blessed with varied skills and abundant resources.

If the Bersatu-led government truly wants to be progressive, start with facing a no-confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat. Win the mandate of the people, then you have the right to rule. Until then, the PN government is merely squatting. Whether progressive or not, the people are capable of deciding for themselves.




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