Historic MOU? At what price?

The MOU signed by Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob with Pakatan Harapan (PH) is touted as historic and no doubt it will be if the reforms are actually delivered. But at what price?

Firstly, the Sabri government remains an unconstitutional government because it hasn’t proven its majority in the Dewan Rakyat and signing an MOU with it is simply legitimising an unconstitutional government. I’m befuddled as to why MPs are willing to overlook this fundamental requirement to establish a legitimate government of Malaysia to make a deal outside of the Dewan Rakyat to get reforms.

Both Sabri and his predecessor, Muhyiddin Yassin, ignored the need for a confidence vote to prove their majorities and opposition MPs raised a hue and cry over it. But, now, they have gone silent. A proven majority legitimises the government but opposition MPs are closing their eyes to it and instead are making deals with an unconstitutional government for “democratic reforms” with no mention of a confidence vote. Doesn’t anyone see the irony in this? Selling out a fundamental constitutional right of MPs in exchange for other reforms that we are not sure the Sabri government can deliver according to the timeline or at all isn’t shortchanging Parliament?

Secondly, the MOU smacks of insincerity on the part of the opposition. PH wasn’t representing the entire opposition — just itself. It was not inclusive of other opposition parties and they have expressed the sentiments of being sidelined.

Another indication of its insincerity is evident in one item on its list of parliamentary reforms — equal funding for government and opposition MPs but not to the opposition MPs who didn’t sign the MOU. Why would Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim not seek equal funding for all opposition MPs? He is leader of all the opposition not just PH and all the opposition parties backed him to be prime minister when Muhyiddin Yassin resigned. But he reciprocated in the this way.

Why was PH willing to estrange its opposition allies and split the opposition to sign this MOU?

Perhaps, Anwar has realised that he may never become PM as long as he is in the opposition and feels the need to form new alliances to achieve his goal. Hence, his friendliness towards the Sabri government as Anwar has the support of the former’s party president Ahmad Zahid and party adviser former prime minister Najib Razak both of whom are his chums. Whether that relationship will benefit him is left to be seen. But one thing is certain. If he is pally with these two who lead the court cluster of Umno MPs facing criminal charges in court, it is likely he will drive other allies away who want to have nothing to do with the kleptocrats. The premiership will still elude him.

Unless, the brazen stubborn refusal to hold a confidence vote and the MOU are part of a larger behind-the-scenes conspiracy to prevent former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his candidates from returning to a position of influence in the government.

It is hard to understand why Sabri and Muhyiddin refused to hold a confidence vote. Their argument that the constitution doesn’t spell it out is a no-brainer. The spirit and intent of the constitution demand it and surely they know it?

Both, perhaps, know what a majority of MPs know. A confidence vote will topple them firstly. Secondly, the opposition under Anwar’s leadership will not get the desired majority. There’s no one of stature in the government to take over, except for Zahid and Najib, but they are too tainted by corruption scandals to win a majority. The next best candidate would likely be Mahathir or a candidate he endorses. The fear is that he might win because he has support from the government side to give him or his candidate the majority.

Muhyiddin and now Sabri evidently don’t want this possibility to be played out with that specific outcome. The question is why? Why are they willing to transgress the constitution just to keep Mahathir out? In the absence of a rational explanation from them as to why they refuse, one can only surmise that the conspiracy theory is true.

But, who are behind Muhyiddin and now Sabri that they are confidently willing to abandon a confidence vote to remain in government on the grounds of the Agong’s appointment without the validation of the people in the Dewan Rakyat as is required in a parliamentary democracy? Zahid, Najib, or vested interests outside of Parliament?

If these people have got prime ministers in their pockets and these prime ministers are refusing to face a confidence vote on account it, they must be called out because they are compromising the integrity of the Dewan Rakyat and MPs must fight to ensure that never happens.

Hence, PH’s sincerity of motive is questioned. To acquiesce to the position now held by Sabri to prevent a confidence vote and be willing to sacrifice it in the name of reforms? In doing so, PH is failing to do its job of ensuring the independence and integrity of the Dewan Rakyat.

Is the MOU an attempt by Anwar to become PM in the same way Muhyiddin and Sabri became prime ministers? With the support of powerful vested interests, at the expense of Parliament?

Thirdly, the ends do not justify the means. To prevent the exercise of a fundamental democratic process — the confidence vote — is a dereliction of constitutional duty. Political behind-the-scenes machinations are common and some may go as far as to influence the vote in the Dewan Rakyat in the election of a prime minister. But the votes of MPs will render them powerless because MPs vote on behalf of their voters, fully aware they may be punished if they vote against voter interests.

To deprive MPs of that vote even for the sake of much-needed parliamentary reforms is to allow the Dewan Rakyat to be manipulated by incumbent prime ministers and those who support them.

The MOU should have been signed on the condition of a confidence vote. No MP should deprive another of his or her constitutional right to elect a prime minister. It is unconstitutional and compromises the integrity of the Dewan Rakyat.

Now, we have a situation where there will be no confidence vote to test Sabri’s majority and no fear of bringing the government down. Opposition MPs can shout themselves hoarse. The government will let them, knowing fully well their position is secure. The Dewan Rakyat becomes a toothless tiger — thanks to PH.

DAP’s Damansara MP and party national publicity secretary Tony Pua has said that PH loses nothing from signing the MOU. O, really? Well, let’s see if PH parties would lose votes.

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