The Malacca state assembly was dissolved on Oct 5 when four assemblypersons withdrew their support for the ruling coalition made up of Umno and Bersatu. Two of the assemblypersons were from Umno, one from Bersatu and the other was a coalition-friendly independent.
Former chief minister Sulaiman Md Ali said that he had advised the Yang DiPertua to dissolve the assembly. Do chief ministers advise the head of state, in this case, the Yang DiPertua, Ali Rustam? What was his reason for giving that piece of advice? He acted in anticipation of the resignation? What if the four changed their mind at the last minute?
Did Ali Rustam make the decision after consultation with the prime minister or his party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi? Can such a decision be made without the green light from the PM? What is the chain of command and was it respected?
This is the current state of politics, unstable, chaotic without clear protocols and with MPs acting with questionable motives. It is yet another consequence of the Sheraton Moves of February 2020 and former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin will be held responsible for it.
He formed a government on the strength of the appointment by the Agong without seeking legitimacy by proving his majority in the Dewan Rakyat, which is an underlying constitutional requirement. Muhyiddin circumvented the constitution in order to become prime minister. He relied on relationships and deals and look at the political instability that followed. It was needless stress on the people in addition to the stress of dealing with the pandemic.
MPs initiating a change of leadership in Perak, the emergency controversy, suspending Parliament, Umno MPs resigning from Muhyuiddin’s Prihatin Nasional (PN) coalition, Zahid pulling out of PN leading to Muhyiddin’s resignation only to later support the current Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob and remaining in the same coalition. What came out of all that? Nothing good to the people but leaders got what they wanted. It was a futile, wasteful effort and the people received no benefit.
The only reason we have had to deal with all this political turmoil is because Muhyiddin set a precedent for a government to be formed outside of the Dewan Rakyat. As a result, look how quickly Malaysia fell from grace as a possibly developed modern nation of the future to the worst-performing nation in the world in terms of recovering from the pandemic. The economy is struggling to get back on the path to recovery with little help from the government while the government focuses on helping the B40 group which is their political base.
All this political instability could have been avoided if Muhyuiddin did just one thing right: Strictly setting the example of following the words, intent and spirit of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia. He followed the constitution when it suited him but ignored it completely to legitimize his PN government. So, it remains an unconstitutional government, even under Sabri because he, too, didn’t face a confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat to prove his majority.
Yet, the Opposition signed an MoU with an unconstitutional government to seek reforms in exchange for not voting against the government! Should a more intelligent leader become a subsequent prime minister, he or she may look at the MoU and decide not to uphold it on the grounds it was signed with an unconstitutional government. What kind of dazed thinking has overtaken our MPs? Supporting an unconstitutional government!
This is Muhyiddin’s modus operandi. Making deals based on relationships and bypassing the Dewan Rakyat. And Opposition MPs and the Dewan Rakyat Speaker have gone along with it when they should have fought tooth and nail to reinstate the supremacy of the constitution and taken the issue of the election of a mid-term prime minister to the Dewan Rakyat.
Now, look at Malacca. The same chaos prevails because an attempt was made to topple the state government outside of the state assembly. On Monday, we will know whether Malacca will have state elections or an emergency. There may be neither because, at the last minute, typical of Umno, the party may decide to join forces with the same components of the just-dissolved government and resume business as usual — just as they did when Muhyiddin resigned. Another exercise in futility.
That’s the state of the current Malay-majority politics: wheel and deal, no matter how shamelessly, as long as MPs and assemblypersons can stay in government.
If elected officials believe they can muster a majority to topple a sitting government, there is only one thing to do: Wait for the Dewan Rakyat or state assembly to convene and seek a no-confidence vote. If that fails, vote against the Agong’s or Sultan’s address or any money bill or the Budget. Don’t announce you are resigning. That position could change. Instead, use your vote.
The government automatically falls and it triggers the constitutional process to form the new government — in the Dewan Rakyat or state assembly. Everything falls into place according to the constitution. The decisions made would be legal, binding and indisputable. There would be no need to speak to the Agong or Sultans or engage in deals outside of the Dewan Rakyat just so elected officials can be in government. The instability that comes from wheeling and dealing will be eliminated.
So, elected officials, a little advice to you: If you want to topple a government, do it discreetly and decisively without any room for failure and that can happen only in the Dewan Rakyat. MPs must hold themselves to the gold standard of operating according to the constitution. The people deserve nothing less.