Time for closure and to start a new chapter

It’s time to bring the chapter in Malaysian history that opened two years ago with the Sheraton Moves to a close and start a new chapter. The Sheraton Moves and the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government that followed resulted in three major consequences that were and still are detrimental to the country.

Firstly, the PN government seized power outside of Parliament without proving its majority and, in doing so, contravened the federal constitution but expected to be recognized as legitimate. To this day, it has failed to address its unconstitutional origins and has installed a coalition party member as the prime minister. Ismail Sabri Yaakob followed the precedent set by his predecessor, Muhyiddin Yassin, and likewise failed to prove his majority.

By failing to prove their majority both PN leaders have shown disdain for the constitution and refused to recognize that they set themselves up as the prime minister unconstitutionally, creating a constitutional crisis that is yet to be resolved.

Secondly, the PN government brought former kleptocrat premier Najib Razak back close to the corridors of power. The convicted criminal now openly and fearlessly campaigns for the candidates of his party, Umno, on the election trail. No one can do anything about it because the courts have stayed sentencing over his conviction. Not only is he moving around freely but apparently has the support of some Chinese factions which encourage China-Malaysia ties and who — with no respect for the judiciary’s decision to convict him — invited him to open the 11th World Chinese Economic Forum.

I am flabbergasted that there are Malaysians who have lost all sense and will openly go against the constitution and get away with it and who without a blight of conscience invite a convicted premier to open an international forum and get away with that too!

Thirdly, the Opposition has proven itself powerless to stop constitutional violations and convicts from roaming freely for the simple reason it was more interested in petty personal politics rather than putting the nation first and seeking to work together for the good of the people and demanding compliance with the law of the land.

For two years we have had to put up with a poorly-performing government, a national embarrassment and a weak opposition. Malaysia’s saving grace is the great spirit of the people to help one another in the face of crisis. As Klang MP Charles Santiago has described it, the recent floods have shown that the government is “redundant”. It’s an apt description.

The question to address now is: Why are we supporting such a useless government?

There’s only one group of people who can stop the current government: the Opposition — if it can work together and seize the opportunities that lend themselves to take the government back constitutionally. So far it has missed all the opportunities that came its way. Now, it has to create a new opportunity to retake the government or force a general election.

Retaking the government may be out of the question now because it might not get a majority. Malay-based PN parties Umno and Bersatu have declared they won’t form a pact with the opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition. Opposition party Pejuang seems to be going solo and may not join PH. That means the only alternative left for PH is to force a general election.

Some analysts claim that now is not a good time for PH to seek a general election as voter sentiments are not in favour of PH parties PKR, DAP and Amanah considering their losses in the recent Malacca and Sarawak state elections. But after the failure of the PN government to provide swift rescue to the people in the recent floods, it would mean that neither are the PN parties popular with the people.

Faced with a choice between PN parties and Opposition parties, there’s a good chance the people may choose the opposition parties, especially if the latter stand on a national policy of sustainable development, environment preservation and reforms. That’s the new chapter we need to start, one that begins with an elected government committed to good governance and with the will to execute and enforce policies that bring direct benefits to the people.

The recent floods and water cuts have clearly shown that river and water management and maintenance in the face of climate changes need to be the focus of any national policy without sacrificing development objectives for the majority in the bumiputra semi-urban and rural regions. The lack of a swift disaster management response by the National Disaster Management Agency reflects on the inability of the current government to handle such crises or any crisis for that matter! That should be the last straw in supporting an unelected and unable government to remain in power.

Should another disaster occur, there’s no evidence so far that the Sabri government will be able to handle it. Even with the covid 19 pandemic, although the daily active cases have dropped, the fatalities though dropping are still high. Malaysia’s daily covid 19 death toll is in the lower double digits (41 on Dec 28) although we are nearly 80% vaccinated compared to Indonesia’s single-digit deaths (7 on Dec 30) with only 41% of the population vaccinated.

In terms of disaster management, the Sabri government can’t be relied upon and we can’t risk another disaster in its hands.

PH has to think through carefully what it intends to do for the good of the country. It needs to ask itself if the Memorandum of Understanding it signed with the Sabri administration is beneficial for the country or has it removed any real and effective check and balances of the government?

So far, all its advice and criticisms and calls for improvements have fallen on deaf ears. Sabri has responded to no issue and changes have been negligible. Is there any point in continuing with the MOU?

If the MOU is torn up, it would trigger a general election which may be what is needed for a reset. But PH has to think through very shrewdly as to how to face a general election.

Perhaps, like Pejuang, PH parties should go solo in the next general election. If there’s a hint they may form an alliance with Pejuang, urban voters who right now see former premier and Pejuang chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as a liability may stay away from voting. If Pejuang joins forces with PH, the former may be unable to lure the Malay-majority votes it is targeting because of its association with non-friendly urban non-Malay voters.

This is the political reality because Malaysian voters have not matured enough to understand the special problems of specific races and accommodate them. The more developed urban voters should, by right, show greater magnanimity than they have shown so far and be more inclusive of the still-developing semi-urban and rural bumiputra voters. The progressive leaders understand the conflict in values between the two groups but, unfortunately, the voters see it as a race issue rather than a development issue.

PH also needs to know which Malay-based party to support to form a coalition post-election. If it supports Umno, PH will be facilitating the return of kleptocrats unless the current leaders are removed during Umno’s party elections. There’s no time, however, to wait for that to happen. If PH supports PN, it will be facilitating the return of incompetence personified! The only choice is to support Pejuang, which, apparently is seen as a threat to PN and Umno but not proven yet until tested in a general election.

If as individual parties each wins enough seats, it can regroup as the PH coalition and seek more partners to form a comfortable majority post-election.

The point is that PH has to think through very carefully exactly what it intends to do to remove the Sabri/PN government. Supporting the current administration will be putting the nation at risk.

In the hope PH will act for the good of the nation, I wish you all a Happy New Year!

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