All posts by Gertrude

About Gertrude

I am a little left of centre 21st Century person. What all that means you'll discover as you read my blog!

Umno defectors to join PAS? Not a good choice

There has been some talk that Umno members will be joining PAS. Umno members, disgruntled by the antics of their leaders, may understandably want to leave their party but is PAS the best choice to join?

By joining PAS, Umno members will be making PAS a stronger party to wield greater influence in any government it forms and Umno members need to ask if that is good for their voters and country, and themselves.

A stronger PAS will get more votes in an election and increase their representation in a state or federal government, which may benefit the former Umno members and their supporters. PAS, alone, however, will not have the numbers to form a government except in Kelantan where it has a majority.

In other states, it can form a government only with Bersatu, its partner in Perikatan Nasional (PN), and if successful that PN government would become more conservative than the current PN governments of Perlis, Kedah, and Terengganu. These states would only lag behind the rest of the country and become more like Kelantan. Would that benefit the former Umno members and their supporters who have had a better life on Umno’s previous leaders’ development policies?

Evidences of a decline in development will not be seen now as the country is still grappling with political instability caused by governments that were formed not as a result of the due processes of parliamentary democracy but by the appointment of the constitutional monarch.

When parliamentary processes are strictly followed, political stability will return and the country will move forward. Any government with a strong PAS will only hold back on developing unless led by a strong leader. In the absence of such leaders, PAS will have a significant say and that may be an obstacle to the development of the country.

Umno members need to seriously consider if by joining PAS they will be contributing to a progressive future of this nation or aiding in retarding national development. They also need to know the repercussions of supporting PAS at the state level that will be felt at the national level.

With PAS’ avowed position of wanting to form an Islamic state, would the Sabah and Sarawak political parties, which are Christian-based or include a large Christian base of voters and form a majority of the bumiputras in East Malaysia, want to ally with PAS? Very unlikely, which means all those votes that went to PAS would go to waste as it would be excluded from the federal government.

The trend at the state level would trigger posturing and negotiations among political parties to seek alliances that include the majority of people groups at the national level. A stronger PAS may frighten off potential partners at the national level.

It would thus be better if Umno members delayed their decision to join PAS until after the state elections in Kedah, Kelantan, Terengganu, Penang, Selangor and Negeri Sembilan. The elections will reveal the actual preferences on the ground, and, especially if PAS’ wins in the last general election were a flash in the pan or an emerging trend.

Based on the results of the state elections, Umno members can decide the best options available to them. After witnessing everything that has happened to this country since 2020, the results will clearly show which parties and coalitions the people will reject and which they will support.


What do the people see?

Last weekend’s unity government convention was a rousing show of camaraderie among former sworn enemies who declared all is forgiven and are friends now and that this forced alliance was out of loyalty to the king.

One by one, leaders talked about the need to be friends and completely glossed over the fact that the leaders of the leading parties in the unity government are facing charges in court and that this government does not have the support of the majority of the Malays who are the largest community in the country.

Quite apparently, it was also a pre-election campaign event aimed at sending the message that the incumbent unity government is truly united, in the hope that the show of unity will appeal to the people, especially the Malays, in order to get their votes.

Anwar’s singling out of Umno, as a party together with Gabungan Parti Sarawak and the Sabah parties which joined the unity government, was a strong endorsement of the party and its president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi although the latter is facing 47 corruption charges in court.

By publicly endorsing Zahid who is also a deputy prime minister, Anwar has legitimised the former’s role in the unity government. The strategy, perhaps, is that with Umno in government, it would help the party deliver the Malay vote to Pakatan Harapan — the leading coalition in the unity government — in the coming state elections.

Whatever the political motive, the unity government convention, attended by thousands, was a success in projecting a picture of stability and unity. Whether that picture matches the reality on the ground is a question mark, one which will be answered soon in the coming state elections in Kedah, Penang, Kelantan, Terengganu, Selangor and Negri Sembilan.

The most important question now is if the people are buying into this narrative Anwar is spinning through the huge PR campaign involving the unity convention and the Hari Raya open houses which have attracted thousands and thousands of people or whether the people can see through the charade?

What is seen isn’t what really is. It will be interesting to see if, in the state elections, the people’s votes reflect what meets the eye or that they saw right through it.

Lots of nice words, but let’s have real change

It was, indeed, very gallant of Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim to invite his detractors to Parliament to prove they have the numbers to form a new government. He said that “he will face the person who tables the motion, and we will battle in Parliament”.

Brave words, but what would be the procedure by which his detractors could respond? They first have to table a motion — if the Speaker allows it. If the Speaker doesn’t allow it for whatever reason that would be the end of a possible face-off in Parliament.

Instead of daring the Opposition to face him in a debate in Parliament, it would have been better for Anwar to set in law a procedure for a no-confidence vote.

There is only one way to prove a majority in Parliament and that is through a no-confidence vote. With his claims of a two-thirds majority, Anwar could easily pass such a law.

MPs now can table a motion of no-confidence/confidence but it depends on the discretion of the Speaker to allow it, which means MPs wanting a change of government is dependent on the goodwill of the same government to make it happen, which, of course, will never happen!

So, Anwar can throw a thousand powerful words at his detractors but they would mean nothing at all unless he matches those words with the will to institute real change.

Anwar would have come across as a force to reckon with if he, instead of throwing a dare, set into law a procedure for MPs to call for a no-confidence vote. The law should have requirements such as a minimum number of MPs calling for such a vote to be allowed in the day’s agenda and that MPs should be allowed to vote without any restriction imposed by any memorandum of understanding or any other arrangement.

The law must also specify that the MPs vote by ballot so that the yes and no numbers are counted. For an issue as important as removing or forming a government, a voice vote would not give an accurate count of MPs in favour of the motion and those who are not.

If Anwar set in place such a law he would be giving bite to his talk. The law may backfire on him and he may lose the government but it would be democratic. Inviting the Opposition to battle it out in Parliament through a debate will not prove an incumbent government’s majority. A no-confidence vote would.

It would also show that it is the MPs who determine the destiny of the nation according to the mandate of the people. If a vote of no confidence carries through, the king has no choice but to form a new government. He has proof of who has the majority and who doesn’t. This is also a way how MPs prevent constitutional monarchy from overstepping its boundaries and overriding parliamentary democracy.

As it is, Anwar showed bravado but did not substantiate it with a commitment to introduce the proper procedure of proving a majority in Parliament. Without a no-confidence vote law, Anwar’s words are simply political baiting and nothing to be taken seriously.

More importantly, MPs will now find other ways to change a government and that would be a cause of political instability as no one will know when they will succeed through legitimate or illegitimate means. A no-confidence vote will be a legal means of managing political instability in Parliament and aid in bringing about a resolution.

Instead of keeping quiet, the MPs should have jumped at the opportunity Anwar offered and held him to his word by demanding a procedure to call for a no-confidence vote. Unfortunately, MPs don’t seem to know when to fight and when to keep quiet. This was an occasion when they should have loudly called for a law to initiate a no-confidence vote. Instead, they missed the chance for real change.

Once such a law is passed and a no-confidence vote is introduced, the Opposition MPs may fail to unseat Anwar but they would have succeeded in making a no-confidence vote law to prove the majority of a government.

Besides, with his two-thirds majority, Anwar can confidently win a confidence vote — unless, of course, he isn’t confident. In which case, he has no right to remain in government and all the more reason why he must prove his majority in Parliament.

The DPM dilemma

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has expressed hopes that the unity government will finish its full term. That’s left to be seen.

Anwar and his supporters want to project a narrative that the threat to the unity government originates externally. That may be true if Anwar’s leadership does not provide ammunition for detractors to seek an alternative.

Some of the decisions Anwar has made have far-reaching repercussions and they need to be examined to see if they put the nation and its institutions at risk. If they have, then MPs are justified and should seek a change of administration or a change of prime minister. If MPs don’t, they will not be living up to the expectations of the voters.

Consider the current state of the national leadership. The nation is now poised to have a prime minister who is facing 47 corruption charges in court involving Yayasan Akalbudi. Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is facing these charges, is one of the two current deputy prime ministers. He is more senior in terms of rank and experience than the other DPM, Fadillah Yusof, who is from Gabungan Parti Sarawak(GPS).

Should anything happen to Anwar or he voluntarily resigns, who will take over? Zahid? Did the people vote for this? Did he get the mandate of the people or was this a decision that Anwar for his own reasons has imposed on the nation? Is this not risking the reputation of the nation and good governance that this nation is aspiring for?

If the unity government has set in place a succession plan in which Zahid is not the candidate to take over the premiership mid-term, the people need to know about it. But, if the candidate is Zahid, it is not the will of the people and Anwar’s decision threatens our democratic system of government.

No one should play God and believe fate will be in his or her favour. He or she should understand human limitations and make provisions for them. If anything happens to Anwar now, the nation would be stuck with an undesirable and unwanted prime minister — thanks to Anwar.

The people need to understand the gravity of the situation that Anwar has put the nation in.

Anwar has justified his decision by arguing that one is innocent until proven guilty. If so, march into court in the confidence that one is innocent and one has the evidence to prove it.

If a defendant is finding ways to escape conviction — as Zahid has attempted by sending a letter of representation to the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) requesting that the AGC drop the 47 charges against him in the Yayasan Akalbudi case — it would only raise public suspicion that he doesn’t think he is innocent.

In addition, Zahid’s party, Umno, has sent a request to the king for a royal pardon for its adviser, Najib Razak, who is in jail for his involvement in the SRC International case. The king should not forward the request to the Pardons Board of which he is chairman because, under the constitution, a political party can’t seek a pardon for any of its convicted members. That’s not the correct procedure. Yet, Zahid sidestepped the correct procedure to get what he wants. And Anwar kept his silence.

How could Anwar allow his DPM to disrespect the constitution and get away with it? It is dangerous to have such a politician in the Cabinet as he or she may use his or her influence and position to get what he/she wants and it may not be what the people want.

Zahid and others in Umno who are facing criminal charges in court have often justified their actions by claiming that their cases are politically motivated. That has now become a cliche. In politics, everything is politically motivated! The question to ask isn’t whether such cases are politically motivated but whether they are true or correct, and allow the courts to prove it so or otherwise.

Anwar’s silence perhaps is a demonstration of his own sense of ethics. He himself is facing a sodomy case in court and, therefore, is in no position to judge Zahid and other Umno members facing criminal charges in court or dismiss them. If he did, he would have to first dismiss himself, i.e. resign!

At the same time, one can not help but observe that should Zahid succeed in getting the AGC to drop the 47 charges against him, a precedent would be set and others facing criminal charges in court can do the same.

That would include Anwar and other politicians in his unity government who are facing criminal charges in court. It will also result in a long line of criminals seeking to drop charges against them.

That would be nothing but a mockery of our justice system. It is reckless irresponsibility to put the nation at risk by having such a candidate as a DPM who could become PM who mocks the AGC and the judiciary while the PM stands by silently.

This is the reason why politicians facing court charges should not be allowed to hold public office.

The people are witnessing first-hand how a compromised candidate will use position and influence to save himself or herself and set a precedent that should not have been set with no one stopping it.

It is, therefore, not surprising that there are efforts to change the current administration or, at least, the current PM.

Whether or not the PM’s position is at risk, Anwar has to act swiftly to choose the right candidate, after consultations with the partners in his unity government, to be the designated DPM who will take over from him as PM should it become necessary in the mid-term.

If he fails to correct the situation he has put the nation in, then, he gives MPs the right reasons to move against him. He would be inviting it.

MPs, wake up!

There was a recent report that Perikatan Nasional (PN) was planning a coup which PN party Bersatu’s deputy president Ahmad Faizal Azumu later dismissed as baseless. Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) chief whip and its lead party, Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB)’s senior vice-president Fadillah Yusof, who is also a deputy prime minister, had reportedly said that no one had approached them about forming a new government.

It might have been just a rumour but it is reflective of the desire of some political parties to change governments. If PN wants to change the government it must be certain that it can muster a majority from the Members of Parliament (MPs). With its 74 seats, inclusive of PAS’ 49 seats, PN would need the support of GPS (23), Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS-6), Warisan (3), a few other East Malaysian parties and Muda (1) to form a government with a simple majority.

Comfortable in government, it is unlikely that PN will make much headway to get the support of parties already in government. The latter wouldn’t want to rock the boat.

Should PN somehow be able to get a majority of MPs to support it and initiates an attempt to topple the incumbent unity government, it needs to be sure it has the support of the majority of Malays to justify its move.

No doubt PN won 54% of the Malay vote but it needs to be ascertained as to whether that figure is reflective of the preference of the majority of Malays nationwide or whether that figure simply reflects the fact that Malay voter turnout in PN’s mainly rural base was very high, hence inflating the percentage of Malay vote in its favour.

In other words, the 54% Malay vote may not be representative of the Malay vote in the urban areas where the majority of Malays are now located. Until the Malay vote is inclusive of the Malay majority in the urban areas, no Malay-based party or coalition can claim it has the support of the Malay majority.

PN has the largest number of Malay parliamentary seats because more parliamentary seats were delineated in the rural areas where the Malay majority once was. That majority has splintered as the majority of Malays are now in the urban areas and until more Malay-majority parliamentary constituencies are created in the urban areas, the Malay vote will not be representative of the majority of Malays.

So, PN can not justify a coup — if it’s planning one — on the grounds it represents the Malay majority because it is debatable if it does.

In the absence of a redelineation of parliamentary constituencies to give more weight to the Malay majority in the urban areas, the only solution to claiming the support of the largest community in the country — the Malays — is to form an alliance between the rural Malay-based coalition and the urban Malay-based party/coalition. In the current scenario that would be a PN alliance with Pakatan Harapan (PH).

Unfortunately for PH, its Malay-based party, PKR, lost nearly half of its Malay support in the last election and PN has declared it will not support PH. If one or all of the newer parties win seats in the urban areas, then they would replace PKR as the urban Malay coalition which can join forces with PN to form a comfortable majority.

GPS and GRS, however, might be reluctant to join such an alliance which would have a dominant PAS with 49 seats as it might be uncomfortable with its Christian voters who are the majority races in Sabah and Sarawak.

What then, would be the best alternative? It all depends on whether MPs will fight for the interests of their voters — even if it means going against their leaders when it is clear they have compromised the constitution.

If their constituents want it, MPs are duty-bound to form alliances and/or change an administration but they have to do it without involving the king or the sultans in order to respect the mandate of the people.

MPs should be prepared to hunker down for tough negotiations and — whatever the tradeoffs — ensure that the interests of the people are not traded off for a political solution. If MPs don’t know how to find a solution without sacrificing the interests of the voters, then they are not fit to be MPs. They are sleeping on the job and simply following a path of least resistance if it benefits them.

The current political landscape is fluid and crisis-prone because no MP has so far demonstrated the leadership skills of finding a solution without selling out the interests of the voters and compromising the constitution.

While crises are unstable periods, they are ripe with possibilities for leaders to emerge who can muster the support of the people. The people are waiting to see for such leaders to rise up who have the skills to lead and fight to uphold the sovereignty of the nation without resorting to cheating and forming unsavoury alliances that put leaders in the debt of others.

The MPs need to wake up and test their mettle during these trying times and prove their leadership qualities and their worthiness to represent the people.

If they won’t, perhaps, it is time to replace them with MPs who can be leaders and fill the vacuum that currently exists.

Selamat Hari Raya

Drive safe, enjoy the long weekend, the good food and the good vibes from all the people you will be spending Hari Raya with. If you have a truly magnanimous spirit, pass some of the joy to those around you who don’t celebrate this feast.

It’s a good tradition that we Malaysians practise: Enjoying each other’s religious or cultural feasts with others. In recent times, however, fewer people practise it. It is one tradition that we should do our best not to let die a natural death at the home level by making an effort to include friends and neighbours and not just be content with national-level open houses, although that is good.

Not that we should do it all the time under compulsion. Sometimes we go on holiday, balik kampung or enjoy just family. At some other times, we should make it a practice to include others in our festivities, as well.

Such inclusiveness, of course, can not happen if we don’t build good relationships with colleagues and neighbours of other races.

So, folks, let this Raya be another good reason to become more Malaysian and others-inclusive!

Selamat Hari Raya, all!

Umno’s requests – the implications

Umno has sent a request to the king for a royal pardon for former prime minister Najib Razak who is the party advisor. Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has also sent a letter of representation to the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) to drop the 47 charges of criminal breach of trust, corruption and money laundering involving Yayasan Akalbudi (YAB) that were brought against him.

Clearly, Zahid and Najib want to escape conviction but did they think through the decisions and implications or frantically made decisions based on a dissenting judgement in the review of Najib’s SRC case which had found him guilty?

Perhaps, my layperson’s mind can’t grasp the legal aspects of Zahid’s latest two moves. But, I find the audacity of the requests unbelievable. Firstly, the application was sent to the king. What now will the king do? Pass the application to the pardon’s board for consideration? By sending the application directly to the king, Umno has now made the king the secretary of the pardon’s board who passes it to the board!

Secondly, can the political party of a convicted politician send a request on behalf of the said politician? According to Regulation 113 of the Prison Regulations 2000, a petition can only be filed by the convicted, their family or a lawyer appointed by them, and the Prisons Department. But Umno has bypassed the standard procedure and sent the request directly to the king and in doing so does it realise it has put both the king and the government in a spot?

Since the application came to the king from outside of the government, the king now has to consider whether he acts as the king or the king who is the chairman of the pardon’s board. If he acts solely as the king, he is free to pardon anyone but will it be recognized by the government?

For it to be recognized by the government, the application must go through the government and be approved by the pardon’s board in a sitting with the king as the chairman.

If the king issues a pardon in his capacity as the king, it would put the government in a spot as firstly it must be established that the king has the constitutional authority to issue a pardon without the rest of the pardon’s board and which the government must recognize.

If the king has no such constitutional authority and he issues a pardon, then Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim will now have to make a stand as to what is constitutional and advise the king accordingly.

Whether he will do that or not and go along with whatever interpretation the king follows in the way he did when the king instructed the political parties to form a unity government with Anwar as prime minister is left to be seen, which will be seen as another constitutional breach!

It is to avoid such chaotic governing processes that a pardon’s board was set up with the king as chairman so that applications are brought through the government and once approved according to the set criteria the government acts to validate the decision.

It is the same with Zahid’s letter to the AGC requesting that his criminal charges be dropped. If he has the right to send such a letter, then every other person charged in court has the right to make such a request! A precedent has been set and now it can be expected that others will do the same.

Was Zahid and those who advised him fully aware of the implications of the above two requests? I like to give them the benefit of the doubt and think that they were but, I suspect, they don’t care — as long as there is a feeble even if baseless hope they could go free, they would seize it irrespective of whether they were acting responsibly. They don’t care if they were setting a precedent and, in the process, undermining the finality of judges’ decisions.

Would Zahid, who is the deputy prime minister, have been so bold to sidestep the correct procedures and practices of good governance if he and his party weren’t part of the ruling government? Or, was he emboldened precisely because he is in government?

These are the brazen acts of desperate politicians who have been given access to power by being included in the Cabinet and who use their power to act for selfish gain.

As the prime minister, Anwar has not reined in his junior coalition partner who has put unnecessary stress on the government, the constitutional monarchy, the judiciary and the pardon’s board. For that, he must be held responsible.

The past two governments fell due to Umno’s manipulations. The same might happen to Anwar’s unity government.

His position — despite the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) he signed with parties in his coalition — is not guaranteed. The MoU was signed with parties, not individual MPs.

If MPs get tired of Umno’s shenanigans and Anwar’s accommodative silence, they may revolt. Their parties can simply claim they couldn’t do anything about it because the MPs acted on behalf of their constituents. If the MPs revolt, it may be the end of the unity government.

Anwar has to rethink the leeway he has given Umno — if he wants to save the unity government.

The ills of reviving Umno

There’s a new Umno chief minister in Malacca, Ab Rauf Yusoh. New political appointments to government agencies, statutory bodies, and GLCs which include and will include Umno politicians. The Court of Appeal has permanently released Umno president and Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s international passport.

These events raise questions as to the amount of leeway this unity government’s junior partner Umno enjoys under Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s leadership. Is this what the people voted for? In Umno’s heartland in the rural Malay-majority region, voters abandoned the party and gave their vote to Perikatan Nasional (PN). Yet Umno seems to be wielding considerable influence in Anwar’s government.

There may be a couple of reasons for the weight Umno has in Anwar’s administration. A single statement by Deputy Public Prosecutor Abdul Malik Ayob in hearing Zahid’s request to have his passport back permanently is telling. He said he was instructed not to raise any objection to the application, which can only mean that the DPP had objections but was not allowed to make them on instructions.

In the absence of any objection, it is not surprising that the three-person Court of Appeal bench allowed Zahid’s request on the basis that circumstances have changed and Zahid was made a minister and his personal and diplomatic passports were needed to perform his duties.

This is what happens when politicians facing court charges are placed in government. It becomes necessary to accommodate them by bending the rules.

Anwar can’t be accused of influencing the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) as he doesn’t need to as the current AGC will perform as it has and the outcome is as what the public has witnessed in the past three years.

The current performance of the AGC, however, is benefitting the politicians who are facing court charges. Evidently, Anwar is not interfering even if it makes him look as having betrayed the reform agenda on which he built his support.

Another reason for compromising on reforms to have Umno on his side, perhaps, is to indicate Malay support for his unity government.

Anwar’s Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition only won 13% of the Malay vote in Peninsular Malaysia and combined with Umno’s 32% (Bridget Welsh, COMMENT | GE15 voting analysis – Part 7: Battle for Malays, Malaysiakini, March 20), it comes up to a tally of 45%. Together with the Malay vote from Sabah and Sarawak, he could claim a Malay majority but it is a weak majority as the unity government did not get the mandate of the people but was instructed and appointed by the king.

Being the party with the biggest Malay representation in the unity government, Anwar may be giving Umno a stronger voice in government by accommodating its requests for political appointments and being silent on some of the compromises being made to revive Umno. A revived Umno could mean more Malay support for PH.

Banking on a revived Umno to deliver Malay votes to a PH-led coalition in the future, however, may be a risky undertaking. In the Malay heartland, Umno’s support dropped from 44% in GE14 to 32% in GE15 (Bridget Welsh, COMMENT | GE15 voting analysis – Part 7: Battle for Malays, Malaysiakini, March 20). The clear message from the Malay voters in this rural and semi-rural region is that their preference is for PN.

The state elections in June will reveal if this trend will continue. If it continues, Umno will lose more Malay support.

PH’s best bet in getting Malay support is in the urban areas. That, too, may be an uphill task considering the fact that PH lost more than half its Malay support in GE15. PKR’s Malay support dropped from GE14 to GE15 from 30% to 14%, DAP’s from 34% to14% and Amanah’s from 22% to 12% (Bridget Welsh, COMMENT | GE15 voting analysis – Part 7: Battle for Malays, Malaysiakini, March 20).

Again, the state elections in June, particularly in Selangor and Negeri Sembilan which have dominant urban Malay populations, will reveal Malay support for PH and Anwar’s leadership.

Without a demonstrable reform agenda while in government and accommodating Umno at the same time may have a negative outcome rather than what is hoped for.

It would be better for PH to win support by sticking to its reform agenda rather than resorting to the political expediency of unsavoury alliances, unacceptable compromises and undemocratic Memorandums of Understanding.

Prove reforms are better

A second former prime minister (Muhyiddin Yassin) has been brought to court to face corruption charges. Who’s next?

Muhyiddin’s arrest was made by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission based, according to Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s statement, on MACC’s independent investigations.

MACC should continue to nab the crooks based on its own investigations but it must not be seen as selective prosecution in that some are investigated for whatever reasons while others are not.

If there’s proof that leaders have stolen money from the government then they deserve to face the full brunt of the law. But, Anwar needs to show proof that there is no selective prosecution under his leadership and that he isn’t engaged in revenge politics.

Another consideration that Anwar needs to think of is whether this course of action to take past leaders to court is an effective deterrent in curbing corruption in government.

Is it effective? Or, is it a start of a trend to take past premiers and politicians to court with the next leadership doing the same with the previous leader/s in a tit-for-tat?

If Anwar was serious about reforms, he would let MACC initiate investigations on its own, while he concentrated on improving good governance and the economy and instituting reforms.

Without sufficient proof of more reforms and good governance, his credibility as a reformist is at stake and, perhaps, already shot. His administration doesn’t look like a reforming government and appears no different from the very governments he and his party and coalition used to criticize.

With a two-thirds majority in government, Anwar could have easily introduced a few necessary laws that would have confirmed his seriousness to introduce reforms.

The first law he should have passed was to amend the federal constitution to include provisions for a no-confidence vote to legitimize any government formed due to the collapse of an incumbent government. Such a no-confidence law should be made mandatory without a Memorandum of Understanding to ensure MPs are free to vote to represent their constituents.

Another law he could have introduced was the Political Funding Act, and another putting a maximum limit to commissions the government can receive.

Without laws, politicians holding public office are simply going to continue in the bad practices we have seen in the past and future leaders will take past leaders to court. With laws, such practices will have to stop.

A third consideration Anwar has to think about is whether the trajectory he is on now will strengthen his party PKR and his coalition Pakatan Harapan (PH) as a viable alternative government after the next general election.

He has become prime minister and may retire after his term but what will become of PKR and PH in the future? After Anwar, what will become of PKR and PH? Ensuring their future should be his priority by proving that his party’s and coalition’s trademarks are reforms and good governance.

Give the public full disclosure

Former premier Muhyiddin Yassin was charged with four counts of abuse of power and two money laundering charges involving RM232.5 million at the Sessions Court in Kuala Lumpur today. He pleaded not guilty and has claimed trial.

If based on the investigations by the Malaysian Ant-Corruption Commission (MACC), there are grounds for his arrest and charges in court, of course, he must face the full force of the law. Since Muhyiddin has claimed trial, he now has the chance to prove his innocence.

Muhyiddin’s arrest, however, overshadows another equally important case — Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail’s overruling of the Registrar of Societies’ (ROS) decision that Umno’s decision to prevent election for the top two positions was invalid. An ROS letter to that effect was widely shared online although, in a later letter to Umno, ROS did a U-turn and gave Umno the green light for a no-contest for the top two positions.

This was followed by a statement by Saifuddin that he had invoked Section 70 of the Societies Act to prevent Umno from being deregistered over its no-contest decision for its top two posts.

Section 70 states that “the Minister may at his discretion in writing exempt any society registered under this Act from all or any of the provisions of this Act”. Saifuddin said, specifically, he had exempted Umno from compliance with Section 13(1)(c)(iv) which empowers the Registrar of Societies to deregister a party for contravening its rules.

According to media reports, ROS’ second letter sought for the party to take “corrective actions”. Umno now won’t need to take corrective action because, by the stroke of a pen invoking ministerial privilege, Saifuddin saved it from being barred.

Now, why would the Home Minister do such a thing? ROS did its job. If it didn’t do its job rightly, Saifuddin could have invoked Section 70 and directed it to correct where it had erred. But, he didn’t do that.

Instead, the Home Minister invoked ministerial privilege not just to overrule ROS’s decision but to interfere in the internal politics of a political party that is a partner in the coalition government. Isn’t this abuse of authority?

He interfered in the politics of another political party by using his authority in government. What justification can he have to invoke ministerial privilege using his position in government to play politics involving another party?

When the issue was brought up in Parliament, he said his rationale for the decision was a secret and could not be divulged. This is not a government matter that needs to be protected as a “secret”. This is clearly a case of a government minister using his powers to interfere in the politics of another political party.

This is unacceptable and Saifuddin can not hide behind the Official Secrets Act (OSA) or the explanation that it is a “secret”. It is a political issue that the government should not be interfering with.

Unfortunately, a precedent was set in invoking the OSA in not giving full disclosure when Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Institutional Reform), Azalina Othman Said, said in an earlier report, that the terms of settlement of the civil suit by former attorney general Apandi Ali against former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the government are classified as confidential under the OSA.

The plaintiff and the Attorney-General’s Chambers had agreed when the case was ongoing to keep the settlement confidential. Shouldn’t that have been sufficient? Why put it under the OSA unless there were concerns that it could be made public at a later date?

The case involved a financial settlement by the government using taxpayers’ money. Taxpayers have the right to know how the government was using their money. Putting the case under OSA seems to suggest that the government has something to hide. This is not good governance.

Likewise with the current case involving Saifuddin’s exemption. Both of these cases involve Umno. Apandi was the AG who had said that former prime minister and Umno president Najib Razak was not implicated in the 1MDB scandal.

Why is there a need to keep the rationale for keeping these two cases involving Umno a “secret”? And, this is only happening now under the unity government led by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.

If Saifuddin did not invoke the ministerial privilege, Umno would have had to take corrective action, and, if it didn’t, ROS would have the authority to deregister it. If Umno was deregistered, it would no longer be in the ruling government.

Whether Saifuddin acted on advice or at his own discretion is another question that begs an answer. This and other questions should be asked in Parliament and MPs, especially those in Umno who disagree with the no-contest decision, should not relent until the home minister gives full disclosure.

Saifuddin has told his opponents to take the issue to court as he would answer all questions then. Well, then, perhaps the courts should decide whether the Home Minister can invoke Section 70 to interfere in the internal politics of a political party that ROS has reason to believe has contravened its own rules.

What is baffling is that even if Umno was deregistered and left the unity government, Anwar’s 146-seat majority will be reduced by only 26 seats and he would still have a majority of 120 seats.

So, it is difficult to understand why Anwar’s government is willing to use government authority to interfere in the internal politics of a partner party unless there is a hidden agenda that the parties involved do not want the public to become aware of.

It would be timely now for the Anwar-led Pakatan Harapan (PH) government and Umno to reveal the entire list of conditions that Umno wanted PH to accept before it agreed to join the unity government. It would clear all doubts the public would have as to the reason why Anwar wants Umno to remain in his government at the risk of compromising its ministers.