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!

Go to the people …

It must have been a major embarrassment to Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaacob when the Prime Minister’s Office’s social media team had to take down a Twitter poll that carried a majority of negative views on the government’s newly-established “Jihad Task Force to Address Inflation and Assist in Facing Cost of Living”.

The poll had asked Twitter users to give their views on the capability of the task force to coordinate efforts to resolve inflation issues efficiently and effectively.

Most of the viewers didn’t agree with the question asked. That prompted the PMO’s media team to take down the poll.

This only goes to show how disconnected the current crop of national leaders is from the people. They apparently don’t know what the people want or think. Inflation and soaring prices are everyday issues for the people and setting up a task force is not going to suddenly bring prices down and put affordable food on the table.

Don’t the current crop of leaders know this? Yet, they want to hold on to their positions when they don’t seem able to do anything right to solve the problems of the people except to wear fancy clothes to welcome dignitaries and set up committees to study the issues of the day!

In this respect, I take my hats off to former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad; he takes the issues to the ground. Even when he was prime minister the first time, when the fight got intense, he took it to the ground through a party or general election. And he won each time always on the support of the people.

He’s doing the same thing now with his new party, Pejuang — explaining to the people what the party stands for based on what he has said so far. Only a general election will show if his strategy to win support for Pejuang is successful. The outcome may be different from the Johor elections where Pejuang lost all its seats because Pejuang has had more time to meet with the people.

That’s what all political parties should be doing — not sitting in their air-conditioned posh offices setting up committees to solve national issues. Go to the people. If they don’t want to see you or reject you or chase you off or jam your social media accounts with negative comments, it’s the surest sign that the people want you out of government.

Then, hold a general election — for the sake of the people, not for the sake of the personal interests of politicians.

Why we are in this sad state …

Of late, politicians have been referring to the king’s role in selecting the date for a general election. Both Padang Rengas MP Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz (Umno) and DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang have said that it is the king who has the final say on the date.

Both are correct, however, it is the prime minister who first suggests the date or dates and, under the constitution, the king has to act on the advice of the prime minister. If at all these politicians and others want to influence the decision in selecting the date for the general election, it is the prime minister who needs to be won over. The king should be left out of the discussion.

The king’s role is clearly spelled out in the constitution and if he doesn’t know what that is he can easily consult with the Attorney-General to whom he has full access. Politicians do not have to crack their heads about the king or the sultans or royals about what they should do. The latter should be left out of all political discussions and negotiations because the constitution is very clear that the king and sultans are above politics.

But Malaysian politicians do not seem to practise it. I have said this earlier and I will repeat it here. Malaysian politicians prefer to wheel and deal rather than act according to the rule of law.

Johor is a fine example. Umno won with a super majority in the state but it is powerless even to get its own candidate for the position of menteri besar. The Johor Sultan overruled and selected his own candidate. With a super majority, Umno could have insisted on its candidate on the strength of the mandate the people gave it. With an Umno vice president as the prime minister (Ismail Sabri Yaakob), it could have brought the force of law to bear. But that didn’t happen.

Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi met with the Sultan and while we don’t know what actually transpired, Umno’s candidate was sidelined in favour of the Sultan’s. What can only be concluded is that the mandate of the people was sacrificed for the Sultan’s influence.

The important question to ask is whether the issue would have been resolved if Umno had followed the rule of law instead of “talking with” the Sultan. The reason why Umno, despite its majority, is powerless in Johor is because it courted the palace for political support. So, did PKR and the DAP in the Johor elections. As a result, the palace can assert its influence over the state government.

Would this have happened if politicians kept the royals out of politics? If politicians do not have any dealings with the king and sultans except what is permitted under the law, the royals won’t be involved in politics. They can only be involved in politics if politicians court them.

If politicians steered clear of wheeling and dealing outside the ambit of the law, we would also not be in the state Malaysia is in now. There would have been no Altantuya case, no IMDB, no Sheraton Moves, no Muhyiddin Yassin as prime minister and no Ismail Sabri as the current prime minister!

The reason why we have an unelected illicit government legitimised by the opposition through the signing of the Memorandum of Understdanding is because Malaysian politicians prefer to wheel and deal and form pacts rather than follow the rule of law.

Stability for them is when no one in the pact upsets the boat. They don’t seem to understand that enforcing the rule of law automatically ensures stability because nobody can go against it; it’s the law. It’s the rule of law that ensures political stability not an agreement between scheming cohorts.

If government MPs don’t know how to operate according to democratic conventions and the rule of law, it is the Opposition’s job to hold them to the rule of law. But the opposition MPs too prefer to make pacts rather than enforce the rule of law, re: the MoU!

The solution to the current non-performing and non-delivering government is a general election. Under the rule of law, the people must be given the choice to choose their leaders. But the fragmented Opposition doesn’t want one because it can’t unite. And it can’t set aside personal agenda for the sake of the greater good. If it can, it earns the right to govern.

Facing up to the reality of politics

No doubt that Rafizi Ramli has made a dramatic return to politics after a two-year hiatus by winning the post of PKR deputy president against party stalwart Saifuddin Nasution in the recently-concluded party elections. His win has excited many in the hope that young blood and a strong leader would auger well for PKR specifically and politics in general.

While the rise of younger politicians is to be encouraged and commended the facts may not present as rosy a picture as idealists may want to believe. The fact is that the voter turnout in the PKR election was only 13.5% as stated by PKR strategic communications director Fahmi Fadzil.

Apparently, Rafizi’s supporters gave him the edge over Saifuddin but the fact is that the support both leaders received was less than 13.5% of the total party membership. According to Fahmi, the reasons given for the poor turnout were logistics and technical aspects like internet reach and the fact that 65 of the 222 divisions were won uncontested.

Whatever the reasons given, the reality is that 86.5% of PKR members were not sufficiently motivated to participate in party elections and a strong personality such as Rafizi was not an adequate draw to pull in more voters. It would be a disastrous outing for PKR to enter any election and expect to win handsomely, with the actual support of only 13.5% of party members. Elections now will not have the “wow” factor of GE14 and voters want honest-to-goodness reasons they can relate to to give their votes.

This should be the primary task of PKR’s new crop of leaders: to engage their members and rally them to vote. The leaders may need to change their tactics to get their members to become active participants in the electoral processes.

As deputy president, Rafizi will now be watched as to the extent he will play the role of team player. He is not yet president, so he will have to defer to the president, Anwar Ibrahim, and consider the input of the top echelon of leaders, especially with regard to the big tent strategy to unite opposition parties in order to defeat the Barisan Nasional (BN).

Each party has its own agenda, but in the current political context, opposition parties need to decide which takes precedence — party agenda or the urgent need to save the country from the court-cluster-led Umno/BN. It shouldn’t be a difficult choice as it is obvious the latter takes precedence.

Towards that objective, opposition parties should start reaching out to each other to form a viably strong coalition as a solid alternative to the BN, which means they should stop bickering with each other and laying conditions before serious negotiations even start.

It is imperative that opposition parties begin to negotiate because the general elections (GE) can be called at any time after July 31, the date given in the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the government and the opposition Pakatan Harapan until which the government can not call for a GE.

Right now, in the face of inflation, shortages, unemployment and limited investments caused by the pandemic-induced lockdown and now the Ukraine-Russia war, the question isn’t when is a good time to hold a GE but whether the incumbent government is able to navigate the trying times ahead in the best way possible with minimum damage to the country.

It is the opposition that will have to monitor the government’s performance in making it easier for the people. If the government fails, the opposition must act decisively to call for general elections before the country slides into an anarchic clamour for basic needs.

If the opposition doesn’t rally under the big tent strategy, the country may be heading to a regretful future that would take a great deal of effort and a long time to recover from.

Don’t dangle the PM carrot before Malay govt MPs

Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi yesterday called for the expediting of the anti-hopping bill. In saying so, could it also be an expression of his concern that he is aware that some of his party MPs may be planning to switch sides?

If Umno MPs are furtively wheeling and dealing to make a switch, it’s an utter shame that they are doing so without openly making a stand against corruption. To echo DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang’s words, “Does nobody in Umno dare to say that the party should not seek the return of Najib as prime minister and that his years as the prime minister when Malaysia became ‘kleptocracy at its worst’ worldwide is not something to be proud of?”

In other words, why wouldn’t any Umno MP call out against corruption in general and specifically against party leaders facing criminal charges of corruption in court and with one convicted? They prefer to wheel and deal quietly and work out the best deal for themselves like former primer minister Muhyiddin Yassin and current prime minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob?

The only Malay MPs who are making a stand against corruption are those in the Opposition. How then, can any of these Malay MPs now in government be allowed to continue in their positions as ministers and the prime minister?

If Malay MPs in the government won’t lead the charge against corruption, how can they be trusted with Petronas’s oil money and taxpayers’ money and managing government-linked companies? They will be throwing money to the B40 group in order to stay in power while good governance and progressive development take a backseat.

Malay MPs in government may be courted to join a coalition in order to defeat the court-cluster-led Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition and to prevent Umno adviser and former prime minister Najib Razak from returning as prime minister. But not one of them should be baited with the promise of the premiership — not any government MP nor the current prime minister. They have disqualified themselves from becoming a prime minister or holding important posts by simply not taking a stand against corruption.

If a new coalition is being formed to defeat Umno, government MPs should join it for the sake of political integrity and stability. They should join the coalition for the sake of a clear conscience and the candidate for prime ministership should be decided collectively and by consensus, as was done when Pakatan Harapan (PH) chose former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to lead the PH’s first government.

Malay MPs who switch sides for political gain other than the interests of the country can not be trusted to put the interests of both the Malays and non-Malays first. Such leaders will be no different from Muhyiddin or Sabri or Najib!

Until Malay MPs learn how to play politics according to the rule of law, they will never have the confidence to transparently stand up for anything right and fight for it for the good of the country. The people — Malay or non-Malay — should not be burdened by such leaders.

The choice of the next prime minister would be better accepted if it came from the Opposition.

A dangerous scenario

What is wrong with this picture: Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim debating with convicted former prime minister Najib Razak before a 400-seat, capacity-full hall with opposition leaders seated in the front row? Is anything wrong at all with this picture?

To Najib’s supporters, this is another successful PR campaign legitimising Najib’s comeback to politics and they will see nothing wrong with their Bossku exchanging ideas with another politician. It affirms their Bossku’s credibility.

But, what do discerning voters see? Firstly, they see opposition leaders — Anwar and the others who attended the event — as thumping their noses at the judiciary which convicted Najib. It is the same message sent at the Hari Raya event at the Istana where Najib was seated at the high table with the Agong.

Some people may argue that Anwar is in a similar position to Najib. After all, he was pardoned by the Agong and Najib may want a similar pardon. There is, however, a huge difference between the two. Anwar didn’t mess with government money; Najib did. So, how can we trust the words of a convicted criminal? And, why is Anwar giving credence to Najib’s words when the latter’s actions are questionable?

Very clearly, both and those who attended the debate are disrespecting the judiciary. Should we support such leaders?

Secondly, the presence of Najib’s supporters at the debate is expected. They follow him wherever he goes to provide the carnival feel to his presence and removes the guilt of his conviction and makes him more endearing to his support base.

The presence of opposition leaders at the function, however, indicates that Anwar has their support but to do what? That is the other disturbing message that this picture sends. Opposition leaders are willing to go along with Anwar even if what he is doing is objectionable.

It appears, too, that the media is going along with this clear breach of principles. They played up the debate when nothing new was stated by either participant. The fact that Najib is a convicted criminal is downplayed. Even when he sneezes, it gets media space. The criticisms against Anwar are few and so protectively mild.

There should be much greater objective investigation in the media of Anwar’s antics than has been demonstrated so far, and Najib should be ignored. This is extremely important because Anwar’s current course of action very clearly facilitates the return of Najib/Umno to head the government with Pakatan Harapan (PH) parties on its coattails!

Why else would Anwar sign a Memorandum of Understanding with an Umno prime minister and engage in a pointless debate with a convicted former Umno prime minister?

To the discerning voter, it appears as if Anwar is playing a double game. If PH can form an alliance with other parties that would be considered. But, apparently, Anwar is doubtful that would happen especially since PKR and DAP, both in PH, have been losing their seats in all the recent elections. Hence, his openness to negotiating with Umno.

If Umno wins enough seats in a general election and if PH joins it to form a majority even with fewer seats, PH gets to be in government. The price for it is Najib’s political legitimacy!

That is the reason why I have painted the above picture as it sends a very dangerous message — Najib’s comeback is being facilitated by PH knowingly or unknowingly. Urban voters who form the vast bulk of support for PH now have to be very careful to think whether to vote for PH.

We don’t know what Anwar is up to because we can’t rely on the media which tends not to investigate him. But if the MoU and the recent debate are anything to go by, voters need to be extremely wary of PH parties.

More than ever now there’s a need to form a new coalition in which PH is no longer central to provide the alternative to an Umno-centred coalition. Until such a coalition emerges, a general election may be detrimental to Malaysia as it may bring Najib back with the help of opposition parties.

Time may be right to call for elections

When Umno politicians make public statements what the public should take note of more seriously is not what is stated but the opposite!

Take Padang Rengas MP Nazri Abdul Aziz’s recent statement to not call for early general elections. He said the government was “stable now” and should not be disturbed by calls for a general election soon.

Is the government “stable now” a fact or the image he wishes to create in public perception? Is it based on what is real and true? Since his party vice president Ismail Sabri Yaakob became the prime minister, we have faced poor management of floods (last December’s Selangor floods), Azamgate, Sapuragate, Serba Dinamikgate (the biggest fraud in local history involving the false reporting of revenues over RM6 billion), double standards, incompetence, compromised institutions, the return of a convicted former prime minister in the public sphere and the loss of the rule of law and Nazri, a lawyer, calls all of this a “stable now” government?

He must have a very low opinion of the public but we can see through the attempts at influencing public perception. What he means by “stable” is that his party Umno is in government and Umno will not create trouble to threaten that position. The fact that he doesn’t want a general election now can only mean one thing: that he is not confident that Umno will win a majority if a general election is called now. Hence this spin to justify not calling for a general election so that Umno can remain in government.

All the more reason why now or soon may be a good time to call for a general election — if opposition parties are able to size up the situation correctly and unite to make it happen!

The underlying reason why Umno remains in government is because it is protected by the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between it and the opposition Pakatan Harapan. All the so-called criticisms by Opposition MPs fall on deaf ears because the government is not obligated to oblige as long as the terms of the MoU are upheld. Everything else is as happened and Sabri’s silence on all the crucial issues is a deafening testimony of his leadership capabilities or the lack of!

The Opposition needs to size up the current political scenario and decide if prolonging this government will benefit the nation or benefit the people in and close to this government.

It is the responsibility of the Opposition to enforce the checks and balances necessary to ensure there is no abuse or misuse of the government. When these fail, the Opposition has the duty to remove an errant government and do everything in its power — according to the rule of law — to make it happen.

Unfortunately, we seem to be seeing an opposition that prefers “to join them if you can’t beat them” — re: the MoU! If the leaders of the Opposition are unable to take the bull by the horns and solve the political dilemma we are in, how can they lead the nation?

Opposition leaders need to unite their parties under a single coalition, the “big tent” if you wish to call it, and boldly call for a general election. They should take control of the situation and decide when and whether to call for elections and not wait for others to make the decision for them.

They will succeed only if they make the necessary sacrifices to unite their parties. That would contrast against the “care less” attitude of the government and present the opposition coalition as a decisive force to reckon with and able to lead because it demonstrates the will to solve the current deadlock.

Selamat Hari Raya!

With a hectic weekend and the rush of Hari Raya, my greetings have come a little late! But here it is! Hope those celebrating Hari Raya Puasa are enjoying themselves and the rest of us enjoying the occasion in our own ways.

I had a happy day relaxing, and the pleasure of a delicious Hari Raya dinner! My neighbour went back to his hometown in Banting and brought back chicken in peanut sauce, ketupat (rice cake) and the tastiest serunding (spicy beef floss) I have ever had, all of which were homecooked by his mother! For the past two years since they moved in, I have had his mother’s chicken in peanut sauce — which I enjoyed — and discovered a bit of history in that it is a speciality dish of the Banting area.

Between neighbours, we have developed this little tradition of exchanging food over the attached low wall between our link homes. At Christmas, I share with them Christmas goodies and at Hari Raya I enjoy a delightful portion of Banting’s chicken in peanut sauce! During the fasting period I also get some interesting snacks. Last year I had Malay kuih; this year the best murtabak (chicken-stuffed pancake) one can get from the gerai gerai in SS19 in Subang Jaya.

Food is a sure-certain way of building bridges over the fence between neighbours!

So, folks, I had a pleasant Hari Raya and hope you are enjoying yours as well!

Like the judiciary, leaders must do the right thing

It was heartening to see the judiciary fearlessly push back the efforts of some quarters to undermine its integrity, following the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC’s) statement to start investigations on Court of Appeal Judge Datuk Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali, who had convicted and sentenced former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in his RM42 million SRC International case when he was a High Court judge.

Speaking at the swearing-in of a new batch of High Court judges at the Palace of Justice on Wednesday, Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat said the criticisms leveled at the judiciary had gone overboard.

While saying that judges are not “immune to public criticism and accountability”, it does not mean “that it is open to citizens including politicians to level unfounded and scurrilous attacks against the Judiciary or a particular judge to further their own end”.

She then said: “It is important to emphasise that the Judiciary is the last line of defence in a constitutional democracy and there must never be a suspicion that the Judiciary is captured.”

And she added: “In other words, there can be no interference in the judiciary if we judges do not allow that to happen,” she said to standing ovation.

At last, we have a national institution that is asserting and reinforcing the fundamental principles on which it was built — independence, integrity and the rule of law. It is a characteristic that all national institutions and politicians must emulate!

I believe it is this characteristic demonstrated by the Chief Justice to fight against the fiercest of criticisms by simply doing the right thing, which is following the rule of law, that will save Malaysia.

In the current political climate, it is the courage and will to do the right thing — rather than the expedient thing — that will help us stem the tide of corruption that threatens to sweep over us.

To get out of the political gridlock that politicians are caught in, what is required is the courageous will to do the right thing. Politicians know what is the right thing to do. If they don’t do it, it invariably is because expediency overrules. Look where that has brought us to.

The people want to see politicians doing the right thing. Even if it means severing links with those who are manipulating the political climate, or losing a much-desired position like the premiership!

Do the expedient thing and even if one wins for the moment it will backfire in the end. Do the right thing and even if one loses something, for now, the people will see it and it may come back to work in one’s favour in the future, perhaps, even in the immediate future. It takes courage to take the risk of doing the right thing; the reward is eventual resolution.

Isn’t that what we are all looking forward to? Soon?

The kind of leaders not to elect

PKR president Anwar Ibrahim is going ahead with the debate with Umno adviser and former prime minister Najib Razak which is scheduled for May 12. Once again he went along with Najib’s request to hold the debate after the fasting month although Anwar’s side had no issue with having it during the fasting month.

The bigger issue is: Why is Anwar having a debate with a convicted prime minister on the national political stage? According to his recent statements, he explains it as being nice in accordance with his religious beliefs. That is understandable but is it ethical professionally?

Let’s say if one was a head of department in an organization where it’s CEO has been found guilty of embezzling funds from the company and is removed and one then becomes vice-president and meets with the previous CEO at some function, of course, one needs to be nice to him. But would the new VP in his right mind ever engage the convicted CEO in any official capacity when that could open up the possibility of bringing the latter back into the company in any influential position? If the vice president did that it is very likely that he would get demoted if not fired!

Being nice should not be confused with justifying the bending of the rules especially when it involves someone in or vying for public office.

Unfortunately, that is what we have been seeing since Najib’s time. Najib, Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin, current prime minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob and now Anwar all seem to have bent the rules in the name of Malay dominance, unity and religion. None seem able to recognize that what they have done or are doing is wrong. Najib is in denial of his responsibility in the 1MDB scandal; Muhyiddin and Sabri do not see anything wrong in seizing the premiership without proving their majority; Anwar is ready to engage with a convicted criminal in a debate that will turn out to be a PR opportunity in Najib’s favour.

Did Anwar get the go-ahead from his party and his partners in Pakatan Harapan to engage with Najib and the court cluster leading Umno? Is this ethical?

How can the people trust such leaders? By their own actions, these leaders have disqualified themselves from any position in public office, much less the position of a prime minister. What is there to say they will not bend the rules again for their convenience in order to remain in power?

The people need to be wary of such leaders. In the next general election, we should not elect them or their parties. We really should give other leaders a chance to emerge and lead the nation according to the rule of law — not according to political, religious and personal expediency, which, in effect, means doing as you please and getting away with it!

A possible way out of the current political gridlock

Umno signaled that it is preparing for the 15th General Election (GE15) soon when it announced that the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the government and the opposition Pakatan Harapan will not be extended beyond July 31, the date by which the government would not call for elections.

Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob has concurred with Umno. So, all political parties will now be gearing up for the GE at any time. If the GE is called soon after July 31, the passing of an anti-hopping bill, which is a condition of the MoU, will only benefit Umno.

So, it wasn’t surprising that Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi when announcing the end of the MoU on July 31, also said that the anti-hopping bill should be passed soon. That precisely is the reason why it should not be passed.

Umno will be unable to become the sole Malay-based party with the most number of MPs if some of its MPs left the party and joined other parties. Umno needs its stable of MPs intact in order to form a coalition with a majority. If a number of its MPs leave the party, Umno will not succeed in forming the next government.

Umno MPs, however, may be reluctant to leave Umno because they need Umno’s machinery and cash reserves to win their seats. But, after winning the seats, they may be more willing to switch sides.

For this reason alone, it might be better for the anti-hopping bill to be deferred, preferably to another time under an able leadership that can provide the oversight to table a well-thought-through ironclad bill that strengthens the constitution rather than compromise or clash with other parts of the constitution.

If the bill is deferred, opposition parties may risk losing some of their MPs in or after the GE. But that can be addressed with individual contracts with candidates who are selected to stand for election.

At this time in the history of our young nation, letting go of the anti-hopping bill until another time will be seen as a magnanimous move by the non-Malay and urban parties to give other Malay-based MPs room to move until a Malay-majority coalition is formed that excludes Umno, PAS and Bersatu. It may be an incentive for MPs to switch to other parties in order to defeat Umno.

Already, opposition MPs are suggesting a “big tent” strategy to bring opposition parties under one banner. If they succeed, it would be a clear indication that Umno or its coalition, Barisan Nasional, will be unable to get a majority. That might be another incentive for MPs currently in the government to leave their parties to join the Opposition.

The current gridlock that has kept political parties from moving ahead may be broken when MPs move to the Opposition that can form the next government. They would save themselves and the nation. Think about it!