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There’s a silver lining …

… to those who were sacked or suspended by Umno last Friday! The Umno supreme council sacked 44 party members and suspended four. They included big names such as former health minister Khairy Jamaluddin and Selangor Umno chairman Tan Sri Noh Omar who were sacked and Sembrong Member of Parliament Hishammuddin Hussein who was suspended.

There were other key people too among them such as the former Johor state assemblyman Datuk Maulizan Bujang, former Jempol MP Datuk Seri Mohd Salim Sharif, and former Umno information chief Shahril Sufian Hamdan.

According to Umno secretary-general Ahmad Maslan, they were sacked or suspended for ‘becoming independent candidates, candidates for parties other than Barisan Nasional (BN), and being involved in assisting opponent parties during the 15th general election (GE15).”

Their party may have punished them for whatever reason and it may be a bitter pill to swallow but consider the options because the choices these 48 make may well change the course of Malaysian politics in the very near future!

Those sacked will now have to decide whether to continue in politics or join a new party or form a party. They have one very positive factor in their favour; they no longer carry the corruption and arrogance baggage associated with their former party. And that may work to their advantage!

Those who have been suspended may choose to sit out their six-year suspension period or choose to leave the party. If they want to start all over again without the Umno baggage, the latter is a suitable exit strategy! Since only Hishammuddin is an MP in the purged group, the departure of the rest will not trigger the application of the Anti-hopping law.

Should Hishammudin decide to leave Umno, the Sembrong MP will trigger a by-election which may be a safe test to gauge his support and/or lack of support for Umno. If he is sure of his grassroots support he can either stand as an independent or join another party. He may lose but with the current mood against Umno and the Umno-Pakatan Harapan (PH) tie-up, it’s a risk that could pay off.

The point is that with the purge an opportunity has now opened up to form a new coalition without the Umno and Umno-PH baggage. So, these 48 politicians now in limbo need to think through the options clearly and shop around to form the best possible alternative to the current status quo.

Firstly, they need to size up the current political climate correctly. In doing so, the 48 need to keep in mind three key points.

1. Don’t let the desire to become prime minister be the overriding factor. If it does, the 48 will willingly make compromises to assume and stay in power and agree to the formation of backdoor governments, and lose their credibility in the process. The Perikatan Nasional (PN), Umno-led, and now the so-called PH-led unity governments of Muhyiddin Yassin, Ismail Sabri Yaakob and Anwar Ibrahim respectively are proof of it.

All three administrations were established with the help of the king without the mandate of the people, even if at that time, the unity government was the choiceless alternative to keep radically Islamic PAS as the single party which won the most number of seats out of government.

2. Determine to do everything within the leeway the federal constitution provides and according to the norms and conventions of parliamentary democracy. It is the MPs who must fight to ensure the sovereignty of the government and that can only happen if they alone form a government without being indebted to anyone outside of Parliament.

There will be attempts to interfere by external forces such as the constitutional monarch and rulers, businesses and/or a superpower like the United States. This will happen only if MPs let them. If MPs stand firm on the constitution and refuse to let any external force influence the outcome of a general election, and make no compromises, there will be no interference, and the government will be indebted to no one except the people.

MPs must find their conviction in defending the rights of the people — not that of power brokers. When they find that conviction they would be in a strong position to fight on behalf of the people and the sincerity and strength of their conviction will make it easier to sell their position to other parties and to negotiate around. The end result will be a sovereign government respected by the people and other nations.

If the 48 form or join a party or coalition and become MPs or assemblypersons and a few of them are nominated to become a menteri besar (chief minister) or prime minister without making any constitutional compromise, he/she achieves the position in the proper way and will be respected.

3. With the above two factors in mind, either form a new party or join an existing one. But there are some parties that must not be courted. PN, PH and PAS.

Join PN if the intention is to advance PAS’ Islamic state. PN’s lead partner, Bersatu, is bent on keeping PAS in tow to get the numbers and all other parties recognizing the multi-cultural characteristics of Malaysian society will eschew both parties.

PH must not be courted as long as it embraces the court-cluster-led Umno. Some of the 48 may want to join PH partner Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) as its philosophy may be closer to their beliefs. They should think before they leap.

PH won only 11% of the Malay vote and how much of that went to PKR is yet to be known. In other words, PKR probably won seats on a combination of urban non-Malay or mostly Chinese, and Malay votes.

Right now there are rumblings on the ground as to whether the voters made a mistake in voting for an Anwar-led PH as a result of the latter’s decision to include Umno MPs facing court charges for corruption, in the Cabinet, the constitutional basis for forming the unity government and accommodation of the rulers in government matters.

The 48 should stand for election either as independents or as candidates of a party in the state elections to test voter support. It would be better if they formed a new party or joined an existing party like Warisan or Pejuang to see if voter disgruntlement will be expressed for an alternative Malay-based party/coalition. The small parties can join together to form a new Malay-based coalition.

In GE15, Pejuang tested the voters through Gerakan Tanah Air but failed miserably. But the current sentiments on the ground are different. There is disquiet over the lack of firmness to deal with corruption while reforms take a back seat. The risk is that the 48 may lose but they would have tried and, in reality, they lose nothing.

Should the coalition of small parties make headway in the state elections, the momentum may begin for a repeat in a general election. It may pull parties not altogether happy to be associated with the court-cluster-led Umno and its accommodating partner PH, out of the unity government in a general election and a new, baggage-free axis of Malay-based power inclusive of parties representing other communities may emerge that is democratic, constitutional, representative of the people and confident because it has the mandate of the people.

To the 48, think of what you can do to change Malaysia’s political landscape, perhaps, forever. Think and act for the good of the country. In the cloud of gloom you may be in, there IS a silver lining.

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What’s the basis for Anwar’s decisions?

Just before Chinese New Year, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said that the status of Sabah and Sarawak as regions rather than states must be referred to the rulers before the issue is submitted to the Cabinet for consideration.

Speaking to reporters after chairing a Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) meeting, he said, “We need to respect the process.” However, he gave no explanation as to whether this process was spelt out in the federal constitution.

The people have a right to know if the decision he has made to refer a government matter such as the MA63 to the rulers before they are discussed by the Cabinet and then Parliament, is within the ambit of the federal constitution.

In the parliamentary democracy that Malaysia practises, the prime minister is the head of government and is first and foremost accountable to Parliament and presents all matters of government such as amendments to the federal constitution to Parliament first. When Parliament approves the amendments, they are then sent to the king who knows what he should do and what he need not do as according to the constitution.

If Anwar is departing from the usual procedure, he needs to explain on what constitutional grounds he has made the decision. In the absence of a reason for such a decision, it appears as if he is deferring to the rulers and seeking their approval/input before sending the amendments to Parliament. If this is the correct procedure, he needs to back it according to the constitution on the advice of the Attorney-General (A-G).

The A-G’s advice should also come under the scrutiny of his peers to ascertain if he has interpreted the constitution correctly. If he hasn’t, then he should be removed and replaced with an A-G who has a better and fuller grasp of the constitution.

The people have a right to know if the prime minister is making decisions according to the constitution and if he is getting the correct advice on an important issue such as referring government matters to the rulers first when the latter are not supposed to interfere with government matters.

Likewise with Anwar’s decision to include Members of Parliament facing court charges in the Cabinet. It will have a bearing on court decisions as clearly seen as Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has filed an application in the High Court to have his passport returned permanently.

The passport was previously surrendered to the court as an additional bail condition after he was charged with 47 charges of corruption, criminal breach of trust and money laundering involving Akalbudi Foundation funds. Zahid’s reason is to carry out his duties as the DPM.

Whether the court will reverse its decision is yet to be seen but it puts the court in an awkward position and begs the question as to whether Anwar’s decision places added pressure on the court to revisit its decision. Shouldn’t a prime minister’s responsibility include refraining from adding pressure on the courts?

Anwar may have other reasons for making the decisions he is making which the people don’t need to know. The people only need to know if he is acting according to the constitution and the accepted conventions of parliamentary democracy. That remains invisible, especially in the above decisions.

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Drive safe, eat well, enjoy family, relatives and friends and if you are out holidaying somewhere, soak in the new experience! It’s a long weekend, so all Malaysians can enjoy the occasion too in whatever way we want to.

Enjoy Yee Sang. These days we can get it from anywhere. Toss the ingredients together and raise your noodles as high as you can raise it for longevity! In the Chinese zodiac, the rabbit signifies longevity — so do noodles, and hence the tradition of raising your noodles as high as you can go when tossing yee sang! The rabbit also signifies peace and prosperity and the Year of the Rabbit 2023 is said to be a year of hope.

So, wishing all of you a peaceful, happy and prosperous new year and one that is full of hope and health that will give you good long years ahead!

Folks, this long weekend, take a break and be full of hope for a better year.

Wishing all a wonderful Chinese New Year!

The problem with the AG’s proposal

Attorney-General Idrus Harun’s proposal to make the Bahasa Malaysia translation of the Federal Constitution the authoritative text was surprising in terms of timeliness.

He has been a fairly quiet AG having made only a few press statements in his position since he was appointed two years ago and it is hard to understand why at the close of his tenure he would make a proposal that would have great significance in the interpretation and application of the constitution.

It is very likely that Azhar would be replaced by the new government. So to make such a proposal now would seem like he wanted to get it started immediately so that subsequent AGs can follow through on it.

There’s nothing wrong with making the BM translation of the Federal Constitution the authoritative text especially since it is stated in the constitution. However, it is a project that requires much study and should be undertaken by experts who know both English and BM to make the translation as accurate as possible to the original. That would require intellectual skills to grasp the breadth and depth of the Federal Constitution and the nuances each law encapsulates.

In the absence of such able experts, the translation might be a watered-down version of the Federal Constitution and would be detrimental to serving justice.

The Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST), in expressing its concern over Idrus’ proposal, said it could impact cases where one parent converted his or her child or children to another religion.

It noted that the Federal Court ruled in the M Indira Gandhi case that in Article 12(4), the singular word “parent” included the plural “parents” whereas the BM translation of the Federal Constitution, stated that “The religion of a minor below the age of 18 must be determined by the mother, father or guardian.”

The BM translation thus allows one parent or guardian to determine the religion of the minor whereas the court interpreted the English version of “parent” to include parents, which means both parents must agree to the minor’s conversion.

The issue is still being considered by the courts. It, however, shows how the BM translation did not include the concept of parenthood as a combined responsibility of both parents rather than one parent or guardian and chose to limit the definition to a narrower and literal rendering of the English word “parent”.

The BM translation of Article 12(4) is an example of how a word or words not carefully chosen could create a divergence in interpretation that would affect the lives of citizens seeking redress in the courts.

Any BM translation of the Federal Constitution must eliminate such divergence in interpretation. It’s a mammoth job requiring years of research and study and should not be proposed by an AG who might not last long in his job.

Seeing into 2023

The political climate will not improve. In fact, it might get worse with coups and the toppling of incumbent federal and state governments actually happening. Already, there is talk that Perikatan Nasional (PN) has initiated a London move to topple the Agong-formed Pakatan Harapan (PH)-led unity government and that, in Sabah, a change of government is impending.

While these nascent efforts are yet to materialize, they indicate political instability that will cast a long pall of gloom over development policies, the economy and governance.

The government will continue to put out fires but long-term macro policies to address structural and underlying problems like climate change, deforestation, water cuts, flood management, economic revival, political stability, corruption and abuse of power will remain wanting. Incumbent MPs will be engrossed with staying in power while the opposition coalitions and parties will be scheming to overthrow them.

Both sides will resort to means that may not be constitutional but politically expedient. So, PH will continue to strengthen its ties with the court-cluster-led Umno. How that would affect the corruption cases in the courts is yet to be seen.

The unity government will also welcome associations with the Agong and Sultans to bolster their standing in government. Whether that would extend the influence of royals to the government will depend on how the prime minister stands up to them according to the tenets of parliamentary democracy.

As a rule, prime ministers and MPs should not be seen hobnobbing with royalty unless in their clearly-defined official capacities. Outside of these official duties, the two should not be seen together as it implies the possibility of influence-peddling at the expense of the people. Royals are above politics and should not be making suggestions and advising leaders on how to run the government. In fact, they should be taking suggestions on the advice of the prime minister.

Since we follow the Westminister model of parliamentary democracy, it is good to see how the UK MPs conduct themselves. Are they given “an audience” by the king or sultan? Do the latter endorse political candidates, coalitions and parties?

Such undemocratic indiscretions as described above will continue.

Placing unelected officials as ministers and an unelected former MP as the Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat is another undemocratic practice that has taken place and such appointments may continue. No doubt previous Speakers were not MPs. PH’s first Speaker, Muhamad Ariff Yusof, performed well but he wasn’t a parliamentarian and in the crisis that followed the Sheraton moves was unable to recognize the powers he could wield under the constitution to diffuse the situation by agreeing to a confidence vote.

Non-parliamentarian Speakers will not have the perspective of a parliamentarian to grasp the powers he/she wields to provide the final check and balance to ensure the legitimacy of a government and the independence of the Dewan Rakyat. The previous Speaker, Azhar Harun, who wasn’t an MP, was proof of decisions that favoured the government rather than the House.

The current Speaker, former MP Johari Abdul, was not elected to the 15th Parliament but was elected to the post. Not an MP, he will have excess powers because he has no constituents to provide the check and balances if he acted in any way that displeased his voters. As a rule, no unelected official should become a Speaker or a cabinet minister.

Such democratic conventions are not practised by Malaysian politicians and until they do, lapses in good government can be expected.

Opposition coalitions and parties too are no better at playing politics according to the rules and conventions. Afterall, PN parties were the first coup plotters who became the government and who are now the opposition in the Dewan Rakyat. They will continue to justify their behind-the-scenes games to topple sitting governments in the name of political expediency on the basis that they won the majority of the Malay seats.

Any democratic government would understand that without a comfortable majority, the people have the right to change their government mid-term. It’s that threat that keeps governments on their toes. The opposition will use this to justify backroom deals to destabilize the government.

Governments, however, can not fall when a coalition/party publicly announces a withdrawal of support for it. An announcement can be made but it must be proven through a no-confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat or state assembly.

If the laws make no reference to a no-confidence or confidence vote, the Speaker and MPs must make some allowance to call for one until laws and provisions are made to make a no-confidence or confidence vote compulsory to prove the majority of the government and/or the claims of its challengers.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) should not substitute for a no-confidence or confidence vote. The MoU signed by the partners in the unity government to support Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim will be ineffective if party members choose to go against the MoU. The worst that would happen to them under the Anti-hopping Bill is that their parties will expel them, in which case they may join another party. There are many parties to choose from now!

As a result, Parliament will become a shadow of its former self. There will not be much meaningful debate because both sides have and will do the same things that have been done and debates will end up with the pot calling the kettle black!

However, the political climate will change if two new developments emerge. Firstly, parliamentary constituencies need to be redelineated to equitably represent the Malays as they form the majority community in the country. Based on statistics, it needs to be ascertained if the majority of Malays are now in the urban areas. If they are, then there should be more urban Malay-majority seats rather than the current majority of Malay seats in the rural and semi-rural regions.

Once this structural imbalance is corrected, and an election is held, a truer picture will emerge as to which Malay-based party has the majority support of Malays. Parties that have traditionally won the support of the rural Malay seats like Umno and now PAS and PN will have fewer seats and will be unable to claim a majority as they are able now and consequently the possibility of a hung government will be greatly reduced.

Whether Anwar has the political will to make this happen is yet to be seen as his current firm partner in government, Umno, may oppose it since it would mean fewer seats in Umno’s traditional stronghold. If, however, Malay parties begin wooing the urban Malay voters, Umno has a good chance as its opponents to win more seats.

It is this inequitable distribution of Malay seats between the rural and urban areas that is the underlying cause of discontent with Malay representation in government. Once the structural imbalance is corrected, the issue of Malay majority representation in government will be resolved.

Secondly, leaders need to emerge who will fight to uphold parliamentary democracy and follow democratic conventions and the rule of law. They should not follow in the footsteps of their predecessors who trump the constitution for the sake of political expediency. We need leaders who will buck the trend and assert and practise parliamentary democracy and establish the conventions for future leaders to follow.

When these two developments happen, there will be political stability as a political culture would evolve to keep political stability intact even in the face of a crisis.

Happy New Year! Carpe Diem!

It was a happy Christmas and I’m hoping the Christmas spirit will take all of you into a Happy New Year! So, there will be no political commentary today because that would only spoil the feel-good factor!

I will resume my thoughts on politics next week. Until then, I am just going to enjoy myself doing the things I do and extend the Christmas season by another week!

I am hoping all of you had or are having a happy season despite the realities of life and are ready to venture into the new year, encouraged body, mind and spirit, to take the bull by the horns.

My New Year resolution for 2023 is carpe diem! Seize the day! Don’t take things lying down, passive and defeated, but rise up and take on the challenges that come our way and live — to the fullest!

Have a great year!

Merry Christmas!

This season I learned that when all is dark, find a little Christmas in a musical, a visit with a friend or family, a song, a gift for a loved one, putting up the Christmas tree and some decor, helping someone, enjoying another. It lights up the darkness around and within and the dark somehow is not so dark anymore!

That’s Christmas! When we celebrate the birth of the Child who brings something of the divine into our midst and it can not be snuffed out because it is God with us, Immanuel whose other name is Jesus Christ.

In the celebration, we spread some cheer because this Child brings hope, joy and comfort — good tidings. That’s something to lift our spirits up!

So, folks, enjoy the season. Find a little Christmas and lighten up your hearts!

Have yourselves a blessed Christmas week!

‘Tis the season for more tidings of comfort and joy

Christmas this year started late for me. Usually, my Christmas begins on Dec 1 when I turn on Christmas music and enjoy the refrains of Christmas all day long throughout the season! This year, however, there were a few depressing happenings — some of which, personal, but mostly political — that put a damper on my usually impossible-to-repress Christmas spirit that bubbles over every year in December!

The most disturbing of the political events unfolding is the emphasis on political expediency at the expense of the democratic rights of voters. Voters were given no choice when faced with candidates facing court charges, some facing criminal charges in court. They voted them in. These same candidates were appointed ministers. Despite a volley of criticisms, their appointments were not changed. A so-called reformist prime minister maintained their positions in the Cabinet.

The rationale? To support a unity government for the sake of stability. That is an acceptable explanation to justify political expediency. But a more important question that needs to be addressed is whether stability should be arrived at by ignoring or dismissing the mandate of the people?

Firstly, the unity government was formed by the king, not the elected representatives whose job it is to form a government. Was parliamentary democracy — the form of government Malaysia practises — followed when elected leaders failed to form a government? Why weren’t the leaders able to wrangle among themselves to form a government in the face of a hung government?

Was the parliamentary democratic process respected and were the elected leaders allowed to sort out among themselves to form a government? Were they given the room and support to form a government without interference?

Instead, were the leaders treated like kids who needed to be told the course of action to take? Why didn’t the leaders — if they understood the precepts of parliamentary democracy — take control of the situation and assert in no uncertain terms that it was their responsibility to form a government and that they should be allowed to do it?

This is the kind of leadership the people need — leaders who will fight for the people according to the rule of law but that isn’t what we are witnessing. Political expediency for “the sake of a stable government” trumps constitutional adherence. That is depressing!

A dangerous precedent has been set for future leaders to act no differently because current MPs didn’t fight to uphold parliamentary democracy in the interests of the voters.

If the MPs were allowed to negotiate and wrangle out a government on their own, would there have been ministers facing court charges in the Cabinet? In the face of the possibility of instability as a result of a hung Parliament, MPs must know what to do to mitigate ensuing chaos quickly and not wait for someone else to tell them what to do. They were elected by the people and should be trusted to do their job.

On Monday Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s unity government will face a confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat. But today, the coalitions and parties in the unity government signed a Memorandum of Understanding where “all the signatory coalitions and parties must support Anwar in all matters of confidence and supply as well as those that could have a bearing on the legitimacy of his administration”, according to the Malay Mail.

The paper also reported that the coalitions and parties were responsible for ensuring their federal lawmakers abided by the MoU, and any MP who did not comply would be considered as having resigned from his party, effectively triggering the anti-hopping law. Isn’t this muzzling the MP?

If Anwar was not confident in facing a confidence vote and needed an MoU to ensure he gets majority support why have a confidence vote in the first place? It’s a sham. Not only is it a sham but it once again ties the hands of the MPs so that they are not free to vote according to their conscience in the interests of their constituents but vote compelled by the party.

How then can Anwar claim he has the mandate of the people? He has the mandate of the signatory coalitions and parties of the MoU but not the voters who elected the MPs. In the Dewan Rakyat, it is the individual MPs who vote on behalf of the people they represent — not the parties they belong to.

A responsible prime minister who understands the precepts of parliamentary democracy will understand this fundamental role of MPs and take pains not to override their right to vote independently of the party in the issue of getting the mandate of the people to support a majority government they did not elect.

Why is no MP standing up for their rights? The lobbying and negotiations should have taken place MP to MP not party to party. This is basic democracy. Why aren’t elected MPs practising it?

What I see is the erosion of parliamentary democracy and that is depressing, together with the bad weather that is causing landslides and floods and the loss of lives. A gloomy Christmas.

Then, last weekend I attended a Christmas musical and somehow a glow of hope rekindled in me, that eternal spirit of Christmas returned and I thought all can’t be lost. There’s always hope, something better may arise out of the gloom to improve the political situation, my personal life, the weather, the lives of people who suffer loss. Christians who believe it must contribute to spreading the goodwill. No matter how hard it might be. Tidings of comfort and joy ….. more of it!

A way to wipe the slate clean

DAP chairman Lim Guan Eng and Muda president Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman should be commended for not taking a position in Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s unity cabinet. In doing so, they are respecting the judicial process to dispose of their corruption cases and not hold public office until the courts clear them of all charges.

Although legally they can hold public office on the grounds of being innocent until proven guilty, they are putting the rights of voters first by not compromising the latter’s trust in their elected MPs and holding public office when they are facing corruption charges in court. If an MP is facing court charges, how can he/she be trusted with the resources of the people? To avoid any breach of trust, it would be wiser for the MP to simply not hold public office.

Lim and Syed Saddiq are demonstrating that as MPs or politicians seeking public office, they are putting the interests of the voters above the legal leeway they have. That should be the political convention a reform-minded government should be encouraging. Evidence of such reforms are still yet to be seen.

Instead, a number of politicians facing corruption charges in court stood for election in GE15 and won. Worse still one became the prime minister and another a deputy prime minister. They are simply snubbing the judiciary and implying that the charges are politically motivated. That may be the case but having been elected they must respect the judicial process and leave it to the courts to judge if the evidence proves their claims or not, and abide by it.

Until then, they should not have put the burden of choosing and legitimising a “tainted” candidate on the voters. That is, in fact, giving the voters no choice at all, which is totally undemocratic.

Frankly, it is surprising that the Election Commission (EC) accepted the nomination papers of these candidates. The EC chairman is appointed by the prime minister and that, perhaps, explains why he could not act independently, according to the expectations of the law and rejected the papers. If he had the courage to do it, we would not have leaders whose political integrity is in doubt in the cabinet.

If Anwar, who for more than two decades built his party, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), on cries of reform, is truly committed to introducing political reforms in government and rooting out corruption, perhaps, he should consider implementing the main point of the GE15 election manifesto of Gerakan Tanah Air (GTA), the coalition led by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s party, Pejuang.

The main point of GTA’s manifesto is to put the appointment of nine key government officers under the purview of Parliament where they will be selected through select parliamentary committees.

The key officers are the attorney-general, inspector-general of police, chief justice, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission chief commissioner, armed forces chief, chief secretary to the government, Treasury secretary-general, auditor-general, and the Bank Negara Malaysia governor.

If Anwar’s unity government passes a confidence vote in the first sitting of the 15th Parliament on Dec 19, and he is serious about wiping out corruption in government, he should consider implementing GTA’s anti-corruption plan — with GTA’s permission, of course.

GTA is also an opposition coalition and for the sake of the good of the country, it may be willing for the unity government to implement its plan to place the key nine officials in public office accountable to Parliament.

After all, the notion of a unity government was first bandied about by GTA chairman Mahathir when he became prime minister for the second time. It took root post-GE15 due to the king’s efforts with Anwar now leading it. If GTA was approached, some arrangement could be made to facilitate Anwar to execute the plan to give independence to these key top nine officials.

Anwar could at the same time separate the function of the prosecution from the Attorney-General’s Chambers and it may work in Anwar’s favour to clear his name from his pending sodomy case. Selected by a parliamentary select committee, the head of the prosecution may examine all the cases at its disposal and cancel cases that do not merit prosecution. Without executive interference, it would be proof that those cleared of the charges are truly innocent. If Anwar’s case is cleared in this way, the sodomy charge will no longer hang over his head, ever.

It would be wiping the slate clean and starting all over again on a clean footing. The question, however, is whether Anwar has the will to do the right thing and take the initiative and execute a plan to wipe out corruption in the government and prove whether the cases against MPs are politically motivated or not. Are he and his unity government prepared to face the truth?

The stumbling path to better leaders — hopefully

With regard to the appointments of Members of Parliament to the Cabinet or any other public office, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has said he would consider all points of view, including the argument that all are innocent until proven guilty.

However, he failed to consider the only factor that matters to voters: when MPs face any charge in court, it sows a seed of doubt on the integrity of the MP in the minds of the voters. It’s a doubt that can only be cleared when the MP is cleared of the charge or charges.

When such MPs stand for election, they are, in fact, robbing the voter of his/her right to choose from equals. If the voter is a popular figure, it forces the voter to select the candidate despite the court case hanging over the candidate’s head for whatever reason, justified or not. That is not democratic; it manipulates his/her choice without respecting his/her free choice.

It’s the responsibility of leaders to never put voters in a position to choose a candidate whose integrity is in doubt. But in GE15, Umno’s court cluster, Anwar (who’s facing a sodomy charge in court), DAP chairman Lim Guan Eng and Muda president Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman stood for election and won.

If Anwar appoints them to his Cabinet or to any other public office, he will be disregarding a fundamental principle of democracy for the sake of the political expediency of staying in government, in which case he would be no different from former prime ministers Muhyiddin Yassin and Sabri Yaakob.

So far, Anwar has made one good decision: calling for a confidence vote in the unity government the king manoeuvred for him to lead. The unity government was not presented to the electorate and therefore does not have the mandate of the people. The unity government was mandated by the king but remains unconstitutional in terms of parliamentary democracy until the elected MPs vote in favour of it on behalf of their constituents. If Anwar’s motion of confidence in the unity government he leads is passed, he gets the mandate of the people.

In adherence to the norms of parliamentary democracy, the unity government’s cabinet must pass a confidence vote before the cabinet is officially installed by the king. In Malaysia, however, unfortunately, there is no leader who can confidently establish this convention. So, things will happen the way they will and the masses will be happy that political expediency was served, with the exception of the discerning few who will always be wondering if we are a parliamentary democracy or a constitutional monarchy or a convenient mish-mash!

How have we come to this point of political wimpiness? When constitutional adherence is sacrificed for political expediency? The answer is simple. Poor leaders. Leaders who either have a weak grasp of parliamentary democracy or who prefer the easy way of political convenience.

Take the Sabah and Sarawak parties which have a large non-Malay Muslim representation. When the GE15 results were announced and it became apparent that PAS has become the largest and dominant party in Perikatan Nasional (PN) with 49 seats, Sabah and Sarawak parties who are allied with PN should have seen that as a loud and large red flag and a threat to national integration and immediately withdrawn from PN. But, they didn’t do that because neither Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) nor Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) wanted to ally with Anwar’s Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition which won the most seats.

GPS and GRS preferred to sacrifice the interests close to their constituents rather than lose an opportunity to form a government with PN. They probably thought that in government they could better serve the people but failed to realise that with a powerful PAS in their coalition they may be hampered.

With such leaders, blinded by their limited understanding of serving the people and who failed to see the national threat, it was no wonder that the king stepped in and summoned these parties and Umno who were dragging their feet about joining forces with Anwar and proposed the notion of the unity government.

It is not the king’s role to form a government. That is the duty of elected representatives and our leaders failed to perform their duty for the good of the nation post-GE15. Apparently, even the king has no confidence in the ability of the elected leaders to do their job in forming a stable government that would maintain peace and order in the face of a national threat. He had to push for a unity government to avert the threat that a dominant PAS posed.

If elected leaders had acted decisively, closed ranks, and formed alliances to keep PAS out of government to protect the nation, the king would have no reason to intervene. It’s purely academic to question if the king had acted according to the constitution and that issue can be left to the experts but the fact is he acted for the good of the nation when elected leaders failed to do so.

From PAS’ post-GE15 outbursts and vitriolic reactions, hopefully, Umno, GPS and GRS will realise which parties match their constituents’ interests most and ally with them.

Many mistakes were made in GE15 and after. The hope is that it is a learning experience for elected leaders to know what it means to become true representatives of the people, acting with integrity according to democratic principles and recognizing a threat immediately when it happens and swiftly closing ranks to ward it off.