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!

Debate and anti-hopping bill favour Najib

It is very likely — if the events subsequent to the famous Sheraton moves are anything to go by — that the scheduled debate between former prime minister and now Umno adviser Najib Razak and PKR president Anwar Ibrahim and vice-president Rafizi Ramli will turn to Najib’s advantage.

Rafizi threw Najib a dare to debate the financially-troubled Sapura Energy Berhad after the latter suggested a government bailout of the company. Najib took up the dare on the condition that the debate was with Anwar with Rafizi alongside.

In doing so, Najib framed the debate as one between equals, a former prime minister and the current Opposition leader. It lends credibility to his position as a force of influence and diminishes his conviction for criminal charges in the eyes of his supporters which, precisely, is his objective.

In addition, he is turning the debate into a major public relations exercise as he wants to live stream the debate. Najib sees the debate as a chance to “rock it!” Live-streamed and rocking it as he engages with an equal, his credibility enhances in the eyes of his voter base. His voters will see him as having an intelligent discussion with opposition politicians and will be impressed, seeing him as a capable leader holding his own.

Even if he loses the debate in that Anwar and Rafizi may succeed in rebutting him, he will still come out smelling like a rose because he framed the debate as one between friends on opposing sides of an issue who are simply “rocking it”! So, in gentlemanly fashion, he would graciously accept defeat, offering a handshake to the winners as they are still friends. His target voter base will be warmed to know the debate between the Malay leaders was so amicable even if Najib lost. Another of Najib’s public relations exercises which will bring about the desired payoff. More votes for his side — Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN)!

But, what will PKR get?

PKR is probably hoping that their attempt at an expose will undermine Najib’s appeal. Will it work against his PR campaigns? So far it hasn’t. PKR was thrashed in all the recent elections in Malacca, Sarawak and Johor while Najib successfully worked the crowds and won without discussing issues and simply humbly smiling a lot and identifying with the base.

(Of course, there’s that other issue of alleged cash incentives that follow his campaign trail. That’s just the icing on the cake. They come together, the voters know!)

Can PKR match it? Or will the issues Anwar and Rafizi raise fall like water off a duck’s back?

If PKR is hoping to lure the fence-sitters, Anwar and Rafizi, perhaps have not fully understood that the fence-sitters don’t need convincing. They are already convinced about who Najib is and voted for Pakatan Harapan (PH) in the 2018 general elections to get rid of him only to be disappointed by PH by the subsequent decisions it made which have brought him back to a position of influence.

So, engaging Najib in any form whether through a debate or a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with his party is just playing into his hands. He benefits at the expense of the other side.

Besides, the Sapura Energy issue is of national importance as it involves taxpayers’ money and should be discussed in the Dewan Rakyat which will expose the issue to a wider national audience.

With regard to the MoU, is it also another chance to play into Najib’s hands? Apparently, Bersatu is not keen on passing the anti-hopping bill — a condition of the MoU — which means the government is not confident the bill will be passed with a two-thirds majority, which is the requirement for the bill to be passed.

PH parties want the bill passed and have declared they will support it. Other opposition parties have not made their stand.

In the current political scenario, which party stands to gain the most from passing the anti-hopping bill? Umno, because if some of their MPs leave to join other parties, Umno will be unable to form a majority government. So, it serves Umno’s purpose for the anti-hopping bill to be passed.

The Umno-led government has deferred the introduction of the bill to a special Dewan Rakyat sitting next Monday but as of yesterday it was announced that the bill will not be introduced but an amendment to the federal constitution will be introduced instead which must be passed with a two-thirds majority to “facilitate” the future passing of the bill.

If the bill can’t be passed now with a two-thirds majority, what needs to “facilitate” the passing of the bill in the future? It can only mean one thing: The introduction of the amendment to the federal constitution is meant to allow for the passing of the anti-hopping bill later with a simple majority and not a two-thirds majority.

That may be possible even if Bersatu MPs oppose the bill. If that’s the case, MPs must be allowed to vote according to their conscience. If the anti-hopping bill can not get a two-thirds majority of support from the MPs, it should be shelved. This bill is too significant to be passed with only half the house supporting it.

It was reported that Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob will be holding a meeting on Sunday to inform the MPs what the amendment to the federal constitution will entail. Whatever that is, MPs must be allowed to vote according to their conscience.

It is unethical to twist the constitution to pass an amendment with the help of an MoU in order for the easy passing of an important bill that will affect every constituent in the country just so that a bill is passed with a simple majority to protect political parties — particularly Umno in the current political scenario — and bring back a leader and his cohorts to power aided and abetted by opposition parties.

Umno stands to gain but PH may see losing more ground.

That is playing into Najib’s sleight of hand!

How to beat the Najib factor

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin gave lengthy explanations to assure critics that all the data on MySejahtera is solely owned by the government. He further justified the viability of the app after its check-in function is retired as a base to build a digitised medical record system.

However, he failed to address the crux of the matter which is whether the “business arrangement” the government made with the app’s developer, KPIsoft (now known as Entomo (M) Sdn Bhd) was a result of direct negotiation or open tender.

Amidst all the explanations given that remains the unanswered question. Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob could have cast some light on the matter but he’s not around or recovering from a hectic trip to Qatar. He must be the only head of state who makes frequent official trips abroad during this pandemic — to Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Qatar — presumably to boost trade the outcome of which is mainly to open travel lanes, which he could have done via a telephone call!

While Sabri was away, his coalition partners were busy lining up to meet Pejuang chairman and former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Perikatan Nasional (PN) partner Bersatu’s president Muhiyiddin Yassin had met up with Tun to ask for support to enable him (Muhyiddin) to be prime minister again. It seems PAS president Hadi Awang is also expected to meet up with Tun. Both may be manoeuvering to form a majority government in an alliance with Pejuang.

The above events simply indicate that the top leadership is absent in more ways than one and it is time for a general election (GE) to replace the current leadership so that we have a prime minister who is elected and who actually leads!

But, will a GE solve the leadership problem? If the current alliances do not change, it will not. That, perhaps, is why both Bersatu and PAS are looking to form a new alliance with Pejuang or vice versa.

Political parties and MPs need to be certain who they ally with. There are two parties to avoid at all cost: Umno, of course, with its court cluster leadership and PAS. PAS plays the field, seeing which party to ally with in the name of the so-called ummah but it had no problems standing by and watching while Muhyiddin — in the name of the ummah — broke up the ummah by sacking Tun and a few others. These same people are seeking Tun’s help now. How ironical! Let the people judge for themselves the nature of these politicians.

If Pejuang accommodates these two leaders, it will be alienating itself from the urban-based parties with whom is the best possibility for a coalition with a majority.

However, if MPs from Bersatu and PAS want to join Pejuang, that should be welcomed, in fact, encouraged!

PAS like Umno must be isolated because both are a threat to the multi-racial fabric that holds Malaysian society together. PAS will play the religious card in exchange for votes. That is unacceptable.

Umno, led by the court cluster, is the most imminent threat to the nation. If it is not isolated and comes back to power to lead the nation, the supremacy of the federal constitution will be at risk. That is what is at stake here.

Led by desperadoes president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and adviser and former prime minister Najib Razak, Umno will be willing to compromise the federal constitution to give constitutional monarchy sway over parliamentary democracy if in doing so they can get a royal pardon and escape sentencing that might mean a jail term, or for any other reason deemed fit for them.

Look at Johor. The mandate of the people was overruled by the decision of the Sultan over the choice of Mentri Besar and Umno did not fight for the people. With regard to the Maharani Energy Gateway project, according to Muar MP Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, the Department of Environment had allegedly taken down an environmental impact assessment for the project from its official website after he raised concerns over a reclamation project linked to the Johor Sultan.

The EIA is a public document. Why was it removed? Apart from Syed Saddiq, who are speaking up for the people? PKR and DAP assemblypersons aren’t because they can’t. They were seen in photographs with the Johor royalty.

We can not afford to have a similar situation at the federal level where constitutional monarchy assumes a superior position over parliamentary democracy. Just like in Johor, that may happen if Umno comes back to power led by the court cluster.

That is the reason why Umno must be defeated and removed from all political equations.

There are four possible ways to achieve this objective.

Firstly, if Umno members can remove the court cluster from their leadership positions, they will save their party and it can be considered a possible ally. But that hasn’t happened and if at all it happens it will happen next year when party elections are held. That’s too long a wait.

Secondly, Umno MPs can leave the party and join other parties. That’s the best course of action if they want to protect the constitution rather than put money in their pockets. Well, they should do it before the anti-hopping bill is passed.

Thirdly, break all ties with Umno whether through a coalition at the state or federal level or the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)with Pakatan Harapan (PH). Who knows, PH parties may win back the support they lost as a result of the MoU.

Frankly, after being thrown out of the state government in Johor by its coalition partner, PN should have resigned from the government at the federal level. Understandably that might be a difficult thing to do as it would trigger both federal and state elections. So, PN parties need to tolerate their awkward position a little longer.

If none of the above happens, then, the last and fourth solution is to call for a general election. If PN or Umno leaves the government or the MoU is ended and not extended, it would trigger a general election.

Apart from Umno, no other party or coalition wants a general election because they are not confident they can win enough seats to form a coalition with a majority. But if Umno is isolated, all the other parties can negotiate to form a coalition with a majority, perhaps even a two-thirds majority.

It’s a possible scenario if the over-riding objective is to defeat Umno rather than manoeuvre to become prime minister. The candidate for the prime ministership should be one who can get the support of the majority.

For the fourth scenario to happen one very important factor needs to be recognized. The new coalition or parties in that coalition must be able to win some of the seats in Umno’s strongholds and a few more Malay-majority urban seats.

For these voters, the issues are survival and essentials. Multi-culturalism, criticisms of race-based politics and other such favourite middle-class and urban issues will fall on deaf ears. Urban voters need to understand this and refrain from accusing those who can reach the rural and urban poor because without their votes Umno will win, and we can say goodbye to parliamentary democracy!

A general election is the best solution to be free from the Najib factor if Umno can be isolated before that. Between now and then the voters need to be watching: Which MP or party will choose to act to isolate Umno and save parliamentary democracy or stay put and save their pockets? We will then know who to vote for.

No moral grounds but still holding on to power

So, why are Umno leaders making noise again? This time over the defeat of the government bill to amend a clause in the Security Offences (Special Measures) 2012 Act (Sosma) once it expires on July 31, 2022.

The clause in question is Section 4(5) of Sosma, which allows for detention without a court order for up to 28 days. According to Section 4(11) of Sosma, the enforceability of Section 4(5) must be renewed by both Houses of Parliament every five years. Now, that the government bill has been defeated in the Dewan Rakyat, that provision has been removed from Sosma.

So, what’s bothering Umno MPs that this government motion was defeated? Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi expressed shock that the government bill was defeated and blamed it on the opposition saying “they have broken their promises, violated the agreement (MOU signed between the government and the opposition) and completely ignored their previous commitments.”

It has since been pointed out that a number of government and opposition (more government than opposition) MPs didn’t vote resulting in the defeat of the motion. And that the MOU clearly states that the opposition’s obligation to not vote or abstain only refers to a bill tabled by the government which, if failed to pass, will bring down the government. In this case, it wasn’t such a bill.

Communications and Multimedia Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa — an Umno MP — earlier had also said that the defeat of the bill meant that the opposition’s action had effectively nullified the MOU.

Both Zahid and Annuar stand corrected and their criticisms have stopped but it reveals their sad lack of knowledge of available information and the will to act on correct information. Instead, they make a lot of noise at the risk of looking foolish and when found out behave as quiet as a mouse but will still hold on to their positions.

Joining his fellow party members, Umno’s Padang Rengas MP Nazri Aziz argued that it doesn’t matter if the MOU was affected or not but that it was a matter of perception and that the people would perceive it as the government — despite having a majority — lost.

Perceived as having lost, Nazri felt the Barisan Nasional (BN) has lost the “moral ground” to run the government. Oh, really? What about joining forces with other parties to form an unelected government that to this day refuses to prove its majority? That isn’t losing the “moral ground” to govern?

Strangely, when Umno’s candidate for the Mentri Besar’s post in Johor was rejected, there was little or no noise by Umno politicians. Even at the recently-concluded Umno general assembly, there was not a sound about the Johor MB issue.

It was a clear-cut case. It was within the Sultan’s powers as according to the federal constitution to reject a candidate and choose another from the list of names submitted to him. He exercised his rights under the highest power of the land, the constitution. But, why didn’t Umno exercise its rights under the constitution and, instead, deferred to the Sultan?

Do Umno MPs and assemblypersons know and understand the constitution to act within its authority? It’s within the state government’s authority to call for a confidence vote in the state assembly for the appointed MB. With more than a two-thirds majority, Umno could have rejected the candidate and sent the list back to the Sultan. Of course, it would have soured relations between the two but, as Nazri said, as a matter of perception the people would have seen Umno standing up for them.

They failed to do that and consequently lost the “moral ground” to lead the state government. Yet, they are there.

All this noise on issues that are not issues and silence over issues that are the real issues simply reflects a powerless and immoral government. The Umno-led government claims a majority but fails to defend the people’s choices. They have no moral grounds to govern at all.

Will they, then, step down? Unlikely. They need to remain in government for their own personal agendas. Meanwhile, whatever they do is simply a lot of hot air, shadow boxing. Useless activity.

Most of us the majority see through their antics. Unfortunately for us and fortunately for them, their voter base has bought into their spurious narrative.

I hope word gets around and reaches their voters that they are being led by their noses.

A strategy to stop the Najib factor

Some factions in Umno are clamouring for snap elections based on the party’s success in the Johor and Melaka state elections. If general elections are held soon, Umno might win again based on the formula on which it won the state elections. Then, again, it may not.

Umno won the Johor state elections on a very low voter turnout of 43%. According to Bangi MP Ong Kian Ming, out of the 40 seats Barisan Nasional (BN) — of which Umno is the leading party — won, 20 or half had less than 50% of the popular votes.

It was also reported that in the urban Malay-majority seats which Umno won, the combined votes that went to Perikatan Nasional (PN) and the opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) made up a majority over the votes Umno got. In other words, the majority of the voters, perhaps even the majority of Malay voters, do not support Umno/BN.

That being the case, it is astonishing that former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s party, Pejuang, failed to win even one seat and instead lost all its deposits. It is important to find out why Pejuang lost so miserably as it would shed some light on the forces influencing Malaysian politics now.

Pejuang would not have gone into the Johor state elections if it didn’t have any support. It may not have formed the state government but, considering Tun’s stature, it would have won a few seats, at the least. The standard explanation given to explain Pejuang’s dismal performance in the Johor state elections is that the voters have rejected Tun and what he stands for. I beg to differ.

Tun represents a strong, albeit unbending, leadership. And, there were expectations that his party would make an impact in the Johor elections. But he fell seriously ill just before the elections and the immediate reaction to that fact was that both Pejuang and his supporters lost heart. It was a reality check for all. The prospect of a strong leadership began fading into history and Pejuang leaders had too short a time to prove that they could provide the strong leadership that their chairman represented.

Tun recovered and by the time Pejuang did, the available time was insufficient, as its president Mukhriz Mahathir explained, to engage the voters and show them their mettle. Meanwhile, the voters made a pragmatic decision: In the absence of a strong leadership, they voted for other parties.

Pejuang has been knocked down but it is not out. According to a Bernama report, Pejuang obtained 18,692 votes or 1.34% of the votes, which means it still has some support. That base support can be galvanized to create the momentum to draw increasing support if Pejuang rises to its feet, lifts up the torch that Tun has lit, stands up for this nation and lives up to its name. It all depends on Pejuang leaders now.

Why am I taking the trouble to talk about Pejuang? Let’s consider what would have happened if Pejuang had found a foothold in the Johor state assembly. Would Johor’s appointment of its Mentri Besar have been handled in the way it has?

Umno has more than a two-thirds majority in the state assembly. Any party with that kind of a majority that holds itself responsible for being accountable to its voters would have fought for its candidate. The prime minister is an Umno vice president and has the leverage to assert its federal government authority to back his party’s candidate in the state. Why did Umno acquiesce and gave in to a “higher power”?

The answer is in its court cluster leadership. Although it is answerable to the people and no one else, Umno’s court cluster would rather ensure its survival by not antagonizing the Johor Sultan whose support they might need at the state and federal levels and, especially, in the event they are convicted and need a royal pardon. That seems to be the only logical explanation.

The court cluster’s intentions are common knowledge and it revolves around one person, in particular, former prime minister and Umno advisor Najib Razak. Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has publicly acknowledged that it was Najib’s influence that won Umno the majority to govern Johor.

But what is not logical is how the Najib factor is able to demolish all the opposition it has faced and create a power vacuum that is paving the way for his comeback, perhaps even as prime minister. In that power vacuum, vested interests are asserting themselves as in Johor and neither Zahid nor Najib is stopping it.

Instead, every competitor to Najib has been removed or made irrelevant. Muhyiddin has been removed. The formidable Mahathir, too, has been pushed aside and his party struck down. Sabri is a puppet in the hands of the court cluster. Election after election, the Najib factor is gaining ground on an incredulous and inexplicable unbroken winning streak!

There seems to be more than meets the eye to the reasons for the success of the Najib factor, a sleight of hand, pulling the strings to facilitate the survival of the court cluster by ensuring that all opposition to it is removed, and, in the process distorting the political reality. I suspect it is also creating the fear of repercussions should there be any opposition to the advance of the Najib factor.

That, perhaps, is why Umno politicians are unable to do what they know is constitutionally correct. All the noise they make simply masks the fear that if they oppose the Najib factor in any way they would be burnt as Muhyiddin, Mahathir and Pejuang have.

That sleight of hand which is the Najib factor is also common knowledge. My purpose is not to identify it but to expose its modus operandi based on what is evident and, more importantly, to declare that it can be stopped!

The Solution

Sever all links with the court cluster and the party of which they are members, which, in this case, is Umno.

Muhyiddin invited Umno to join PN as part of the Sheraton moves fully aware its leaders were facing criminal charges in court. Intentionally or not, he opened a channel for the Najib factor to access the corridors of political power and influence political outcomes. We have witnessed it in the return of Umno to power.

The only way to stop the Najib factor from spreading to achieve what it wants is to cut all links to it. By doing so, it will be disabled from influencing politics. Politicians and BN partners have to decide whether to remain in and with Umno. If they do and there is conflict in priorities against the priority of the Najib factor for self-preservation, be prepared to get burnt, and don’t say you weren’t warned!

PN is in a precarious situation. For the moment it is safe because Umno needs it to maintain a majority to remain in government. But, when interests conflict, the Najib factor interests will dominate and perhaps at PN’s expense. There has been some talk that some PN MPs are planning to join Umno/BN. Maybe, they should think twice, thrice, many more times or they may regret.

PH, too, needs to sever its link with the Umno-led government, which is the MoU it signed with the Sabri government. PH wants to preserve the MoU in order to introduce the anti-hopping bill. In the current political climate, the bill will deter Umno politicians from leaving and that might not be a good idea if the overriding objective is to cut ties to the Najib factor to leave Umno isolated.

An untethered Umno will be unable to form a majority government. Cutting links to Umno will precipitate a general election. By then, however, all the political parties except Umno will be set free from the creeping tentacles of the sleight of hand and can participate in the general elections in their own strengths. The outcomes will be determined by the interplay of the decisions made by politicians, political parties and voters and will be a true reflection of the support of the people.

It is the duty of the leaders to ensure that the voters are free to determine their own destiny. That will save the nation. They must act now to get back to the rule of law according to the constitution.

Will Johor voters set the trend to choose change?

Seriously, what kind of politicians/political parties use a convicted former prime minister to lure crowds on the campaign trail in the hope of winning votes and describe it as “the people want BN”?!

What kind of former prime minister shows such a blatant and brazen disrespect of the judiciary and snubs the courts which convicted him of abuse of power, criminal breach of trust and money laundering by strutting around engaging in politics on the technicality that his sentencing has been stayed?

Worse still, what kind of a convicted former prime minister thumbs his nose at an official request by the Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat — the highest law-making institution in the country — to attend a Dewan Rakyat session to explain his comments on the 1MDB issue and dismissively explains that he would give a response on another date?

What kind of prime minister is it who is unable to back the Speaker to enforce his authority to discipline the disobedient convicted former prime minister by suspending him or referring him to Parliament’s rights and privileges committee?

What kind of prime minister is it who says nothing of the issue and lets the convicted former prime minister off the hook? The Speaker is able to throw out of the assembly a DAP MP who asks pertinent questions but is unable to stand up to a convicted former prime minister?

What kind of politicians woos the adviser and head of a political party who were facing criminal charges in court to fell a legitimate government with the mandate of the people in the name of the Malay-Muslim cause and never once proved its majority?

What kind of a politician allows himself to be sworn in as prime minister, aided by vested interests, and like the convicted former prime minister, walks around and goes on the campaign trail as if he did no wrong?

What kind of prime minister holds himself ransom to his party leaders who are facing corruption charges in court, absolves the culprit in Azamgate, and says nothing when his party leaders dissolve state assemblies and call for state elections?

What kind of leaders signs memorandums of understanding with the incumbent unelected unconstitutional government for paltry reforms that are yet to be realised only because they are afraid to form honest alliances with other opposition parties because it would mean that one party will have to surrender its party’s leader’s personal ambition to become PM?

What kind of leaders allows themselves to be seen with royals for the photo opportunity of implying that they have the latter’s endorsement once an election is announced? What kind of leaders apparently are so frail of heart that they do not have the conviction of their beliefs and service to the people, and the courage to say an emphatic “No” to lobbying vested interests?

What kind of government leaders make “working visits” to constituencies facing an election to lend support to their candidates? Did these leaders get there on government funds or their own? They justify their actions by spinning a spiel that when they attended the government function they said nothing of politics, but then changed their clothes and demeanour and drove in their private cars to attend the political function. Even if the trip was partly funded by the government, isn’t that an abuse of government resources?

These are some of the major monkey tricks incumbent leaders have and are playing since the Sheraton moves. The point is whether the voters in the Johor state elections buy into the narrative these political players say and play, or can see through it. We will know tomorrow.

In the Umno strongholds — mainly in the rural constituencies — it’s a forgone conclusion that Umno will win. The question is whether they will have a majority and that depends on whether they make an impact in the Malay-majority urban seats where the majority of the Malays are.

Urban Malay voters need to understand that no matter which coalition/political party wins a majority, the basic needs of the B40 group will be taken care of. That aside, the voters need to consider other criteria in choosing their representatives.

The list above simply shows the current calibre of incumbent politicians. But the Johor state elections present Johor voters with an array of choices, including new candidates without the baggage of the past.

Tomorrow, we will know if the majority of urban Malay voters have bought into the spiel the incumbent politicians are mouthing or whether they will choose change — for a corruption-free, service-orientated, constitution-upholding politics.

Urban Malay voters and non-Malay voters need to forget about the disappointments of the past, especially with Pakatan Harapan’s short stint in government. They have to look at the choices before them and see which party or coalition can form suitable alliances that will best take them into a better future.

If they choose well, Malaysia has hope and we can look forward to the next general elections. If they choose the same old, same old, we can resign ourselves to goons in government.

Tomorrow we will know.