The Red Flag Sabri and PN govt have raised

Prime Minister-designate Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s refusal to hold a confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat does not inspire confidence that, like his predecessor’s coalition, his coalition is committed to upholding parliamentary democracy enshrined in the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.

The issue isn’t whether the Agong’s appointment of a prime minister as stated in Article 43(2)(a) of the federal constitution, that “the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall first appoint as Perdana Menteri (Prime Minister) to preside over the Cabinet a member of the House of Representative who in his judgment is likely to command the confidence of the majority of the members of that House” is illegitimate and unconstitutional. It is neither.

The process of appointment by the Agong is legitimate and constitutional but by itself, without the proof of majority, the process of legitimacy is incomplete because it does not affirm the parliamentary democratic process of demonstrating a majority as demanded by the constitution.

As lawyers and constitutional experts have repeatedly explained proof of majority is necessary and provided for in Article 43(4): “If the Prime Minister ceases to command the confidence of the majority of the members of the House of Representatives, then, unless at his request the Yang di-Pertuan Agong dissolves Parliament, the Prime Minister shall tender the resignation of the Cabinet.”

According to Article 43(2)(a), the Agong appoints a prime minister “who in his judgement is likely (italics, mine) … ” Likely does not mean proof or certainty. Read in the context of Article 43(4), the constitution thus allows scope for proof and certainty to be obtained through a democratic process, which in this case is a confidence vote.

By recognising the Agong’s decision, the Sabri coalition has upheld constitutional monarchy as according to the federal constitution. By refusing to prove the coalition’s majority, the Sabri coalition continues the previous government’s stance of failing to recognise the requirement of the parliamentary democracy we practise according to the federal constitution, of proving a majority.

Constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy must be upheld at the same time for the appointment and election of a prime minister to be legitimate and constitutional. One can’t preclude the other. That isn’t constitutional according to the federal constitution, which is the supreme law of the land.

So, we now have an unconstitutional Cabinet and a prime minister who is yet to be sworn in.

To make matters worse, the rights of MPs under the parliamentary democracy we practice have not been duly recognised. The motions that the MPs submitted have been dismissed. It is reported that 15 motions were submitted to remove the Speaker of the House Azhar Harun.

The Speaker should realise that if 15 motions were submitted against him, he does not have the confidence of the house and he should resign. But he doesn’t, beholden to those who put him in that position, and ignoring the independence of the house.

His brother, Idrus Harun, the Attorney General, holds to the narrow interpretation of Article 43(2)(a) that the Agong’s appointment is sufficient for legitimacy according to the constitution, ignoring the spirit and intent of the federal constitution.

When the Cabinet, Attorney General and Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat have such a limited understanding of the constitution and downplay the role of parliamentary democracy, what certainty do the people have that the government will uphold and honour the constitutional rights of the citizens under parliamentary democracy as enshrined in the federal constitution?

That is the reason why this — like the previous Perikatan Nasional (PN) government — is a dangerous government. It interprets the federal constitution to fit its justification to remain in government. That leaves the people unprotected by the constitution and at the mercy of leaders who have the power of government to do as he/she pleases.

This has been proven under the PN government and now under the Sabri coalition. There are open double standards, selective prosecution, questionable dismissal of cases, the appointment of politicians facing criminal charges in court to official positions, and mismanagement of the covid 19 pandemic resulting in soon-to-reach 20,000 deaths. In all of these cases, the people suffer while politicians get off the hook.

We can not have such a government!

Now, secure of a place in the Malay-Muslim majority government, PAS is attempting to introduce legislation aimed at restricting the development of non-Malay religions — again without consideration for the non-Muslim citizens’ constitutional rights.

The Bersatu-led government in Sabah has rejected Putrajaya’s plan to introduce a new law that would restrict the propagation of non-Muslim religions. But Sabahans should not be fooled by the gesture. Bersatu wants Sabah votes in the next general elections and will block PAS which is initiating such laws. But, if Bersatu gets a comfortable majority with PAS’ help, the law will be back on the table!

PAS’ position of influence in the Sabri and previously PN coalitions make the latter cause for concern for non-Muslims. They may be controlled now but they won’t be if by remaining in a governing coalition they acquire power and influence which can be translated into votes in an election. The Malay-Muslim majority can identify with the conservative politics of PAS, Bersatu and Umno and it is very likely these parties will continue to get their support.

Should the Malay-Muslim majority’s politics get messy and out of control, PAS might emerge the strongest party and win the support of the Malay-Muslim majority like the Taliban got control of Afghanistan because the Muslim majority did not oppose.

We can’t wait for such a possibility to happen first before acting to stop it because it would be too late. We have to prevent it from ever happening by depriving PAS and its allies from the one resource that empowers them to entrench control — the power to govern.

The time is now to consider if this Malay-Muslim coalition is good for the future of this nation. All the MPs must decide. Sabah and Sarawak MPs especially must decide if supporting this conservative coalition is in the best interests of Sabahans and Sarwakians.

Sabahans and Sarawakians have to stop whining about the poor treatment they received by past prime ministers. They have to ask themselves now if they are allowing history to forfeit their future.

In the next sitting of the Dewan Rakyat starting on Monday, at the first opportunity they get, the MPs should reject the unelected and unconstitutional Sabri Cabinet. It would be best to do it early and let the process begin in the Dewan Rakyat to elect the next and legitimate prime minister. It would be resolved within days.

We will know by their vote which MPs voted for a progressive Malaysian future where the federal constitution is the supreme law of the land, and who did not. We will leave it to the voters to decide how to handle those who did not.

Some very important questions to address first

Prime Minister-designate Ismail Sabri Yaacob announced yesterday that the Covid-19 pandemic management will now be officially known as the Special Committee on Pandemic Management and will include representatives from Opposition parties. A day earlier he said that the Special Covid-19 Aid (BKC) for the hardcore poor, B40 and M40 groups will be channelled to recipients from September 6-11.

These are carry-over programmes set up by his predecessor Muhyiddin Yassin and Ismail may just be announcing their continuation. The question, however, is whether he can make these decisions as prime minister when he is yet to be be sworn in?

It is unusual — and never done in any country — when Cabinet ministers were sworn in before the prime minister was sworn in. How can the prime minister carry out official business without being sworn in? How can a prime minister function legitimately as the prime minister without passing a confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat and proving his majority?

The reason given was that Ismail is under quarantine and couldn’t be sworn in with the Cabinet. The reason why he is yet to pass a confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat is yet to be given. He doesn’t need to be physically present in the Dewan Rakyat for a confidence vote. There is such a thing as Zoom conferencing!

The procedure of first appointing a prime minister by the Agong and then swearing him/her in and having him/her face a confidence vote in Parliament are constitutional requirements. Until these requirements are met, the prime minister and his/her Cabinet will remain an unconstitutional government.

Until the prime minister is sworn in and his majority proven in the Dewan Rakyat, the caretaker prime minister continues. This is the procedure to install a new government when a previous government falls mid-term from a lack of majority or when a prime minister and his/her Cabinet resigns.

It is extremely disappointing that Umno and Perikatan Nasional (PN) MPs don’t seem to realise the importance and significance of following constitutional requirements and procedures to prove their majority and thus ensure the legitimacy of their government.

The Agong followed the constitution in appointing the prime minister. It is now up to the appointed prime minister to follow the constitution by facing a confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat. Until he passes a confidence vote, he remains an unconstitutional prime minister.

Ismail may be following in Muhyiddin’s footsteps and in doing so, like Muhyiddin, he may be operating outside of the constitution.

I am puzzled why the Opposition is not calling out Ismail with regard to the confidence vote. They are unusually quiet. Instead, I am astonished that Opposition parties are willing to negotiate with an unconstitutional prime minister for reforms. If their “silence” is a “ceasefire” in exchange for perks, it is unconstitutional and must be exposed.

Soon after Ismail was appointed, Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders met with him to discuss the possibilities of introducing reforms such as equal allocations for all MPs, input from opposition parties to participate in the National Recovery Plan, introducing an anti-hopping law, increased participation of Opposition parties in select committees and raising the position of the Opposition Leader to the level of a senior minister.

Such reforms are no doubt good for the nation, but they must be instituted constitutionally by a constitutional government and the first people to demand for constitutional adherence should be opposition MPs. Instead, we have opposition parties making deals with an unconstitutional government.

Please put the cart before the horse or bullock! Make sure the government is constitutional first before making deals for perks for the Opposition!

Making deals is part and parcel of politics but deals that are made to enhance the position of MPs or ministers with no benefit to the people are just plain corrupt practices. Buying MPs over which was evident in Muhyiddin’s time was simply aimed at propping up an illegitimate government. Muhyiddin’s example must not be followed!

In the current political scenario, any deal with an unconstitutional government is corruption. Deals that are made with a rightful government without contravening the constitution and which will benefit the people and not MPs will, of course, be morally acceptable.

For example, a clear current issue regarding facing a confidence vote is the fact that it is not spelt out in the constitution. Weak politicians without the mandate of the people and who want to set up a backdoor government will use this omission to sneakily form a government without a confidence vote and claim it is constitutional.

Strong leaders who understand that a confidence vote is the democratic right of MPs to cast a vote on behalf of their voters to support or reject an appointed prime minister may, instead, rally the majority of MPs to agree to a procedure to elect the PM through a confidence vote and present it to the Speaker or the Agong for endorsement. In exchange for the support of the Opposition MPs, the appointed PM may agree to a reform that would strengthen the Opposition and hence the parliamentary system.

Such a deal is ennobling because it rallies bipartisan help to plug a technical gap in the constitution in the election of a PM during mid-term. Once the PM is elected and his government becomes constitutionally legitimate, a law or amendment can be passed that clearly states the need for a confidence or no-confidence vote in installing a mid-term prime minister.

Such “deals” are commendable because they solve problems and result in consequences that directly strengthen the constitutional rights of citizens.

For all intents and purposes, Ismail’s leadership and Cabinet are a continuation of Muhyiddin’s PN coalition. The country is where it is today because of the latter’s leadership. The economy is in the dumps and the covid-19 pandemic continues to spread unabated beyond the Klang Valley. Vaccination arrests the spread but between now and vaccination the virus keeps spreading because only 48.3% of the population is fully vaccinated according to the Our World in Data website.

Our figures are telling. As of yesterday, we have a total of 1.79 million covid-19 cases, and a total of 17,191 deaths. Could these figures have been much less if we had a better government?

Right now, that is our No 1 priority. Can we bring the daily cases and deaths down? And the most important question to address urgently and immediately is whether the Ismail Cabinet can arrest the raging pandemic so that deaths are fewer?

A confidence vote will determine if the MPs have confidence in Ismail to arrest the pandemic. Govt and Opposition MPs must put the people first and vote accordingly. If they have no confidence, they must make it clear so that an administration is installed that has the confidence of the majority of the MPs to solve this problem immediately.

It is such a rightfully elected administration that will succeed in controlling the pandemic because it will get the support of the whole nation.

So, a confidence vote needs to be urgently and immediately introduced. Deaths by covid-19 are on the heads of those who delay or will not introduce it.

Set the precedent, PM; face a confidence vote

What is more disappointing than new Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s rehashed lacklustre Cabinet is the fact that he has not passed a confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat. By not facing a confidence vote, he has failed to uphold the spirit and intent of the federal constitution.

His Cabinet is no different from the previous prime minister, Muhyuiddin Yassin’s Cabinet — over-sized and packed with mediocrity or less of it. That is to be expected since Umno, Perikatan Nasional and its partners offer Ismail limited choices. But, why did he go ahead and make a prime ministerial decision without first proving his majority through a confidence vote, and finding legitimacy from it?

Ismail’s party, Umno, may argue that that his appointment is constitutional and democratic. Constitutional? Yes. But democratic? That can be argued. By not facing a confidence vote, he has opened himself up to questions regarding the legitimacy of his government.

Doesn’t Ismail know that in a democracy, if the prime minister and his Cabinet are not elected through a general election and is installed during mid-term because the previous government lost its majority, the new administration must first prove its majority through a confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat before it can govern?

In the absence of a general election, passing a confidence vote is considered as rightful election to govern by the elected representatives of the people. In a democracy, a confidence vote is the only available instrument left for the people to elect a government of their choice through their elected representatives.

Critics can claim that the federal constitution says nothing about a confidence vote with regard to a mid-term takeover of a government. Article 43 (2)(a) of the federal constitution states that “the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall first appoint as Perdana Menteri (Prime Minister) to preside over the Cabinet a member of the House of Representative who in his judgment is likely to command the confidence of the majority of the members of that House”.

The Agong “in his judgment” based on the statutory declarations (SD) of 114 MPs rightly appointed Ismail as prime minister. It is also correct for the Agong to swear in the Cabinet based on Article 4(6) which states: “Before a Minister exercises the functions of his office he shall take and subscribe in the presence of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong the oath of office and allegiance and the oath of secrecy set out in the Sixth Schedule”.

This far, the steps taken by the Agong are correct since no where is it stated here that the appointed PM must face a no confidence vote as suggested by some constitutional experts.

However, between the appointment of the PM and his/her swearing in, no time frame is specified, which suggests there is room for MPs to devise a procedure where after the Agong’s appointment of the PM, the latter faces a confidence vote in the spirit of democracy and if the latter wins, the swearing in can proceed.

This would ensure that the Dewan Rakyat has irrefutable records that the appointed PM won or lost the confidence vote and that position can’t change as MPs who sign SDs might in a vote in the Dewan Rakyat. In this way, the legitimacy of the appointed PM will no longer be in question and if at all the Opposition strives to remove him/her, it would not be because of the legitimacy issue but because of the performance of the PM and his/her Cabinet.

A procedure or precedent must be set now to deter MPs from undermining a legitimately elected government if they can’t face a confidence vote to prove their majority.

In Ismail’s case, it is very unlikely that he will lose a confidence vote — unless by an unexpected twist of fate! Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim has declared that the Opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) will not “complicate” things. What he means by that we don’t know, but Anwar lost yet another golden opportunity to take over the government when he failed to get the support of Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) on his very strong and secure 105 Opposition votes.

It was the second time he lost the chance to become PM. The first was last year when he sent a message out to the Opposition MPs to NOT vote against the Budget. If the Budget was not passed, Muhyiddin’s government would have fallen and Anwar might be PM today!

So, Ismail has nothing to worry about in facing a confidence vote. The Opposition is faltering; he might win it. He will lose it only if Anwar clearly demonstrates his leadership abilities and works out a fair and permissible power-sharing deal with GPS.

So, it is puzzling why Ismail hasn’t announced yet that he will be introducing a confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat — unless, of course, he isn’t confident of his majority. All the more reason why he should face it and MPs should demand it!

Even if not spelt out in Article 43, a confidence vote is the final step in proving an appointed PM’s majority and we should set the precedent now to introduce it in accordance with the spirit and intent of the parliamentary democracy we practise and the federal constitution.

It’s the people’s hope that Ismail will set the precedent.

What went wrong

Perikatan Nasional (PN) leader Muhyiddin Yassin’s 17-month government will go down in history as the only government Malaysia has had so far that failed to prove its majority. From Day 1, he circumvented the issue when he should have faced a no-confidence vote in Parliament which until the last day, he never did.

In not facing a no-confidence vote, he showed an unwillingness to follow democratic conventions and adhering to the words, intent and spirit of the federal constitution. Instead, he made decisions according to his own judgement or on the advice of the people he surrounded himself with.

He insisted soon after he was sworn in that the Agong had sworn him in and that was enough to prove his legitimacy. He failed to understand that when a prime minister resigns or a government falls from a lack of majority, it is followed by a period of political fluidity where political positions can change quickly and that in the spirit of democratic competition such changes must be accommodated.

When Muhyiddin was nominated as prime minister in February last year, he may have had a majority according to the statutory declarations (SD) his supporters made. But, at the same, former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad got PKR’s support and the support of other MPs with a total of 113 which means Muhyiddin didn’t have a majority. Muhyiddin jumped the gun and went ahead with the swearing in when Tun’s majority should have been tested.

Soon after, Tun was expelled from Bersatu and he took a number of MPs out of PN with him leaving Muhyiddin without a majority. That was the beginning of Muhyiddin’s efforts to lure MPs over to his side with all sorts of baits.

This is history but the point is that Muhyiddin thus could not prove his majority and, hence, his legitimacy was always questioned. If he had faced a no-confidence vote earlier on, the MPs might have booted him out and we may have better managed the pandemic. The reason for all the political instability that followed was due to the fact that Muhyiddin did not follow the procedures demanded by democratic conventions such as backing off when another MP claims he has a majority and/or facing a no-confidence vote. Both claims should be tested.

Muhyiddin made the same mistake in the current political situation. When the Agong called the 114 MPs who supported Umno’s candidate Ismail Sabri Yaacob to be the next prime minister, he said PN’s support for Sabri was conditional. Constitutionally, as pointed out by lawyer and activist Ambiga Sreenevasan, support for a PM must be unconditional otherwise there might be a change later and the government may fall again. Umno, aware of the significance of the comment, has decided to meet later to discuss its implications before making a decision.

But Muyhiddin’s ex-aide clarified that it is nothing unusual, failing to comprehend that when it comes to a prime minister, it is of great significance. But, that is Muhyiddin’s way: can be a little lax on following the constitution for the sake of political expediency. Look where it has got us.

After the meeting with the Agong, it was reported that Sabri left with outriders. His team must have thought they were going to be sworn in and Sabri named prime minister and hence outriders would be needed to escort the new prime minister. Again, whoever provided him the service — probably under Muhyiddin’s advice — jumped the gun thinking the Agong would repeat the way he swore in Muhyiddin’s team. They just didn’t understand that nothing is final until it is official.

It is a reflection of the lack of knowledge of parliamentary procedures that was the hallmark of Muhyiddin’s tenure.

This time around, the Agong wants to make sure he is truly appointing someone with a majority and so had called the 114 MPs to individually ask them to state their stand. He has also said that the appointed prime minister must face a no-confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat.

The Agong must be credited for nudging the MPs to uphold parliamentary democracy. He kept advising Muhyiddin to face a no-confidence vote in the special Dewan Rakyat sitting but Muhyiddin kept delaying preferring to resign or hold elections knowing fully well that the latter would be impossible in the midst of the raging pandemic. So he resigned.

If he had understood the significance of a no-confidence vote, he would have taken the risk and faced it. In a no-confidence vote, MPs are free to vote anyway they like, and, who knows, he might have won. But, we’ll never know because Muhyiddin had no confidence in a no-confidence vote.

It is really pathetic that it is the Agong who is seen advising the prime minister, Cabinet and MPs on following the tenets of parliamentary democracy when it should be the latter group who should be advising the Agong on the procedures to follow. I wonder if he is being adequately advised by the Attorney-General.

How can we allow such MPs to lead a parliamentary democracy? No one in the Umno-PN camp right now should be allowed to govern until leaders are raised from their ranks who demonstrate a clear understanding and commitment to the federal constitution.

In a couple of hours we’ll know who will be our prime minister. I hope the Agong chooses wisely.

Muhyiddin’s delay plays into Umno’s hands

It’s obvious that Umno’s tactics to withdraw support for the Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition is to force the resignation of PN leader Muhyiddin Yassin and pave the way for it to set itself up as a minority government.

If Muhyiddin resigns now, since we are still under emergency, the Agong can appoint Umno as a minority government — since no one candidate for the premiership can claim a majority now — in the same way Muhyiddin got himself and the PN Cabinet sworn in as the appointed government on March 1 last year .

By right such an appointment should face a no-confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat but if Muhyiddin didn’t face it, it is doubtful Umno would.

Muhyiddin has announced that a vote of confidence would be introduced at the parliamentary session beginning on Sept 7. However, it is reported that the Agong has advised that the vote be brought forward but Muhyiddin appears NOT to be complying.

It is hard to fathom Muhyiddin’s reason or reasons for not bringing forward a no-confidence vote. If it were just a contest of wills, it would be immature and unprofessional of Muhyiddin to go head on against the Agong’s advice because it would make it difficult for him to continue working with the one person who installed him and his gang as the government in the first place. Now it would seem as if Muhyiddin is changing the rules in order to remain in government.

Coupled with the fact that he does not have a proven majority, both reasons give the Agong ample room to set up a new administration, which, likely, will favour Umno as it is the largest Malay-based party and more closely aligned with the royal institution than the other Malay parties. This could result with the current crop of Umno leaders facing criminal charges in court to return to helm a minority government after royal pardons.

Another possibility is that Muhyiddin may be delaying in order to call for snap elections. That — like Umno forming a minority government — should never be allowed to happen. If the July 26-Aug 2 special parliamentary session was postponed on account of the covid-19, why is a snap election permissible? Self-serving twisted logic!

On the other hand, if Muhyiddin heeded the Agong’s advice and called for an earlier special parliamentary session for the specific purpose of facing a no-confidence vote, the MPs in the Dewan Rakyat will decide who is to be the next prime minister with a majority or whether they will support a minority government.

At the same time, it would spare the Agong the embarrassing possibility of having his address rejected by the MPs at the Sept 7 session which the suspicious MPs may decide to do to preempt the PN from deciding NOT to go ahead with a no-confidence vote since the MPs had not rejected the Agong’s address. Judging from its actions so far, the PN is not above such sneakiness.

All things considered, bringing forward the date for a no-confidence vote in Parliament is the smartest solution to the current political impasse. The MPs will first vote for or against the PN. If the vote goes against the PN coalition, the govt falls and the task begins to choose the next legitimate administration.

If Muhyiddin does not bring forward the date for a no-confidence vote against him, he will be forcing the Agong’s hand, and the delay may end up with Umno being appointed as a minority government and Muhyiddin can thank himself for that.

Show your courage, call for a confidence vote now

For the first time since he seized power in February last year, Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition leader Muhyiddin Yassin made the correct constitutional decision to face a no-confidence vote in Parliament. Even so, he fumbled and undermined his own decision by delaying the vote by a month.

The legitimacy of the government is of urgent national importance. Any prime minister or MP worth his/her salt would immediately call for a vote in the Dewan Rakyat to test his/her support, especially when a large partner in the incumbent coalition claims that more than 11 MPs in its party, namely Umno in this case, have withdrawn their support for Muhyiddin.

PN is said to have a maximum of 110 votes in its favour in the Dewan Rakyat. Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi submitted a list of 11 names of those who no longer support Muhyiddin to the Agong, of which eight names are confirmed. So, how can Muhyiddin claim he has a majority?

At this point whatever numbers Zahid or Muhyiddin claims to have are just that — claims. Until these claims are tested in the Dewan Rakyat, they remain unproven and provides no constitutional basis for any party or coalition to claim the right to form a government. So, if Muhyiddin’s PN does not have a majority and he refuses now to prove his claim that he has, what right does he have to remain in government?

He must resign or prove his majority now. He can’t wait. The playing field is level now. Waiting for a month is just a delay tactic to use his incumbency to his advantage and that is giving him unfair advantage. It must not be allowed.

Unfortunately, a precedent has been set — by himself — when in last February he got himself and his cohorts sworn in to form the government although his majority was in question. He failed to prove his majority by facing a no-confidence vote in Parliament.

He’s doing the same thing again. Remaining in government without constitutional authority.

Muhyiddin needs to understand that he came to power on the graces of the Agong — not by the constitutional authority vested on the Dewan Rakyat. Since he is using the authority of the Agong to govern, he is obligated to listen to what the Agong asks. He can not invoke his constitutional authority now when he never got it from the Dewan Rakyat until December last year when the Budget was passed giving him legitimacy.

Now his legitimacy is in question again because his majority is in question. The Agong has wisely advised that a special parliamentary session be called to discuss the emergency ordinances. Muhyiddin fails to heed the Agong and holds a Q & A session in the Dewan Rakyat with no mention of the emergency ordinances except to announce that they have been revoked. Then he postpones the last day of the meeting.

According to the news portal, Sarawak Report, the Agong advised Muhyiddin to resign three times in their last pre-Cabinet meeting but the latter said he will face a no-confidence vote to prove his majority. We don’t know if it was agreed that the no-confidence vote will be in September or that it was understood that it would be held sooner.

The postponed special parliamentary session can be easily recalled for a vote of confidence in a matter of days. Why is Muhyiddin delaying? If he has learnt from his mistake and want to correct it by following the constitution, he must call for a Dewan Rakyat sitting immediately not resort to delaying tactics to gain an advantage.

Does he not know that delaying proving a ruling coalition’s majority, and subsequently its right to govern, will only create more political and economic uncertainties as it allows for intense “frog jumping” and keeps the economy from moving forward?

The FBM KLCI remains jittery and in the doldrums unable to rise up despite Muhyiddin’s public statements. Covid 19 deaths keep breaking daily records, yet Muhyiddin asks if a change of government is good for the nation and if it will affect the National Recovery Plan (NRP).

Anyone looking at the statistics will say, a change of government is the best option. A change of administration will only cause some problems with the national vaccination programme but with good leadership that can be overcome quickly. As for the NRP, what of it? We have not seen any evidence of it. No setback there and no other aspect of government will be affected because the government is running rudderless. Instead, I suspect, there will be all-around relief!

Besides, former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s National Recovery Council under his strong and experienced leadership will do a much better job than what we are seeing now and it will draw able people from across the board.

An immediate no-confidence vote is essential for political stability and for the PN to justify its right to remain in government. If PN truly has a majority as it claims, why doesn’t it prove it with a no-confidence vote? Since February last year, PN has been claiming it has a majority but refuses to prove it. Instead, it resorted to luring MPs over and indebting them to Muhyiddin.

A no-confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat, on the other hand, will free MPs to vote according to their conscience despite all the allurements. That will be the true test of whether Muhyiddin has the support he claims he has. The more important question is whether he has the courage to face the truth about the alleged support for him and the legitimacy of his coalition.

What a mess! But, there’s a way out

In a statement today, Umno vice-president Mohamed Khaled Nordin said that it was better for Umno to quit the Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition and to work towards forming an interim government. Yesterday, it was reported that former prime minister and Umno adviser Najib Razak said that Umno supports the PN coalition but not PN leader Muhyiddin Yassin.

Their statements imply that Umno is still with the PN-lead coalition. That seems to have been assumed but it is an incorrect position. Umno is NOT a member of the PN. PN members are Bersatu — Muhyiddin’s minority party that leads the coalition — and PAS. All the other parties in the PN-led coalition such as Gabungan Parti Sarawak, Parti Bersatu Sabah, STAR, MIC and MCA and Umno are partners with the PN in the PN-led coalition.

The difference is significant. A member party of a coalition can withdraw its support for the incumbent PM yet not leave the coalition unless it chooses to. That party remains in the coalition and at its top-level meeting expresses its withdrawal of support for the incumbent PM and negotiates for a replacement. The constitution of the coalition must state the rules and guidelines for such a possibility.

A partner in a coalition, on the other hand, does not come under the rules of the coalition for members. It’s a partner — not a member. If a party that is a partner in a coalition withdraws support for the incumbent PM, it removes itself from that coalition. A partner in a coalition can not say it is withdrawing support for the incumbent PM but allows its members to remain in the coalition in support of the PM. That doesn’t make sense. It is an absurd position.

When a party that is a partner in a coalition withdraws its support for the incumbent PM it is equivalent to withdrawing support for the government the PM leads. That party automatically is out of the coalition. So, whether you say you no longer support the PM or the government it leads, it is the same.

On July 8, Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi announced that Umno was withdrawing its support for Muhyiddin and called on the latter to resign, which means the Cabinet would resign, which means the PN-led government would fall. That, in effect, means withdrawing its support for the PN-led government, which means the PN-led government fell on July 8.

The PN-led government, however, continued in government as if Umno’s withdrawal meant nothing at all, since, after all, Attorney General Idrus Harun said it was “not clear” if PN had lost its majority as a majority is not determined by a party statement.

Does Idrus know how coalition politics work? How else can a party that is a partner in a coalition express its withdrawal of support if not by a statement? If the government is doubtful, then it should call for a no-confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat. It doesn’t do that but continues as if the largest partner in its coalition didn’t resign.

This doesn’t make sense. It just isn’t done, unless maybe in a banana republic!

It doesn’t make it any easier that the nine Umno MPs in the PN Cabinet openly defied their president to show that they support Muhyiddin. They are not PN members. It’s puzzling why Zahid doesn’t discipline them.

Zahid and the nine Umno MPs must realise that they can take over the leadership of the PN-led government only if the PN and all partners in the coalition agree to it. Zahid will fail because he has pulled his party Umno out of the PN-led coalition. The nine MPs will also fail because they can’t represent their party which is no longer in the same coalition; they can only represent themselves. It’s doubtful either will get majority support.

The fact is that Umno has left the PN-led coalition. That means Muhyiddin has lost its majority — since July 8. It remains in government illegitimately and revoking the emergency ordinances without announcing it and conducting a Dewan Rakyat session where MPs are powerless to debate and vote on annulling or accepting the emergency ordinances are a cowardly cover-up to not prove its majority.

The Agong has publicly rebuked the PN-led government for not keeping to the word given to him about conducting a Dewan Rakyat session to debate and vote on the emergency ordinances. He has declared that he has not assented to the revocation of the emergency ordinances.

Muhyiddin said he did advise the Agong about the revocation through a letter but in defence of himself against the Agong’s public rebuke, he invoked Article 40 (1) of the federal constitution which states that the Agong acts on the advice of the prime minister.

But wasn’t the special Dewan Rakyat called specifically to debate and accept or annul the emergency ordinances? That was circumvented by the July 21 revocation of the ordinances.

So, now, Muhyiddin is not only without a majority and continuing in government despite it, but he has apparently antagonised the Agong, the very person who swore him and his cohorts into government.

By right, he should resign but it is doubtful that he would. The only solution to move forward is NOT an interim government. It will not have the support of the majority of the MPs and the chaotic politicking will continue thwarting attempts to control the covid 19 pandemic quickly and effectively. Besides, Muhyiddin will preempt it.

Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s proposal of a National Recovery Council is the solution and a chance for a way out and a reset. Hopefully, a majority of MPs will rally behind him and make a representation to the Agong that they would be supportive of that endeavour. Since we are still under emergency, the Agong can do it and save the day.

PN’s untenable position

So, why are the nine Umno MPs still in the Prihatin Nasional (PN) coalition? Why is coalition leader Muhyiddin Yassin accommodating them and keeping them in the Cabinet? Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has already withdrawn Umno’s support for Muhyiddin so why is the latter still keeping these rebellious MPs in his Cabinet?

Very openly he is baiting them with government positions to ensure he has the numbers to remain in government. At the same time Zahid is not disciplining his errant MPs which means there might be behind-the-scenes haggling going on for Umno to remain in PN for some gains advantageous to the Zahid faction in Umno. Watch their court cases; see what happens there.

All this is indisciplined, chaotic Malay politics and to be expected but is it ethical of Muhyiddin to use government positions and resources to play Malay politics? Isn’t that an abuse of power and position?

In Malaysia, a national leader must know there is a boundary between using the government to serve the people and using it to serve his or her own personal agenda. If in your eyes the boundary is blurred, then you are too simple-minded to distinguish between what is right and wrong and will do wrong without batting an eyelid resulting in the kind of problems we have been witnessing since the Sheraton moves.

It is understandable that Muhyiddin wants PN to have a majority. But, it is totally unacceptable that without a majority he unconstitutionally clings to the government to achieve it. He should resign and seek to obtain a PN majority outside of government, then stand for election and win it. Then he has the right to govern.

It is reprehensible that he is using government positions and resources to gain that majority. That is unethical and contravenes the constitution and must not be tolerated.

Malay politicians need to understand that only those who can’t compete according to the rules or are afraid to compete according to the rules for fear of losing, cheat and resort to political chicanery and treachery to win.

That is the picture the PN is painting of its politicians. That’s how the discerning public, whether Malay, Chinese, Indian or East Malaysian perceives PN politicians: unable to fight fair according to the rules. That is the reason the PN doesn’t have the support of the more knowledgeable urban Malays and non-Malays.

In an interview published today in Malaysiakini, Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin said that the PN reflects a Malay-based coalition and that the people (Malay majority) are comfortable with Muhyiddin. That may be true — only because they don’t know any better. Even if the PN did wrong they would not know what was going on. If they did, they may take to the streets. The politically more astute urban Malays and non-Malays do not trust Muhyiddin. We know what he’s up to. The PN can fool their supporters but it can’t fool us.

Their supporters may not realise it, but their PN leaders have without a qualm used their trust to set themselves up in a backdoor government and what have the people gained from it? They are still struggling to put food on the table. Worst still, the people are experiencing a runaway pandemic with 15,573 active cases and 144 deaths reported today despite the so-called “government effort”. Apart from giving money what has the PN done to stimulate economic recovery and control the pandemic?

Businesses are closing down every day. Jobs are scarce. Now, we don’t know if we have been genuinely vaccinated or just jabbed with empty syringes! Doesn’t this Malay-majority coalition know its people well enough to know that under stress they lose it and don’t know what they do, and proactively prevent it from happening? Is the PN governing or simply keeping everything running — even if badly — so that they can continue using government positions and resources to prop itself up?

Is that the type of Malay-majority leadership we want? One that fails to set the example of following the constitution?

Even with the special parliamentary session beginning next Monday, we don’t know what to expect. Already the MPs are complaining that the Dewan Rakyat sitting starting on July 26 does not follow standing orders and is only a series of lectures by ministers. Should by a twist of fate a vote of no confidence is introduced and PN loses, will PN continue to stay on in government with the Attorney-General making another statement that it is “not clear” that the session was legitimate?

The PN does not play by the rules so we have no reason to believe it would abide by the result of a no-confidence vote.

Contrary to Zuraida’s opinion that now is a bad time to oust Muhyiddin, it is the best time. If he remains in government Parliament will be dragged out to give him time to use the advantage of incumbency to work out a deal with one or the other of the factions in Umno so that he gets the majority to pass the Budget to get more money to spend to ensure voter support in the event of a general election.

He may think that with expedited vaccination in the Klang Valley the pandemic will be controlled and elections can be called. It will not. The virus will continue spreading and it would just be a matter of time before it spreads beyond the Klang Valley if aggressive testing, contact tracing and vaccination do not continue nationwide.

A change of administration now will preempt Muhyiddin from making deals in favour of a defeated party like Umno by using government positions and influencing institutions, ensure control of the pandemic and facilitate economic recovery.

That can only be good for the nation. No party or person who shows no proof of majority should be allowed to continue to sit in government. It is immoral and undemocratic.

The case for a National Recovery Council

It is apparent to all Malaysians and the world that the Umno Members of Parliament staying put in the Prihatin Nasional(PN)-led coalition are doing so in open defiance of their party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi who announced last week that Umno was withdrawing its support for PN head Muhyiddin Yassin.

Party members have the right to disagree with their leaders but is it ethical of them to use their ministerial positions in the Cabinet to do so? Isn’t it abuse of position? If they want to defy their president that is party politics and should be dealt with in the party not outside the party, and definitely not by using their Cabinet positions to do so. As it is, Zahid is now in the position to discipline his rebellious MPs. And, I hope he does.

It seems Umno MP Ismail Sabri Yaakub had told Zahid of his pending appointment to the DPM’s post by Muhyiddin a day before Zahid announced Umno’s withrawal from the PN-led coalition. But was this appointment made in consultation with Sabri’s party president? Shouldn’t the coalition leader consult with his partner party’s head before making such an important appointment? We don’t know if Muhyuiddin did. But, isn’t that the protocol? Was it followed?

If it wasn’t followed, it would be a slap to Zahid and he, understandably, had a reason to not want to support Muhyiddin.

Whatever the real reasons that prompted Zahid to act, the fact is he has severed support for Muhyddin, which means PN no longer has a majority. So, why is it still governing? Why are its MPs oblivious to the fact that they are supporting a coalition that has lost its majority and that that is unconstitutional? Why are they in cahoots with PN when they fully know it is unconstitutional?

The fact that the nine Umno MPs have pledged their support for Muhyiddin does not mean that the latter has a majority. Umno’s 38 MPs are no longer with the PN. The nine, including the Umno DPM, are no longer representing their party. They are in the PN Cabinet in their individual capacities and supporting an unelected and unconstitutional minority government.

Attorney-General Idrus Harun has gone to the PN’s defence by saying that the federal constitution says only MPs in a Dewan Rakyat session can determine if a prime minister has the support of the majority and majority support is not determined “through a statement by a political party or any political party leader”.

By his own admission he has disqualified the PN because PN had claimed through its statements by PN leader Muhuyiddin that it had a majority when it offered itself as the next government when the Pakatan Harapan government fell in February last year. Till this day PN has failed to prove its majority fully aware that the federal constitution demands it and yet Idrus continues to support it and work for it.

Everyone one in the PN-led coalition knows they are in an unconstitutional government but not one will stand up for the federal constitution.

That is the trademark of the PN leadership: constitutional or not is immaterial but at all cost use the advantage of incumbency to retain power.

That being the mentality of the PN, can anyone in his or her rightful mind expect it to adhere to the federal constitution? We can scream and shout and pull a tantrum but they will remain unmoved, giving their regular press conferences and national addresses that bring no real benefits to the people.

Despite billions of ringgit worth of stimulus packages, emergency and MCOs and CMCOs and EMCOs, the pandemic isn’t contained. The pandemic is simply running its own course, unmitigated by government efforts. It will end when it ends.

Anyone will tell you that the reason why we are having high figures is due to late aggressive testing, contact tracing and vaccination which should have started much earlier like in the second half of last year. It didn’t happen then but started several months ago by which time the virus had spread, unchecked. We are seeing the results now.

But the PN will not assume responsibility for its inability to contain it, giving all sorts of explanations to justify its lack of skills and ability — “only God can stop it”! But New Zealand, Taiwan and Singapore succeeded without putting the blame on God!

These are the kind of people in the PN.

If they were committed to parliamentary democracy, they would have facilitated a confidence or no-confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat a long time ago and proven their majority. If they couldn’t get the majority they would have resigned.

By now, the people, and especially the MPs, must know that the PN is not committed to parliamentary democracy. They have made a mockery of Parliament, the special parliamentary session beginning on July 26 is a case in point. The session is a briefing session without motions and debates, MPs say.

The PN will do everything it can NOT to prove its majority but to remain in power. MPs need to realise that insisting on adherence to the federal constitution will just fall on deaf ears.

You have to play the game the way they play it. Bypass them just as they bypassed Parliament. Go straight to the Agong.

That is the reason why I believe former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s proposal for a National Recovery Council is the best way to preempt the PN now. PN feels strong because it knows the majority of MPs are against it.

But, if the majority of MPs back Tun’s proposal especially now that he has said he would be willing to leave Pejuang, the party he founded and of which he is chairman, if he is accepted to chair the council as an apolitical organisation, the Agong may consider it.

If the Agong institutes it, PN will be ousted. When the council has achieved its aim of containing the covid 19 pandemic, it can end and we revert to parliamentary democracy.

It is the only way out now. Otherwise, this is going to be dragged out, giving Muhyiddin time to form a new alliance with Umno when the latter resolves its leadership tussle in due time.

Think carefully. Don’t dismiss the National Recovery Council. It’s an option that will bring parliamentary democracy back in the near future. With Muhyiddin, it will be the end of parliamentary democracy as we know it.

AG, please advise to resolve

The largest party in the Prihatin Nasional coalition, Umno, withdraws its support from the coalition but Attorney General Idrus Harun says that PN leader Muhyiddin Yassin and his Cabinet will continue to exercise their executive powers because there are no “clear facts” to show that he has lost his majority.

Idrus said the federal constitution says only MPs in a Dewan Rakyat session can determine if a prime minister has the support of the majority and majority support is not determined “through a statement by a political party or any political party leader”. He said this in a statement released following Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s declaration to withdraw support for Muhyiddin as prime minister.

Idrus’s explanation may be the correct interpretation of the constitution but how come it was not rightly followed when PN seized control of the government in February last year? Muhyiddin claimed majority support without getting that support from MPs at a Dewan Rakyat session and marched to the Agong’s palace and got himself and the PN sworn in as the government.

By Idrus’ own interpretation of Article 43(2)(a) of the Federal Constitution which he quoted, it would mean that Muhyiddin’s claim of majority support following the Sheraton moves is also “not clear” and unproven — as pointed out by both former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Pakatan Harapan — and yet he was sworn in to lead the government.

Idrus should stop playing politics and give the proper advice to Muhyiddin to resolve the issue of legitimacy which is the only reason why the current climate of politicking is going on overdrive. Perhaps, a mistake was made in the swearing in of the PN leadership last year. If a mistake was made it should be corrected not legitimised with everyone pretending it is business as usual, like what is happening now.

Zahid withdrew support for PN but Umno MPs are continuing to serve with the PN. Umno now clarfies that it had withdrawn its support for Muhyiddin — not for PN– and its MPs can continue to work with the PN. There is also talk that Barisan Nasional (BN) MPs, which includes Umno MPs, have signed a statement declaring their support for Muyhiddin.

Well, by Idrus’ interpretation of the federal constitution, signed statements by MPs are invalid. MPs’ support must be proven in the Dewan Rakyat, which means the BN MPs statement of support will also make it “not clear” if Muhyhiddin has majority support.

A large party like Umno has left the PN. It just means PN has lost its majority but it must be tested in the Dewan Rakyat.

The special parliamentary session starting on July 26, perhaps, may provide opportunities to test the support for the PN coalition in government. However, that might pose other problems as currently no one political party has majority support which means even a no-confidence or confidence vote will prove futile since a new coalition may not emerge.

It’s no wonder that political parties are resorting to political deal-making over constitutional alternatives and the former will create more unnecessary political stress.

As AG, Idrus should demonstrate a clear commitment to the federal constitution and advise Muhyiddin on the best course of action to prove his legitimacy in the Dewan Rakyat and to step down if he fails to command the majority support of MPs. He needs to give not just Muhyiddin but the Agong the constitutional options available to both that would resolve the current political impasse. It should include the use of the Agong’s discretion if all else fails.

A good suggestion to put forward to both the Agong and Muhyiddin is Dr Mahathir’s suggestion to form a national recovery council. It will eliminate avaricious politicking and the immediate urgent need of managing the covid 19 pandemic will take precedence over chaotic power-grabbing politics.

Perhaps, that is what Idrus should suggest to Muhyiddin and the Agong. It would take us out of the current cauldron of all sorts of interpretation of constitutional legitimacy and focus on national recovery.