Seeing into 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Such undemocratic indiscretions as described above will continue.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Happy New Year! Carpe Diem!

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

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

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

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

Have a great year!

Merry Christmas!

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

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

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

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

Have yourselves a blessed Christmas week!

‘Tis the season for more tidings of comfort and joy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A way to wipe the slate clean

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The stumbling path to better leaders — hopefully

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10th PM: Is it an earned sweet victory?

Anwar Ibrahim has now become Malaysia’s 10th prime minister, and with Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) joining the Pakatan Harapan (PH)-led unity government, the new prime minister has announced that he has a two-thirds majority in the Dewan Rakyat. A commendable achievement.

Nevertheless, it is worth examining if he earned it.

Winning only 82 seats in GE15 with its ally, Muda, against its opponent Perikatan Nasional (PN)’s 73, PH was unable to form a majority government. Neither was PN. Anwar approached GPS (which won 23 seats) who apparently initially declined, then Barisan Nasional (BN) who wavered to commit to PH. Meanwhile, PN claimed to have a majority while the criticisms rose to give the coalition with the most seats the first chance to form a majority.

After two days the Palace summoned both parties and suggested the plan of a unity government which PN outrightly rejected on the basis it had the majority. The king did not accept the claim and neither did he ask Anwar to form the government.

At this point, Anwar was in the position face-to-face with the king to tell the reigning monarch that according to the federal constitution, he should be called to form the new government. We don’t know if he did. And, if he did, neither were we told of the response.

It was an opportune moment for Anwar to prove his willingness to fight for the upholding of the constitution which every prime minister-designate must demonstrate. In our form of constitutional monarchy-parliamentary democracy, it is the prime minister who leads the fight to ensure that in all his/her dealings and in the affairs of government, he/she and the government abides by the constitution in every way.

Anwar missed that chance. Understandably, he lacked the confidence to assert his claim because he was unsure he could muster a majority. Or, he may have been beholden to the king as, after all, he was pardoned by the reigning monarch after serving time for a sodomy charge when PH was in government.

Whatever his reason, he failed to demonstrate that determination to advise the constitutional monarch to abide by the constitutional requirement to let him as the leader of the coalition with the most seats to form the majority government.

The king may not have listened but Anwar would have made the point clear: it is the prime minister who advises the constitutional monarch when the latter steps out of his authority as stipulated by the constitution and gets involved in government affairs and political manoeuvering and assumes the role of kingmaker. A prime minister-designate should be able to say so.

Anwar did not stand up for the constitution and the king went about summoning BN and Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) who went along with the king and agreed to join a PH-led unity government. GPS only agreed after it demanded an apology from PH component partner DAP for saying that the state government would go bankrupt with its hefty spending bills. DAP humbly apologized and GPS accepted and joined the unity government and gave it a majority.

The king then called for a ruler’s conference and it was only after that that he named Anwar the 10th PM and called on him to form a majority government.

Now Anwar is beholden to the king because without his “help” he could not have formed a majority government. Yesterday, the Johor Sultan congratulated Anwar and it is left to be seen to what extent Anwar will maintain the independence of the government without interference from royals.

Anwar is also indebted to the DAP who make up nearly 50% of the 82 seats PH won. But he now has to pay the price of winning the most seats on Chinese support in order to become PM. As a result, the conservative Malay heartland swung to PAS (48 seats) and its ally Bersatu (24 seats).

GE15 has exposed PAS president Hadi Awang’s influence and the country is now even more polarised in Peninsular Malaysia between the rural Malays and the urbanites and between their religions and it poses a threat to national integration. To diminish that threat, GPS and GRS came to Anwar’s rescue to form a majority government. The alternative would have been a PN-led PAS-influenced conservative government going backwards. Anwar is indebted to both GPS and GRS.

Yet, all of this could have been avoided if Anwar was willing to give up his desire to be PM and worked with former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Gerakan Tanah Air (GTA) which was wiped out because it went alone in GE15 without the backing of a coalition. With GTA and Mahathir in it, GPS might have joined it and PH would have won more seats — albeit without Anwar — to confidently form a majority government indebted to no one.

That, perhaps, is what Mahathir had in mind. Mahathir is always 10 steps ahead and if people can’t catch up to him, he is mistrusted and or demonized. But, he is far-sighted politically. PH missed that opportunity because of its insistence that Anwar becomes PM. Now, Anwar is, but lacking in confidence because he is indebted to everyone who put him there.

To strengthen his confidence to lead this nation and become a “PM for all” as he has declared, he must face a confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat and win it. His coalition partners who must be credited for admirably putting the nation first and joining the PH-led unity government must give him their full support. A PN-led alternative with PAS as the dominant partner will be disastrous for the nation.

Before the vote, however, Anwar must show in the selection of his cabinet that he will do the right thing and put the nation first. He must choose a solid candidate for the post of deputy prime minister who has the backing of his coalition partners. Anwar will be facing a sodomy case in court and should he be found guilty, he will have to step down and let his deputy ride out the full term of this unity government.

Anwar must demonstrate his willingness to conform to the constitution and uphold the rule of law by doing the right thing. Though convicted, he stood for election. That certainly isn’t a demonstration of complying with the rule of law. He will have no confidence to stand up to opposing forces unless he demonstrates a willingness to do the right thing according to the rule of law. The people accept nothing less. And when he does, his victory will be sweet.

GTA promises a realisable solution to corruption

Under-the-radar Gerakan Tanah Air (GTA) has out-smarted all other coalitions by promising a practical and realisable top priority plan to wipe out corruption in government in its GE15 election manifesto. If it wins at the polls, GTA plans to put the appointment of nine key government officers under the purview of Parliament where they will be selected through select parliamentary committees.

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

Selected by Parliament rather than appointed by the executive, they will be answerable to Parliament which means they will no longer be influenced by the executive. What makes it a remarkable plan is that it can be accomplished within the first session of the new Parliament. Once approved by Parliament, corruption in the government will be staunched overnight!

Other manifestos also have an anti-corruption plan. Perikatan Nasional’s (PN) is to create an anti-corruption court; Umno-Barisan Nasional’s (Umno-Barisan) is to upgrade the Institut Integrity Malaysia into a commission. Pakatan Harapan (PH) has a list of improvements in procedures. All these will take time and resources but not solve the problem as GTA’s.

GTA’s other plans include enacting a political funding law, declaration of assets by top politicians and government officers, establishing a special commission on integrity and corruption, addressing the rising cost of living, raising incomes and creating more jobs, giving access to higher education for B40 students, developing comprehensive food and energy sustainability and security, and implementing laws on climate change.

PH, PN and Umno-Barisan have similar plans but GTA’s No 1 priority of putting the selection of the top officers in government under Parliament is the single most effective solution to corruption in the government. Once implemented, the tide of the spread of corruption stops immediately.

This point alone should draw more to vote for GTA.

GTA, still unregistered, is fielding its candidates under its component party Pejuang. If these Pejuang candidates win enough seats, a government with GTA will not only deliver the corruption-free government all Malaysians want but it will be a stable coalition free of corrupt diva Umno which is prone to tantrum-throwing and causing political stability when it doesn’t get what it wants.

Such a coalition will also be free of incompetent PN which is influenced by the Medieval-minded religious zealots of PAS, both of which are a bane to progress and religious freedom.

A GTA-membered coalition will also mean that Anwar will not be the Prime Minister, which may be good for the country. It would be another “national embarrassment” if a sitting PM faces a sodomy charge in court and loses.

GTA’s No 1 corruption-free priority will also remove the opportunities for abuse of power and a repeat of all the abuses of power and constitutional lapses we have been witnessing since jailed former prime minister Najib Razak’s time, will not occur.

The government will finally be free to get on with the business of governing and taking care of the people.

A vote for GTA is a vote for a stable and corruption-free future Malaysia. I hope Malaysian voters see it.

Candidates who should sit out GE15

For the first time in Malaysian history, candidates who are facing court charges have been selected for election in GE15. They are Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi for the Bagan Datok seat, Pakatan Harapan chairman and PKR president Anwar Ibrahim for Tambun, DAP chairman Lim Guan Eng for Bagan, Muda president Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman for Muar and Sungai Besar Umno division chief Jamal Yunos for Sungai Besar. Adding to the list are Zahid’s court cluster cohorts in Umno.

Technically, they can claim that they have not yet been found guilty and therefore are innocent. However, Anwar was found guilty of a previous sodomy charge although pardoned. But, he still faces another sodomy charge that is yet to be disposed of. Hence, the question has to be raised as to why he is standing for election.

His case is no doubt not a criminal case like Lim’s, Zahid’s and his court cluster’s and Syed Saddiq’s, but it is still a case that tarnishes his moral standing and until he is cleared in court, Anwar should not stand for election.

Anwar can argue that he was pardoned when PH was in government but that was before the new sodomy case was initiated. He may also argue that if Zahid can stand for election so can he. Well, Umno politicians are unscrupulous and will do anything to gain power. Is Anwar like them?

Jamal, unlike Umno’s court cluster, is in the middle of bankruptcy proceedings initiated by former Seputeh MP Teresa Kok who said in a news report today that he is likely to be declared bankrupt. He has stated that as long as he has yet to receive a bankruptcy order from the courts he is qualified to run in the polls.

Zahid and his court cluster, Lim and Syed Saddiq, who are facing criminal charges in court, should also sit out this general election until they are cleared by the courts.

Should all these candidates facing court cases be found guilty or declared a bankrupt, they would have to step down and by-elections would have to be called, which is a waste of taxpayers’ money. Their political futures too would be in question.

Zahid and his court cluster and Jamal, of course, can’t be expected to conduct themselves in any better way other than the way they have conducted themselves. But opposition candidates?

It is extremely disappointing that these opposition politicians who have always held the high moral ground with regard to jailed former prime minister Najib Razak’s financial muddling, have failed to apply the same standards for themselves.

Understandably, Anwar and Lim who are at the end of their political careers can go for broke. Make it or break it. But Syed Saddiq, 29, should not jeopardize his political career by standing for election while his criminal case is ongoing. It will come back to sully his chances for a controversy-free political future.

Nobody expects Zahid, the court cluster or Jamal to set the example and pull out from the elections, being from a corrupt party, but more is expected of Anwar, Lim and Syed Saddiq unless, of course, their supporters have lowered their expectations quite drastically in favour of political expediency!

Anwar and Lim as veterans should set the example and not stand for election so that potential young, future leaders such as Syed Saddiq follow suit and step aside in order to keep their reputations intact.

The participation of the elder two in GE15 is as baffling as the silence they have maintained over the recent reports of alleged negotiations taking place between PH and Umno. The leaders of all the PH partners have noticeably not said a word on the issue.

Their silence can only mean guilt or a compromise to enable them to form a government with Umno. It is an option PH may be keeping open and one that must be made public.

Any kind of cooperation with Umno must be revealed to the voting public because, unlike all the other parties and coalitions, Umno is toxic and any alliance with it will only continue the political instability the country has been experiencing since the Sheraton Moves.

PH should not risk the political stability of the country in order to form a government with Umno with Anwar as prime minister.

Anwar recently appealed to fence-sitters to give PH a solid majority in GE15. He needs to understand that these fence-sitters are urbanites in the traditional opposition strongholds who gave their votes to PH to boot out Umno from the government in 2018. To expect them to support PH to bring Umno back into the government is to consider them fools. If, somehow, they are fooled to give their support, and after the elections find they have been played, PH can expect a defeat at their hands in subsequent elections just as they were punished in the Malacca and Johor state elections.

Happy Deepavali, folks!

May the light of Deepavali fill your celebrations with joy and good food! Prices have shot up and the economic future — like our political future — looks extremely uncertain if not actually bleak. But, for this long weekend, let’s forget about the harsh painful reality and believe that the light will break through!

So, folks, enjoy Deepavali, and may the refreshing break clear our minds and give a more insightful perspective of the options before us as we prepare to cast our votes in the general elections on Nov 19. There really is only one option: anything other than an Umno/BN-led government or any coalition government which includes Umno i.e. if you want a corruption-free government.

As Hindus celebrate the triumph of light over darkness, the rest can enjoy themselves with them and after that to be prepared for the heavy task before us to choose a corruption-free government.

Happy Deepavali! May light always triumph over darkness!