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.

Our fortunes will turn if …

I like Zunar’s latest cartoon in Malaysiakini. He draws two flights of steps on either side of the frame. On the left is Prihatin Nasional (PN) coalition leader Muhyiddin Yassin midway on the steps. On the right is the covid 19 virus also midway on the steps but with an admonishing finger at Muhyiddin and the quote written beneath: “Kalau lu tak turun, wa tak turun!” (If you don’t come down, I won’t come down!)

Zunar’s cartoon graphically says what I have always suspected but never articulated until now. Now is a good time to say it because after more than one year of lockdown we are worse off now after PN seized control of the government in February last year than before.

The poor are getting poorer. Businesses are shutting down. More people are getting mental illnesses. The Covid 19 death count remains high. People are frustrated by the continuation of an ineffective Movement Control Order. These are the facts and are daily reported in the media but the PN remains unmovable occupying a government without proving its majority.

Now, it is yet to convene a special session of Parliament before the Aug 1 deadline for the end of the emergency. Instead, PN leader Muhyiddin Yassin is hospitalised for diarrhoea and cancelled his weekly meeting with the Agong before the Wednesday Cabinet meeting. Is he really sick or is it another of his political ploys to remain in government?

The management of the pandemic has set this nation backwards, thanks to a leadership that couldn’t maintain our relatively high standing among other nations. Malaysia’s placing in the Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking in June this year is at 51 out of 53 countries ranked for progress in reopening amid the Covid-19 pandemic. We are only ahead of the Philippines and Argentina.

The World Bank on June 23 projected Malaysia’s economic growth at 4.5 % this year compared to Bank Negara Malaysia’s projected forecast of between 6 and 7%. Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz had stated on June 1 that the forecast could be lowered.

White flags are going up everywhere signalling a cry for basic essentials in a sign that the white flag movement is gaining momentum. The movement urges people to fly a white flag at their homes if they want basic essentials.

Suicide rates are going up. In a June 29 report, news portal Free Malaysia Today (FMT) quoted health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah as saying that the 336 cases of suicides in the first three months of this year was more than half of what was reported throughout 2020. In other words, there was an average of four suicides every day in the first three months of the year.

There were 84 Covid 19 deaths yesterday bringing the total death tally to 5,254 and 6,988 new cases. As of November last year, 30,000 businesses had shut down. Daily, we hear of businesses shutting down.

Just two years ago we were said to be on track to attain developed status but from the way the PN managed the pandemic we now have to stretch out our hands to get free vaccines from Japan and the US. We can’t afford to buy our own vaccines. We have become a charity case.

In other words, the PN has failed to lead Malaysia to help ourselves. We may not have hit rock bottom but we are only a short distance away.

That makes it clear that the day the PN coalition steps down from government, our fortunes will begin to change for the better. We’ll have a rightfully elected government which will have the support of the people to facilitate health and economic recovery.

Nearly at the bottom, we can only get better.

Bring down the covid 19 death tally, not play politics

I am quite stupefied at the seeming apathy and lack of ability of the “caring” Prihatin Nasional (PN) leadership in arresting the sudden steep rise in covid 19 deaths from a total of about 300 in March to more than 4,700 as of yesterday. The daily death figures keep vacillating from 60 to sometimes over 100 but the PN leadership doesn’t draw much attention to it.

On the number of times I have heard the daily covid 19 updates over the radio on the channel I turn on, there was no mention of the covid 19 death tally. Active and recovered cases are mentioned but the daily death tally is omitted.

I have no idea if all the radio stations omit the daily covid 19 death figure or if the figure was unavailable at the time of the news broadcast. Radio listeners, however, are mostly in the rural and semi-rural areas which form the backbone of PN’s voter base and I wonder if the daily covid 19 death tally, which is the best reflection of the leadership’s ability in controlling the pandemic, is not publicized in these areas. If it were, I wonder if the people there would be as docile as they are now and whether they would continue to support the PN.

The covid 19 death tally is announced by the English-speaking and urban-based media but apparently not over radio, at least not on the channel I listened to. Perhaps, the PN coalition just doesn’t want to scare off their voter base. But, isn’t giving the people correct information a mark of good government?

Right now we don’t know if the people are getting all the correct data and not just some.

In my mind, the daily death tally is key in assessing the performance of the PN coalition in effectively managing the pandemic. It should hit the panic button and motivate the leadership to go into crisis mode to come up with counter-strategies. What we see, instead, is a laissez faire attitude in managing this health crisis that is claiming more lives with every passing day.

Instead, the PN is more interested in giving jobs to Umno members to ensure their support in the event of a no-confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat or a vote to pass the Budget. Why do we want a leadership that gives priority to staying in power over controlling the covid 19 pandemic?

In all clear conscience, should such a leadership remain in power? If it can not arrest the death toll, it must step down — soon, so that a better leadership can take over and deliver what it couldn’t.

We will be risking our lives to covid 19 if the PN is allowed to lead this country in the current crisis. PN may think that accelerating the vaccination rate may solve the problem. That is a short-sighted solution because vaccinated individuals can be carriers and spread the virus to those not vaccinated. Since we just started expediting vaccination, there are still millions not vaccinated and they are all at risk of getting covid 19.

This crisis demands expert attention and swift solutions and the question on everyone’s mind is whether PN can deliver or will it continue to play politics and keep the people at risk to covid 19?

Apparently, this pandemic is going to be with us for a long time. In a recent Reuters report, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that those vaccinated, especially the elderly, will need booster shots annually for protection against variants. Is the PN coalition ready to manage the covid 19 pandemic in the long haul? Can it generate enough funds to pay for vaccines annually? Does it have the ability to control future outbreaks or prevent them from happening so that economic recovery can take place unobstructed?

If the PN was unable to be proactive and control the pandemic so that the new surge of cases did not result in such a suddenly large number of deaths, it is doubtful it can lead this country safely through this pandemic.

In the current political situation, the solution is a National Operations Council (NOC) to effectively manage the crisis without political interference. If it really cares for the well-being of this nation, PN will step down and let the NOC give full attention to controlling the pandemic and then to facilitate economic recovery.

The political temperature will come drastically down and we give top priority to addressing the covid 19 pandemic. It’s as simple as that. One need not be an expert to figure that out.

Tun’s NOC idea may be the much-needed solution

I have changed my mind. In my last post I said reconvening Parliament was a more urgently needed democratic priority than former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s idea of a National Operations Council (NOC) to solve the current political impasse. I now strongly believe that Tun’s plan may work and bring about the resolution all of us want.

There is only one reason — I emphasize “one” — why I believe that the NOC will solve the current political problem. Of all the criticisms levelled at him and the suggestions made in public debates, Prihatin Nasional (PN) coalition leader Muhyiddin Yasin reacted only to one — Tun’s NOC plan. All others he has ignored. That suggests that Muhyiddin regards the NOC as a threat to his and PN’s survival. He dismissed it immediately through his principal private secretary, Marzuki Mohamad, who posted on Facebook why the NOC was “not suitable” to fight the covid 19 pandemic and revive the economy.

That reaction by Muhyiddin says that he sees the NOC as the only threat to PN’s survival. He was threatened enough to react to it. The reason should be obvious. The Agong alone can install the NOC and the unofficial prime minister will be able to do nothing about it.

The reconvening of Parliament, however, is in Muhyiddin’s hands. He can abide by the Agong’s call to reconvene Parliament but he can take his time about it. That’s the strategy he is employing now to prolong his stay in government.

Reconvening Parliament is no threat to him for two reasons. Firstly, he can push any no- confidence vote to the bottom of the agenda and it will not see the light of day. He wins; PN remains in government. Secondly, no group of MPs can form a majority coalition which means even if there’s a vote on his Budget, it will be passed. He wins; PN remains in government.

But a NOC? He has no control over! If it is set up, Muhyiddin and PN must step down. The Agong can dismiss him and his Cabinet as summarily as they were installed.

It would be a very good idea for PKR, the DAP, Amanah and Warisan to reach out to Tun to work with him on the NOC proposal and to present a united stand on managing the covid 19 pandemic through the NOC to the Agong. Other party members who are willing to forget about party affiliations can join in the effort. The NOC’s brief must be specific: To manage the covid 19 pandemic and facilitate economic recovery.

The NOC must also have an expiry date — six to eight months — with the possibility of an extension. The expiry date must not go beyond the date for the next general election, on or before 16 September 2023. If the pandemic is controlled, snap elections can be called before that or the Pakatan Harapan (PH) Plus government minus Bersatu — because it betrayed the PH — or any other temporary form of government can be installed by the Agong to govern until the next elections.

The terms of reference must be clearly spelt out to everyone’s satisfaction, even with regard to the prime minister’s candidacy. Tun has declared he doesn’t want to be PM again so, Anwar may get his chance finally.

Tun may be open to work with his former PH partners if Anwar abandons plans to form an alliance with the court cluster in Umno. It would be better for PKR because PKR will lose much support if it allies itself with the court cluster in Umno.

Muhyiddin is hoping that Selangor’s daily high number of active cases will come down to justify exiting his covid 19 plan on the basis that it worked. That belies the reality. Selangor is the only state that is implementing aggressive testing so naturally the figures will be high. Because it started earlier, its figures may eventually drop, by Muhyiddin’s estimation in September so that he can call for Parliament then to pass the Budget. Again, that’s his strategy to prolong his stay in power.

However, it is not known if all the other states are also aggressively testing for covid 19 cases to flush out the spreaders and isolate them. If they are not, and Muhyiddin exits the covid 19 plan, the pandemic would not be controlled. There may be future breakouts which will have to be dealt with with more MCOs which will disrupt the economy. In other words, Muhyiddin’s strategy is to extend PN’s tenure in government without resolving the covid 19 crisis and that will take this nation downhill.

That is the most logical and powerful justification for a NOC, which Tun has now renamed as the National Rehabilitative Council. Any policy to control the covid 19 pandemic must involve nationwide aggressive testing, contact tracing and supportive hospital care, vaccination and cooperation from both the public and private sectors. The figures will be initially high but as testing eventually eases, the figures will drop, including the death tally.

If the NOC succeeds — and it can — the NOC members would prove to the people that they have their interests at heart and that will work in their favour in a general election.

There is no time to lose. The former PH Plus partners and others need to come together to present a strong case to the Agong to set up Tun’s National Rehabilitative Council as a well-thought of concerted joint effort in bringing the covid 19 pandemic under control. They should not miss this opportunity.

No choice but to reconvene Parliament

So, the political circus has begun. The Agong is on a round of meetings with the leaders of political parties. There is some talk that Prihatin Nasional (PN) leader Muhyiddin Yassin is stepping down, that Sembrong MP (Umno) Hishamuddin Hussein currently in the former’s Cabinet may take over and MPs are frantically making statutory declarations to get positions in government.

A buzz of political activity! How, in any way, is this helping the people and more urgently providing a solution to arrest the high covid-19 death toll? Zilch! Zero effect!

What the people are seeing are simply politicians running around like headless chicken.

The reason why we are having covid-19 active cases and a death tally dangerously hovering at the cusp of a collapsed health system is because of a lack of top leadership. The recent surge in covid-19 cases hitting South Asian nations isn’t anyone’s fault; it’s the way the covid-19 virus is spreading. But the way each nation is managing it is a reflection of the abilities of the national leadership. In this respect Malaysia has performed dismally because our death toll rose swiftly steeply from around 300 in March this year to over 3,500 in just three months as of today.

This is a clear indication that the PN leadership has failed in effectively managing the covid-19 pandemic, for which it must hold itself responsible and step down.

In the face of that possibility, politicians are going beserk to see who and how they can take over. My two-bit, no body’s advice: Please stop the politicking and look to the federal constitution on the democratic ways to solve this problem.

One of the reasons why the PN has failed to control the spread of covid-19 in the country is because it is unable to get the support of the people. It’s surprising that a Malay-majority coalition touting itself as representative of the Malay majority can’t move its support base to abide by the Movement Control Order (MCO) and get vaccinated. That’s a reflection of an unable leadership.

The people apparently recognize double standards and have lost confidence in the leadership. This is also proof that an unelected government will never be able to get the voluntary support of the people. Most importantly, it shows a huge disconnect between the leaders and the people which the PN has failed to bridge.

If Muhyiddin refuses to call for the reconvening of Parliament, a National Operations Council (NOC) may seem like a solution in that all the excess fat of a 70-member Cabinet will be chopped off under a tight national leadership which will eliminate bickering among politicians as well, and the council can get down to the sole business of controlling the pandemic.

The NOC may work, but, I believe, Malaysian politicians need to learn and be trained to operate within the ambit of the federal constitution instead of finding solutions according to political expediency or practical real exigencies. The NOC is a practical solution but it won’t help to ingrain this very urgently needed characteristic of operating by the law among local politicians.

The solution is to return to Parliament. The strident calls and urgent clamour from across the nation must be to lift emergency and reconvene Parliament immediately.

Muhyiddin needs to advise the Agong on this immediately. He can no longer wait. And he must face a no-confidence vote because that is the requirement in a democratic country practising the government system of parliamentary democracy.

It may seem as if the Opposition is in disarray and a significant majority coalition is not evident. That should not be the reason why a no-confidence vote should not be called. Muhyiddin’s coalition has lost the confidence of the people and his leadership or the lack of it has become a liability to the nation. It’s untenable for him to remain in power.

Without a choice being presented to them, MPs may not choose decisively. But, when a choice is given in the form of a no-confidence vote, they will have no choice but to act decisively. This is how the federal constitution forces the MPs to act according to the law and our MPs need to demonstrate strict compliance with the federal constitution.

If Muhyiddin refuses to reconvene Parliament immediately it would be seen as a wilful action on his part to prevent resolution of the leadership issue and at the cost of more lives. If Muhyiddin wishes to salvage his reputation as a man of integrity, he will reconvene Parliament immediately and face a no-confidence vote.

A way out for Bersatu

Surely, Prihatin Nasional (PN) head Muhyiddin Yassin must be considering options for the survival of his party. If PN continues in government, Muhyiddin faces the prospects of losing the support of his voter base due to public frustration and loss of confidence in his leadership in the face of the steeply rising daily active covid 19 cases and death count.

He may be tempted to resign which he mustn’t do now. If he resigns, his Cabinet resigns with him but the coalition doesn’t and coalition partners Umno and PAS — which still maintain their Muafakat Nasional pact — may decide to work out a deal and with royal approval take over the government as PN did when it wrested power from the elected Pakatan Harapan (PH) rightful government. And, they will claim it is constitutional as Muhyiddin did. A political upheaval during these trying times should be avoided at all cost.

To prevent Umno from seizing power, there’s only one option left for Muhyiddin: Reconvene Parliament and face a no-confidence vote. If he wins it, he earns the right to lead the government. If he loses, it means the coalition — not just the Bersatu-led Cabinet — falls and it paves the way for the formation of a unity government, which will allow for a reset to start all over again on the right footing on constitutional grounds in the Dewan Rakyat. Political stability is maintained.

In other words, the current conflict between Bersatu and Umno and the issue of the legitimacy of the PN will be resolved in Parliament once and for all. The reset will take politics back to alignment with the federal constitution with the MPs deciding on the prime minister of the unity government who will form the unity Cabinet.

A unity government will not overnight bring down the covid 19 active cases and death figures nor bring about immediate economic recovery. But it will have ministers with skills, abilities and some experience to lay a strong groundwork for the quickest turnaround.

This is an issue that needs to be addressed urgently and immediately and Muhyiddin should not drag his feet in allowing for an alternative — even if it only has a slim chance to better manage the covid 19 crisis and economic recovery — to happen, because lives will be saved.

If he chooses to remain in government, waiting for the rise in covid 19 cases to peak and then fall, the damage would be done. The voters will not forget their loss and grief. It would also be clear to them that his motive is for personal gain rather than the good of the people. Muhyiddin’s and Bersatu’s political future would be at risk.

If — for the good of the nation — Muhyiddin reconvenes Parliament, faces a no-confidence vote, and even if he loses the premiership, Bersatu stands a chance to remain a viable party.

Because the covid 19 crisis is heading for a state when the public health system collapses, it is imperative that Muhyiddin seizes the opportunity Parliament offers for an alternative government to better manage the pandemic and the economy.

I believe a unity government formed in the Dewan Rakyat will succeed and benefit the people. Muhyiddin can make it happen — if he reconvenes Parliament.

I hope he does. He’ll save his party and the country.

Be accountable to the people and reconvene Parliament

Pasir Salak MP (Umno) Tajuddin Abdul Rahman was sacked as Prasarana Malaysia Bhd chairman following a morning press conference after a collision involving two LRT trains on the night of May 24 in which more than 200 were injured, some of them critically. At the press conference, he flippantly referred to the accident as “two trains kissing”. He was fired immediately.

Ultimately, it is the government of the day which is responsible for the heads of government-linked companies (GLCs) and in this case, to most peoples’ relief, the Prihatin Nasional (PN) coalition in government acted swiftly and decisively. Questions, however, remain as to whether the finance minister acted according to the constitution.

Those are similar questions we ask about the legitimacy of the PN leadership in the seat of government. The way PN seized power, introduced emergency and suspended Parliament and the state assemblies, demand close scrutiny as to whether they followed the spirit and intent of the federal constitution. Constitutional “irregularities” are greater offences than an uncouth village idiot’s crass insensitivity and callous indifference to human suffering. Yet, the PN remains in the government seat while Tajuddin has been booted out.

No doubt, held accountable, the government acted to dismiss an errant appointment. But who is the PN leadership accountable to? The king? Apparently no, because the king has stated he has no issue with calling for Parliament but PN head Muhyiddin Yassin has refused to comply. Accountable to the people? Apparently no, because at a press conference last week on the sickeningly rising daily numbers of covid-19 cases and deaths, he simply said on national TV, “Call me stupid PM, but ….. ” and in effect left it to the people to handle the pandemic on their own!

Muhyiddin appeared as if threw up his hands in despair in the face of a health disaster and left it to the people to fend for themselves. Isn’t that an abdication of responsibility? Coming from a caring coalition?

Apparently Muhyiddin is accountable to no one, not even to the constitution. Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad described it aptly when he said that Muhyiddin “was above the federal constitution and all laws”!

Muhyiddin’s inconsistencies — intentional or otherwise — are greater in significance than petty Tajuddin’s thoughtlessness. Yet he continues to remain in government with impunity.

Today’s covid-19 cases crossed the 8,000 mark and registered 8,290 after three days in the 7,000 range. Today’s death tally was 61. The reason for the steeply rising covid-19 figures is largely due to the poor management of the pandemic and Muhyiddin has to assume responsibility for it. If the pandemic was well managed, the figures wouldn’t be rising so quickly and steeply. Look at Singapore’s well-managed pandemic. It recorded 26 new cases yesterday and the total deaths are only 32.

The people who are suffering most are mostly in the rural and semi-rural areas, which is the support base of PN MPs. Vaccination is picking up in the urban areas but vaccine hesitancy is a major issue in the rural areas. Kedah and Kelantan recorded 10,000 who missed their vaccination appointments.

The health, economic and political prospects look so bleak that a PN MP (Umno) Deputy Speaker Azalina Othman has called for a unity government to take over. It’s a very good idea but the issue of the prime minister would still be a problem.

A better idea would be to reconvene Parliament where the unity government can be discussed and agreed upon constitutionally. A unity government would allow for the entire country to be mobilized to fight the covid-19 pandemic.

Muhyiddin needs to realise that opposition parties have a diversity of resources and when summoned for the collective good will yield favourable results. PN’s MCA, MIC, PBS and STAR do not have the majority support of their respective communities. They only have one MP in each party. But, DAP, PKR, Warisan, Amanah and Pejuang have majority support in their constituencies and will be able to wield influence to move the grassroots and economic communities to win support for the vaccination programme and arrest the pandemic.

A unity government will be able to move the masses even under a full-force lockdown, which has been announced today from June 1 to 14.

If Muhyiddin refuses to get the help of Parliament, he will be held responsible for the current trajectory we are on. If an election is held in the future it would be political suicide for him and Bersatu.

If “as prime minister”, he truly cares for this country, he should reconvene Parliament and the state assemblies and facilitate the formation of a unity government in the Dewan Rakyat in order to save the country.

Let’s get our own house in order first

I can understand many Malaysians’ anger at Israeli aggression and their heartfelt support for the Palestinians’ desire for nationhood. Any rational and reasonable person anywhere in the world would feel the same. What I don’t get is why Malaysians don’t express the same intensity of emotion when it comes to abuses at home.

Israel’s justification for its actions is self defence. That’s a fair position but when it has to be achieved at the expense of Palestinians’ rights, it becomes an untenable position. No doubt the issue is not as simple as Palestinian rights vs Israel’s rights.

The West Bank and Gaza, which are inhabited by the Palestinians, are controlled by the Hezbollah and Hamas respectively and both are supported by Iran. There are legitimate concerns to ensure that these two areas are not used by Iran to train its guns on Israel or turned into a battleground for a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia as is happening in Yemen in the effort of both countries to assert their influence in the Middle East.

The Palestinian-Israel issue is a complex one and to understand it for a real solution one needs to consider the roles Iran and Saudi Arabia play in the Middle East as well. The Internet is full of information on the complexities of the Middle-East and anyone who is truly interested in it can easily get all the information they need. My point here is not to discuss the Palestinian issue but to use it as a backdrop for what’s happening here in Malaysia.

Many of Israel’s actions may be seen as violations of international laws and the human and democratic rights of the Palestinians. But Israel does not see its actions as violations but as necessary acts of self defence. It is a stand similarly taken by the Prihatin Nasional (PN) coalition. PN is an unelected, self-appointed coalition in government without the mandate of the people.

Malaysia under the PN coalition has abandoned democratic principles. It has enforced emergency to rule by decree, not by the mandate of the people, and has suspended Parliament.

In that sense, how is the PN any different from Israel? Or Myanmar or Thailand? Like Israel, the leaders of these nations have interpreted the laws of their respective countries and human rights in a way that justifies their action to seize power and to remain in government. Like Israel, they don’t see what they are doing as wrong.

So, if Malaysians are quick to see the wrong of Israel, why don’t they as swiftly see the wrong of the PN coalition in justifying themselves according to their own interpretation of the Federal Constitution? Why this seeming silence? Only the Opposition protests and a small number of people. But the majority seem to be accommodating the PN coalition.

If something like the Sheraton Move and the coup that followed took place in Indonesia, Indonesians — like the Myanmarese — would have spilled on to the streets by the thousands and demanded the restoration of democracy. But, Malaysians? We make a lot of noise when it comes to another nation or a Muslim nation but remain coy and tolerating of constitutional infringements in our own country.

We need to get our own house in order first. Then, we can confidently go to the rescue of another nation in the spirit of solidarity. We need to fight for our rights of self-determination through the democratic processes and demand that these processes are complied with with the strictest of commitment. When we have succeeded, we can speak up for other nations and we will be heard and respected!

I hope our fighters are in hiding rather than not being in existence and will come out when the current surge of covid 19 subsides! There must be a nationwide cry to restore Parliament and the democratic processses. If democracy is what we want then we should be willing to fight for it. We should no longer trust the leaders to make decisions on who should rule but demand the restoration of democratic processes and rule by the mandate of the people.

Malaysians, let’s fight to get our house in order first.

Selamat stay-at-home Hari Raya!

Stay home, folks! Make yourselves comfortable, enjoy home-cooked food, those close around you and feasting at home!

The pandemic constrains our movements but not our relationships and that can be enjoyed together where ever we are. If caught by the movement order and you can’t go home, don’t fret. Stay where you, cook at home or have food delivered to you, watch a lot of TV and online movies or play indoor games and stay connected with family, friends and neighbours!

It can be fun! And it would only be for a short while if we stay home and beat the pandemic. It’s doubtful if we will ever be rid of the covid-19 virus, but if we can bring it to a manageable level, we can get back to normal. How soon we do that depends on how disciplined we are in following SOPs and getting vaccinated.

Much also depends on a capable national leadership to enforce the SOPs, accelerate the vaccination programme and initiate economic recovery. A fumbling flip-flppping leadership will be the major reason if we fail to bring the pandemic down to manageable levels now.

After Raya, it will become immediately urgent to assess the performance of the national leadership and the people should express themselves loudly and vehemently as to exactly what they want of the leadership.

For the moment, though, enjoy the festive occasion! Selamat Hari Raya!