Tag Archives: Agong

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.

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.

Muhyiddin’s political misadventures continue …

First, in February 2020, we had a coup when Muhyiddin Yassin became prime minister when the Agong swore him into the position although Muhyiddin’s coalition did not have a majority. Now we have another coup as Muhyiddin’s Prihatin Nasional minority government is recognised as the government of the day when the Agong acceded to the prime minister’s request to declare an emergency.

According to the details of the Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance 2021 made public by the Attorney-General’s Chambers today and reported by Malaysiakini, it is to be applied retroactively from Jan 11, 2021.  Malaysiakini also reported that “for so long as the emergency is in force, the prime minister and the cabinet existing immediately prior to the issuance of the Proclamation of Emergency on Jan 11, 2021 have been conferred executive functions and shall continue to exercise the executive authority of the federation”.

There you have it! Through a declaration of an emergency, Muhyiddin has ensured that his minority PN government will continue to govern until he decides to end it. What is the significance of this? With Parliament suspended, Muhyiddin gets sweeping powers without the checks and balances of Parliament.

Muhyiddin said the emergency declaration was sought to give the government more powers to combat the third wave of covid 19. His motives, however, remain unclear. Is he trying to manage the health problem or save his PN government? His actions, however, raise more questions than provide solutions.

On Jan 9, Machang MP Ahmad Jazlan Yaakub (Umno) withdrew his support for Muhyiddin’s government leaving the latter with only 110 MPs. That was exactly 50% of the 220 lawmakers that make up the Dewan Rakyat. 50% is not a majority but technically the PN coalition was still the leading coalition, albeit a minority one.

Suddenly a minority unelected government — even if it’s the biggest minority component — with what authority did Muhyiddin seek an audience with the Agong as the head of government without first resigning? An even more important question is why did the Agong entertain and accommodate the head of a minority coalition and accorded it the status of a government without the former resigning first?

Isn’t that how a parliamentary democracy works? When the ruling coalition loses its majority, it must resign first. The leader of that coalition then tells the Agong that it has lost its majority and resigns. The Agong then may ask him to seek a majority. If the leader fails, he goes back to say so to the Agong who then seeks the next coalition who he thinks has a majority. When all the coalitions fail to get a majority, the Agong is free to appoint a minority coalition who he thinks may have the majority and appoint the leader as PM.

This is the democratic process. Why did Muhyiddin fail to follow it?

An honourable leader committed to parliamentary democracy will first resign. He will not seek to continue to govern as if he has the right to govern when he has lost a majority.

Muhyiddin announced a return of the Movement Control Order (MCO) on Monday, Jan 11. On Tuesday morning, Jan 12, he announced a nationwide state of emergency. Later in the day, Padang Rengas MP Nazri Aziz (Umno) announced that he has withdrawn support for Muhyiddin. The PN government now only has 109 MPs, clearly no longer a majority.

Why didn’t Muhyiddin resign when he clearly lost the majority in the Dewan Rakyat? Instead, and, today, Friday, three days later the Attorney-General’s Chambers makes public the Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance 202 that retroactively recognises the PN government from prior to Jan 11 by fiat.

Does this show an effort to curb the covid 19 pandemic or that Muhyiddin used the royal institution and the advantage of being the incumbent government to enforce emergency for political purposes?

At the least, Muhyiddin’s actions show a leadership lacking in confidence in using the skills and resources at its disposal to manage a national crisis. The covid 19 pandemic is no doubt a threat to the nation but it isn’t a runaway health problem as it is in the United States or UK or France or Brazil that it requires emergency powers to deal with.

The US recorded 22.4 million cases and 373,000 deaths (WHO statistics) in comparison to Malaysia’s 147,855 cases and 578 deaths (Star Online). The US hasn’t declared an emergency but we with much, much lower figures have. This only shows the PN leadership does not have crisis management skills and instead of resigning and letting others who have take over, it is hanging on to power.

Malaysia’s covid 19 cases are high with most of its cases coming from Selangor. But former health minister Dzulkefly Ahmad who now leads the Selangor Task Force for Covid-19 said in December that cases were expected to rise because of aggressive testing in the state, especially mandatory testing of foreign workers.

In a Malay Mail report on Dec 12, 2020, Dulkefly said that the high numbers should instead be viewed as the efficacy of the additional testing in weeding out Covid-19 cases that would otherwise not have been detected. Discovering and isolating such cases was crucial in order to contain the pandemic, he added.

It was a similar strategy that Singapore used during the first MCO in March last year. While our daily figures were in low triple digits for cases and double digits for fatalities, Singapore’s figures were shooting into four-digits. But, a year later its figures are much lower than Malaysia’s at 58,946 cases and 29 deaths (WHO statistics). Its cases are classified as sporadic while ours are classified as clusters.

Apparently, Singapore’s strategy worked. Their leaders trusted their health professionals and when figures were rising supported the health system solidly without panicking and resorting to extreme measures that ours have.

The fact that Muhyiddin has resorted to relying on an emergency is clearly an admission that his health policies have failed. By refusing to resign although his PN coalition is now a minority, he has created a constitutional crisis. Thanks to his leadership, we now have to deal with a health and a constitutional crisis. We can’t continue to have such leadership.

The Opposition needs to wake up to the options available to them now. It’s not enough for Pakatan Harapan leader Anwar Ibrahim to call on the MPs to call on the Agong to rescind the emergency order. As Opposition leader, he has every right to seek an audience with the Agong to say that the PN government is a minority government and should resign and that the Agong should facilitate the process of finding a majority government.

The Opposition needs to take the bull by the horns. Perhaps, seek the advice of former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad on how to handle this situation. We no longer want backdoor governments. We want constitutionally approved governments and we want to see Opposition leaders demonstrate a better leadership than what we are seeing in the PN government in restoring parliamentary democracy.

Enough of talking. Make it happen.