Tag Archives: dewan rakyat

Playing nice at the Dewan Rakyat, but is it effective?

Recently, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob commented on how “calm” and “respectful” the Dewan Negara proceedings have become. He attributed it to the MoE signed between his government and Pakatan Harapan (PH). Yes, the Dewan Rakyat has become a tame affair, but how effective is that?

When RSN Rayer (Harapan-Jelutong) asked Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (BN-Bagan Datuk) if he has offshore accounts based in the British Virgin Island as revealed by the Pandora Papers and whether he intends to bring the money back to Malaysia, Zahid gave a lengthy account and said “do not assume that I was trying to run away from being taxed”.

Rayer tried to press the issue but was told by Speaker Azhar Azizan Harun that Zahid did not allow any more interruptions. Zahid then told Rayer that he could discuss this with Zahid in the canteen.

Is it Azhar’s role to speak on behalf of Zahid as if he were the latter’s counsel? As a Speaker his job is to moderate the debate and facilitate an exchanged of arguments no matter how heated the debate becomes. Azhar didn’t do that and instead discouraged the line of questioning by Rayer.

He was “playing nice” but the public are now deprived of an answer to Rayer’s question. We don’t know if Zahid has paid taxes or not. The public have a right to know if Zahid’s account was legally sourced and taxes duly paid. This is of public interest and not a personal matter that can be settled in a canteen. But the Speaker blocked the debate and now the public doesn’t know.

Is this what Ismail means by a calm and respectful Dewan Rakyat? The absence of debate with everyone playing nice by asking polite questions and getting polite answers so that government MPs can get away with whatever they are up to without being pressed further and badgered for an explanation?

In a latter session, PKR president and Port Dickson MP Anwar Ibrahim asked the government to expedite the introduction of reforms as according to the MoE, saying that the progress was “slow and deliberately delayed”. But, there was no response from the government side.

So, the people don’t know if the government is serious about fulfilling its end of the MoE or whether PH has been played.

What kind of Dewan Rakyat is this? There is no sensible and intelligent debate. No understanding of how MPs operate — sometimes belligerently when the interests of their constituents are at stake and they angrily demand explanations. Govt MPs should not feel cowed when a confident query is made. That’s part of the debate. They should respond with equal confidence. If they are unable then it’s time they learn and acquire the skills for public debate and rise up to the challenge, not protect themselves with rules and a pact!

The Dewan Rakyat is not a press conference where the government presents its information and then seeks polite questions. Pressing a point with more questions and demanding explanations are the rights of an MP. That’s how checks and balances are executed — not through polite questions and answers as in a press conference.

It’s no wonder that the DAP’s Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh questioned in the Dewan Rakyat if Parliament was now a reading class. “This is a reading class, right? All (the ministers and deputies) came here to read,” she said in reference to government MPs who were reading their answers from prepared scripts.

What has the Dewan Rakyat achieved from playing nice? Zilch. The public is still in the dark about what the current government does.

Government MPs should start practising the art of public debate and stop expecting everyone else to play nice so that their lacks are not exposed and they can remain in government unopposed.

Dewan Rakyat doing its bit, thanks to Saddiq

Even though we have an unconstitutional government, Parliament is carrying on and some good seems to be coming from it. Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced on Wednesday that all ministers have been instructed to present a 100-day in office report card to the public.

His announcement came a day after Muar MP Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman revealed in the Dewan Rakyat that ministers could earn around RM100,000 a month in salary and entitlements. A minister’s salary is RM55,000 a month plus a slew of additional income in the form of a luxurious house in Putrajaya, cars, drivers, and daily meal expenses that can be claimed back.

In addition ministers also get a gratuity of RM 1 million to RM 2 million depending on their length of service as MPs.

If the 100-day report card was instructed in response to Saddiq’s expose in the Dewan Rakyat, that means the Dewan Rakyat is working and Saddiq is doing his job! His expose is now putting the spotlight on ministers and why they are earning so much when the government is supposed to be cash-strapped as claimed by the previous Prihatin Nasional (PN) government.

Yet, the PN government spent RM38.5 million on renovations on Seri Perdana, the prime minister’s residence. Both former premier Muhyiddin Yassin and Sabri explained in reply to a written query by Datuk Mahfuz Omar (PH-Pokok Sena) that the renovations were due to faulty wiring and tarnished furnishings and that there was a need to undertake the renovations as Seri Perdana was also the venue to welcome foreign dignitaries.

So, how many foreign dignitaries did the prime ministers welcome at Seri Perdana during this pandemic period?

This is unnecessary spending just as a bloated 70-member Cabinet’s individual minister’s monthly earnings of about RM100,000 is needless expenditure during this pandemic when what really is there for ministers to do?

Taxpayers whose annual earnings have been curtailed by the pandemic are expected to keep supporting these ministers whose only job is to warm their seats?

Is Sabri’s intention to embarrass his ministers? What are they going to say on the report card? That there was nothing much to do because of the pandemic or cook up a list by hook or crook?

This is yet another poorly thought-through idea to appease public opinion, particularly that of the Malay electorate. It’s no wonder that Sabri acted. A fallout of Malay public opinion can be expected.

Wouldn’t it be better to just cut down the Cabinet to the barest minimum? That’s the smart thing to do but it is doubtful that Sabri would do the smart thing because he needs the votes of his ministers to justify remaining in government.

Apart from the vaccination programme, which is nothing more than the continuation of the previous PN government’s policy, what can the majority of the ministers do during a pandemic? So, taxpayers must foot the bill to keep redundant ministers in their positions to prevent the Sabri government from falling?

Apparently, they need a lot of money to do so. And it looks like they plan to get the money through debts. The Finance Ministry announced yesterday that the government would be tabling a motion on raising its statutory debt limit from 60 percent to 65 percent of gross domestic product “given the need for spending flexibility during this unprecedented pandemic crisis”.

More debts and the taxpayer pays. It will be interesting to see how the people will benefit when the Budget is presented in the Dewan Rakyat next month.

My conclusion: Don’t expect anything; It’ll be the same old same old!

Show your courage, call for a confidence vote now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conservatives or progressives? Which side to choose?

All of a sudden Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has turned “religious”. In his policy speech at the third annual general meeting of Bersatu, the party president said that it was “God’s will” that Bersatu and the two other Malay-based parties, Umno and PAS, came together to form Prihatin Nasional. The same point was echoed by his Senior Minister Azmin Ali in an interview he gave to The Star last Sunday.

Well, I could have explained to both of them the reason why these parties came together without bringing God into the picture! The answer is simply birds of a feather flock together. Umno was thrown out of government in the last general elections. PAS, by virtue of its extreme Islamic beliefs, is marginalised. Bersatu is a minority party leading the government. All three saw in Muhyiddin’s misadventure an opportunity to get into the government and coming from a common background found it convenient to band together.

What has God got to do with this? This is base greed for power. The fact that the Bersatu leaders expressed their religious sentiments is not the issue of contention here. What is of concern is that they refuse to see their actions as plain basic human nature and are hiding behind this notion of “God’s will” because then they don’t have to assume responsibility for undertaking an unconstitutional coup.

Muhyiddin, of course, is playing to the gallery as appealing to Muslim-Malay characteristics and unity resonate with his Malay support base. That is a political ploy and it should be seen for what it really is — cleverly crafted words aimed at winning support and deflecting attention from the legitimacy of the PN government.

It also shows the direction in which the Prime Minister is leading the PN government — a step towards conservatism.  Like it or not the PN is a conservative coalition. Its parties range from the less conservative — like Umno — to the far-right radically Islamic — like PAS. Bersatu is somewhere in between. PN upholds the conservative agenda of race, religion and royalty and, under the PN leadership, we can expect these to be reinforced and strengthened.

If the PN government were conservative but respects the parliamentary democracy we practice and abides by it, it can be accepted as an alternative coalition but up to now, we don’t see it upholding the constitution.  Instead, it is apparent that it is bypassing the Dewan Rakyat or, at least, diminishing its relevance to legitimising a government.

Already, we are witnessing more and more conservative positions being expressed in the public domain with little dissent. The PN government was aided to function without legitimacy from the Dewan Rakyat. The previously elected Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat was dismissed and replaced with an unelected Speaker ignoring questions on the constitutionality of the decision.

A PN MP freely puts down other religions in the Dewan Rakyat such as the comment that the Christian Bible is altered and just recently the same PAS MP made the ridiculous call to term the US a “terrorist country”. Such comments are akin to hate speech and should never be uttered but the PAS MP gets away with it.

In Kedah, a Hindu temple is demolished for being “illegal” when its history shows it was built with approval. According to coalition partner MIC, the Kedah Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor (PAS assemblyman) made a unilateral decision without consulting with the MIC as agreed upon under a prior arrangement. MIC deputy president and Human Resources Minister M Saravanan said that Sanusi had broken his promise.

Should that surprise anyone? When dealing with a conservative coalition or an ultra radically Islamic party one can expect multi-culturalism and the progressive policies of peaceful and respectful co-existence and modernization to take a backseat to religious, race and royal priorities.

Clearly, knowingly or unknowingly, the PN government is pushing forward a conservative agenda. Allowing this coalition to govern will inevitably lead to a course backwards not forwards.

That’s the sole reason why PN allies such as the MIC, MCA and Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) need to rethink their participation in this coalition. Will a conservative agenda protect their interests or sacrifice them in the name of race, religion and royalty?

There are also liberals and progressives in PN. If the conservatives who carry the majority of the votes become stronger — they will if they continue to stay in power — will the voices of the liberals and progressives be heard or drowned?

MIC, MCA and PBS and the non-conservatives within PN need to understand that the issue before the Dewan Rakyat with regard to Budget 2021 isn’t about partisan politics. It is an issue of voting for conservatism or progress. The former would mean strengthening the institutions of race, religion and royalty on which the PN came to power which consequently would lead to the weakening of parliamentary democracy in the country.

If they favour progress, then they should choose a course of action which upholds parliamentary democracy which would take this nation forwards, not backwards. They need to keep this in mind when they make a final vote after the third reading of Budget 2021 in the current Dewan Rakyat session.

If the Opposition will unite as a single bloc and stand up for a division vote after the third reading of the Budget, who knows, it may inspire the liberals and progressives in the PN to vote with them. It will be a vote for progress, not regress, cutting across party lines.

The Budget may be defeated and cause the fall of the PN government because MPs chose parliamentary democracy over the parochial agenda of race, religion and royalty.

Vote to save parliamentary democracy

Federal Territories minister Annuar Musa’s recent directive reveals his ability level. In an effort to help the rakyat, Annuar announced that petty traders could set up shop anywhere in the Federal Territory. He may be well-intentioned but is it an effective plan that will bring about the desired results?

Did he consider zoning, hygiene and housing by-laws and what implications and restrictions they would place on petty traders? Or, was his plan to waive all these restrictions which were set up to develop the city in a well-planned organised way for the sake of the rakyat?

If so, it would be another example of how ministers are prepared to compromise existing laws in order to “help the poor rakyat”. Is this rule of law or abuse of powers? I suppose he is following in the example of his friend and boss Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin who also compromised the rules of parliamentary democracy and seized power through a coup and stubbornly continues to govern without seeking legitimacy from the Dewan Rakyat.

They justify breaking the rules in the name of helping the rakyat but is the rakyat being helped?

Consider again Annuar’s plan for petty traders. The Federal Territory is a red zone and people can’t move from the red zone to the green zone or vice versa under the covid-19 pandemic map. So, who will be patronising these petty traders? They would have spent money setting up shop but the cost wouldn’t warrant the low volume of customers. So, would this plan help the petty traders apart from risking the further spread of covid-19?

Did Annuar think through his plan or in the typical fashion of leaders of his type announce a half-baked plan that gives no real benefit to the people, and in the process demonstrate his competency level?

This from a man who is being touted as a future deputy prime minister or even prime minister? If ever he attains these positions, we will have plenty of white elephants — taxpayers’ money generously spent which doesn’t deliver real benefits to the people!

Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz’s Budget presentation is another example. The fact that the Budget puts cash in the hands of the people in the current economic crisis caused by the covid-19 pandemic is not an issue. The government is expected to do that in a lockdown such as this. All the governments of the world do the same.

What is disconcerting is the manner in which Zafrul sought passage of the Budget in the Dewan Rakyat. He appealed to the MPs to heed the advice of the Agong and pass the Budget.  Instead, shouldn’t he have appealed to the MPs to vote for the Budget based on its strengths? The fact that he didn’t do that reveals his lack of confidence in his own Budget and he invoked the authority of the Agong.

Does he not know that the Dewan Rakyat is the supreme lawmaking body in the country and that MPs are free to vote in any way they believe is best on behalf of the people?

The Budget has received many criticisms and these have been well-debated and reported in the media so I won’t go into it except to say that it is more an election Budget rather than a Budget to combat the covid-19 pandemic and aid in economic recovery.

Again, a minister in the PN government compromised the intent and spirit of the constitution in putting a constraint on MPs when he has no constitutional right to do so just so that the Budget is passed, which would mean that the government would not fall.

It’s the same lack of confidence Muhyiddin showed in seeking emergency powers from the Agong to postpone the Batu Sapi parliamentary elections. All the parties concerned have announced that they would not be contesting the seat leaving Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan) to defend it. Independents may want to contest and submit their applications on nomination day. Even if they did, campaigning would be greatly reduced due to the absence of the main players and SOP can be fully enforced which means the by-election will not create a sudden rise in covid-19 cases as happened in the Sabah elections.

But, Muhyiddin ignored all these facts before him and sought emergency powers for Batu Sapi. What was the real reason for the emergency then? To prevent Warisan from winning the seat so that the opposition has one vote less to reject the Budget? Or, to send a warning to the rebels in coalition partner Umno who have been talking about snap elections should the Budget be defeated?

Again, Muhyiddin has demonstrated a lack of confidence in his own leadership and ability to control his coalition partner, Umno and like Zafrul invoked the authority of the Agong to support him to stay in government. It was a message to Umno that he could call for emergency and avoid snap elections if they voted against him and the Budget is defeated.

So, this is a political game for Muhyiddin to stay in power with the Agong’s help, not the support of the Dewan Rakyat? If the Budget isn’t aimed at controlling the covid-19 pandemic and providing support to sustain businesses until recovery begins, it can be rejected for irrelevance to current times!

MPs know the issues involved and this time they must vote on behalf of the people and uphold parliamentary democracy. They must be ready with an alternative majority coalition should the PN government fall in order to take control of the government swiftly with minimum disruptions.

Whatever majority coalition MPs are forming there are two political parties they must not include, namely Umno and PAS to form the government. Umno members will hold the nation to ransom and create the kind of trouble they are creating now. PAS will keep quiet and wait for the other Malay parties to self-destruct as the latter fight for votes reduced by an increasing number of Malay parties. When that happens PAS will swoop in to fill the vacuum as the stable party and begin its Islamization programme.

Don’t form a coalition with these two parties. Individuals can leave these two parties to join the coalition but keep Umno and PAS out of the government.

I urge the MPs to form a majority coalition, vote against the Budget, and save parliamentary democracy! The people are watching with expectancy!

111 voted for power over the constitution

I can’t believe that 111 MPs voted in favour of the Prihatin Nasional (PN) government’s motion to remove Tan Sri Mohamad Ariff Yusoff from his position as Dewan Rakyat Speaker. The reason given was that the government had found a person to replace him.

Is that justification for an unelected government to terminate the Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat for no wrong he did except to do his job?

The PN government thought it had the numbers with Gabongan Parti Sarawak’s (the Sarawak coalition) support. But a two-point win against the opposition’s 109 votes apparently jolted its confidence sufficiently to prevent it from having an election for the Speaker’s post. Datuk Azhar Harun — the PN choice — assumed the position without being elected, an act that contravened the constitution which requires a Speaker to be elected, not appointed.

(I couldn’t believe that Azhar actually resigned from his post as Election Commission chairman and waited in the wings until his bosses bumped off Ariff and he swooped into the Speaker’s chair. Azhar is a lawyer but he apparently ignored the fact that his position — like his bosses’ government — is unconstitutional.) Is this the kind of Speaker or government we want?

That seems to be the attitude of the MPs who support the PN government. They seem to be true opportunists who are taking advantage of the current political instability to get whatever they can out of it and they couldn’t care less if it was constitutional or not.

MPs should be the first people to cry “foul!” and raise a storm of protest when the government operates unconstitutionally. Rightly, the opposition MPs raised a hue and cry when debating the motion. But 111 MPs didn’t join in the protest.

This can only mean that these MPs would disregard the constitution in order to get what they want, which, in this case, is to stay in power. If Umno, PAS and Bersatu MPs support their coalition’s unconstitutional conduct, I can understand it. They have dropped the bar so low to accommodate their level of ability and skills that we really don’t expect anything better from them.

But why are MIC, MCA, GPS and Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) supporting a coalition that is clearly not committed to adhering to the constitution? Do they not know that it is the constitution — not the leading Malay party/coalition — which ensures that the rights of minority groups like the non-Malays are upheld? Do they not know that the prime minister of a country must set the example in adhering to the constitution? If he/she doesn’t why should the rest of the country follow the constitution? Do they not know that a government that does not adhere to the constitution sows the seeds of anarchy? Do their members support what their leaders are doing?

Yet, they support an unelected, illegitimate government and justify its unconstitutional actions.

MCA president Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong justified PN’s motion against the Speaker by saying that Ariff was removed because he was picked by the Pakatan Harapan administration and that the government “wanted someone better” so that “all matters between Parliament and the government, as the executive body, go smoothly”!

Seriously, Mr Wee? None of these issues would have arisen if the PN government was elected or if it bravely sought legitimacy by facing a no-confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat. Instead, realising it is a minority and illegitimate government it is doing everything it can to get a majority even by disregarding the constitution. This is unacceptable. If a government does not have a majority, it must resign. If it stubbornly refuses to resign, it should be booted out and the MPs should do it.

It is the job of the MPs — and the Speaker (but whether Azhar will do his job or play politics to ensure his bosses remain in power is yet to be seen) — to fight for the rule of law and ensure compliance. A precedent must never be set that an unelected government that is yet to legitimise its rule can continue to rule with impunity.

The government claims it follows the constitution, so says its law minister, Takiyuddin Hassan. But talk is cheap; actions speak louder than words. Despite such blatant disregard for the constitution, 111 MPs did not see Muhyiddin’s motion as unconstitutional and worthy of their dissent.

How dismally they have failed the people! MPs need to show that they will adhere to the constitution no matter what the consequence. The fact that nearly half of the Dewan Rakyat didn’t show respect for the constitution simply tells us that these MPs don’t put rule of law first. We should not elect them again.

 

It’s up to the MPs now, and Selamat Hari Raya!

In the past three months, we witnessed how Malay politics brought down a rightfully elected government and installed a government by appointment without the stamp of legitimacy by the Dewan Rakyat. I don’t have any issue with Malay politics, but, my predominant concern is that leaders, no matter what their politics, must always operate within the ambit of the constitution.

I have stressed this point in my recent posts and that is the only point I want to make concerning the current state of politics. I have made this point so often that I think I may be sounding like a broken record. Should there be more flouting of the constitution in the future by the PN government, my point will be the same: Please uphold and follow the constitution.

So, not to bore my readers any further, I have decided that I will make no further comment on current politics. I think my readers are smart enough to understand the stand I have taken and I don’t think I need to belabour the point.

Besides, after the May 18 Dewan Rakyat meeting, I believe it is now apparent to the MPs that the PN government is on a trajectory that could threaten our parliamentary democratic system of government if it continues not to test its majority at the Dewan Rakyat through a vote of no confidence.

I also believe we can trust our elected officials to fight on our behalf. Anwar Ibrahim is now the Opposition Leader and former prime minister, Tun Mahathir Muhamad, is in his corner. I’m sure many MPs realise the significance of a no-confidence vote now and how important it is to respect the mandate of the people. I’m sure we will see them standing up for the constitution and we will be rooting for them. It’s up to you, now, MPs!

That doesn’ mean I won’t write on politics at all. If some new developments take place and they warrant comment in the public debate, I’ll write on it.

Meanwhile, I’ll move on to other things. Folks, Hari Raya is on Sunday. Enjoy the break and the occasion though muted it might be due to the Movement Control Order. Nevertheless, it is a reason to enjoy!

Selamat Hari Raya!

 

 

PM of just a 100?

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has done it again — abandoned the requirements of the constitution and interpreted the Dewan Rakyat session in a logic only he understands!

According to media reports, he sent a note to the Dewan Rakyat Speaker saying that he is the “ketua majlis” (head of the council) and in that capacity said only the Agong’s address will be heard on the first session of Parliament under his leadership on May 18 because of Covid-19. In other words, there will be no debates and other matters that are followed according to the Standing Orders when a Dewan Rakyat session is convened.

“Head of council”? Where in the Federal Constitution does it say that a PM is a “ketua majlis”? The Dewan Rakyat is not a council and has no head except for the Speaker. But the PM is now ‘ketua majlis”?! Covid-19 is well under control in Malaysia and is an excuse rather than a legitimate reason.

Who’s advising the PM on constitutional matters? The Prihatin Nasional (PN) government by every day is sounding more and more like Umno under Najib Razak and Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Is the PM aware that he will be embarrassing the Agong by inviting him to an improper session of his so-called council, which constitutionally isn’t a Dewan Rakyat session, and, therefore, can be challenged in court? He is willing to do this?

I guess it shouldn’t surprise anyone that he is resorting to non-constitutional means to hang on to power, Umno style. It’s apparent that the only reason why he is doing this is to protect his 70-member Cabinet and a few others who put him in power, all of whom don’t add up to even a 100. He is willing to sacrifice or compromise the democratic rights of more than 32 million people to protect about 100 people.

Muhyiddin is prime minister to these 100 but he is not prime minister to the rest. We didn’t elect him and he knows he doesn’t have a leg to stand on if he were to follow the constitution. Hence all these politicking and unconstitutional ways of doing things.

Look at the Malacca state assembly. Did they follow the standing orders when the PN assemblymen convened a state assembly without the opposition to elect their own Speaker? Now, in Kedah, the PN assemblymen want to remove Mukhriz Mahathir as Menteri Besar (state chief minister). Well, just call for a vote of no confidence in the state assembly. That’s the constitutional way of conducting state assembly business. There’s no need for statutory declarations and rushing to see the Sultan. Follow the constitution and call for a vote of no confidence. If PN wins it, Mukhriz will be ousted.

So, why don’t they do it? They are afraid they will lose? If you don’t have the confidence of the majority in the assembly, why seek to topple the current government? PN politicians are so greedy for power?

The PN government is an illegitimate government. Therefore, whatever it does will be illegitimate and can be challenged in court until it wins a vote of no confidence. That’s common sense. Anyone can see that. So, if they want to continue with their illegitimate business, it is their choice.

I’m glad that the Opposition MPs are not taking the open, brazen and shameless flouting of the constitution lying down. Mukhriz is insisting that Kedah state assemblymen follow the standing orders. MPs are speaking up about the absurdity of a one-day Dewan Rakyat sitting where there will be no debate. A lawyer has said that the validity of the one-day May 18 Dewan Rakyat sitting without debates can be challenged in court. Two other lawyers have filed a legal action to declare that the May 18 session is unconstitutional.

More people need to speak up against the unconstitutional conduct of the PN government which is tantamount to lawlessness. We should not condone any public official acting without regard to the rule of law.

 

Well done, Mr Speaker

The fact that Dewan Rakyat Speaker Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof has accepted former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s request for a motion of no confidence against his successor Muhyiddin Yassin clearly shows he is upholding the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.

Ariff recognises that in a parliamentary democracy — which is the form of government we practise — MPs have the right to move a motion of no confidence against a sitting prime minister — in this case, one who wrenched power from a rightfully elected government and refused to seek legitimacy from the Dewan Rakyat, and, in doing so, abandoned the practices of parliamentary democracy.

In accepting Tun’s proposal for a motion of no confidence against Muhyiddin, Ariff made a decision according to the provisions and spirit of the constitution. Tun had requested two proposals, one was the motion of no confidence against Muhyiddin on the basis that the latter does not command the confidence of the majority of the Dewan Rakyat and the other was to retain the Speaker in his current capacity until Parliament dissolved. Ariff accepted the former but dismissed the latter saying it was not in line with Standing Order 27.

He made the decisions based on the constitution. That is what the people want of our leaders: to follow the constitution. We don’t want leaders who seize power by political means and who do not comply with the constitution. We can’t have leaders who follow one law for themselves and another for others. We want leaders who will uphold the constitution and not circumvent it.

In this case, Ariff set a good example in complying with the expectations and spirit of the constitution.

I wish I could say the same of de facto Parliament and Law Minister Takiyuddin Hassan. He said only government matters will take priority during the one-day May 18 sitting. I wonder if he is aware of how our parliamentary democracy works? Somebody should tell him it is the Speaker who has complete authority over Dewan Rakyat proceedings and there is no authority above him during the sessions. If he doesn’t know this, he should start studying the Westminister-style of the parliamentary system we follow in Malaysia and until he becomes knowledgeable on the subject he should say nothing more on it.

It is nor surprising that Takiyuddin doesn’t seem to know because he is a PAS member and PAS couldn’t care less about parliamentary democracy because they want– at all costs — to establish a syariah-compliant government and a parliamentary democracy is an obstacle to their objective. They would find a monarchy more suited to their feudal concepts of law and government.

When the motion of no confidence is introduced in the Dewan Rakyat, we can except PAS’ 18 MPs to vote against it. But all the remaining 204 MPs minus one (Muhyiddin) should vote for a vote of no confidence in Muhyiddin. Their vote will not be a vote against Muhyiddin’s government but a vote for the continuing practice of parliamentary democracy — that Parliament is the supreme lawmaking institution in Malaysia.

Malay leaders need to demonstrate that they are committed to and will stand by the constitution. It’s time they stopped using politics to seize power and legitimize it even when they go against the grain of the constitution. Non-Malays want a Malay leadership that complies with the constitution as the hope of non-Malays is in the constitution — not in political power.

So, all true-blue Malaysian MPs, Malay or not must fully back Tun’s motion of no confidence in Muhyiddin and cast their vote in favour of parliamentary democracy and vote out Muhyiddin and his government which shows no sign of following parliamentary democracy. Do this for Malaysia.

It may be time for lawmakers to go back to their books

What is most worrying about the current crop of national leaders is their willingness to play politics to the extent of compromising the law and getting away with it in the name of race, religion and country.

Politicking, it appears, is the predominant means of securing power. Rule of law and strict adherence to the processes, norms and conventions of parliamentary democracy which this country practises sometimes are obscured by desperate politicking.

Take the former chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Datuk Noraini Ahmad’s now famous (or infamous) conclusion that about RM19.4 billion of GST funds was “unlawfully diverted” by the Najib Razak administration for the “good of the country” but it wasn’t “robbery” in rebuttal to former Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng’s description of the missing funds as “robbery”.

Without having to split hairs over the definition of “robbery”, the obvious conclusion is that if it was “unlawfully” moved, then it is wrong — it went against the law and the lawbreaker must face the law, not wiggle his way out of it.

The tendency to politick is a way of thinking that has been bred by Umno over six decades of rule. If Umno politicians find power slipping out of their hands, they politick and look for backing from a higher authority like a superpower like the US or China or a rich nation like Saudi Arabia or the royals to stay in power. But, they do not rely on democratic practices.

If you want to get your leader out, whip up enough support to hold party polls and vote him out. Or build up your team and support until the next general elections and vote him and his coalition out. All the politicking that is done will be carried out within the ambit of the law and democratic practices. The constitution provides the boundaries we can go up to and not beyond. When politicians go beyond the law, the Dewan Rakyat is duty-bound to call them out.

Failing to fall back primarily on the rules, norms and conventions of our parliamentary democracy is the reason why we have reached this state where an illegitimate government continues to govern without the stamp of approval of the Dewan Rakyat.

Until the current Prihatin Nasional government wins a confidence vote from the Dewan Rakyat, it has no constitutional authority to claim to be a prime minister or government of the people or to introduce policies and bills in Parliament. It must legitimize itself first, and then it receives the mandate of the people to govern. Isn’t that how the law works?

Perhaps, Umno-bred politicians are not aware of the demands and expectations of the constitution and the parliamentary style of government Malaysia practices. Now is the time to study the law and the constitution so that they learn how to follow their tenets.

Perhaps, the Dewan Rakyat can get constitutional experts like Shad Saleem Faruqi, who is a law professor with Universiti Malaya and currently holding the Tunku Abdul Rahman Chair as Professor of Constitutional Law, to conduct sessions with lawmakers as to what they can and can’t do under the law.

It would help in creating a political culture where adherence to the law and the constitution becomes the predominant overriding context in which public office and debate are conducted.

The people deserve lawmakers who strictly follow the law and the parliamentary democracy we practise.