Tag Archives: emergency

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.

The only option left for the PN coalition

I’m dumbfounded after reading a news report which quoted two local “political analysts” who claimed that the call for a parliamentary sitting was aimed at questioning the government’s legitimacy for having lost its majority.

In a Malaysiakini report today, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) geostrategist Azmi Hassan said, “The problem is when the Parliament sitting is exploited for political agenda, such as to pressure the prime minister to resign, to dissolve the Parliament, to question the majority, and so on.” And that it is not used for check-and-balance of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Thinking along the same lines, another political analyst, Jeniri Amir, said that the Parliament sitting can be resumed “if the lawmakers only focus on five aspects – namely Covid-19, security, education, the people, and policy”.

Unbelievable! This coming from so-called scholars! Firstly, if such scholars need to be told that a government can’t operate unless it is legitimate, I don’t know if it’s worth considering their input. Secondly, if such scholars are advising the Prihatin Nasional (PN) coalition, then, it’s no wonder that the coalition refuses to resign from occupying the government of Malaysia.

I wonder if people who hold such notions understand democracy and democratic practices and conventions. The fundamental basis of democracy is rule by the majority. If a party or coalition can’t get a majority, it can’t rule.

Any democratic government must first establish it has the support of the majority. If it can’t prove that support, it can not rule. It’s as simple as that! Parliament’s role includes establishing if a ruling government has that majority. It’s not a case of “politicking”; it’s the MPs’ job to ensure that the votes of the majority are respected.

Scholars need to be told all this?

Does Muhyiddin Yassin, Bersatu president and head of the PN coalition, need to be told this? Is he adhering to democratic principles or using political expediency to remain as prime minister?

On Jan 9, when the Machang MP Ahmad Jazlan Yaakub (Umno) withdrew his support for Muhyiddin and the number of MPs supporting Muhyiddin dropped to 110 of the 220 MPs in the Dewan Rakyat, the PN coalition lost its majority. The PN government automatically fell on Jan 9 and it should have resigned and advised the Agong to call for a new government with a majority. But, it didn’t do that.

It continued to remain in government although it is now an occupying government — not elected, a minority and operating without legitimacy. On Jan 12,  the Padang Rengas MP Nazri Aziz (Umno) announced his withdrawal of support for Muhyiddin and the number of PN’s MPs went down to 109, clearly showing PN has lost its majority. Why didn’t PN resign?

Instead, as an illegitimate government, Muhyiddin ran to the Agong and sought for Emergency purportedly to manage the covid-19 pandemic, which he got, and when it was gazetted, the government prior to Jan 11 (the day he saw the Agong) was retroactively recognised as the government of the day. But, between Jan 9 and Jan 11, the PN coalition was an illegitimate government. So, an illegitimate government was allowed to rule under Emergency, thanks to Muhyiddin’s clever politics.

Since the Emergency was declared by the Agong, everyone is respecting that decision and not questioning it. But, does Muhyiddin realise that since he was given emergency powers only to manage the covid-19 pandemic, all the decisions he can make can only be related to the management of the covid-19 pandemic?

Neither he nor any of his Cabinet members can represent the government of Malaysia in any other capacity except in relation to the management of the covid-19 pandemic. They can’t make official visits abroad or locally. They can’t make any appointments or policy decisions. They can’t make new allocations. They can’t make public addresses. They can’t do any of the above or any other aspect of government except where it concerns the management of the covid-19 pandemic.

If the PN emergency government does anything other than that related to the pandemic, all of it can be thrown out when a new government takes over or challenged in court.

The best option for the PN coalition is to resign. It’s not just the person assuming the prime minister’s position who should resign, but all the PN members assuming Cabinet positions must resign. The reason for this is because it is an unelected minority government that was not reinstalled officially when it lost its majority on Jan 9 and automatically fell as a government.

If the PN coalition had resigned and then reinstalled by the Agong as an interim government until a majority government is formed, there would be no question of its legitimacy. But if the PN government resigns and another coalition is able to command a majority, that coalition becomes the new government.

It is when a ruling party or coalition loses its majority that it falls — automatically. It is not when the prime minister resigns that the ruling party or coalition falls. When a PM resigns because he has lost the support of the ruling party or coalition, someone else from the party or coalition can become the PM. But if the ruling party or coalition loses its majority, the prime minister must tender his resignation and the resignation of his entire Cabinet.

That’s what has happened in Italy. The previous Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned when the small Italia Viva party withdrew from the ruling coalition leaving him with a minority. He didn’t resign because he lost the support of his party. Italian president Sergio Mattarella then called on former European Central Bank president Mario Draghi to form a majority. He succeeded and faced a confidence vote in Parliament which he won handsomely.

That’s the procedure for forming a majority government when a ruling government loses its majority in a democracy. If that procedure was followed in Malaysia, we would not be in the state we are in now.

A year ago, when former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad resigned, the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition remained intact. Bersatu, his party then, could have replaced him with another candidate and submitted that name to the PH coalition for consideration. PH could have accepted, rejected and/or nominated its own candidate until a consensus was reached through negotiations.

However, that possibility did not materialise because, within hours of Mahathir’s resignation, Muhyiddin withdrew Bersatu from PH causing it to lose its majority and hence that government fell automatically. Muhyiddin was subsequently named as PM because he could get a majority with Umno’s support. The expectation was that that nomination would face a confidence vote in Parliament and there was still time for another coalition to be formed. Within a day, Mahathir was able to form another coalition with 113 MPs’ support, which means Muhyiddin lost his majority.

By right, Muhyiddin should have told the Agong then that he had lost the majority and advised him to contact Mahathir to test his majority. That’s how it is played out in a democracy. But, Muhyiddin did not do that.

One year later, Muhyiddin has done the same. He lost his majority on Jan 9 and he should have resigned. He didn’t resign and is continuing as an uninstalled government. He may have non-democratic reasons for wanting to remain in government. If that is so, he should announce what those reasons are and seek reelection and if he gets a two-third majority he can amend the Federal Constitution to suit his purposes. Until then, he has to abide by the Federal Constitution and follow the correct procedures of establishing a legitimate government. Failing to do so would simply make the PN coalition an illegitimate government. He needs to speak with constitutional experts to guide him in the decisions he has to make.

If Muhyiddin is serious about setting a good example for future potential prime ministers, he and his Cabinet will resign. That’s the only option left and the honourable thing to do.

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.

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!