Tag Archives: mahathir

Historic MOU? At what price?

The MOU signed by Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob with Pakatan Harapan (PH) is touted as historic and no doubt it will be if the reforms are actually delivered. But at what price?

Firstly, the Sabri government remains an unconstitutional government because it hasn’t proven its majority in the Dewan Rakyat and signing an MOU with it is simply legitimising an unconstitutional government. I’m befuddled as to why MPs are willing to overlook this fundamental requirement to establish a legitimate government of Malaysia to make a deal outside of the Dewan Rakyat to get reforms.

Both Sabri and his predecessor, Muhyiddin Yassin, ignored the need for a confidence vote to prove their majorities and opposition MPs raised a hue and cry over it. But, now, they have gone silent. A proven majority legitimises the government but opposition MPs are closing their eyes to it and instead are making deals with an unconstitutional government for “democratic reforms” with no mention of a confidence vote. Doesn’t anyone see the irony in this? Selling out a fundamental constitutional right of MPs in exchange for other reforms that we are not sure the Sabri government can deliver according to the timeline or at all isn’t shortchanging Parliament?

Secondly, the MOU smacks of insincerity on the part of the opposition. PH wasn’t representing the entire opposition — just itself. It was not inclusive of other opposition parties and they have expressed the sentiments of being sidelined.

Another indication of its insincerity is evident in one item on its list of parliamentary reforms — equal funding for government and opposition MPs but not to the opposition MPs who didn’t sign the MOU. Why would Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim not seek equal funding for all opposition MPs? He is leader of all the opposition not just PH and all the opposition parties backed him to be prime minister when Muhyiddin Yassin resigned. But he reciprocated in the this way.

Why was PH willing to estrange its opposition allies and split the opposition to sign this MOU?

Perhaps, Anwar has realised that he may never become PM as long as he is in the opposition and feels the need to form new alliances to achieve his goal. Hence, his friendliness towards the Sabri government as Anwar has the support of the former’s party president Ahmad Zahid and party adviser former prime minister Najib Razak both of whom are his chums. Whether that relationship will benefit him is left to be seen. But one thing is certain. If he is pally with these two who lead the court cluster of Umno MPs facing criminal charges in court, it is likely he will drive other allies away who want to have nothing to do with the kleptocrats. The premiership will still elude him.

Unless, the brazen stubborn refusal to hold a confidence vote and the MOU are part of a larger behind-the-scenes conspiracy to prevent former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his candidates from returning to a position of influence in the government.

It is hard to understand why Sabri and Muhyiddin refused to hold a confidence vote. Their argument that the constitution doesn’t spell it out is a no-brainer. The spirit and intent of the constitution demand it and surely they know it?

Both, perhaps, know what a majority of MPs know. A confidence vote will topple them firstly. Secondly, the opposition under Anwar’s leadership will not get the desired majority. There’s no one of stature in the government to take over, except for Zahid and Najib, but they are too tainted by corruption scandals to win a majority. The next best candidate would likely be Mahathir or a candidate he endorses. The fear is that he might win because he has support from the government side to give him or his candidate the majority.

Muhyiddin and now Sabri evidently don’t want this possibility to be played out with that specific outcome. The question is why? Why are they willing to transgress the constitution just to keep Mahathir out? In the absence of a rational explanation from them as to why they refuse, one can only surmise that the conspiracy theory is true.

But, who are behind Muhyiddin and now Sabri that they are confidently willing to abandon a confidence vote to remain in government on the grounds of the Agong’s appointment without the validation of the people in the Dewan Rakyat as is required in a parliamentary democracy? Zahid, Najib, or vested interests outside of Parliament?

If these people have got prime ministers in their pockets and these prime ministers are refusing to face a confidence vote on account it, they must be called out because they are compromising the integrity of the Dewan Rakyat and MPs must fight to ensure that never happens.

Hence, PH’s sincerity of motive is questioned. To acquiesce to the position now held by Sabri to prevent a confidence vote and be willing to sacrifice it in the name of reforms? In doing so, PH is failing to do its job of ensuring the independence and integrity of the Dewan Rakyat.

Is the MOU an attempt by Anwar to become PM in the same way Muhyiddin and Sabri became prime ministers? With the support of powerful vested interests, at the expense of Parliament?

Thirdly, the ends do not justify the means. To prevent the exercise of a fundamental democratic process — the confidence vote — is a dereliction of constitutional duty. Political behind-the-scenes machinations are common and some may go as far as to influence the vote in the Dewan Rakyat in the election of a prime minister. But the votes of MPs will render them powerless because MPs vote on behalf of their voters, fully aware they may be punished if they vote against voter interests.

To deprive MPs of that vote even for the sake of much-needed parliamentary reforms is to allow the Dewan Rakyat to be manipulated by incumbent prime ministers and those who support them.

The MOU should have been signed on the condition of a confidence vote. No MP should deprive another of his or her constitutional right to elect a prime minister. It is unconstitutional and compromises the integrity of the Dewan Rakyat.

Now, we have a situation where there will be no confidence vote to test Sabri’s majority and no fear of bringing the government down. Opposition MPs can shout themselves hoarse. The government will let them, knowing fully well their position is secure. The Dewan Rakyat becomes a toothless tiger — thanks to PH.

DAP’s Damansara MP and party national publicity secretary Tony Pua has said that PH loses nothing from signing the MOU. O, really? Well, let’s see if PH parties would lose votes.

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.

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.

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.

Time’s ripe for a new coalition to emerge

Until Members of Parliament act swiftly to form a new Malay-led majority coalition, the Prihatin Nasional (PN) alliance will continue in government by default.

So, if MPs want the PN coalition to step down, emergency lifted and Parliament restored, their parties need to realign themselves and coalesce into a new coalition which can offer itself as a legitimate alternative. When that happens and Umno withdraws from PN, PN will have no choice but to resign. And, it must because a viable alternative has presented itself, proving that PN has no majority.

There will be no need for a general election that would only be a strain on the national coffers and voters tired of Malay politics. The new coalition faces a vote of confidence and if it wins it, wins the mandate to form the new legitimate government until the next general election.

If MPs don’t form a new majority coalition now, there’ll no difference in the outcome of results should a general election take place and PN, though a minority coalition, might still be installed as a caretaker government and it will stay on in government until a majority coalition is formed, which may take a long time to happen if it can not happen now.

It appears as if efforts are afoot for a new coalition to be formed and the immediate strategy of MPs must be to make it happen to bring about PN’s resignation. With an alternative coalition poised to take over and with Umno withdrawing from PN, the latter has to step down.

That would consequentially level the playing field. PN would lose the advantage it now has to attract MPs because of the RM3.5 million allocation available to its MPs for community servicing. With the RM3.5 million bait gone, MPs will have to chose sides based on what is best for their constituents. And some may even leave PN to join the new coalition.

What options do the MPs have? With Umno out of it, PN will become a much smaller entity. With PAS in it, it is unlikely to get the majority support of Christian-based Sabah and Sarawak parties which means it will not be able to get a majority.

The best possibility for a majority coalition is Pakatan Harapan (PH), comprising Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), DAP and Amanah — if it can get the support of Sabah’s Warisan and Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) and former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s yet to be registered Pejuang. GPS has pledged support for PN but if PN resigns because an alternative exits, GPS may change its mind. In fact, it should; any alliance with a coalition in which PAS is a member will backfire on it.

Today, at the end of its two-day retreat in Port Dickson, PH named PKR president Anwar Ibrahim as its candidate for the prime minister’s post in the 15th general election (GE15) due in 2023. However between now and then, PH’s leadership is left open, which means there is a chance for Mahathir to return or someone aligned to him to return to lead a PH Plus majority coalition.

The Mahathir factor should not be excluded because he could rally the support of Warisan and perhaps GPS too and even some Umno MPs to join forces with PH to form PH Plus which would have a very comfortable majority, at least until GE15.

Umno’s future is uncertain. It’s court cluster leadership is being asked to make way for new elections. So, there will be new leaders or some MPs may break away. In either situation, there would be possibilities to negotiate with Umno or its breakaway MPs to join or be friendly towards PH. By itself Umno can’t form a coalition. If it joins forces with PAS no one else will join it. By allying itself with PH it can survive in some way.

If PH Plus can be a convincing majority coalition, PN will have to resign and a caretaker government or new government under a leadership that can ably manage the transition period can be formed to last until GE15. It’s the best option to move forwards and it’s up to the MPs to make it happen.

Where is honour among MPs?

On March 26, the White House uploaded on its website a statement announcing the list of countries whose leaders have been invited to attend a virtual Leaders Summit on Climate that US President Joe Biden will host on April 22 and 23. The countries invited included the G7 nations and China, Russia, India, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Brazil, Israel, Japan, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Turkey, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam. Notably absent in the list was Malaysia.

The leading democratic nation of the world apparently has no confidence that the present leadership of Malaysia with its rich resources is a worthy partner in the worldwide effort to manage the climate which is becoming the predominant issue of the world. Malaysia used to be the leader in Asean in representing regional issues but it appears as if Indonesia and Singapore are being recognised as the leaders best able to lead this charge into the future.

But does the Prihatin Nasional (PN) coalition care how it is viewed by the rest of the world? If it doesn’t care how it is viewed by its own people, would that matter? Well, it may not matter now because the world is still grappling with the covid 19 pandemic. But as the world gradually opens up to rebuilding the economy, Malaysia will find limited sources of funds and may end up like former Prime Minister Najib Razak looking to China and Saudi Arabia for funds and paying a heavy price for it. How will the PN be any different from Najib’s government then?

At least, the Najib government was legitimate because it was an elected government with a proven majority. But, can the PN government claim that legal and constitutional standing?

PN needs to take a good look at itself and consider how it is being viewed and why. Then, perhaps, it will realise that it has no standing to stay in government — not even under emergency — and resign. The reason why it has left a trail of political instability is because of questions of its legitimacy. That may also affect the way the world views it. How can democratically-elected governments recognise Malaysia as a peer among them when issues of its legitimacy remain unresolved? Demonstrate able leadership by convening Parliament and face a no confidence vote or resign.

Resigning is a way of making a dignified exit when you know you have lost, but Malaysian politicians apparently know nothing about honour. Their motto: Cling on because you can to stay in power. Honour is irrelevant if you can’t stay in government.

GPS is no different

Following the recent High Court decision, when PN sent the “Allah” issue to the rulers for a deliberation, Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) went into a huddle. The decision would affect the constitutional rights of 40 % of Sarawak’s population who are Christians and ethnic non-Malay bumiputeras. GPS’ alliance with PN has put the constitutional religious rights of this the largest community in Sarawak at risk. Yet, its MPs have chosen to align itself with PN and yesterday expressed their support for Muhyiddin as prime minister.

GPS has seemingly sold off the constitutional rights of its own people for federal government support. The logic behind the decision escapes me.

With Umno now having declared it will pull out of PN after Aug 1 when the emergency ends, PN is on its way out, unless PN leader Muhyiddin Yassin intends to stay on by not upholding the constitution and proving its majority in Parliament. Perhaps, GPS suspects that is what will happen and have decided to throw in their lot with Muhyiddin. Common sense, however, dictates that with Umno out, PN will have no majority and GPS will be unable to be kingmaker. Why is it allying itself with a coalition that has no standing to remain in government and which will put the constitutional rights of its own people at risk?

It would be interesting to see how its voters will react regarding this issue in the upcoming Sarawak state elections. GPS may still win but my prediction is that it will lose its comfortable majority and it will lose its position to be kingmaker.

GPS’s decision to support Muhyiddin makes no sense. GPS should resign and be independents in the Dewan Rakyat and protect the interests of its people. But, apparently, typical of Malaysian politicians, political expediency for whatever misguided reason comes before duty to your voters. No honour in that, it appears!

The Opposition that isn’t the alternative

To be fair to GPS, it faced a difficult choice. It did not have a viable alternative to join and did not have the guts to go it alone. If Muhyiddin is responsible for the continuous state of political unrest we are in, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) has only itself to blame for being unable to provide an alternative.

PKR is realising that without former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the Opposition alliance Pakatan Harapan (PH) is facing an issue of credibility. Neither PN nor Umno/BN wants to ally with PH. Without Mahathir, neither GPS nor Sabah’s Warisan will join it. PH with PKR, DAP and Amanah can together have about 88 MPs on its side. That is insufficient to form a majority coalition and it can’t lure other parties to join in.

PKR president Anwar Ibrahim thought he could get the court cluster of Umno MPs facing criminal charges in court to join PH but Umno president Zahid Hamidi poured cold water on that prospect when he said at the Umno general assembly last weekend that there would be no alliance with PKR or DAP.

Umno apparently has been given a lifeline and it is resurging and feels confident it can go it alone. But like PH and PN, individually, none of these coalitions will get a majority. So, even if elections are held now, the outcome would be no different from the current political situation.

But if PKR decides to work with Mahathir, PH could get the support of both Warisan and GPS and that would be a clear majority coalition which neither Umno/BN nor PN will be able to match. This is the rightful government of Malaysia which won the mandate to govern in GE14 in 2018.

Again, the logic escapes me as to why Anwar will not respect the GE14 mandate of the people just because he doesn’t want to work with Mahathir. Personal reasons should be set aside and the mandate of the people should be respected. If Anwar will not take the lead to restore the GE14 mandate, it is not surprising that parties like GPS and Warisan are abandoning it and finding politically expedient ways to hold on to power.

If Anwar follows the spirit and intent of the constitution and pushes for the restoration of PH Plus, he would solve the current impasse and demonstrate his ability to abide by the constitution even if it means he wouldn’t be prime minister. He will win the respect of the people and he might still become PM in the near future.

Anwar can resolve the current stalemate. The question is whether he sees honour in doing so at personal cost.

Putting the interests of voters first, over political expediency, for the good of the nation is honourable. I am waiting to see who among our MPs will demonstrate such honour. I am still waiting …. .

A pause and a reset under Dr M is the way forward

It seems a little strange that the topic of an imminent general election has come up again when the Agong has said Parliament can be convened during the current Emergency, which suggests that the possibility of that happening precedes a general election.

So, why aren’t the politicians raising a hue and cry to call for the convening of a sitting of Parliament? Surely, that should be a priority so that they can establish the legitimacy of the Prihatin Nasional (PN) coalition since it has lost its majority, and demand its resignation?

The legitimacy of the PN government should be top on the agenda of any parliamentary sitting. The PN coalition should be made to comply with the Federal Constitution and if it doesn’t it should be removed and an example set so that future coup plotters know what to expect.

As I have said in my last post, the best option for the PN coalition now is to resign. It would save the Malay race, religion and royalty from any further embarrassment domestically and internationally than it has already caused. With the court cases that have been initiated against PN coalition leader Muhyiddin Yassin, the PN needs to ask itself if it has made race, religion and royalty look good or made a spectacle of itself and these — the very things it claims to represent and stand for. Better to resign and save face.

The resignation of the PN coalition will result in one very good thing for the nation. It will halt the clamouring of Malay politicians to become the prime minister through illegitimate means. It will put national politics at pause, giving political parties a breathing space to examine their options and choose the right leaders to represent them in the future. Politics will be forced to return to the normal correct procedures of choosing leaders and short-cuts will be aborted, thus maintaining adherence to the federal constitution.

Calling for a general election now will simply continue the cockfights among competitors and the chaotic unconstitutional political environment. A pause will get politicians out of the cooking cauldron and gain a fresh perspective on the directions to take within the scope and leeway granted by the federal constitution.

Right now, the best person to manage the nation under pause is former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. He has no future ambition except the good of the nation and during the pause he will also be able to reset the nation on course in accordance with the federal constitution.

The past year has shown several loopholes and the opportunities they offered to political parties to seize the government. Questions have to be raised and addressed so a repeat doesn’t happen. For example, when a ruling coalition loses power mid-term and another party or coalition claims a majority, should its nomination for prime minister be sworn in before facing a confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat? If competing coalitions claim a majority, what is the process to test which coalition has a majority?

Can an interim prime minister call for a parliamentary session so that a coalition with a majority can be found and tested in Parliament? Who then should call for a Dewan Rakyat session and how?

When a party or coalition refuses to resign when it has lost its majority, how will it be removed? Should laws be set in place to empower an official in authority like the Opposition Leader or chief secretary to the government to speak to the Agong and advise him to direct the police and armed forces to escort the rogue and his cabinet of cohorts out of their offices? These are issues that need to be addressed.

In developed democracies, procedures are set in place so that leaders who stage a coup can be escorted out of office and that is the reason why they don’t have coups. When former US President Donald Trump threatened to refuse to recognise the results of the presidential elections and stay on in the White House, the democrats were calm, simplying stating that they knew what to do to get him out of office.

Our democracy was tested this past year and in anticipation of future claimants to power, laws and the correct procedures to facilitate a change of government in mid-term should be set in place so that an illegitimate government can not be formed.

Such changes may require a two-thirds majority for amendments to be made in the Dewan Rakyat and right now there’s only one person who can command such a majority and that is Tun Dr Mahathir.

Unlike other Malaysian political leaders, Tun knows the proper procedures to maintain constitutional integrity and he should be allowed to return as prime minister to reset the political temperature so that laws can be introduced or streamlined to ensure political instability is managed without disrupting the life of the nation.

Political leaders desiring to become the prime minister or parties wanting to lead the government should temporarily abandon their private agendas and ambitions and give Tun all the support he needs to form a majority government after the PN government resigns.

Tun would likely remain as prime minister until the next general elections, but, by that time, with the support of the majority, he would have set in place the right government structures to curb corruption and laws and regulations to make a coup in Malaysia impossible. Parliament must hold him to these ideals.

If Malaysian leaders genuinely put the nation first, those who should resign will resign and others will help Tun to form a coalition with a majority to take over.

A pause and a reset will pave the way for a more stable political future than what we have witnessed this past year and enable new leaders to emerge in the proper way, through their party channels and eventually through a general election.

The need to resign and the Opposition’s primary task

In Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s address to the nation yesterday when he announced that the government will give free vaccines to innoculate 26.5 million or 80% of the population against covid-19, he also said that when the emergency is lifted he would dissolve Parliament to make way for a general election.

He, I am sure, will keep to his word but I’m a bit perplexed here. When the emergency is lifted, what is the status of the Prihatin Nasional (PN) government he leads now under emergency declared by the Agong? That government reverts to its state of not only being a minority government but one without the authority of the office to remain in government.

The term of the PN government that began when the Agong swore in Muhyiddin as the prime minister automatically ended 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. That number dropped to 109 on Jan 12 when the Padang Rengas MP Nazri Aziz (Umno) announced his withdrawal of support for Muhyiddin, leaving the latter with a clear minority. A minority government can not continue to govern unless it has resigned and is reappointed by the Agong for an interim period until a majority government can be formed.

Since the minority PN government did not resign, when the emergency is lifted we will have a minority and illegal government, one without the authority of office to govern. So, with what authority can Muhyiddin dissolve Parliament and call for a general election? If he does, I suspect his decision — like his decision to advise the Agong to agree to an emergency — can be challenged in court on constitutional grounds.

This is common sense. Looking at all the practising democracies of the world, it is clear that there is a sequence of steps that needs to be followed to legitimize a government. Take Itay, for example. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned last week when the small Italia Viva party withdrew from the ruling coalition leaving him with a minority. Subsequently, the process began to form a government with a majority.

Why do PN leaders and their supporters feel they don’t have to follow these democratic conventions? Or, they just don’t know? This is the real reason how PN came to power — not because the previous prime minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, resigned.

Mahathir resigned because he lost support from his party. But, what followed was chaotic and in the swift succession of events, some constitutional steps were overlooked, either out of ignorance or political expediency. The process to form a new government with a majority begins with the resignation of the incumbent government when it has lost its majority.

It, indeed, will be interesting to see how the courts will rule on these issues and if the judiciary is able to recognize the constitutional relevance of the cases that have been brought to its attention and the urgency of the need to address them. Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Anwar Ibrahim, former Umno leader Khairuddin Abu Hassan and a number of NGOs have started legal proceedings against Muhyiddin and Attorney General Idrus Harun regarding the constitutional basis of their decisions/advice to the Agong.

If the courts don’t throw out these cases, and a clear decision is made, future prime ministerial candidates will know in black and white what they can and should do and can’t and shouldn’t do according to the federal constitution.

So, when the emergency is lifted the first thing Muhyiddin and his Cabinet need to do is to resign and advise the Agong to call on the leader who can muster a coalition with a majority to form the government. Instead of bickering and blaming each other,  the Opposition needs to set their differences aside and present themselves as the only united, cohesive coalition with a majority under one name as the prime minister.

The Opposition has to stop blaming Mahathir for the fall of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government. It fell not because he resigned but because Muhyiddin pulled Bersatu out of PH and it lost its majority. Mahathir still got a majority after Muhyiddin was named the prime minister but he lost communication with the Palace and his majority was ignored as Muyhiddin took power.

Subsequently, there were a couple of opportunities when the Opposition could have taken control of Putrajaya but their efforts fell through and that wasn’t due to Mahathir’s doing. So, why aren’t these people being blamed? Everyone knows PKR created a ruckus over Anwar’s position. With PKR demanding a timeline for the transfer of power how could Mahathir be sure of their support?

The blame game will lead to nothing but recriminations and accusations, which means the Opposition will lose the chance to offer itself as a strong and united coalition with a majority in the event the PN coalition resigns from government.

The primary task facing the Opposition now is to reconcile, forge together in unity, agree on one name as prime minister and wait for the PN government to resign.

A general election after the emergency is lifted is bad timing because people would want to first find jobs again and start over their businesses. They wouldn’t want it to be disrupted by an election. It would be better to wait until life goes back to some semblance of normalcy before a general election is held.

A general election now would also mean that political parties as they are now — divided — will be unable to form a majority and political instability will continue unless the Opposition is able to present itself as the sole alternative that has a majority.

I believe the Opposition will have a comfortable majority if they stopped attacking Mahathir and closed ranks and got ready to take over when the opportunity lends itself.

It might come sooner than we think.

The ball’s in Muhyiddin’s court

Just in case politicians in positions of power and privilege feel they have the right to act on expediency and get away with it, the High Court has given clear directions as to what is not  permissible behaviour, in its judgement in the SRC International Sdn Bhd case involving former prime minister Najib Razak.

In finding Najib guilty of all seven charges against him in the SRC case, High Court Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali described Najib’s lack of action to recover funds from SRC International as “very puzzling” and he proceeded to list what Najib did and didn’t do that was questionable behaviour.

Leaders in top positions need to examine the judge’s judgement in-depth and learn what they should and should not do. The High Court has sent a clear message in defining — in this case — what constitutes abuse of power. Politicians need to realise that if they behave outside of the rule of law, they can be taken to court. That should act as a strong deterrent to abuse of power and position.

Yet, Umno politicians don’t seem to want to learn to operate within the rule of law. Even before the dust had settled on the SRC case, former chief minister, Musa Aman, launched an attempted coup to take over the Sabah government, saying that he has a majority of state assemblymen on his side. Incumbent Chief Minister Shafie Apdal preempted him by dissolving the state assembly and called for snap state elections.

Some of the assemblymen who joined Musa were sacked by their respective parties in Shafie’s Warisan-led coalition after the coup attempt.

If the coup had succeeded, it would have been another example of a backdoor government without the mandate of the people just as the current Prihatin Nasional (PN) government is.

It appears as if Umno, after the Najib conviction, is frantically trying to form the government, again through the backdoor. With the most number of MPs in the PN government (Barisan Nasional(BN) has 43 MPs (Umno — 39) and Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s Bersatu party has 31), Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has announced that it will not be a part of the PN coalition but will continue with its collaboration with Islamic party PAS in their Muafakat Nasional alliance.

Muafakat Nasional has extended an invitation to Bersatu to join the former. If Muhyiddin joins Muafakat, Umno will become the leading party; if it leaves it, PN will fall and snap elections will have to be called.

It serves Umno to work with PAS because the latter will give its support in order to influence decisions to be more “Islamic”. Whether such “influence” would be constitutional or not will be questionable but it puts Umno in the driving seat to protect its interests as it sees fit.  It would be as “legitimate” as the PN government is.

Whether these manoeuvres taking place now are constitutional or not isn’t the issue anymore; political expediency has taken over. Why bother about the constitution when a political party can assume power by coercing elected MPs to join it with the promise of money and position?

This is the political chaos Malay politics has descended into and it seems as if non-Malay parties have to play ball in order not to be left out — for the time being until we get back to adhering to the constitution. Amanah and the DAP, parties in the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition, have said they would support Muhyiddin if he refuses to join Muafakat.

The ball is in Muhyiddin’s court. What is apparent is that a Malay-majority only coalition cannot get the majority in the Dewan Rakyat without former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s support.

Umno, PAS and Bersatu in the PN represent about 70% of Malay votes. It’s a majority but it excludes the about 20-30% of Malay support for Tun and Parti Keadilan Rakyat( PKR).  This Malay support comes primarily from the urban and semi-urban areas where the progressive Malays are found who have no issue working with non-Malays and hence they get non-Malay support. The Malay intelligence is mostly in this group; they are the educated and skilled Malays who are in the position to lead but are now in the opposition.

If Malay-based parties continue to act in their backdoor ways, more and more Malays, especially the younger and educated ones are going to join the opposition which respects the constitution. Right now with the offer of money and position, Malay parties may be able to hold on to power. But in future elections, they will see their support dwindling as disgruntled younger voters swing to the opposition.

This segment of Malay voters may be a minority now but it will be a growing minority as evidenced by much of the positive comments on Najib’s conviction. They are like Judge Nazlan who can distinguish between abuse and rule of law and they prefer an elected government which conforms to the constitution.

Umno and PAS are thinking of the moment, the former about protecting its interests and the latter to make the government more “Islamic”. If Muhyiddin is sincerely thinking of the good of the nation, it would serve him well NOT to antagonize the smaller but growing Malay voter segment who may be the future leaders of this nation and who want a commitment to the rule of law.

It may be well for him to return to the PH, restore the mandate of the GE14 and prove to this nation and the world that he stands for the rule of law and will conform to it. There will have to be give and take. My own feeling is that unless the original GE14 mandate of the people is fully restored, political stability will remain elusive and we will not be able to move forward.

 

PH-Plus is the sure way forward

It’s a pity that former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Parti Keadilan Rakyat president Anwar Ibrahim seem to have parted ways. The counter coup they were trying to muster under the reinvented Pakatan Harapan (PH)-Plus coalition would have been the way forward but it seems to have been stymied by personal rather than national concerns.

Anwar wants to be prime minister (PM) and will not settle for the post of deputy. As PM would he be able to get the numbers from Members of Parliament (MPs) to form a government? If he could, why would PH member parties DAP and Amanah agree to Tun being PM? Apparently the view is that Tun more than Anwar will be able to command a majority from the MPs in the face of a confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat.

That is the route that must be taken for Pakatan-Plus to retake the government: Seeking a majority from the MPs. There, seriously, is no other option. Forming alliances with other parties will merely continue the current state of political uncertainties with events unfolding in such a way as to bring Umno back in government.

A PH-Plus government will put an end to the current state of events. Najib and his associates and the current PN leadership will be done for — unless its members join PH-Plus. If the six-month premiership of Tun is agreed upon, after the period, the old guard will be gone for good, opening the way for a new crop of leaders to emerge. And that would be better for Malaysia than continuing on the current trajectory of political instability that strengthens Umno.

What Tun is asking — a six-month premiership — is a short but surest way of stopping the PN government. It would send a very clear and definite message that a government by treachery will not be tolerated and will be removed. The people need to see that our leaders will do everything possible to ensure that a legitimate government is installed according to the constitution and that any violation of the constitution will be brought to a swift end — at all cost.

Anwar needs to consider that his decisions are based on national rather than personal interests. He has said that trust — or the lack of it — was the issue with Tun since he didn’t give a definite date to hand over the premiership to Anwar. It needs to be said that Tun — or anyone else for the matter — can only give his word on what he can control, not what he can’t. Tun couldn’t control Perikatan Nasional (PN) Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s “betrayal” as he called it.

Anwar also said a six-month premiership was unworkable. True, not much can be achieved in six months, but it will allow for all PH policies and plans to be restored and after six months, Anwar can do whatever he likes as PM. More importantly it will restore the GE14 mandate of the people which was stolen from them.

As DAP supremo, Lim Kit Siang, has said, PH-Plus is Anwar’s best bet to become PM. But, even that can’t be guaranteed as political realities can change in six months. Tun can only promise on what he can control: He can step down in six months. Anything else can’t be predicted as it would depend on what happens in the six-month period.

However, the six-month period will provide Anwar with the opportunity to build his grassroots base. After that he can test it in a general election and if the party or coalition he leads wins, he becomes PM legitimately.

Becoming PM without election or approval by the Dewan Rakyat would make him no different from Muhyiddin. If he is committed to reforms, the PH-Plus route will facilitate it. Whether he becomes PM or not, his party, PKR, will emerge stronger for sending a clear message that it will not compromise its commitments to reforms for position.

The one opportunity to stop PN is right in front of us — if Anwar seizes it for the good of the nation. Again, there is no guarantee that Pakatan Harapan-Plus will win. But it is the only chance left. Hopefully, DAP and Amanah will succeed in bringing Tun and Anwar back as a team. It will be a force to reckon with.