Tag Archives: MOU

A possible way out of the current political gridlock

Umno signaled that it is preparing for the 15th General Election (GE15) soon when it announced that the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the government and the opposition Pakatan Harapan will not be extended beyond July 31, the date by which the government would not call for elections.

Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob has concurred with Umno. So, all political parties will now be gearing up for the GE at any time. If the GE is called soon after July 31, the passing of an anti-hopping bill, which is a condition of the MoU, will only benefit Umno.

So, it wasn’t surprising that Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi when announcing the end of the MoU on July 31, also said that the anti-hopping bill should be passed soon. That precisely is the reason why it should not be passed.

Umno will be unable to become the sole Malay-based party with the most number of MPs if some of its MPs left the party and joined other parties. Umno needs its stable of MPs intact in order to form a coalition with a majority. If a number of its MPs leave the party, Umno will not succeed in forming the next government.

Umno MPs, however, may be reluctant to leave Umno because they need Umno’s machinery and cash reserves to win their seats. But, after winning the seats, they may be more willing to switch sides.

For this reason alone, it might be better for the anti-hopping bill to be deferred, preferably to another time under an able leadership that can provide the oversight to table a well-thought-through ironclad bill that strengthens the constitution rather than compromise or clash with other parts of the constitution.

If the bill is deferred, opposition parties may risk losing some of their MPs in or after the GE. But that can be addressed with individual contracts with candidates who are selected to stand for election.

At this time in the history of our young nation, letting go of the anti-hopping bill until another time will be seen as a magnanimous move by the non-Malay and urban parties to give other Malay-based MPs room to move until a Malay-majority coalition is formed that excludes Umno, PAS and Bersatu. It may be an incentive for MPs to switch to other parties in order to defeat Umno.

Already, opposition MPs are suggesting a “big tent” strategy to bring opposition parties under one banner. If they succeed, it would be a clear indication that Umno or its coalition, Barisan Nasional, will be unable to get a majority. That might be another incentive for MPs currently in the government to leave their parties to join the Opposition.

The current gridlock that has kept political parties from moving ahead may be broken when MPs move to the Opposition that can form the next government. They would save themselves and the nation. Think about it!

No moral grounds but still holding on to power

So, why are Umno leaders making noise again? This time over the defeat of the government bill to amend a clause in the Security Offences (Special Measures) 2012 Act (Sosma) once it expires on July 31, 2022.

The clause in question is Section 4(5) of Sosma, which allows for detention without a court order for up to 28 days. According to Section 4(11) of Sosma, the enforceability of Section 4(5) must be renewed by both Houses of Parliament every five years. Now, that the government bill has been defeated in the Dewan Rakyat, that provision has been removed from Sosma.

So, what’s bothering Umno MPs that this government motion was defeated? Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi expressed shock that the government bill was defeated and blamed it on the opposition saying “they have broken their promises, violated the agreement (MOU signed between the government and the opposition) and completely ignored their previous commitments.”

It has since been pointed out that a number of government and opposition (more government than opposition) MPs didn’t vote resulting in the defeat of the motion. And that the MOU clearly states that the opposition’s obligation to not vote or abstain only refers to a bill tabled by the government which, if failed to pass, will bring down the government. In this case, it wasn’t such a bill.

Communications and Multimedia Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa — an Umno MP — earlier had also said that the defeat of the bill meant that the opposition’s action had effectively nullified the MOU.

Both Zahid and Annuar stand corrected and their criticisms have stopped but it reveals their sad lack of knowledge of available information and the will to act on correct information. Instead, they make a lot of noise at the risk of looking foolish and when found out behave as quiet as a mouse but will still hold on to their positions.

Joining his fellow party members, Umno’s Padang Rengas MP Nazri Aziz argued that it doesn’t matter if the MOU was affected or not but that it was a matter of perception and that the people would perceive it as the government — despite having a majority — lost.

Perceived as having lost, Nazri felt the Barisan Nasional (BN) has lost the “moral ground” to run the government. Oh, really? What about joining forces with other parties to form an unelected government that to this day refuses to prove its majority? That isn’t losing the “moral ground” to govern?

Strangely, when Umno’s candidate for the Mentri Besar’s post in Johor was rejected, there was little or no noise by Umno politicians. Even at the recently-concluded Umno general assembly, there was not a sound about the Johor MB issue.

It was a clear-cut case. It was within the Sultan’s powers as according to the federal constitution to reject a candidate and choose another from the list of names submitted to him. He exercised his rights under the highest power of the land, the constitution. But, why didn’t Umno exercise its rights under the constitution and, instead, deferred to the Sultan?

Do Umno MPs and assemblypersons know and understand the constitution to act within its authority? It’s within the state government’s authority to call for a confidence vote in the state assembly for the appointed MB. With more than a two-thirds majority, Umno could have rejected the candidate and sent the list back to the Sultan. Of course, it would have soured relations between the two but, as Nazri said, as a matter of perception the people would have seen Umno standing up for them.

They failed to do that and consequently lost the “moral ground” to lead the state government. Yet, they are there.

All this noise on issues that are not issues and silence over issues that are the real issues simply reflects a powerless and immoral government. The Umno-led government claims a majority but fails to defend the people’s choices. They have no moral grounds to govern at all.

Will they, then, step down? Unlikely. They need to remain in government for their own personal agendas. Meanwhile, whatever they do is simply a lot of hot air, shadow boxing. Useless activity.

Most of us the majority see through their antics. Unfortunately for us and fortunately for them, their voter base has bought into their spurious narrative.

I hope word gets around and reaches their voters that they are being led by their noses.

The people have the right to know …

It is imperative that candidates fielded in the coming Johor state elections make their stand very clearly regarding their commitment to upholding the constitution, wiping out corruption and implementing sustainable development in light of climate change.

What the candidates say about these issues will tell the people what to expect from candidates standing for election at the federal level in a general election.

Firstly, will the candidate commit himself/herself to upholding the federal and state constitutions at all cost? This is extremely important because we don’t want leaders who will circumvent the constitution in order to seize or remain in power in the manner in which the previous prime minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, got himself installed as the prime minister and in a similar way in which the Opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) is keeping the current prime minister, Ismail Sabri Yaakob, in power.

Both, in my opinion, are unconstitutional because both did not prove they had a majority by facing a no-confidence vote in Parliament before installing themselves as the prime minister. Because they set a precedent, now state menteri besars, instead of facing a no-confidence vote in the state assembly to prove their majority or the lack of it, are — with the agreement of the state head of state — dissolving the state assembly and calling for untimely elections, as in the case of Malacca and now Johor.

Such head of state and head of state government cooperation is political rather than constitutional and the people have the right to know if the candidates standing for election in the state constituencies will ensure that they will NOT give any opportunity to the head of state to influence political decisions.

Constitutionally, the head of state is above politics and the menteri besar must not make decisions in consultation with the head of state under the guise of “advising” the head of state without first proving a lack of a majority in the state assembly, which the menteri besar failed to do in dissolving the Malacca state assembly last year. Likewise, in Johor, no vote of confidence was called at the state assembly but the state government was dissolved.

The people have a right to know if the candidates will play no part in involving the head of state or his representatives in state or federal politics because constitutionally the head of state can not get involved in politics.

The people also have the right to know if the candidate and his/her party will use a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to form pacts and deals to thrust parties or a coalition of their choice into power in the event no party or coalition wins a majority and this is proven through a vote of confidence at the state assembly.

Again, a precedent was set at the federal level when PH signed an MoU with the Sabri government before the latter faced a no-confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat. As a result, there was no proof that the Sabri government was a minority one with which an MoU could be signed.

An MoU is a tool of last resort used by the Opposition to prop up a minority government when no party or coalition gets a majority vote. The process of proving a majority outside of an election is undertaken in Parliament and the state assemblies as is the democratic convention practised by all democracies.

No party or coalition can declare at a press conference it has a majority or failed to get a majority and then use that to justify taking over a government or calling for elections. It must first be proven through the parliamentary/state assembly process. First, the largest minority coalition will be called to face a no-confidence vote. If it fails, the next minority coalition faces the vote and it goes on one after another. If it is proven that no party or coalition has a majority, then the Opposition has the moral grounds to enter into an MoU with a coalition of its choice and prop it up as a minority government of the day.

In the Malaysian case, that parliamentary process was bypassed and an MoU signed with an unconstitutional government, hence making the MoU unconstitutional as well.

The people have the right to know if this infraction of parliamentary procedures will be repeated.

The MoU can also be abused. In a recent report in Malaysiakini, it was stated that election watchdog Bersih had called out Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg and other Gabungan Parti Sarawak leaders for using their position to campaign by announcing projects or allocations, officiating at government events, and signing state government MoU for projects.

The people have a right to know if such MoUs will not be entered into by the candidates and that the spirit and letter of the constitution will be strenuously upheld.

The last two issues have been much discussed in the media so I’ll just mention them here.

Secondly, the people have the right to know if the candidates will expose every act of corruption in the state without fear or favour. Can the candidates promise to work towards instituting policies that give no room for corruption?

Thirdly, the people have the right to know if the candidates will ensure sustainable development practices so that the state is well-prepared for natural disasters.

If the candidates address these issues, and their responses are well-received by the people, it may encourage a higher voter turnout by people truly hopeful of a better future. And, that may work out in the Opposition’s favour, not just in the Johor elections but in the general elections as well.

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.