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.