Tag Archives: PH

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 only option left

Two things are unlikely to happen in the current political scenario. Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin will not step down and Umno will not quit the Perihatin Nasional (PN) government no matter what.

Muhyiddin won’t resign because its coalition partner Umno will position itself for a comeback and his party Bersatu will have to take a back seat. He won’t want that to happen. Umno, no matter how recklessly destabilising its blustering bullying gets, won’t quit the PN because it’s trying to make a comeback through the backdoor.

Both need to be in the government to have access to funds to put in the hands of the B40 group who form the backbone of the support for both parties. Without funds, support for these parties is not guaranteed.

So, the PN coalition will remain but consider at what future costs. The the covid19 pandemic will be managed, thanks to our excellent Health Director-General Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, with or without the PN government. The sudden spike in cases is being used as an excuse to resort to drastic measures to control an uncontrollable Umno and that makes the PN government a dangerous government because it has demonstrated its willingness to rely on extreme measures to control a situation it can’t manage.

So, will it do the same when people start fighting for dwindling resources?  The economy is going to get worse because of the pandemic. Businesses are downsizing or closing down; people are losing jobs. Government income from taxes will be greatly reduced and with depleting resources the Prime Minister will have less funds to put cash in the hands of the B40 group. More people will be fighting for limited resources and if one group is favoured over the rest, the strain on the people will be greater and who knows how it will explode? If the PN government can not manage the covid 19 third wave peacefully can it manage economically-fuelled racial tensions in the future without relying on extreme action? That’s yet to be seen but are we going to wait until that happens when it might be too late?

There is an option now that is yet to be considered seriously. Restore the GE14 mandate of the people in its entirety, which is a Pakatan Harapan (PH) government composing PKR, DAP, Amamah and Bersatu and its splinter party Pejuang and Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman and his Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (Muda) party with former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as the Prime Minister-designate and with Gabungan Parti Sarawak and Sabah Warisan Parti  in tow as PH-friendly.

I know PH parties are moving on with alternative arrangements but it must respect the mandate of the people in the GE14 and seek to restore the coalition and its composition as elected by the people. Any combination outside of the original PH coalition will not work. Strife and political instability will continue and it will get worse.

To arrest these twin issues which are causing undue strain on the people, the unelected PN government must be made to face the due processes of parliamentary democracy. No elected MP must tolerate an unelected government and must take steps to restore the mandate of the people. But, how?

My suggestion is the GE14 PH original coalition. This is the only choice of a coalition left. Send out feelers to recoup. The parties concerned must be willing to set aside personal feelings for the good of the nation. Tun, Muhyiddin, Anwar, Azmin, eat humble pie and work together.

Sit together and have a pow wow. Thrash out the outstanding issues but with professional courtesy without shouting at each other, especially to Tun. It’s not in our culture, whether Indian, Malay, Chinese or ethnic Sabahan or Sarawakian to be rude to our elders. Maintain professionalism but talk and iron things out, personal feelings aside.

If the PN government is defeated by a vote of no confidence in the Dewan Rakyat next week, it will make it easier for PH to form a majority coalition if it approaches Muhyiddin to join it again. If the no-confidence vote is not called then the MPs vote of PN’s Budget must show respect for the people’s mandate. It would be a betrayal of the people’s  trust and a grossly irresponsible act if elected MPs pass a Budget and put taxpayers’ money in the hands of a government these taxpayers didn’t elect.

If the Budget is rejected, Muhyiddin has to resign and again, PH, as the next coalition with a majority should reach out to Bersatu to join it. Umno and PAS will go back to the Opposition but individual members are free to join PH parties.

Should this suggestion work out and Tun returns as PM — maximum until the next election — I hope there will be ministers in the Cabinet who will advise him NOT to sound like US President Donald Trump in his comments on foreign affairs or race issues. With regard to his latest outbursts at French President Emmanuel Macron, let him know that belligerent bravado does not help the Muslim world; respectful engagement does.

My suggestion of reuniting the GE14 PH coalition is put forward as a solution to continuing political instability and future strife. It is the only workable solution left, in my opinion, and, perhaps, the only solution.

A missed chance at reforms

It is a pity that the Prihatin Nasional (PN) leadership has withdrawn the proposed constitutional amendment to limit the tenure of the prime minister to two terms. It would have been a step in the right direction to ensure that useless PMs don’t stay beyond two terms and the better ones are succeeded by others who can build on their predecessor’s good work.

Such a limitation is necessary because currently, under the constitution, there is no oversight of a PM. The PM’s position is extremely powerful. In the hands of someone who does not respect the Dewan Rakyat which is entrusted with the mandate of the people, it is open to abuse.

The fact that Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Takiyuddin Hassan, cooly said in response to a question by Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) Bayan Baru MP Sim Tze Tzin that there was no need to state a reason for the withdrawal reveals the level of understanding of PN leaders of the democratic process. The Dewan Rakyat is the place for national debate and a proper answer must always be given so that the people know why. A minister who dismisses a question without giving an explanation shouldn’t be in the Dewan Rakyat. He can’t answer and is not bothered that he can’t!

A two-term limit will ensure that ministers who don’t live up to expectations will have a definite shelf life — not more than two terms!

We can no longer expect a prime minister of the calibre of the first four prime ministers. They were not perfect and they made mistakes but they always put nation first. Instead, we have to come to terms with the fact that self-serving leaders — some mediocre, some even unknowledgeable and incompetent — can become prime ministers and ministers.

To guard the people from such leaders, laws need to be made — if the constitution does not already have them — to proscribe what the prime minister can and can’t do. Amendments need to be introduced so that prime ministers are held accountable, especially to Parliament.

Now that there are a number of political parties realigning themselves into different coalitions, a new coalition may win a general election and the designated prime minister should not be expected to wait to be sworn in. An amendment must be made so that the prime minister is sworn in within a stipulated time period.

If there is a mid-term change of leadership — as it happened when the PN leadership took over the government — there should be laws to ensure that the new prime minister faces a no-confidence vote in the Dewan Rakyat and survives it with a majority before he takes up office.

Right now, the constitution does not clearly state that a no-confidence vote should be held. The prime minister, as the leader of the house, instructs the Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat to convene the Dewan Rakyat. If the prime minister is not confident of a majority, he can stall in convening the Dewan Rakyat and a no-confidence vote will be avoided. These were some of the problems that were exposed as the PN leadership took control of the government by the backdoor.

These “loopholes” in the constitution could be resolved if amendments were made so that the Speaker convenes the Dewan Rakyat and introduces the no-confidence vote independent of the prime minister. Constitutional experts have to be called in to study these issues and word the amendments so that a repeat of what has happened will not happen in the future. If it does, recourse to remedy the situation should be available.

Amendments should also be made so that select committees are set up by parliamentarians and the chairpersons elected by the respective committee and not appointed and approved by the prime minister. This would ensure the independence of the committees in choosing members and electing the chairperson.

Another urgently-needed amendment is in ensuring that all elected Members of Parliament are given the same allocation of funds, irrespective of whether they are in the Opposition or not.

The PN leadership, however, can’t be expected to introduce such reforms because then they have to give up power which we can expect they won’t do.

The PH coalition is best suited to introduce such reforms. However, these amendments require a two-thirds majority in the Dewan Rakyat to be passed, which the PH did not have when it was in government.

There was a very small window of opportunity which the PH could have seized to rally support to retake the government and then to introduce these very urgently needed reforms. PH was thinking of a counter-coup with former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad coming back as prime minister for the third time and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR, a PH coalition member) president Anwar Ibrahim as the deputy. Non-PH parties such as Gabungan Parti Sarawak apparently were willing to give Tun the support to form a majority. But Anwar was adamant that he didn’t want to be Tun’s deputy and the plan was scuttled.

If it had succeeded, with majority support and more lobbying to get a two-thirds support, some of the above-mentioned reforms could have been introduced and passed.

It was a tragically missed opportunity. Now, we have to wait for new leaders of courage, integrity and determination to emerge to introduce the reforms. We may have to wait for a very long time. I hope I’m proven wrong!

PN, where are all your good men and women?

It was expected that Prihatin Nasional’s (PN) 111 MPs, without exception, had voted against the Opposition’s 106 to pass the Supplementary Supply (2019) Bill 2020 in the Dewan Rakyat earlier this week.

If they hadn’t voted for the passing of the bill, it might have led to the resignation of the PN government as it would have shown a lack of support for the government. PN MPs, of course, wouldn’t want that; it would mean loss of jobs, position and money.

So, did they vote for themselves or the people? And, did they vote with a clear conscience? Are these MPs aware that they have entrusted the national coffers into the hands of an unelected government? That they voted for themselves to use the money paid by taxpayers who didn’t vote for them?

With the economy at rock bottom, and revenue from oil, palm oil and other commodities — which are our main revenue earners — down as a result of the worldwide recession caused by the covid-19 pandemic, the main source of revenue would be from taxpayers. But, whose taxes? Taxes from the demographic the PN government claims to represent? PN’s support base comes mainly from the rural areas. Do they earn enough for their taxable income to make a significant contribution to tax revenue?

So, whose taxes have the 111 MPs entrusted in the hands of an unelected government? Taxes from taxpayers who didn’t vote for them. Isn’t there something immoral and shameless about this?

If the government won in a fair election and even if the taxpayers didn’t vote for them, it would be acceptable because it was a fair fight. In this case, there was no election; the government was seized from the people who gave the mandate to rule to the PH and the mandate was dismissed but those who did this voted for themselves to use the money from that mandate.

If the national revenue came from the 111 MPs’ own pockets or from the people who put them there, there would be no issue. But if it comes from the people, they are the only ones who can give a government the authority to use their money. That authority was not given to the PN government because it was not elected. The bill should not have been passed because it gives authority to a government to use the money of taxpayers who didn’t elect them.

If MPs were not enticed to support the government with all sorts of incentives and MPs voted freely and passed the bill, that can be regarded as support for the government. In this case, we don’t know how many MPs were not free to vote as they might have wanted to.

Not free? Are there no good men and women among the 111 MPs who will make themselves free, buck the trend and fight for the country and the constitution by voting correctly? None at all? Five, at least? Four? Three? Two? Not even one?

How then can we trust the PN government to do right by the people? Those who do not understand the intricacies of politics and government can be fooled to trust the PN government. But those who know will not trust this government.

The PN government is hoping that the country will go past how it was formed and let it carry on. Well, that is similar to money laundering. No matter how well the money is laundered, it is still dirty money. It’s the same with politics. No matter what the government does, it is still dirty politics. And it should be stopped.

Perhaps there are a few among the 111 MPs who realise this isn’t the way to govern but are powerless to change the status quo. Or, they may be biding their time. Friends, the country needs you, don’t take your time. If you leave a party or coalition because you don’t want to be associated with wrongdoing, that is commendable. That’s not the same as party hopping for personal gain. It demonstrates that you are willing to fight for what is good for the nation and suffer the consequences. That’s the kind of leaders we need now.

With a number of Malay parties available now to join, PN MPs need to consider their future. To stay put or break out. Who knows the latter may launch them into a successful and long political career in the future because people will recognise their commitment to integrity.

It’s such leaders this country needs now — those who are willing to fight to protect the mandate of the people. Don’t let us down.

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.

 

There is a right side to join!

Strange things are happening in the country again! As it did when Najib Razak was prime minister. The most recent one was when the prosecution dropped all 46 corruption and money laundering charges against former Sabah chief minister Musa Aman. Mind-boggling!

Yet, there were other “strange” events under the Prihatin Nasional (PN) government. Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin refuses to legitimize the government by proving its majority in the Dewan Rakyat. Dewan Rakyat Speaker was too scared to stand up to the PM or whoever to follow standing orders and have a debate at the first session of Parliament under the PN government. Riza Aziz, Najib’s stepson, is giving a dismissal not amounting to an acquittal.

We wonder if there were rational and professional explanations for the above actions or were they motivated by an irrational fear of reprisals? The same fear that had gripped the civil service during Najib’s time? If it is there’s a way to break that stranglehold of fear: Just sever ties with those who may be responsible for spawning it!

Apparently, there are some people who aren’t afraid. They are all now in the Opposition! They are fearless but have been manoeuvred out of government. The same fate may befall those in the PN government if they stand in the way of these unsavoury characters who want to advance their own self-serving interests and will use any means to achieve them.

So, a word of caution: Be careful who you ally with. If you are in an alliance where these unsavoury characters are operating freely, get out of it before it’s too late! If the situation should get desperately desperate, there might be another “Sheraton Move” or another strange incident where you may get burnt!

In the current circumstances, there is a right side. Right now the safest alliance to be part of is the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition.  Its members are not afraid and they will stand up to corruption and a regime of fear. They did it once and they won the 14the general elections. They can do it again but the balance of votes in the Dewan Rakyat needs to tip dramatically to the PH side.

So, my solution to the current political impasse is for all fearless MPs to get out of the PN and give the PH a comfortable majority. The sphere of influence of strangling fear expands in the alliances it operates in. Break that alliance for fear to be destroyed and MPs and civil servants will be free to do the right thing.

It is up to the fearless MPs for just once to think of the nation and do the right thing. For now, they must join the right side because it is the right side!