Tag Archives: resign

Resignation is a good move

Budget 2023 was retabled at the Dewan Rakyat today as the latter was dissolved before the budget was passed in October last year. In the next couple of days, the experts will discuss its pros and cons. Hopefully, it will not divert attention from the equally significant issue of good governance.

When Perikatan Nasional’s (PN) Tasik Gelugor MP Wan Saiful Wan Jan resigned from his post as PN information chief following charges in court for corruption, it was an example of good governance. He was charged in court with two counts of corruption early this week, the first for soliciting a bribe of an unspecified sum and the second for receiving a RM6.96 million bribe related to the Jana Wibawa programme that was instituted when PN president Muhyiddin Yassin was the prime minister.

Wan Saiful has claimed trial to prove his innocence but resigned from his position in his party, Bersatu, which is a partner in PN. A point of note is that the Jana Wibawa programme has been cancelled under Budget 2023. It will be left to be seen if others investigated by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in connection with Jana Wibawa will also face corruption charges in court.

Nevertheless, it is commendable that Wan Saiful chose to resign. Hopefully, it will be an example others will follow.

If MPs hold public office, they too, like Wan Saiful, must resign from their positions. This is the political culture that must be practised by our politicians. Anyone holding public office must resign from their positions if they are charged in court whether for corruption or any other crime or suit. If they are acquitted of or pardoned for all charges, they can return to their positions.

If the person charged is an MP, he/she need not resign as an MP for the duration of the case until found guilty. Whether that MP can continue to represent his/her voters will depend on the decision the Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat makes according to the law or the MP’s party makes.

Former prime minister, Najib Razak, remained an MP while his corruption case was going on on the grounds that a person is “innocent until found guilty”. That’s true but it would have been better if he hadn’t in order to ensure good governance. Anyone charged in court will raise doubts about his/her integrity and whether he/she can be trusted with taxpayer’s funds and resources.

Politicians should not force such doubts on voters as voters may react and vote against them. To avoid the risk of losing votes and demonstrating that the MP is worthy of the voters’ trust, it would be better for MPs facing court charges to step down from public office.

Wan Saiful and PN have set a bar for political conduct. Although PN became a government through a coup, without the mandate of the people, it appears as if it is taking measures to correct itself. It’s a good start and if PN MPs continue holding themselves to the highest standards of public service, it can only augur well for the coalition.

The big question now is whether the Pakatan Harapan (PH)-led unity government will do the same with regard to its ministers who are facing court charges. Against Wan Saiful’s resignation, Anwar’s unity Cabinet, which includes Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and other Umno MPs facing court charges in court, doesn’t look too good.

PH started off well, whipping up support with its calls for reforms and good governance. Now, in government, while implementing some reforms, it seems to be acting no differently than previous administrations with regard to good governance.

PH needs to be very careful how it conducts itself in government. If it doesn’t, it may lose its pole position as the advocate for reforms and integrity in government as other parties and coalitions take over that role.


Umno in strategic position to change its future course

Umno has officially declared that it will not join the Perihatin Nasional (PN) coalition in the next general elections. That might be a good move on Umno’s part if it reflects grassroots disillusionment with its coalition partner junior party Bersatu which wants to call the shots.

That grassroots disillusionment is a good sign; it shows that Umno’s Malay grassroots have realised that Umno’s majority position in PN will not be to its advantage if it undermines Bersatu’s desire to remain in power.

With Umno out of PN, PN can no longer claim that it is a Malay majority coalition. Any other coalition is now poised to assume the role of a Malay-majority grouping if Umno plays its cards wisely. Umno should be prepared to sacrifice its “court cluster” leaders facing criminal charges in court for the sake of political survival.

If Umno has severed ties with PN from the next general elections, why doesn’t it withdraw from PN now? It should heed its adviser Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah’s call for its “cluster of ministers” to resign from PN now to uphold its dignity.

Umno MPs in PN may not want to resign for the same reason PN doesn’t want to resign although it can’t prove its majority. These Malay MPs need to be in government to have access to funds to pour into their constituencies to ensure continued support.

Giving funds to MPs is not the issue. But to deprive Opposition MPs or coalition MPs who do not support the PN of such funds is childishly punitive.

But, that’s the PN’s style of leadership. Unable to use theirs skills or (perhaps, lacking in them) and resources at their disposal through negotiations and proper management, they resort to the big stick. If you don’t support PN leader Muhyiddin Yassin, we’ll punish you. If people will not abide by our requests with regard to covid-19, we’ll  seek emergency to force compliance. (They never thought that maybe they should dialogue with stakeholders to get their support or maybe they just don’t have abilities to do that and so threaten them with emergency.) If Umno threatens to pull out of PN, we’ll seek emergency from the Agong. If MPs want to question our legitimacy, we’ll advise the Agong to prorogue Parliament.

We need laws to protect the people from leaders who abuse their position in government for self-serving  interests. Any new government must also consider levelling the playing field for all MPs. Instead of the ruling government determining how much of government funds each MP gets, MPs’ allocations should be determined by Parliament with every MP getting the same amount. The allocation must be disbursed irrespective of which coalition is in government.

This will remove the need to switch parties or stay in government illegitimately in order to get funds to pacify voters so as to win elections.

So, yes, it is obvious why PN won’t resign and neither would Umno’s cluster of ministers in PN, although the latter should if it has any sense of dignity and allegiance and loyalty to the party.

The loss of government funds would only be for a short while if the new government reforms fund allocations to MPs. Hence, it would be advantageous for Umno’s cluster of ministers to resign. It shows they can’t be bought and that might work in their favour in the next general elections.

To make things easier, it might be better for Umno to pull out of PN now, thus, its cluster of ministers will have no choice but to resign. If they don’t, it means they have interests outside of Umno and that’s a big risk they would be taking because it may cost them votes in the next general elections.

If Umno pulls out of PN now, Parliament must be convened to test PN’s majority. If it loses a confidence vote, PN must resign.

That’s a cheaper and constitutionally correct way of testing support for a party or coalition then wielding the big stick of a general election which is very costly and will be disruptive in the aftermath of the pandemic and in which Bersatu stands to lose rather than gain.

The only option left for the PN coalition

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scholars need to be told all this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The merits of resigning …

Former chief editor of the New Straits Times group and veteran writer Kadir Jasin recently wrote in his blog in his personal capacity that voluntary resignation was an option for leaders implicated in scandals.

In the context of the sex video which is alleged to feature Economics Minister Azmin Ali, Kadir said it served as a litmus test and whether Pakatan Harapan leaders would “do the right thing”.

Kadir’s suggestion merits consideration. In a democratically elected government, the leaders are ultimately accountable to the people. People elect leaders based on what they say, stand for and the image they project. It is the responsibility of the leaders to honestly present all the facts about themselves so that the people know who they are voting for.

If for whatever reason, a leader withholds a fact about himself or herself or about a past misdeed or a current association which he or she knows fully well will influence the vote or support for him or her, that leader betrays the trust of the supporters.

That personal characteristic or deed may not be wrong but if it’s unacceptable to the people and the leader knows that bringing it out to the open would risk the loss of support, and he or she keeps it hidden, that leader fails in honouring the trust of the people who put him or her in public office in the first place.

As Kadir pointed out in his blog, many leaders who know the pulse of their supporters have resigned when their secrets became public knowledge.

Whether a leader resigns or not depends on the high moral standards he or she holds to. A person with high morals will resign as in the case of the examples Kadir gave in his blog. (The case of Lord John Dennis Prufumo who was sacked and later jailed for having an affair with a call girl was the famous example he listed.)

One with lower moral standards may not as in the case of former US President Bill Clinton who is known for operating in the grey areas of morality.

When it became public knowledge that he had sex with an intern while in office in the White Office, Clinton hung on to his position. It kicked up a storm of public protests but he weathered it and held on to his position with only a slight slap on the knuckles in the form of impeachments for perjury and obstruction of justice. He was acquited of both charges because the Senate was unable to get a two-thirds majority for conviction.

Clinton stayed in office, but the damage was done. He will go down in history — despite his accomplishments — as the president who had a sexual affair with a 22-year-old intern. In addition, the Democrats lost the subsequent elections — a loss which was largely attributed to his affair.

Malaysia is currently making history. We threw out a corrupt regime and we need to make sure that the leaders we install have the trust of the people. Our leaders need to ask: What will history say of us?

Historians are going to thoroughly examine what transpires now to record them as historical facts for posterity. Generations to come are going to study about the history that is unfolding right before our eyes. History will not lie. So, if leaders have been implicated in scandals, resignation is an honourable option if they don’t want salacious or criminal facts about themselves to be recorded in history books!

Resignation does not mean an admission of guilt; it simply says the leader assumes responsibility for himself/herself and those involved or associated with and puts the voters and the nation before one’s own interests.

Getting out of the hot soup would give the leader the chance to take stock and gain clarity. Whether the scandal is a crime or a moral issue, or whether he or she is an active participant or one by association, the leader will be able to change and reposition himself or herself according to the expectations of the voters.

At a future date, that leader can seek reelection. If the past scandal comes up again, the leader can honestly and confidently declare he or she is no longer associated with it; it’s history, not where he or she is now.

There is always a chance for a comeback if people believe in one’s honesty.