Tag Archives: Sabri

Sabri’s last national duty

Prime Minister Ismail Sabri has announced the dissolution of Parliament, paving the way for the 15th General Election (GE15) to be held within 60 days, but his job is not yet done. There is still one more very important national duty to perform before he leaves office and the next government takes over.

Sabri’s last task is extremely crucial. It is overseeing the formation of the next coalition government according to the rule of law within the ambit of the federal constitution.

As it is, no party or current partnership is going to win a majority of seats in GE15 to form the next government by itself. The party/coalition with the most seats will have to seek other partners to form a government with a majority.

The caretaker government under Sabri’s leadership will have to ensure that a procedure is set in place for the party with the most seats to form a government. Right now no such procedure exists and a repeat of former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s coup when he seized control of the government based on his appointment as prime minister by the Agong without proving his majority must not happen.

Sabri needs to seek the counsel of constitutional experts and work with the Attorney-General’s Chambers and the Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat to develop a procedure for politicians to follow once the election results are out. He should also advise the Agong on the procedure as it is the Agong who installs the new government if he is sure it has a majority, as stipulated by the constitution.

A good example to emulate is the British Parliament where a party that fails to win an outright majority seeks partners and faces a confidence vote in Parliament. If the party wins the confidence vote, it meets the head of state, King Charles III — in Malaysia, it is the Agong — who then installs the new government.

In this model of parliamentary democracy, the majority is proven in Parliament first and then the vote is presented to the head of state as proof of a majority. It is indisputable because Parliament has proven it and has records of it.

If a procedure is not devised before GE15, chaos will follow the elections, especially if no party/coalition/partnership has a majority. Parties will do all sorts of things to grab power in the name of “Malay unity”, “saving Malaysia” and/or “national interests” and ignore the rules. If Umno/Barisan Nasional wins the most seats, one can expect this once-favoured spoilt brat to throw tantrums and get away with it as it always has.

To avoid this period of political instability, it would be wise for Sabri to give priority to putting in place a procedure to ensure an orderly and constitutionally acceptable search for partners to form a coalition with a majority.

The normal procedure is for the Agong to first call the party/coalition/partnership with the most seats to seek a majority with other partners. If it fails, the next party/coalition/partnership will be called to do the same and if that fails, too, the next will be called until a party/coalition/partnership is formed. That has to be proven by a confidence or no-confidence vote in Parliament. Only then does the prime minister-designate meet the Agong and a date is fixed for the installation of the new government.

Sabri can not and must not leave this matter unaddressed. Neither should he leave it to the Dewan Rakyat Speaker to manage the formation of a government with a majority. Not being a parliamentarian, Speaker Azhar Harun may be unable to perform this vital duty to manage a smooth transition of power to a legitimate coalition government. If he is left to undertake this responsibility on his own, it may end up in controversial decisions as in the past.

As the current Speaker was appointed and not elected, he is beholden to the executive and this is one occasion when the prime minister can and should direct him to introduce a confidence or no-confidence vote in Parliament to prove a coalition’s claim of a majority.

If Sabri does this last job well, and a new government is formed and installed legitimately and orderly without the chaos of unanticipated disorder, he will earn his place in history among the leaders who contributed meaningfully to national development. If he fails he will be ranked with his predecessor Muhyiddin who helmed an illegitimate government which Sabri continued because both failed to grasp what parliamentary democracy is and the primary role the prime minister plays in upholding it.

Here’s an opportunity for Sabri to redeem himself and put the nation’s interest first and undertake to oversee the smooth and orderly transfer of power to a legitimate government. I have only suggested ideas here; he must get the input of professionals and constitutional experts to ensure that the transition to the next government is not fraught with shocks due to constitutional transgressions as what followed the Sheraton Moves and that political stability is maintained while a new government is being formed.

The people need Sabri to do this.


GE15 date must be good for Malaysia, not Umno

Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has been acquitted of all graft charges by the Shah Alam High Court in his case involving the Foreign Visa System. Umno’s Baling MP Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim has been granted a discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA) by the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court with regard to corruption and money laundering.

To the layperson, the question is why were these politicians even charged in the first place if they got off the hook so easily? Didn’t the prosecution do its job? Or were they and the courts influenced by the tirade of criticisms against the authorities over former prime minister Najib Razak’s conviction?

If one Umno politician went free, the judge’s reasons can be accepted as independently arrived at even if many may be disappointed by the decision. But, when two from the same political party as the prime minister get off scot-free on the same day in different courts, in the current context of questioning the independence of the judiciary, the question does arise in one’s mind if justice was done?

We will never know but it presents the same lack of credibility that has characterised the Malay-majority governments of the past two years. It has been a government by political pacts and Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and not a government by constitutional rule. As the former, decisions are made according to what has been agreed upon by coalition partners in a pact and that takes precedence over constitutional rule.

This is so clearly apparent in Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s indecisiveness in naming the date for the 15th General Election (GE15). It was a hotly debated issue in the media but we are yet to hear of his decision and we may have to wait a little longer because he is not in the country. He is in New York to attend the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly.

A general election is necessary to restore constitutional rule in Malaysia, the fundamental basis of which is obtaining the mandate of the people. No doubt it is difficult for Sabri to choose the right date as his hands are tied.

Apparently, according to media reports, a document was signed between him and Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin that elections should be called only after consultations with Bersatu. At the same time, he is being pulled in the other direction by Umno members who want an early election.

An election is urgently necessary so that the country has a prime minister who is not bound by pacts and loyalty to a party president that he can’t make independent decisions based on the rule of law.

The only good reason to not hold the GE15 in the coming months is the risk of floods that may cause the loss of life. This may lead to a low voter turnout which may benefit Umno as its supporters may come out to vote but the majority may not.

A low voter turnout in GE15 will be unfavourable to all parties, except Umno. It could mean that Umno may win a number of seats on a smaller percentage of votes and form a coalition with other parties with even smaller representation to form a minority government.

A date must be chosen which will bring out the most number of voters so that a government is formed on a majority in order to ensure political stability.

While in New York, out of the hot seat where he is pulled in many directions, hopefully, Sabri will clear his head and arrive at a date for GE15 which will draw out the most number of voters so that the government that follows will be a majority government and good for Malaysia.

A tough decision for Sabri

Former prime minister Najib Razak’s conviction by the High Court for abuse of power, criminal breach of trust and money laundering was upheld by the Federal Court and he is now in jail beginning his 12-year sentence. He has been proven to be guilty. So, it is mind-boggling that his supporters are demanding a royal pardon!

He hasn’t even served one week in jail and his supporters are already clamouring for a royal pardon. Blinded by loyalty, they can’t see that if their request was granted, it would put the royal institution in a bad light — as one which does not respect the judgement of the courts. I like to think that the king with good counsel at his disposal will not play into the hands of Najib’s supporters.

It is unbelievable that Najib’s supporters want a royal pardon — as unbelievable as former prime minister and Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin accepting to be installed as prime minister when he knew he could not prove a majority.

This is what happens when power is put in the hands of Umno and former members who abuse the power of their positions. They use power for their own ends even if it goes against the rule of law. We have seen it in the way Najib ran the country and he is in jail now for it! We saw it in the way Muhyiddin governed by installing a huge bloated Cabinet and luring MPs to join it with all sorts of enticements although he got away with it. And, we are now seeing it as Najib’s supporters demand a royal pardon for him.

The fear is he will get away with it too if his supporters have their way! Although Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob is a vice-president in Umno, in this case, he should not be swayed by party politics. He should think of restoring the good name of the nation already marred by the 1MDB scandal and act according to the rule of law and ensure that Najib, too, doesn’t get away with it!

Najib must first serve a portion of his sentence and complete all his court cases before he is considered for a royal pardon. If Sabri caves in to the demands of Najib’s supporters, he will be proving what all of Malaysia except his supporters knows — that Umno will use its privileged position for personal gain rather than national gain.

Hopefully, Sabri will make the right decision though it may be a difficult decision. It may cost him his premiership but it would make him look good in history for not letting a crook off the hook!

Finding the way to political stability

In thanking the MPs for passing the anti-hopping bill, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said that the bill was important to ensure long-term political stability in the country.

The anti-hopping bill will no doubt bring about some measure of political stability to the country but it has no bearing on the fundamental flaw that caused the political instability that followed the Sheraton Moves.

The country plunged into political instability the moment Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin took Bersatu out of the legitimate, elected Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition government after the then prime minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, resigned. When Tun resigned, PH was still the government but within a couple of hours, Muhyiddin pulled Bersatu out of PH. That was when the PH government fell, because it lost its majority when Bersatu pulled out of PH.

Muhyiddin then got his new alliance, Perikatan Nasional (PN), installed as the new government without facing a confidence vote in Parliament to prove his majority. There was no proof he had a majority and that was when the party-hopping began as politicians were enticed to join PN ostensibly to show a majority.

So, party-hopping was a consequence not the cause of the political instability that followed Tun’s resignation. The cause was Bersatu’s withdrawal from PH which felled the PH government — not the party-hopping.

While the anti-hopping bill enables political parties to stop their MPs from switching parties (which, perhaps, was the primary motive for mooting such a law), there is no guarantee that a coalition government will not fall in the future when one party decides to leave it and leave it without a majority.

Meanwhile, the current status quo in which an illegitimate and unelected government is supported by a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Opposition remains, with Sabri’s party, Umno, standing to gain most from the anti-hopping bill because its MPs won’t be able to leave it to join other parties. Umno becomes stronger because it will be the only Malay party with the most number of MPs and if it wins a good number of seats in the next general elections, other parties will have no choice but to negotiate with it to form a coalition.

On the other hand, if a law was passed to ensure that an unelected party or coalition faces a confidence/no-confidence vote in Parliament, the instability of the consequences of a minority government is eliminated. When the numbers are proven, party hopping will be irrelevant with only a few rare exceptions when MPs leave for their own reasons.

MPs need to demonstrate better judgement in prioritising the new laws or amendments that need to be addressed.

However, since a precedent has already been set, the anti-hopping law or any other law can be tabled again for further amendments. The Sabri government set a precedent when it tabled again the motion to extend the enforcement of Section 4(5) of the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) for another five years from July 31 after it was rejected in the previous sitting of the Dewan Rakyat. The motion was passed in the current session.

It’s a dangerous precedent because it undermines and diminishes the significance, dignity and authority of the Dewan Rakyat. It reflects a government that does not respect the decisions made in Parliament and would use its position in government to bulldoze laws through Parliament until they get a majority to pass them. This is another example of abuse of power.

Since a precedent has been set, a subsequent government can overturn passed legislation. Why then have a Parliament? Do as you please as what is happening now.

Being an unelected illegitimate government, legitimised by an MoU, the Sabri government needs to ask itself on what constitutional authority it is acting. It’s unelected, so it does not have the mandate of the people. It’s illegitimate because it has not proven its majority, so it has no confidence to act on behalf of the people.

So, on whose authority are they introducing bills? Themselves? Apparently so. Its ministers are introducing laws that don’t seem to come from the people such as the Sosma amendment and the Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill. Do these laws help the people or the ministers to help produce results they are unable to achieve through proper, well-thought-through humane policies and campaigns? Instead, they want to produce results with punitive laws like a whip in the hand.

Sabri needs to understand that his government does not have the mandate of the people to introduce laws that affect the people. So, they should stop introducing such laws. The only authority the incumbent government currently has is to do according to the MoU.

The Sabri government may claim they have the support of the majority of Malays and therefore the majority — as the Malays are a majority — as represented by the number of Malay MPs on its side. The truth is that that is a misnomer.

Most of the Malay parliamentary constituencies are in the rural areas which at one time held the majority of Malays and hence a large number of constituencies in that region to ensure that the Malays are adequately represented in government. That demographic has changed and the 2020 census records that most of the Malays are now in the urban areas where they are not represented.

Although the Malay-majority Sabri and previous PN governments have a majority of Malay MPs, they represent only about 25% of the Malay population because according to the 2020 census 75% of the rural population has migrated to the urban areas. In other words, the current government represents a minority and it has no moral grounds to impose its minority concerns on the majority. That is tyranny.

Sabri is a lawyer, so he should understand the political conundrum he is in. A general election is the best solution to reset Malaysian politics and get back to following the constitution in installing a legitimate, elected government. Unfortunately, since Umno is led by leaders facing corruption charges in court, a general election could bring them back to power.

So, Sabri needs to think through rationally and carefully to choose the earliest date for a general election that would also ensure that corrupt leaders do not come back to power. It may seem like a tall order but a clever politician can find the right date for the next general election.

Take a leaf out of the UK’s book to choose a PM

The United Kingdom is in the midst of a race to elect the next prime minister after incumbent prime minister Boris Johnson resigned on July 7. What makes it an event to take note of here in Malaysia is that — unlike in Malaysia — the prime minister’s resignation was NOT followed by a period of political instability.

Johnson resigned as a result of a wave of resignations from his Cabinet and government which triggered a series of events that led to the loss of support of his party for his premiership. Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad also resigned when he realised that he had lost the support of his then party, Bersatu, which had engineered an alliance that included Umno leaders Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Najib Razak who are facing corruption charges in court.

When a prime minister loses the support of his party or the voters who elected him/her, he/she should resign. That is democracy.

The political instability that followed Tun Mahathir’s resignation is still reverberating through the country while the UK is going through its change of prime minister calmly through an organised, orderly process of electing the next prime minister. That begs the question as to why Malaysian politicians failed to ensure political stability when a prime minister resigned.

There are several factors to take note of to explain this dismal failure in political accountability. Firstly, in the UK government, there wasn’t any predator politician or a cohort of them waiting in the wings to seize the opportunity offered by the resignation of a prime minister to advance their own agendas.

The prime minister resigned but his party or coalition remains the elected government. When Johnson resigned, his Cabinet fell as well but he and his Cabinet remain in government until a new prime minister is elected. That is the democratic convention in a parliamentary democracy-cum-constitutional monarchy.

Johnson’s party, the Conservative Party, is recognised as the elected government and no one attempts to seize the opportunity the instability of a transition offered to force himself or herself and his or her team into government; that’s a coup. The mandate of the people is respected and left untouched while the resigning prime minister’s party undertakes the responsibility of electing the next prime minister.

But, did that happen in Malaysia? No, Malaysian politicians disrespected the mandate of the people and installed themselves as the government as if it were their right, blissfully ignorant of the fact that they were not following democratic conventions and that that is not the rule of law!

Secondly, how did Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin become prime minister? Did his party nominate him? What was the process according to the party’s constitution? Was the process of nominating a prime minister described in the party’s constitution? Or, did he assume as party president that position was automatically his, and his supporters in the party went along with it? Perhaps, it was decided at a meeting of his top party leaders but was there a proper nomination and election process?

UK’s Conservative Party has a clear and orderly process with a committee that oversees the election of a prime minister when the incumbent resigns. They go through rounds of election by the party’s elected MPs until the candidate with the highest vote in the final round emerges as the prime minister-elect, which, in the current situation, is expected to be announced in early September. It’s a long and tedious process and no one rushes it, with the interim prime minister and his Cabinet running the government until then.

In Malaysia, prospective prime ministers unilaterally announced they are the chosen candidates of their parties. Muhyiddin never claimed it but through a series of political pacts, he became prime minister. Without following democratic conventions he named Umno vice-president Ismail Sabri Yaakob as prime minister and Muhyiddin’s legacy of an illegitimate government continues.

Tun Mahathir has said his party wants him to be the next prime minister if his new party, Pejuang, wins the next general election. PKR president has announced that he would reduce petrol prices if he becomes PM. It’s a political party’s right to name its candidate for the premiership. But is it an arbitrary decision or a name that emerges at the end of a nomination or election process?

Political parties need to spell out clearly in their constitutions the process of how to choose a prime minister. It then becomes clear to the public that the majority in the party chose the candidate and it is a choice that must be respected.

The only party that has a clear nomination and election process is Umno. It is Umno’s tradition that the president becomes the prime minister if Umno or an Umno-led coalition wins. How Sabri became the prime minister is a break from tradition. Again it was an arbitrary decision made by Muhyiddin and the country — like everything after the Sheraton Moves — was stuck with an unelected choice!

While the UK’s Conservative Party is choosing its next prime minister, Parliament gets ready for a vote of confidence. Again this is the democratic convention. A government must prove to the people it has a majority and the only way to show it is through a vote of confidence/no-confidence. This is not a negotiable issue and the British Parliament practices it without debate.

Did the Malay-majority government led by Muhyiddin follow this fundamental principle of the rule by a majority which is the basis of any democracy? Definitely no. What followed was simply to use their positions and pacts to ensure they remained in government. The current so-called “Malay-majority” government needs to ask itself if it followed the rule of law or bent it to keep itself in government.

A third factor to note is the role of the Queen. The Queen has not breathed a word about the political changes taking place in her realm. She does not intervene but leaves it to the politicians to resolve the issues on their own. The politicians know their role. They don’t involve the Queen. According to a recent BBC report, once the Conservative Party has chosen the next prime minister, he/she will be invited to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen who — on the advice of the ruling party — appoints a new prime minister.

Did we follow a similar process? No. Instead, our politicians went racing to the palace to show proof of majority, and, somehow, Muhyiddin, got installed as prime minister although he didn’t prove he had the numbers.

The point is that the party chooses the prime ministerial candidate who then goes to Parliament — not to the king or the royals — to face a confidence vote to prove that the candidate has the support of the majority of the House. When that is demonstrated for the public to see, the invitation comes from Buckingham Palace to meet the Parliament-approved candidate who is then appointed prime minister on the advice of the party.

Malaysian politicians need to understand that all political issues involving the people must be resolved among themselves and finalised in Parliament. They should have enough confidence in themselves to resolve all political crises by themselves without seeking the help of the king or sultans. Then, we won’t have a case of an unmandated menteri besar or one who receives fancy shoes from royals!

Malaysian politicians have to understand how parliamentary democracy-cum-constitutional monarchy works and there is no better example to consider than the people who first set it up — the British.

Hopefully, Malaysian politicians are following the UK PM race and learning how to conduct themselves as responsible self-respecting politicians. If they can’t learn and correct themselves, then, it is crystal clear that they should not be reelected.

Just consider what happened in the past two years: abuse of power through double standards, intimidating political policing, an Attorney-General’s Chambers that allowed out-of-court settlements involving politicians, a Dewan Rakyat Speaker who has failed to understand that his overriding responsibility is to ensure the independence of the House and not to protect the government, poor governance, weak efforts at recovery and bungling incompetence. Only the judiciary remains an uncompromised institution.

The country can’t afford further decline at the hands of this batch of leaders. Only the people can stop them by voting them out and voting in leaders who know what the rule of law is and uphold it. Otherwise, we will be freely offering garlands to monkeys.

Go to the people …

It must have been a major embarrassment to Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaacob when the Prime Minister’s Office’s social media team had to take down a Twitter poll that carried a majority of negative views on the government’s newly-established “Jihad Task Force to Address Inflation and Assist in Facing Cost of Living”.

The poll had asked Twitter users to give their views on the capability of the task force to coordinate efforts to resolve inflation issues efficiently and effectively.

Most of the viewers didn’t agree with the question asked. That prompted the PMO’s media team to take down the poll.

This only goes to show how disconnected the current crop of national leaders is from the people. They apparently don’t know what the people want or think. Inflation and soaring prices are everyday issues for the people and setting up a task force is not going to suddenly bring prices down and put affordable food on the table.

Don’t the current crop of leaders know this? Yet, they want to hold on to their positions when they don’t seem able to do anything right to solve the problems of the people except to wear fancy clothes to welcome dignitaries and set up committees to study the issues of the day!

In this respect, I take my hats off to former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad; he takes the issues to the ground. Even when he was prime minister the first time, when the fight got intense, he took it to the ground through a party or general election. And he won each time always on the support of the people.

He’s doing the same thing now with his new party, Pejuang — explaining to the people what the party stands for based on what he has said so far. Only a general election will show if his strategy to win support for Pejuang is successful. The outcome may be different from the Johor elections where Pejuang lost all its seats because Pejuang has had more time to meet with the people.

That’s what all political parties should be doing — not sitting in their air-conditioned posh offices setting up committees to solve national issues. Go to the people. If they don’t want to see you or reject you or chase you off or jam your social media accounts with negative comments, it’s the surest sign that the people want you out of government.

Then, hold a general election — for the sake of the people, not for the sake of the personal interests of politicians.

The kind of leaders not to elect

PKR president Anwar Ibrahim is going ahead with the debate with Umno adviser and former prime minister Najib Razak which is scheduled for May 12. Once again he went along with Najib’s request to hold the debate after the fasting month although Anwar’s side had no issue with having it during the fasting month.

The bigger issue is: Why is Anwar having a debate with a convicted prime minister on the national political stage? According to his recent statements, he explains it as being nice in accordance with his religious beliefs. That is understandable but is it ethical professionally?

Let’s say if one was a head of department in an organization where it’s CEO has been found guilty of embezzling funds from the company and is removed and one then becomes vice-president and meets with the previous CEO at some function, of course, one needs to be nice to him. But would the new VP in his right mind ever engage the convicted CEO in any official capacity when that could open up the possibility of bringing the latter back into the company in any influential position? If the vice president did that it is very likely that he would get demoted if not fired!

Being nice should not be confused with justifying the bending of the rules especially when it involves someone in or vying for public office.

Unfortunately, that is what we have been seeing since Najib’s time. Najib, Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin, current prime minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob and now Anwar all seem to have bent the rules in the name of Malay dominance, unity and religion. None seem able to recognize that what they have done or are doing is wrong. Najib is in denial of his responsibility in the 1MDB scandal; Muhyiddin and Sabri do not see anything wrong in seizing the premiership without proving their majority; Anwar is ready to engage with a convicted criminal in a debate that will turn out to be a PR opportunity in Najib’s favour.

Did Anwar get the go-ahead from his party and his partners in Pakatan Harapan to engage with Najib and the court cluster leading Umno? Is this ethical?

How can the people trust such leaders? By their own actions, these leaders have disqualified themselves from any position in public office, much less the position of a prime minister. What is there to say they will not bend the rules again for their convenience in order to remain in power?

The people need to be wary of such leaders. In the next general election, we should not elect them or their parties. We really should give other leaders a chance to emerge and lead the nation according to the rule of law — not according to political, religious and personal expediency, which, in effect, means doing as you please and getting away with it!

What Sabri’s 2020 census bumi figure doesn’t tell

The recently announced results of the 2020 census require clarification and elaboration in two areas. The first is in the announcement by Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob that the bumiputra population has increased to 69.4% from 67.4% in 2010.

Sabri did not break down the statistic to show the percentage of the Malay population and the non-Malay bumiputra population which is largely made up of ethnic East Malaysians, many of whom are Christians. Neither did he reveal if the increase in the bumiputra population was general or uneven between the two bumiputra groups.

Giving such details will provide a truthful picture of population trends in Malaysia. Beruas MP Ngeh Koo Ham said yesterday as reported in Malaysiakini that the detailed numbers for each ethnic group should be disclosed as it was important for the implementation of government policies.

“The various native groups in Sabah and Sarawak should be classified separately as their needs are different from the Malays in Peninsular Malaysia,” Ngeh said in the report.

“The Malays in the peninsula would like to see sufficient funds allocated for matters related to Islam as they are Muslims. However, the majority of the natives of Sabah and Sarawak are non-Muslims and they would like a fair and proportionate amount of funds to be allocated to matters related to their religious faiths.”

In presenting the details of the 2020 census, Sabri also said that the bumiputeras make up the highest percentage with 69.4 percent, followed by the Chinese (23.2 percent), the Indians (6.7 percent), and others (0.7 percent).

The 2020 census also showed that Malaysia’s population has increased to 32.4 million people, compared to 28.3 million in 2010.

Ngeh also questioned if the 2.6 million non-Malaysians in the country, as stated by the 2020 census, and which he said make up 8.3 percent of the population, was considered as bumiputra. If the “others” category comprises 0.7 percent, how are the 2.6 million non-Malaysians (or 8.3 percent) accounted for?

“If the ethnic group’s composition stated by the premier includes the whole 32.4 million people, then almost all the 2.7 million foreigners are classified as bumiputera, which is clearly unacceptable,” he said.

Ngeh wanted a clarification from the Prime Minister who at that time was on an official visit to Brunei and we are yet to hear of a response from him.

These data that Ngeh wanted clarified are important for the public to know but the PM doesn’t seem too interested in giving the correct picture or is taking his time about it while we are still waiting to know.

Other statistics that are of concern and which have a direct bearing on the current political situation are the rural and urban population figures. The urban population has risen from 70.9 percent in 2010 to 75.1 in 2020 and the rural population has dropped from 29.1 percent in 2010 to 24.9 percent in 2020.

These figures suggest that in both 2010 and now the Malaysian population is urban rather than rural. If this is the case, why are there more rural parliamentary constituencies than urban ones?

This would explain why there are more MPs representing the rural areas than the urban areas and why they can form a majority representing bumiputras but this representation may be a minority and not a majority as they claim to be and why this minority is conservatively rooted in rural ways.

Such a delineation of parliamentary constituencies may have been necessary before the urban migration of rural folks but they no longer apply if the majority of the rural folks have now become urban. Delineating parliamentary constituencies may be necessary now to give the majority of the population in the urban areas more say.

These are issues that a federal government must address but we are yet to see the kind of leadership necessary to get such jobs done at the helm of the Malaysian government in the past two years.

When parliamentary constituencies are delineated to give more representation to the majority urban population, the conservative minority will be unable to dictate politics.

It is extremely urgent that a responsible and competent government that represents the majority is installed which accommodates and serves Malaysia’s changing landscape.

Why PH shouldn’t be afraid of an election

What was accomplished by yesterday’s special parliamentary session held to discuss the recent flood disaster? Apart from Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob pointing fingers at the Selangor government for failing to galvanize immediate rescue efforts and Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders pointing to Cabinet ministers for failing to provide federal-level crisis leadership (both points of view, by the way, are valid), what was achieved?

At the end of the debate, there was no motion or bill tabled and put to a vote to give a stamp of approval to the government’s national policy on managing and preventing floods. So, what was the point of the parliamentary session?

All the points that the Cabinet ministers made could have been made when the floods occurred from Dec 17 to 19 during the parliamentary session which was ongoing at that time. Why didn’t the government make its defence then and, instead, chose a more expensive way of doing it by calling for a parliamentary session a month later?

I suspect the reason for the delay was that Sabri and his Cabinet ministers were unable — despite their numerous advisers and government staff at their disposal — to move their personnel to issue press statements in swift responses to the crisis and keep the people informed of what they were doing. The government behemoth, perhaps, was just too much for Sabri and his ministers to move to act swiftly? Hence, the need for more time to prepare their defence and for an opportunity to present it to the public — through a parliamentary session.

If it were a public relations exercise and nothing more, then, Sabri stands accused of trivialising Parliament and reducing the august assembly to nothing more than a glorified press conference. The Dewan Rakyat Speaker, too, must be held responsible for not protecting the sanctity and independence of the House and acting as an appendage of the executive.

Sabri may think he has won in the public relations war to win support. But, he needs to keep in mind that the voters in urban areas and especially in Selangor, which has the most number of Malay urbanites, can not be so easily fooled as the B40 group which forms the bulk of his support base. The latter trustingly may believe whatever their leaders say but the former know better.

While many urbanites in Selangor may still be angry with the state government for failing to provide a swift response to the floods last December, they would be able to see through the Sabri government’s charade. As long as the Sabri government keeps covering up incompetency, people will be able to see through it.

And as long as the Sabri government is kept going, we can expect more such failures in government. This time, only PH is to be blamed for supporting this government through the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) PH signed with it.

PH goes all out to criticise the Sabri government but will continue to support it. PH’s reluctance to break up the MoU is understandable. It would trigger a general election and, after the lashing it got in the Malacca and Sarawak state elections, it evidently isn’t confident it can deliver the votes to form an alternative government.

PH is so scared of a whipping in an election, it has offered a “commitment of stability” to the Johor state leadership to prevent state elections. Like the MoU, this commitment will only give the state government unfair advantage over the opposition. It may give the PH time to recoup but what guarantee is there that it will do better in a future general election than one now?

In a comment piece in Malaysiakini today, Setiawangsa MP and PKR chief organising secretary Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad discussed the various ways his party can win back the support of voters. He targets the Undi18 voters who may be more aligned to PKR’s progressive policies than other parties. He then suggests that PKR develop a viable policy on climate change and demonstrate an uncompromising commitment to full responsibility for the welfare of the people and national interests.

Nik Nazmi’s ideas are worth considering. If the people see that their politicians are serious about putting their interests first, they may back them despite their past failings. The way the Selangor state government — which is PH-led — manages the state is crucial. If it clearly puts into place the ideas Nik Nazmi suggests and delivers, it will be an example of good government and may continue to get the support of the people.

The first half of this year is not a good time for any election because of the omicron threat. If Johor goes ahead with state elections, the people may not be pleased and may take out their frustrations through the vote.

It’s thus best for opposition parties not to negotiate with any government. Opposition parties should be prepared for any election. If they develop a realizable manifesto with emphases on a clean government and climate change, and demonstrate a commitment to competency, professionalism and multi-culturalism, they should take the calculated risk of facing any election at any time. Urban voters, which is the opposition parties’ political base, can think for themselves. They should be allowed to make their choice at a time that does not burden them.

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.