Tag Archives: Umno

Time’s ripe for a new coalition to emerge

Until Members of Parliament act swiftly to form a new Malay-led majority coalition, the Prihatin Nasional (PN) alliance will continue in government by default.

So, if MPs want the PN coalition to step down, emergency lifted and Parliament restored, their parties need to realign themselves and coalesce into a new coalition which can offer itself as a legitimate alternative. When that happens and Umno withdraws from PN, PN will have no choice but to resign. And, it must because a viable alternative has presented itself, proving that PN has no majority.

There will be no need for a general election that would only be a strain on the national coffers and voters tired of Malay politics. The new coalition faces a vote of confidence and if it wins it, wins the mandate to form the new legitimate government until the next general election.

If MPs don’t form a new majority coalition now, there’ll no difference in the outcome of results should a general election take place and PN, though a minority coalition, might still be installed as a caretaker government and it will stay on in government until a majority coalition is formed, which may take a long time to happen if it can not happen now.

It appears as if efforts are afoot for a new coalition to be formed and the immediate strategy of MPs must be to make it happen to bring about PN’s resignation. With an alternative coalition poised to take over and with Umno withdrawing from PN, the latter has to step down.

That would consequentially level the playing field. PN would lose the advantage it now has to attract MPs because of the RM3.5 million allocation available to its MPs for community servicing. With the RM3.5 million bait gone, MPs will have to chose sides based on what is best for their constituents. And some may even leave PN to join the new coalition.

What options do the MPs have? With Umno out of it, PN will become a much smaller entity. With PAS in it, it is unlikely to get the majority support of Christian-based Sabah and Sarawak parties which means it will not be able to get a majority.

The best possibility for a majority coalition is Pakatan Harapan (PH), comprising Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), DAP and Amanah — if it can get the support of Sabah’s Warisan and Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) and former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s yet to be registered Pejuang. GPS has pledged support for PN but if PN resigns because an alternative exits, GPS may change its mind. In fact, it should; any alliance with a coalition in which PAS is a member will backfire on it.

Today, at the end of its two-day retreat in Port Dickson, PH named PKR president Anwar Ibrahim as its candidate for the prime minister’s post in the 15th general election (GE15) due in 2023. However between now and then, PH’s leadership is left open, which means there is a chance for Mahathir to return or someone aligned to him to return to lead a PH Plus majority coalition.

The Mahathir factor should not be excluded because he could rally the support of Warisan and perhaps GPS too and even some Umno MPs to join forces with PH to form PH Plus which would have a very comfortable majority, at least until GE15.

Umno’s future is uncertain. It’s court cluster leadership is being asked to make way for new elections. So, there will be new leaders or some MPs may break away. In either situation, there would be possibilities to negotiate with Umno or its breakaway MPs to join or be friendly towards PH. By itself Umno can’t form a coalition. If it joins forces with PAS no one else will join it. By allying itself with PH it can survive in some way.

If PH Plus can be a convincing majority coalition, PN will have to resign and a caretaker government or new government under a leadership that can ably manage the transition period can be formed to last until GE15. It’s the best option to move forwards and it’s up to the MPs to make it happen.

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.

Capitol riot, PN leaders and the rule of law

The riot at the US Capitol when President Donald Trump’s supporters breached security and entered the building has besmirched the reputation of western democracies which have always prided themselves on their non-violent adherence to the rule of law — no doubt. Yet, despite the initial chaos and melee, eventually, the rule of law was restored.

The supporters were egged on by Trump to gather at the rally as he made unsubstantiated claims that the election was stolen from him although he had lost both the popular and electoral votes. The rally was meant to be a last-ditch effort to prevent Democratic candidate Joe Biden from being confirmed as the presidential election winner by the US Congress.

At some time during the rally, the crowd surged and pushed past the security officers who retreated, followed by the crowd who entered the building. One person was shot and killed and three others died of medical emergencies during the seige.

It was mayhem but the leaders didn’t fail the nation nor the democratic processed. The election was held, the votes were counted and recounted and congressmen met at the Capitol to confirm President-elect Biden as the winner. And when the siege happened, the National Guard was called, the Capitol building was secured, and a number of Democrats started calling for Trump to resign. A day later several Republicans in Trump’s own staff handed in their resignation. And Trump finally announced he would ensure a smooth and orderly transition of power to Biden. The rule of law upheld.

A democratic tradition does not mean that everything will go by the book. People being human will do all sorts of things but good leaders — not necessarily great leaders — are those who will adhere to the rule of law. In the Capitol siege, in the end, there was resolution because the leaders, including Trump, followed the rule of law. And political stability was restored.

Here in Malaysia, we have Sheraton Moves, Sabah moves, dismissal of all 46 corruption charges against a former chief minister, failure to face a no-confidence vote in Parliament, sacking of an elected Speaker, the appointment of an unelected Speaker, vote-buying, MP-buying …  Where on earth is the rule of law?

The Prihatin Nasional (PN) claims to be a caring coalition but it does what it likes and calls it the new normal. What we are seeing in the PN is simply a law unto themselves.

Look at its coalition partner Umno who has been threatening to leave the PN since the Sabah elections when they didn’t get the Sabah chief minister’s post. It had on two occasions in the past, working with Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Anwar Ibrahim, threatened to pull out of PN but it never materialised. Now it plans to discuss the cutting of ties with Bersatu, the small party which insists on leading the PN government, at its general assembly on Jan 31.

Will it materialise or, like always, at crunch time, they quietly back out after kicking up a fuss and creating a storm of hot air? Bersatu president and Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin will maintain a strategic silence and wait to see if it actually happens. If it doesn’t happen, he escapes by the skin of his teeth!

Maybe, he knows what I suspect, that Umno will not carry through its intention. He is willing to risk instability in order to remain in power. That’s all PN leaders want — power. But how they wield is beside the point.

Take Umno secretary-general Ahmad Maslan who has publicly declared that the reason for his party’s gripe with Bersatu is due to the latter’s “cruelty” in continuing with the corruption cases involving Umno members. Maslan and Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Umno adviser and former prime minister Najib Razak are among a number of Umno members facing criminal charges in court.

“Cruelty?” Don’t only little boys cry “cruelty”, “unkind”, “you’re hurting us” when disciplined and try to weasel their way out of facing the consequences of their actions? Maslan is so wounded that he doesn’t realise he is suggesting executive interference? Bersatu is to be blamed because it invited this party lead by people facing court cases to join the PN. Where on earth is the rule of law? That was sacrificed for the sake of political expediency.

The actions of Bersatu ministers are also suspect. The appointed Speaker refuses to exercise the independence afforded to him under the law to decide on a no-confidence vote unless he gets a directive from the minister. Just recently, former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s party, Pejuang’s, and former minister Syed Saddiq’s Malaysian United Democratic Alliance’s (Muda) applications to be registered as political parties were rejected.

Tun said at a press conference that the Registrar of Societies said that Pejuang’s application was in order but it had to be referred to the minister, the Home Minister in this case.

Is this the rule of law? Any Malaysian’s application for registration of a society or party must be approved if it’s in order. A minister can’t reject it for whatever reasons especially when the reasons are not given. That’s denying citizens our right of association.

We want the rule of law, not leaders who are a law to themselves. Such leaders should never be allowed to govern.

The Opposition needs to take up the cry for the rule of law. They are being too quiet. There should be loud demands for the PN government’s resignation. And, responsible ministers in PN’s government must resign on their own volition. They need to put the nation first.

Learn from the US experience.

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.

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.