Prime Minister Mahiaddin Yasin has resigned along with this cabinet (though he will remain as interim PM until the post is filled). In the weeks before he quit, the signs were there, revealing the depths to which his administration had sunk.
Curry mee heaven
Perhaps the most abiding image was that of the PM’s new special adviser (with ministerial status, mind you!), Ahmad Faizal Azumu, tucking into curry mee in his office. Faizal spoke about his favourite dish when he was in Ipoh and its quality and taste. (Will this be his next job – a curry mee-taster?) It would be the shortest stint for a prime minister’s special adviser ever: he lasted all of 11 days until his boss quit.
This video clip hinted at how out of touch the administration was with the immense suffering of the people on the ground.
Then there was the NGO that presented a memorandum to the King seeking a pardon for Najib Razak so that the former Prime Minister could resolve the crisis in the country crisis.
The leader of this NGO even had the audacity to claim that “Najib has proven well able to govern the country” and “did a good job throughout his tenure as the sixth prime minister, managed the economy well and brought the good name of Malaysia to the international stage”.
Was this NGO leader being disingenuous or plain dumb? Did he forget Najib was found guilty and sentenced for misappropriation of funds and criminal breach of trust (and is now appealing the decision).
Najib certainly brought Malaysia to the international stage with 1MDB, and it is not something to be proud of. Have some people gone totally blind and deaf to what he did to the country and its people? And they want this same man to govern the country again? Heaven save us from such lunacy!
On Friday, a desperate Mahiaddin offered an olive branch to the opposition – or a poisoned chalice, depending on how you look at it. He finally acknowledged he had lost majority support and was seeking the opposition’s help to save his government from collapsing.
But, in the next breath, Mahiaddin noted “he could take the easy way out and resign” but then nobody else had majority support to enable the king to appoint a new leader. This, he said, would result in no government and “would throw the country into limbo during a worsening pandemic”. So the PM offered a range of benefits to enable his government to continue to function with bipartisan support in Parliament.
This was like closing the stable door after the horse had bolted. Why did this offer not come much, much earlier when he already knew his government was ineffective and out of touch with the needs of the people?
He said he would “take the honourable road to solve this political crisis”.
What did he mean “take the honourable road”? What was he doing all the time he was prime minister during this pandemic? Doing something dishonourable?
He showed little regard for what the people were going through. He said those displaying white flags probably had some food in their homes and should put up the ‘blue’ (the colour of the emblem of his Perikatan Nasional coalition) flags instead.
Many ordinary people received exorbitant penalty notices for non-compliance with Covid rules. Yet, Mahiaddin allowed his ministers to get away with flouting those rules.
The prime minister lamented: “it would not be just me resigning. According to the Federal Constitution, I must resign [and] the whole Cabinet and the PN government will fall … the political instability would make it difficult for the country to reach herd immunity by October.”
With so many new Covid cases – hovering around 20,000 daily – when did the ‘honourable’ prime minister come to think about herd immunity? The cumulative number of cases had soared to 1.4 million. Did we ever think that the number would surpass a million out of a total population of 32 million? So far just 32% of the people have been fully vaccinated. So, can we realistically reach herd immunity by October, two months from now?
Did Mahiaddin really expect the opposition parties to fall for these crumbs? Some politicians felt it would be churlish for these parties to say no, as they would have been seen to be unwilling to help the people. Yet, accepting these crumbs would have given a lifeline to Mahiaddin’s PN coalition government.
Some politicians might have thought this would have been the best way for the PN coalition government to move forward, especially those who wanted to remain in their cushy jobs.
The opposition parties were initially caught between a rock and a hard place. Some felt this would be the only time they would have the chance to bring down this government. Others looked at this national bribery as some sort of political compromise.
But a compromise to enable the backdoor government to remain in power? Is this what people wanted? A government based on compromises? Who was to say that the prime minister would fulfil his promises once he was back in power with the opposition’s help?
Mahiaddin said his government would table a law to amend the Federal Constitution to limit the prime minister’s tenure to two terms and to pass a bill to prevent political defections.
Really? Don’t these moves have to be pondered on and debated in Parliament? The opposition parties would, of course, agree. But would other parties like Umno, Pas, Bersatu and Pejuang feel the same way?
Rumours had floated that the general election could even happen by the end of the year or early next year. Would Mahiaddin even have the time to fulfil these so-called promises by then?
The latest was the prime minister’s lifting of Covid restrictions for 11 types of economic activities under phase one of the national recovery plan in all states. These activities cover barbers, hair salons (haircuts only!) car wash outlets, electrical and furniture shops, etc.
Wasn’t this supposed to happen only when phase two was reached – when the number of new Covid infections fell below 10,000? Why the U-turn?
If Mahiaddin, as Prime Minister, could do a U-turn on this, what was to stop him from doing the same with the proposed anti-defections law, the two-term limit for the prime minister and all the other ‘carrots’ dangled before the opposition?
Ultimately, it all boiled down to whether the prime minister was willing to bow out ‘honourably’ or try to overstay his welcome. The end, when it came, was hardly a surprise: the writing had been on the wall for months.
Jem, an Aliran reader, still cares deeply about Sabah, despite having lived in the peninsula for some time