With the Agong meeting with various leaders of political parties, speculations centre on what kind of government may be formed after these consultations.
There is a suggestion that a unity government comprising representatives of all political parties may be the answer to the present uncertainty of whether Perikatan Nasional indeed has majority support to govern the country rightfully.
This is not a workable plan. Leaders in the unity government will be pulling the nation in all directions to ensure that their support base will remain intact. The interest of the nation may not be their main priority. Arriving at a common strategy to plan for the nation’s welfare may take a back seat.
There will be competition to outdo their rivals, and they will come up with ideas just to impress their members. This reminds me of the 1960s, when Nikita Khrushchev, the then-Soviet Premier, suggested that the vacancy caused by the tragic death of Dag Hammarskjold, the UN Secretary General, be filled by three men on a rotation basis to represent the three groupings.
Then-US President John Kennedy, in dismissing this proposal, emphasised, “However difficult it may be to fill Mr Hammarskjold’s place, it can better be filled by one man rather than three. Even the three horses of the Troika did not have three drivers, all going in different directions. They had only one …”
This is what is likely to happen when a unity government comprising various parties is implemented. It is difficult to work as one team with a common purpose supporting a common agenda.
Then there is a suggestion that a prime minister be appointed and given a free hand to pick his own ministers to form the cabinet. These individuals appointed as ministers will only be beholden to the prime minister and not answerable to anyone else.
This method will not allow any checks and balances and the appointed prime minister will be free to do as he or she wishes. This will be totally unacceptable and will go against the notion of a parliamentary democracy. We can’t have one person running or ruining the country – that would be akin to a dictatorship.
The only sensible thing to do to govern the country effectively and tackle the Covid pandemic seriously is to set up a legitimate government with majority support which is answerable to Parliament. Such a government will not feel the need to appoint half-baked politicians to positions of responsibility, paying huge salaries for warming the seat in order to remain in power with their support.
A legitimate government will have the freedom to appoint people of proven track record and suitable calibre to assume leadership in government-linked companies, for example. The best will be harnessed to serve the nation and chart a course that will serve the country effectively. Money will not go down the drain unnecessarily.
Alternatively, let the Agong appoint someone who can prove that he or she has majority support. We had this opportunity in February 2020, when Anwar Ibrahim claimed this support but this claim was not tested or disproved but simply ignored.
Instead of providing the names of individual MP supporters, Anwar merely provided the names of certain leaders who held on to MPs who had pledged their support for Anwar. If only these leaders had been summoned for confirmation, it would have solved Anwar’s claim of majority support. Unfortunately, this did not take place.
One can understand why Anwar did not want to submit the names of individual MPs: the genuine fear of an inadvertent leak and the fear that people could be compelled to switch sides. If these names were leaked, then through the twisting of arms and limbs, these supporters would be forced to withdraw their allegiance to Anwar. Some may find it irresistible to refuse inducements that come in the millions.
At that time, both Anwar and Dr Mahathir Mohamad were bidding to be PM, both had their supporters and their numbers were fairly known. In our 222-member Parliament, one must have the support of at least 112 MPs to claim the right to be PM. Considering the support that both Anwar and Mahathir had, Muhyiddin Yassin definitely did not have this minimum number. Nevertheless, he was appointed PM.
I think the time has arrived to put to test Anwar’s claimed numbers. If he still has that majority support, let him be appointed PM.
If this is not feasible, let Parliament reconvene. Let Parliament decide who should be the prime minister. This will be a democratic way to get out of the present impasse. There is no reason not to recall Parliament. The Agong had stated that Parliament could meet. But Muhyiddin is refusing to submit himself to any parliamentary scrutiny to prove his legitimacy. He does not want Parliament to meet because he is aware that when this happens he will no longer be the PM.
If this present emergency had been declared during Pakatan Harapan’s time and had the Agong decreed that Parliament could meet and if the PH government had refused, can you imagine the furore that PN would have created? They would scream that PH had not shown any respect to the Agong and that their behaviour was ‘kurang ajar’. They would have taken to the street shouting that the Constitution is not being honoured. Their cyber boys would have gone on a war path.
Now that the shoes are on their feet, you can see their hypocrisy. They have ignored the Agong’s statement and refused to reconvene Parliament.
The country is still reeling from the after-effects of Mahathir’s 22-year iron rule, and we are in this mess because of his policies. The tolerance, the fairness, the camaraderie, the harmony that we have known in the past – all these have gone. Bigotry, intolerance, religious hegemony, discrimination, the marginalisation of the minorities and the poor are inherited from his policies and to this day, this dominates our national policy.
Najib Razak’s tenure has only revealed how easy it is to loot the country and get away with no punishment so far. Just look at the Umno leaders on trial and how they have been charged with fleecing the country for their personal benefit.
Then we have the leadership of Muhyiddin as Bersatu PM. His lacklustre leadership did not pull us out of the depths of the Covid pandemic. His performance is nothing to crow about. His only ridiculous achievement that stands out was in creating the world’s largest cabinet of 72, draining the wealth of the nation to secure their support for him to remain as PM.
And that leaves Anwar, the only one left, capable and waiting, who should be picked and given a chance to govern the country. He had been the victim of a political plot and persecution; he had endured loneliness and incarceration; he has suffered on the side of the opposition, tasted what it means to be hounded and denied space to function democratically. All this will motivate him to bring about the reforms that we need as a nation to progress as we should.
Neither Mahathir nor Najib has gone through the bitterness of life as Anwar had to know what it means to live on the other side of the fence. This vast and sobering experience must have equipped Anwar to be a better leader to understand the miseries of the poor, the bitterness of discrimination, the denial of fair treatment, the helplessness of the marginalised. All this will serve him well as a leader of the nation.
Anwar has not been tested in governance and this will be an opportunity to find out if he can be different and make the difference for the country. He deserves this chance. Malaysia deserves this opportunity to recover and regain its stature as a progressive nation.
Let’s remember, “We cannot achieve more in life than what we believe in our heart of hearts we deserve to have.” – James R Ball