In the aftermath of the 1MDB scandal, the nation now finds itself defying many of the usual norms of a parliamentary democracy. Anil Netto writes.
We are living in bizarre times.
The news that Elliott Broidy, a former prominent Republican fundraiser, has been charged with involvement in an illicit campaign to get the Trump-administration to drop its probe into 1MDB, has prompted me to to look at the aftermath of the Age of Kleptocracy in Malaysia.
This kleptocracy for much of the last decade has unhinged Malaysia’s parliamentary democracy, which has now gone haywire.
The country is fast turning into a case study of what happens when a nation suffers from acute post-traumatic kleptocratitis (OK, I made up that term!), ie the political trauma and turmoil in a post-kleptocratic landscape.
Malaysia now finds itself defying or stretching many of the usual norms in a parliamentary democracy beyond recognition. Some of these symptoms might even merit entry into any book of regional or world records. Consider these ‘worthy’ contenders:
1. Most number of kataks (‘frogs’ or political defectors) with breathtaking skills, able to leap tall buildings (and jump across yawning political divides) at a single bound. Just look at the number of MPs and state assembly members who have crossed the floor in the last couple of years, toppling the federal government and a string of state governments
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2. Most number of double kataks with multiple leapfrogging skills, hopping back and forth – first jumping from Pakatan Harapan (which won the 2018 general election) to Perikatan Nasional – and now hopping back to Anwar Ibrahim? Or how about those Sabah state assembly members crossing over to Sabah PH after the 2018 election and then jumping back?
3. Most number of political coalitions per capita – Barisan Nasional, Perikatan Nasional, Pakatan Harapan, Gagasan Rakyat Sabah, Gabungan Parti Sarawak, Muafakat Nasional, Warisan Plus, Pakatan Harapan Plus, Gagasan Sejahtera, United Sabah Alliance… say no more
4. Most number of overlapping coalitions – Marvel at this labyrinth which one brave soul has compiled:
5. Most number of race-based (and religious-based) parties per capita – Umno, MCA, MIC, Bersatu, Pejuang, Pas, Amanah, PBB….
6. Most bloated cabinet – 70, ie 32 ministers, 38 deputy ministers – plus three special envoys with ministerial status so that posts could be given to the kataks
7. Most number of MPs appointed as chief executives or heads of government-linked companies and statutory bodies and agencies. Many of these were kataks duly rewarded. Check out this list, which may not even be complete
8. Possibly three prime ministers in a single calendar year – Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the rotan-threatening Muhyiddin Yassin…. and now Anwar Ibrahim?
9. World’s longest PM-in-waiting – Anwar, who was first appointed as Deputy PM in 1993. The broken unwritten understanding that he would take over as PM after the 2018 general election led to a calamitous chain of events and the plague of frogs
10. Oldest (ex-)PM seeking to become a third-time PM at 95-plus – after already serving 22 years and 22 months as head honcho
11. Most number of corruption charges slapped on a single politician – Zahid Hamidi, facing 87 corruption charges
12. Widest global corruption and money-laundering scandal covering I-lost-track-of-how-many-countries-and-continents – 1MDB
13. World’s most notorious fugitive, still missing in action– Jho Low
14. World’s biggest corruption scandal with no one in jail (yet) – 1MDB
15. Shortest sittings of Parliament? – For the third session (2020) of the 14th Parliament, the House of Representatives could sit for just 52 days from March 2020 to December 2020
If Malaysia is to recover from this Age of Kleptocracy, overcome the pandemic and economic challenges, and return to some semblance of normalcy, we desperately need to find people of integrity to lead the country.
And we must reform the institutions of governance and put respected independent heads in place to provide checks and balances, so that never again will we sink into the abyss.
Otherwise, this kleptocracy could rapidly degenerate into a kakistocracy (government by the least suitable or competent citizens of a state).