By K Veeriah
When push comes to shove, especially if one is beholden to the dictates of political masters, the obvious dilemma would be whether to be led by the nose or to show leadership acumen.
That seems to be the choice confronting Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob. Like the Malay proverb “ditelan mati emak, diluah mati bapak”, he has limited options.
Either he succumbs to Umno and the Umno-dominated Barisan Nasional leadership and calls for an early general election.
Or he can act decisively in exercising his vested authority despite holding the prime minister’s post on the back of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) inked with the major opposition parties.
Whether he buckles under the pressure of his party Umno and its BN bedfellows or shows genuine leadership qualities remains to be seen.
Whatever he decides, he ought to be guided by the grim realities on the ground. The unprecedented soaring cost-of-living needs to be stemmed by the government. Emerging economic activities need to be nurtured through proactive policies. Malaysia also needs political stability to attract much-needed investment.
These critical issues should be foremost in the prime minister’s mind as he mulls over when to call for a general election, which must be held by September 2023.
A general election anytime soon would be destructive both to political stability and even more damaging for investor confidence. It would probably hit economic sectors that are only just recovering from the devastation caused by Covid restrictions.
To complicate matters, Malaysia also faces supply chain disruptions owing to geopolitical upheavals. Chicken breeders are confronted by higher feed meal prices. The supply of wheat is diminishing. The ringgit has weakened. Prices of essential items are rising. As a result, the most vulnerable segments of society are suffering.
Against this challenging backdrop, political warlords should prioritise the real challenges facing ordinary people, rather than their political game plans.
The general election can wait. Any lapse in tackling the challenges confronting the country’s economy and the people’s predicament may have serious consequences – and spark an outpouring of the people’s sentiment at the ballot box!
K Veeriah is a veteran trade unionist based in Bukit Mertajam, Penang