The call for an immediate general election has become louder ever since former Prime Minister Najib Razak was thrown into the slammer, after his appeal to overturn his conviction was quashed by the Federal Court.
The clarion call became even more strident at the recent Umno special briefing initiated by party president Zahid Hamidi.
This has led many Malaysians to believe that the renewed call by Umno for an early election is to help save the so-called ‘court cluster’ in the party from the same fate as Najib.
They feel that certain politicians in the court cluster, who are facing corruption charges, are already getting jittery.
Concerned Malaysians also fear the possibility that a new government led by Umno, which expects to win the next general election, would see to it that the court cluster escapes prosecution.
If this is true, then what we might see is the executive attempting to bend the judiciary to its will, with the latter losing its much-prized independence as a result. This obviously would be a regressive development, much to the chagrin of reform-seeking Malaysians.
Equally troubling, the principle of separation of powers would be violated, while the rule of law would also be undermined, the implications of which are injurious to democracy.
We also got to hear from the Umno meeting that there is a strong move to seek a pardon for Najib – aka ‘Bossku’ – which sparked deep concern among people who put high value on an independent judiciary and the rule of law.
Such a scenario is disturbing because it would send the wrong message that the fate of certain convicted individuals could be ‘negotiated’, only leaving the small fish to be caught and convicted. Corruption would continue to infest our society as a result.
To be sure, punishment in a functioning democracy is the expected outcome of a criminal act, irrespective of your social status. That is why even the stealing of infant milk powder could land you in prison.
Imprisonment, as a form of punishment, necessitates the clipping of wings, ie the freedom of physical movement. It does not really matter whether the prisoner is deprived of his usual visit to a branded coffee house for his favourite caramel macchiato or other pleasures of life that only a free person with financial means would normally enjoy.
In fact, it is hoped that the imprisoned would instead spend time to indulge in self-reflection and, in turn, would be remorseful.
As a response to the accusation of protecting the court cluster, Zahid – a member of this group – argued that the party’s insistence on an early election is merely to set up a legitimate government that has the people’s mandate, and not one that was cobbled out of political shenanigans.
Zahid and his ilk seemed to have selective amnesia here.
Wasn’t Umno in cahoots with Bersatu, Pas and a bunch of renegades from PKR to hatch a scheme, famously called the “Sheraton move”?
As a result, the democratically elected Pakatan Harapan government was toppled by a new government that did not have the people’s mandate.
It was this power grab that triggered political instability amid the country struggling to fight the Covid menace and a consequent economic downturn, a situation that, according to Zahid, could only be rectified through an immediate general election.
The Bagan Datuk MP also insisted that political stability after the coming general election would be able to address the sluggish economy.
While it is true that political instability can adversely affect the economy, it is not the only contributory factor. Corruption is another.
The pilfering of national coffers denies the needy and the dispossessed of development funds that would go a long way towards improving their economic wellbeing, as well as the overall progress of the country.
That is why corruption must be stemmed at all costs because it is heinous and contagious, in the sense that graft is blind to ethnicity and religious affiliations.
Lest we forget, corruption is not kosher in Islam, nor in other religious traditions.
It stands to reason that those in the court cluster must be brought to justice. It should obviously be worrying if there is any attempt to make them a convenient excuse to court an early general election. – The Malaysian Insight