Malaysia is infested with politicians who have lost their zeal to serve the people. It is time for change led by young leaders who believe in new politics for a new Malaysia, YT Chia writes.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s attempt to impose emergency rule is an indirect admission that his government has no majority. How can he govern from now on?
Business as usual will not be an option, for it is unthinkable that the Opposition will give him a signed blank check. To remain as PM, Muhyiddin may have to make compromises.
Malaysia is infested with politicians who have been too long in politics they, besides serving their own interests, have lost their zeal to serve the people. It is time for a change led by young leaders with New Politics for a new Malaysia.
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On 25 October, the Agong wisely rejected the Muhyddin government’s plan to introduce emergency rule. The people are visibly overjoyed by the wisdom of the King and the Council of Rulers. This has averted political turmoil, which could have worsened the nation’s problems posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
On 23 October, the cabinet had asked the Agong to approve their plan to suspend Parliament and let Malaysia come under emergency rule, citing the reason that the nation needed a “stable government” to manage the pandemic.
The present spike of coronavirus cases cannot justify a declaration of emergency. The Perikatan Nasional government under Muhyiddin, with the backing and sacrifices of the people, and with an efficient health body headed by Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, had almost led the nation out of the pandemic, winning praise from the world community.
It was PN’s sense of insecurity and greed for power that led it to engineer the downfall of the Sabah state government. The state election worsened the pandemic with the spread of the coronavirus in Sabah out of control. The responsibility for this lies squarely with the government, which did not enforce standard operating procedures to curb the coronavirus and, in certain cases, practised double standards. Can emergency rule cover up its incompetence?
From worldwide experience, the best weapons to fight the pandemic are respect for science, the cooperation and understanding of the population, and the non-politicisation of the pandemic. Existing laws and health institutions are adequate to combat the pandemic.
The last thing the people want is emergency rule that smacks of authoritarianism, curbs democratic voices and instils fear and resentment among the population.
Emergency rule would not give the mandate or legitimacy that the backdoor government lacks. It would be construed as a self-induced coup that would invite resistance. It would bring more politicking, disunity and instability – which would chase away foreign investments. Our economy would suffer. It would be counterproductive.
Most observers believe the attempt to seek emergency rule was to save Muhyiddin’s own skin. The PM wanted to avoid a Parliament sitting where motions of no confidence could arise or where he might face the embarrassment of having his Budget be not passed owing to his lack of a majority. Emergency would have been a way to give themselves absolute power.
The Opposition led by Pakatan Harapan, many prominent political figures and public institutions have already issued statements to reject the move, which they deem totally unjustified.
Muhyiddin’s government is a minority government. In Western democracies, it is not uncommon for there to be minority governments. Political parties seek alliances, adapt their policies and budgets to ensure the country is still running and progressing. This is an art of politics and part of democratic practices.
If these parties indulge in selfish politicking or fail to unite and persuade other political parties to support their policies, the prime minister would resign, giving way to others to have a try. This is democracy.
Under normal democratic conventions, Muhyiddin should resign as prime minister following the rejection of his cabinet decision by the Agong.
Despite the advice of the Agong urging other political parties to support the government to tackle the pandemic, the onus is on Muhyiddin to persuade Parliament, particularly the Opposition, if he wants to continue as the PM. He will not be given a blank check. The due democratic process must go on; heads must roll, if necessary. No one is indispensable.
Alas, based on their past behaviour, we may be demanding too much of our politicians to act in line with democratic practices. History abounds with examples to show that our politicians have no more the interests of the nation and the people at heart when they encounter problems affecting the country. They look for slipshod measures, not solutions, to preserve their own interests.
The latest move of wanting to declare an emergency merely to preserve personal power is a case in point.
When Umno lost power due to massive corruption, instead of taking measures to curb this, it resorted to lies and demonisation to drum up Malay fears of the 1960s. It blamed the non-Malays for its failures. And it set up a coalition with Pas for a Malay-Muslim government. It was a total regression for our multi-ethnic nation.
For Pas, since the passing of Nik Aziz Nik Mat, the present leadership has turned from a more inclusive non-racial Muslim party to an openly exclusivist one, even openly declaring that non-Muslims cannot hold any ministerial positions. They want to set up a Malay-Muslim government with Umno – something totally unpractical, unacceptable and dangerous to Malaysian society.
Yet, we all know that Islam is a universal religion embracing all the ummah, regardless of race and culture. This is outright manipulation of the religion for personal political aims. It is irrelevant to know if they can succeed (they just might), but they have sown the seeds of hatred and division among the various communities. This is dangerous and irresponsible politics, the hallmark of our present day politicians.
Over on the other side, in PKR, we have seen a leader with high ambition, trying to amass power in a coalition while he was nowhere near the top post.
Blinded by his personal ambition, this leader was willing to mobilise his supporters to badmouth the elected party president, Anwar Ibrahim, branding him undemocratic, incompetent and divisive.
This leader took advantage of Anwar’s long imprisonment due to trumped-up charges to buy political influence. He and his gang downplayed Anwar and his family’s contribution to PKR, instead attributing the present strength of the party to their own sacrifice and hard work.
If he was such a good leader, he should have adhered to the party’s principled struggle for a multi-ethnic, more inclusive society and fought against poverty in terms of need and not of race. But what did he do? He colluded with the racist elements in Umno, Pas and Bersatu and set up a Malay-Muslim government. Can he be hailed as the builder of PKR?
He went one step further for his own selfish ends. He and his schemers engineered the Sheraton Move to prevent Anwar from taking over as prime minister and to topple the Pakatan Harapan government.
The setting up of the PN government run by betrayers without moral legitimacy is the cause of the political instability we are witnessing today.
What future awaits Malaysia if it is infested with politicians like them who have no moral and ideological anchor? They should be the first to go.
Our political leaders have lost a sense of decency and shame. They are devoid of a basic notion of democratic principles and ideological teachings and have forgotten their zeal to fight for the betterment of the people.
We desperately need to overhaul the way we do politics. It should start within the existing parties.
This may not be possible, so Malaysians are looking for alternatives. Fortunately, some serious efforts have been made to counter this self-serving political culture. But they are still groping and at an experimental stage.
One example is Maju (Malaysian Action for Justice and Unity). Being only an NGO, besides raising people’s political awareness, it has a strategy of identifying and sponsoring “good politicians” from all political parties.
The shortfall of this strategy lies in who these politicians will listen to once elected: the party that allocates them their seats – or Maju, which will provide them the funds for the election? The answer is obvious.
Human history has shown that to achieve political power, we need a political organisation guided by good leaders and an ideology tailored to solve the existing problems of the country. There are no short cuts.
Recently, a new political party led by young activists has been formed. It is called Muda, meaning “young” in Malay. Hopefully this will spark an initiative within the existing political parties to rejuvenate their own leadership. We can no longer depend on the old guard to lead.
We need the emergence of young politicians to make the change. They still have a long way to go but since they are young, the future is theirs.
YT Chia is a member of Monsoons Malaysia, a civil society group concerned about political issues