PM weathers flood and MACC backlash

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  • Monday, 10 Jan 2022

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob faces several challenging issues, such as the recent Selangor floods and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner Tan Sri Azam Baki share purchase.

Geostrategist Azmi Hassan pointed out that it was no secret that few ministers and heads of agencies have been slow in taking action during the Selangor floods, especially during the first 48 hours.

However, none of these individuals have been reprimanded for their inaction in the face of public backlash.

"The public undoubtedly demands the Prime Minister take the reins when it comes to the lack of urgency by both the ministers concerned and public servants," he said.

Azmi added that it does not augur well for the Prime Minister's PM Keluarga Malaysia concept where the perception is that political survivability take precedence over the survivability of people.

As for the Azam Baki case, Azmi believes that the MACC chief commissioner should be asked to take leave to portray that the Prime Minister's standard of reasoning is way higher when it comes to justice.

He adds that this is so as it not only involves a civil servant but a very important agency in fighting corruption.

Is the image of the Prime Minister taking a beating?

Dr Kamarul Zaman Yusoff from the Universiti Utara Malaysia College of Law, Government and International Studies said that while it was true that Ismail Sabri's Cabinet has been bashed left, right, and centre, the Prime Minister's image is by and large still intact.

Kamarul Zaman argued that due to the unpredictable nature and the large scale of the recent flood hitting urban and high-density residential areas where flooding was a rare occurrence, it is not surprising that there were hiccups here and there in disaster management.

"However, Ismail Sabri has managed to come out strongly from the disaster, quelling the demands for flood victims to be allowed to withdraw RM10,000 from the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) under the i-Citra scheme," he said.

Kamarul Zaman also pointed out that the Prime Minister also announced the Bantuan Banjir Keluarga Malaysia aid involving a cash payout of exactly RM10,000 for heads of households affected by the floods in a special address in conjunction with the New Year to make the need for such EPF withdrawal irrelevant.

He added that this is coupled with Tekun offering an interest-free loan of RM10,000 with a one-year moratorium on loan payments for those planning to start a new business, or allocation of up to RM15,000 to fix homes severely damaged and RM56,000 to build new houses.

"Although all these financial assistance measures might not make a big splash in the mass media, the most important thing is that they have reached flood victims. The results are there, and that is why we can no longer read or listen to unsatisfied flood victims asking for aid," said Kamarul.

He added that on top of these, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that a Special Parliamentary sitting was scheduled for January 20 to discuss post-flood efforts, coordination of aid to the public, and long-term flood mitigation planning.

Kamarul Zaman added that this shows that Ismail Sabri is sincere in trying to solve problems caused by the floods.

"The Special Parliamentary sitting will greatly enhance Ismail Sabri's image as the one who adheres to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong's call for a post-mortem on the floods," said Kamarul Zaman.

He added that this also shows that Ismail Sabri, dares to accommodate the calls for the sitting made either by his Pakatan Harapan opponents or Umno friends.

Meanwhile, Universiti Pertahanan Nasional Malaysia Professor Emeritus Datuk Dr Wan Hashim Wan Teh said that Ismail Sabri has done reasonably well considering the political constraints that he has.

The Faculty of Defence Studies and Management don agreed with Kamarul Zaman and said that Ismail Sabri cannot be blamed entirely for the weaknesses of some of his Cabinet members.

"We have to understand that his government is one of a coalition, whereby he has a very limited pool of Members of Parliament to choose from as the government has a slim majority," said Wan Hashim.

He added that Ismail Sabri is unable to freely drop whoever he thinks is not performing well.

"He has to appoint his Cabinet members from the list given by other party presidents, and removing them will need the consent of other party presidents," said Wan Hashim.

He added that the same goes for the criticisms levelled against him for allegedly failing to act on the alleged share scandal of Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner Azam Baki.

"His assurances that he will wait for the investigation made by the authorities to be completed before taking any action shows that he is still in control. It is clear that he will not protect anyone found to commit any wrongdoing but only after the one who is really guilty," said Wan Hashim.

"We should focus more on his national economic plan, including to empower the digital economy and to transform to an economy and society that care about environmental, social and governance (ESG) as all these will have a very big impact on the country," he added.

The jury is out there on the image of the Prime Minister who is facing pressure from within and outside his political sphere of influence.

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Ismail Sabri Yaakob , floods , MACC


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