Time to stop the political games

  • Making Progress
  • Thursday, 20 Feb 2020

THE last couple of months have been very interesting for Gerakan as the party has found itself, perforce, in the political limelight after being in the wilderness since the previous general election.

I also started to receive calls from former friends and those who dismissed me after Barisan Nasional's loss of power.

The first question I'd usually be asked was; "Is Azmin joining Gerakan?" and the next one would be "Is Gerakan joining Pakatan Harapan?"

As Gerakan is the flavour of the month (or months), many expected some juicy insight. I had to disappoint them as I am no longer part of the party high command as I supported the current president's rival at the last party election. hence, i do not know much.

I have made my fair share of enemies after being the aide of two former presidents, and now as my rivals ascend to power, my political journey has been suppressed.

However, the words of my mentor guided me. He used to tell me; "before anyone can sack you, sack yourself."

I did just that and resigned from my positions in the party. However, I retained my position in Selangor Gerakan as I was elected.

Alas, the beauty of politics is in its impermanence.

I also have a solid group of friends and former colleagues who have been unstinting in their support and encouragement.

The personal humdrum aside, it has been exciting times for the political landscape in Malaysia.

The attendance of Gerakan president Datuk Dr Dominic Lau at a Chinese New Year open house organised by Azmin's chief ally, Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin, Azmin's chief ally, set tongues wagging once again.

While some tried to read this as an attempt by Azmin and Zuraida to tempt fate and provoke a response from their party given their fractured relationship with PKR, I am told Dominic expressed interest to attend the open house even before a formal invite was forthcoming.

Further, this dalliance with Azmin has also got the Gerakan grassroots wound up.

While some at the upper echelons at the party enjoy this free publicity but at the granular level, Gerakan members are uncomfortable at being in the centre of this vortex.

Some of us, myself included, believe that the party must rebuild as a third force by attracting the best talents we can because there is a general disillusionment with both Pakatan and Barisan.

Dominic promised to be equidistant from both Barisan and Pakatan, and that

promise must be kept.

Further, I have it from an authoritative source within the party that Azmin has not made any formal offer to Gerakan on membership.

So, while the political rumour mill works overtime with overexcitement, one thing is pretty sure (unless I am being misled) – Azmin has not said either, publicly or privately, that he wants to join Gerakan.

This also does not mean the end of the political games. It is only just beginning.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his waiting successor Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim met last week. After the meeting, Anwar released a statement saying Dr Mahathir would make way for him as prime minister after the Apec Summit, slated to be held at the end of November 2020.

It makes sense as Dr Mahathir wants to go out with a "bang" as he did in 2003 after the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit and his remarks that the "Jews run the world by proxy" led to much international indignation. Still, as always, Dr Mahathir thrives in such times.

So, we can expect Apec 2020 to be a fiery affair – more so if US President Donald Trump attends and I am sure Dr Mahathir will not hold back any punches (verbal ones only, of course).

But the speculation over the premiership continues to dog both Anwar and Dr Mahathir.

The leadership succession is expected to be high on the agenda of the Pakatan Leadership Council meeting on Friday (Feb 21).

While some in Pakatan (especially PKR) may want firm timelines on the succession issue, Malaysia's version of the War of Roses is far from settled.

I have also been told that the anti-Anwar faction within Pakatan has not stopped in their outreach to PAS and Barisan.

Pakatan Nasional is not stillborn as some have claimed. In fact, it is very much a possibility if some feel Dr Mahathir is pushed into a corner by his colleagues in Pakatan.

Further, Umno MPs who have been out of power for close to two years yearn to be back pulling the strings of power.

I am sure there will be some agreement or tacit understanding to cooperate politically between Bersatu and Umno if either party feels Malay primacy is threatened, or Dr Mahathir is "turfed out" ahead of his own chosen time.

There is also an internal tension within Pakatan as one political commentator remarked to me,"the problem with Pakatan being in government is that there are four governments in one. Each party wants to operate independently and further its own interests and not that of Pakatan as a whole."

If this is indeed true, then one can understand Dr Mahathir's frustration with his not-so-new political friends.

Under the previous Barisan equation, Umno was the dominant force. For any coalition to work in a political system as complex as ours – there has to be one dominant force. Agreeing to disagree works well when one is in the Opposition, but it is debilitating when one is in government.

Pakatan's failure to work cohesively and with the absence of an intense power epicentre has resulted in policy paralysis, dithering and dissension.

Of course, Malaysians pay the price for these failures and with the onset of Covid-19 and its impact on Malaysia's economy.

It would be wise for Malaysia's leaders to stop playing political games and govern the country.

They must fix the slowing economy, attempt some serious reforms to our political system and implement their manifesto promises. It is an opportunity for Pakatan to show it knows how to govern the country in a time of crisis.

The issue of succession should be put on the back burner for now as Dr Mahathir, said publicly, that he will make way after Apec.

Those who try to push Dr Mahathir will know from his long and chequered political history – he will outsmart them, and in doing so, another political summersault cannot be ruled out.

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Ivanpal Singh Grewal

Ivanpal Singh Grewal

Ivanpal Singh Grewal is an Advocate & Solicitor. He was formerly Political Secretary to the Minister of Plantation Industries & Commodities.


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