People first, politics last

Strained session: The five-day special meeting to discuss Covid-19 degenerated into a debate over the legitimacy of revoking the Emergency laws.

Politics can take a back seat while we head for herd immunity and restore our economy.

FORMER British Prime Minister Harold Wilson famously coined the phrase “a week is a long time in politics.” Given what has happened in Malaysia, a month could be an eternity.

Much can happen over the next 30 days ahead of the Parliament meeting next month as it will allow Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to buy time and make strategic manoeuvres.

The PM is now short of 11 Members of Parliament after Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi claimed he and his contingent had signed statutory declarations to withdraw support for Muhyiddin.

Malaysians by now are aware that SDs are worth nothing more than the paper they’re written on. The King even had to personally ask these lawmakers about their position as they’re known to have signed letters of allegiance to whomever they wish to place their bets on. In their case, that’s more than one.

There aren’t many true “honourable” MPs. If you think otherwise, then you must be a fanatical political groupie, or you’re just naïve because politicians change their tune all the time.

It’s clear Muhyiddin needs to shore up his support in the next 30 days to win the vote of confidence at the Dewan Rakyat.

Call it horse trading if you want, but that’s how it works. The PM isn’t the only one because the Opposition is just as guilty.

In September last year, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim claimed he had obtained “strong, formidable and convincing” support from MPs to form a government and announced that Muhyiddin’s government had collapsed.

By October, he managed to get an audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah and supposedly handed over documents he claimed to indicate he had parliamentary support. But His Majesty wasn’t convinced, and neither were most Malaysians.

Last week, Anwar repeated that rhetoric of having the numbers. He has always been busy trying to get MPs to cross over to his side. The appropriate word is defection but for Malaysians, it’s frogging.

Let’s also not forget that Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal only managed to form his Sabah state government in the 2018 elections after he got Barisan Nasional state assemblymen to defect.

BN won 29 seats and Warisan Plus had the same number, but BN had support from Sabah Star party. Two days later, the BN government collapsed because Shafie managed to persuade two Upko and four Umno state assemblymen to take a “leap of faith.”

So, all our prominent political leaders are guilty, at some point or another, of getting elected representatives to be frogs.

Even Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad encouraged defections from Umno to Bersatu, until he lost his leadership in Bersatu.

Defectors included Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin, Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed and Datuk Seri Dr Ronald Kiandee, who all hopped into Bersatu. In fact, 15 Umno MPs defected, and so, Umno is well justified to be upset with Bersatu.

Incredibly, some of us who are furiously sending texts deploring possible defections, were the same people who cheered when Umno MPs joined Bersatu under the Pakatan Harapan government because it suited our political beliefs then.

But the worst defection exercise was in 1994, when BN, under Dr Mahathir and his then deputy, Anwar Ibrahim, toppled Joseph Pairin Kitingan’s PBS Sabah state government.

PBS won 25 seats and BN 23 out of 48 seats. Pairin waited for 36 hours outside the Istana gate to eventually be sworn in.

I was there as a reporter witnessing the event, but his government collapsed when BN managed to get two PBS representatives to cross, and soon, more joined when the PBS government collapsed.

None of our politicians are wholesome enough to talk about defections, but incredibly, they now do it with straight faces. That’s because they forget or want to forget to embrace their political allegiance.

Some look the other way because their partners are engaged in the amphibious exercise, yet they eloquently deride frogging in public.

Now, we hear lawmakers from both sides claiming they are getting calls to jump. Last week, Muar MP Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman (Muda) and Puncak Borneo MP Datuk Willie Mongin (Bersatu), revealed that they were being wooed.

The only way to stop these defections is to have an anti-hopping law. However, we know why our politicians only talk about it and not act on it because they know defections ultimately help their cause.

Fast forward to 2021, and we’re back to the same charade. The five-day special meeting to discuss Covid-19 degenerated into a debate over the legitimacy of revoking the Emergency laws.

Fighting Covid-19, suggesting ways to overcome the pandemic and putting Malaysia on track again clearly wasn’t the agenda of the lawmakers, although younger MPs including Khairy Jamaluddin, Ong Kian Meng, Nurul Izzah and Fahmi Fadzil displayed logic and even bipartisanship in their presentations.

It didn’t help that law minister Takiyuddin Hassan dropped the bombshell that the Emergency had ended, which caught everyone by surprise. His seemingly casual revelation was deservedly condemned.

Even His Majesty expressed great disappointment and demanded a debate on the matter, only for Parliament to end abruptly and be slated to reconvene next month.

But Ahmad Zahid has yanked the rug from beneath Muhyiddin’s feet and cornered him at a cliff, where he’s precariously perched. Without the 11 Umno MPs, and with possibly even more exiting, the PM must pull a rabbit out of the hat to get to safer ground.

He needs new political arrangements because none of the political factions can form a government on their own.

While the Opposition wants the PM to go, its choice of PM is a tricky proposition because the factions don’t trust each other.

It’s also clear that the Kluster Mahkamah (the MPs facing corruption charges) has failed to persuade the PM to let them off the hook, so they must now topple the existing government to save themselves from the slammer.

The endgame for them is to form a new federal government themselves and get the charges dropped, or make an electoral pact with other opposition parties, likely with the same conditions.

Have any of our political leaders publicly pledged to see these corruption charges through without political interference under their administration?

Or would they also drop these charges once they come into power, since they’re all purportedly political persecutions?

Past attorneys general have appeared to readily play the compromising game, although they like to portray themselves as men of high principles and integrity.

After all, they were appointed by the PM, so the perception is that they are indebted to their masters.

Corruption cases have been mysteriously dropped whenever new governments are formed, especially when it involves top ruling leaders.

Our priorities are all wrong. Why should we even care about these politicians when thousands of us are getting infected, hundreds dying, hospitals running out of beds, and thousands losing their jobs, income and businesses?

Muhyiddin isn’t a popular PM right now. There is tremendous resentment towards him, and Dr Mahathir is probably hated even more, except he doesn’t really care about public opinion because he likes to think Malaysia can’t do without him.

But let the PM finish the job. After all, Khairy is also handling the task well in getting Malaysians vaccinated. Let’s give credit where it’s due since vaccination goals are likely to be realised.

Of course, a few from Muhyiddin’s bloated Cabinet have let us down and even embarrassed us.

But let them do the job for the time being. These scheming politicians can fight all they want once we achieve herd immunity by the end of the year and instal the national recovery plan.

Please don’t get Malaysians killed by demanding Parliament be dissolved and a general election held soon. It won’t be surprising if we’re back to square one with a split result after the GE.

Without doubt, the PM has to earn his mandate from the people and be the legitimate leader in the eyes of Malaysians and the world. He must walk through the front door.

An unstable Malaysia will not draw investments because no one will put money in a country where the PM can change overnight.

For now, we need to work together, regardless of our political beliefs, and keep Malaysia safe. We’re running out of time and need to put the country back on track economically.

It’s better that we put our minds and hearts together for a greater cause than be pseudo constitutional experts.

If our politicians are too busy plotting each other’s downfall, it simply means they’re inept at their responsibilities.

Let’s send a strong message to them because they don’t care if we have food on the table or retain our jobs.

So, let’s win this fight against Covid-19 together as Malaysians and set our priorities right.


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Wong Chun Wai

Wong Chun Wai

Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 35 years in various capacities and roles. He is now group editorial and corporate affairs adviser to the group, after having served as group managing director/chief executive officer. On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current issues in The Star.


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