Governance at its worst?

With proper governance, life will improve for all.

– Benigno Aquino III, ex-president of the Philippines

Parliament is generally described as one of the three branches of government and has three core functions: to represent the electorate, make laws and oversee the other branches of government.

On July 26, 2021, the Malaysian parliament opened its doors to a special five-day sitting after a long hiatus due to the proclamation of emergency to allow the PN government to focus on curtailing the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

The plan was that the government would brief the MPs about its management of the Covid-19 pandemic and also the way forward towards a hybrid parliament sitting.

It was meant to be an opportunity to allow our elected representatives to converse and have a question-and-answer session with the prime minister and his ministers about the state of people health in our nation, specifically related to the Covid-19 virus.

Many Malaysians had hoped that at least for once their government would present a plan of action for managing the rapidly deteriorating healthcare system on the verge of collapse (with 9,184 deaths reported as of August 1, 2021).

Once again, they were shocked by the utter lack of empathy to the plight of the rakyat.

True to the nature of federal politics, it was only a matter of time before the special five-day sitting (incomplete as it turned out) degenerated into a circus.

Instead of focusing on the rakyat and its plight in the current pandemic the special sitting in Parliament was overshadowed by other issues.

Valuable time was wasted with the heckling, shouting, usual name-calling and generally uncivilised behaviour.

What was even more astonishing to many people was that so much time was spent on statements relating to the Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance 2021 that had been implemented since January 2021.

Why many asked? After all, these powers were coming to an end in only a few days, on August 1.

Where was the empathy, the compassion towards the people facing the many critical pandemic related crises?

Political power once again took precedence via theatrics instead of the needs of the rakyat.

In the face of these queries, it seems that the PN leadership and the Law Minister Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan felt they could resolve the matter by declaring that the Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance 2021 was henceforth revoked.

Instead of extinguishing the matter, this totally unexpected announcement by the government only served to inflame the issue even more and completely diverted the attention of the government and parliament away from the plight of the people.

The matter did not end here as the Yang diPertuan Agong expressed he was “greatly disappointed” that his consent was not sought to rescind the Emergency Ordinances.

This in turn led to another ongoing time-consuming diversion and discussions related to constitutional issues. Was the King’s consent required or not?

On the one hand, we have the opinion of a prominent and former Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram who said that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s consent and signature was not required to revoke the emergency ordinances.

On the other hand, we have Datuk Seri Rajan Navaratnam, also a prominent and senior lawyer, who opined that the King must sign off on the revocation of emergency ordinances.

Well, depending on which side you support, I am sure legal opinions will continue being spewed out.

In the midst of this of course there any various permutations of outcomes abound from political pundits and columnists.

It is very unfortunate that this still unfolding completely unproductive political drama sucked so many parties into its vortex and so the political maelstrom continues unabated.

None of the politicians and associated parties will come out looking good but strangely, politically they will survive. It is the rakyat who are the biggest losers.

How long can Malaysia afford to have this unacceptable scenario? While we are not in any way near a failed state status, we have to avoid setting the foundations of a failed state.

Holding fresh general elections might be a solution towards possible political stability, for a while at least. However, lessons should be learned from the Sabah state elections that triggered a massive Covid-19 infection wave throughout Malaysia and so holding elections is not an immediate solution.

It looks like Malaysians simply have to become more resilient in these difficult times while waiting for the pandemic to subside and for wisdom to prevail.

As for Sarawakians, let us keep our political scene stable and ourselves safe.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.