Malaysian politics is going through a midlife crisis. – James Chin, professor of Asian Studies at the University of Tasmania
As I write this piece, three things have happened.
The first was that Umno (United Malays National Organisation) ministers Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob and Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein have been appointed as Deputy Prime Minister and Senior Minister (Security Cluster) respectively.
The second is that Umno — hours after the promotion of two of its ministers in the Perikatan Nasional (PN) federal government — has officially withdrawn its support for PN following a supreme council meeting.
The third, while PN may have just lost the numbers to remain in government, Attorney General Tan Sri Idris Harun came out to clarify that there are no “clear facts” that Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has lost his majority.
All these happened in less than 24 hours. It’s a lot to take in for such a time.
The game of trading blows with each other between Umno and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) has been drawn out for months now with cracks appearing less than six months of being in the federal government together.
It is clear that the parties were not meant to end up in the same boat when Bersatu was created with the sole purpose of replacing Umno — which they did in GE14.
The argument from Umno grassroots was that PN had failed to fulfil its promise to Umno when the latter helped to form the federal government.
They pointed out that the nation is not getting any better in its anti-pandemic fight and the government has to be replaced for Malaysia to get out of the rut.
Meanwhile for PN, it has pointed out that this political gambit could be saved for another time as the Covid-19 situation has not subsided.
The general narrative of PN is that politics should take a backseat during the pandemic and focus should be on Covid-19.
Neither side can be wrong, but none of them are right as well.
But then how do we resolve this? Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Jemut Masing, who is Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) president, neatly summed up the solution in a sentence — work together, defeat Covid-19, then fight.
“In traditional warfare the opposing armies shoot each other. However, in fighting Covid-19, Malaysia has a different strategy. We shoot our comrades first!
“The best strategy to fight this deadly pandemic is for us to stand together and fight as one. Once we defeat Covid-19 then we turn our guns on each other, if we must,” he said.
Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) supreme council member Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said while Umno is within its democratic rights to withdraw its support, he asked whether it also was a decision for the country and the rakyat.
He said even if the prime minister was removed following a no-confidence vote in Parliament as per Article 43(4) of the Federal Constitution, there is still a possibility that the premier can request for dissolution of Parliament.
“We do not know which option the prime minister is going to choose. If there is dissolution, then election will have to be conducted in 60 days. Ask ourselves what is going to happen after that.
“Remember the Sabah state election? Malaysia was one the best five countries in the world in handling Covid-19 before August last year, and now it has become one of struggling countries under the pandemic,” he said.
And he is right. A general election at the height of Covid-19 does not favour anyone.
In the end, it is a sorry state of affair given that the federal government does not enjoy the stability that it should to govern a nation that is currently in chaos.
Often times, it is the thing that we take for granted. Some would rubbish it as a propaganda to scare the people, thinking that everything is going to be fine. But it never is.
When the people voted to oust the Barisan Nasional (BN) government of old, they forgot that they are throwing the one thing that mattered most — stability.
While their jubilations were short-lived when the government they voted in completely shat the bed, the effects of that is still felt today. Malaysia Baru, they said.
If anything, the double whammy of a crisis that we are in should be taken as a lesson. The nation cannot progress if it collapses onto itself.