Pakatan Harapan’s Future In The ‘New Normal’

For supporters of Pakatan Harapan (PH), the 2nd anniversary of the 9 May 2018 General Elections will be a sombre affair.

It is more than just because our alliance lost power at the Federal level due to the controversial “Sheraton Move”.

Malaysia is also beginning to grapple with the socio-economic fallout of the Covid-19 novel coronavirus pandemic and the Movement Control Order (MCO).

Even with the opening of our economy via the Conditional MCO (CMCO), which, lets face it, has also been marred by disagreements between our Federal and State governments, it will take a lot of work and time before we get back to where we once were.

This is the health and economic ‘new normal’.

The fluid political situation following the ‘Sheraton move’ is the political ‘new normal’.

All the same, ordinary Malaysians were suffering even before the country was hit by the last wave of political chicanery and the pandemic. This suffering will continue and even exacerbate without wise and transparent policies that are centred on the rakyat rather than vested interests.

So yes, while we must “focus on the economy”, it will all come to naught without good and open politics.

Any economic recovery or future growth will not be sustainable or equitable without strong institutions as well as political reform.

And I believe the best hope for this in Malaysia lies in PH getting its act together.

As the old saying goes, if we fail to learn the lessons of history, we will repeat it.

Why PH won

Forging a better political and hence economic road ahead for Malaysia’s ‘new normal’ is key to understand why PH succeeded and failed.

Two points are clear.

First, we must acknowledge that PH won in 2018 not just because of the rakyat’s anger over the 1MDB scandal and the abuses of Najib Razak.

That was a major factor, but it was not the only one. We would not have won if we campaigned on it alone.

Malaysian voters gave us a parliamentary majority because PH won them over to the promises outlined in our Buku Harapan manifesto.

No manifesto is perfect—but I strongly believe that had we implemented in substantively—it would have laid the seeds for a pro-rakyat and globally competitive Malaysian economy.

This is because the rakyat is our greatest asset and no plan for the future will succeed if it doesn’t stand up for them.

For my part, I certainly never shied away from making it the centrepiece whenever and wherever I campaigned in 2018.

Second, we were united. The rapprochement between Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim was a watershed in Malaysian politics.

That too was one of the reasons why we won. 9 May 2018 couldn’t have happened if these two icons had not put aside their differences for the future of the country.

Our mistakes

But we must also be honest about the mistakes that were made.

The PH Cabinet that was set up after the elections did not reflect the realities of the Parliamentary strength of the different component parties.

I will be the first to admit that there were many excellent Ministers in the ranks—but others frankly let the people down in terms of their performance and their actions during the “Sheraton Move.”

Only the man who was Prime Minister at the time can say for certain why his Cabinet was formed the way it was and why he picked the people he did.

BERSATU’s decision to welcome UMNO crossovers virtually lock, stock and barrel also did not help things.

There certainly was a failure to communicate, to really talk in an honest and heartfelt manner between ourselves and the rakyat.

Moving ahead, we will likely see attempts to attribute the failure of PH on how the Mahathir-Anwar transition was handled, or rather, bungled.

But again, it was a failure to communicate that led to the breakdown.

Anwar consistently said that Dr Mahathir should be given time to implement the reforms he felt the country needed.

Communication and compromise are a two-way street.

The Buku Harapan should not have been abandoned

This leads me to my next point. Another grave disappointment was the way the Buku Harapan was also seemingly consigned to the rubbish bin.

It was treated as something of a joke, even by certain leaders of the government that was elected on its planks to implement it.

Don’t they—and certainly we, the rakyat—after the “Sheraton Move”, now wish that they had taken it more seriously and worked more urgently to fulfil it?

Wouldn’t we have been better off, or at least a little bit better prepared to deal with the ‘new normal’ now facing us, had they done so?

If the “Shared Prosperity Vision” (SPV) that came later seemed hollow and unsubstantial, it was because it was missing the strengthened human capital and economic fundamentals implementing the manifesto would have brought.

People will say that the Buku Harapan is old news and that we should move on.

Still, how do we build for the future if our governments keep changing what they stand for?

There will ALWAYS be local, regional and global black swans that will throw administrations off guard.

Weak ones bend. Strong ones adapt but continue to pursue their goals.

What future will Malaysia have if all its governments can or want to do is react to events?

If we stand for everything, we stand for nothing.

There must be a plan for the country. The manifesto was it. But we failed to follow through.

What next for PH? For Malaysia?

Moving forward, PH cannot hope to win if all we are relying on is for Perikatan Nasional (PN) to implode.

Its disunity is a serious question that cannot be batted away. But that will not be enough for Malaysian voters to want to send PH back to Putrajaya.

Rather, we must regain and recommit to the reformist, rakyat-centric spirit that so animated us in 2018.

We must show Malaysians that we will protect and grow their livelihoods as well as rights.

And we must do so as one coalition with one voice.

We cannot be prisoners of history.

But again, if we fail to learn from the mistakes of the past, we will repeat them.

Let us be honest about the mistakes we made and avoid repeats as we regroup to face what lies ahead.

Malaysians desperately need hope. PH must be able to give it to them—but we must be honest to them and with ourselves.


Muhyiddin Must Not Stop Parliament To Perform Its Role

The leaders of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) parties, as well as those of WARISAN and BERSATU’s Chairman have recently issued a joint statement calling for Parliament to sit for at least two weeks, rather than just one day on 18 May 2020.

Why does the Opposition keep harping on this, especially given the Covid-19 novel coronavirus pandemic still on-going? Isn’t the rakyat tired of “politicking”?

Well, for one thing, the economy is being opened up right now, with the Movement Control Order (MCO) being rebranded as a “Conditional MCO (CMCO)”.

There has of course been controversy over how and when the states are choosing to implement the CMCO, but it seems likely that our economy is in the process of reopening.

If businesses in our capital can resume full operations—adhering to strict Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) of course—why not our nation’s legislature?

Parliament was originally supposed to sit from 9 March—16 April 2020, then after the fall of the PH Government, delayed to 18 May—23 June.

However, all we are left with now is a one-day, 18 May 2020 sitting. As has been argued elsewhere, this will be a mostly ceremonial event and MPs will not have any opportunity to question Ministers.

During this extraordinary crisis, we have been presented with capable and credible bureaucrats who ensured the country kept running. At the end of the day however, as a Parliamentary democracy, the Prime Minister and his cabinet must be held to account by the MPs.

This means that debates and perhaps much-needed legislation to tackle the socio-economic fallout will only take place in the July sessions.

Malaysia cannot wait that long.

This will mean that Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and his government will have no effective scrutiny on whatever actions it decides to take since the formation of the PN Government for a period of four months.

They will be basically able to use the machinery of government and spend the rakyat’s tax ringgits without any check and balance until then.

Muhyiddin claims that the people are sick of “politicking”. That may very well be true.

But his own actions—by appointing countless PN MPs to GLCs and other public bodies, often at the expense of technocrats—makes a mockery of this sentiment.

And this is not an excuse to clip the wings of our democratic institutions.

Most fundamentally the PN government has no electoral mandate, nor articulated any of its long-term plans or manifesto so far.

Indeed, the Minister of Finance Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz has recently warned that Malaysia’s economy could shrink even more than initially forecast due to the extensions of the MCO.

However, even the PRIHATIN economic stimulus packages have yet to be passed by Parliament—and they need to be.

There is also an urgent need for MPs to review and pass the packages, as well as most probably other measures that the government ought to be doing to save the jobs of ordinary Malaysians.

Why is the government being so lackadaisical?

Jobs, businesses and even lives are at stake.

We MPs are also willing and able to accept whatever SOPs imposed that will allow Parliament to function. To attend the Parliamentary opening, all MPs will be screened for Covid beforehand.

Other democracies have enabled their legislatures to function in one way or another through the Covid-19 pandemic. South Korea even had a general election during this period.

So, what excuse can the PN administration really give?

Historically, leaders who have prorogued legislatures in an attempt to avoid legislative scrutiny have been heavily criticised. And rightly so.

This happened to the-then Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada in 2008 and more recently, Boris Johnson of the UK in 2019. Indeed, the latter’s actions were declared illegal by the Supreme Court of the UK.

The Prime Minister should consider this when it comes to our own Parliament.

Our only intention is to perform our duties as the rakyat’s elected representatives to help save Malaysia, its people and economy.

The government should summon Parliament into session as soon as possible and allow it to sit for at least 2 weeks. There should be no excuse.

NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD is the KEADILAN Organising Secretary and Setiawangsa MP. He also Chairs the Parliamentary Select Committee for Defence and Home Affairs.

One-Day Sitting Of Parliament A Disappointment

As an MP, I am deeply concerned and disappointed with the Government’s decision to only call a one-day sitting of Parliament on 18 May 2020.

It is true that we are in the middle of the Covid-19 novel coronavirus pandemic. The fact is that social distancing measures will need to stay in place even after the Movement Control Order (MCO) comes to an end.

We want Parliament to meet to ensure the welfare of the rakyat and good policies to facilitate the recovery of our economy are put in place.

Approving the various PRIHATIN stimulus packages and a supplementary budget to fund them are just one part of the monumental tasks ahead.

MPs need to ask questions to the Ministers, while the Parliamentary Special Select Committee , an important reform introduced by Pakatan Harapan needs to continue to play its role.

We also will need to draft, refine as well as pass policies to ensure that jobs are protected and that Malaysian companies do not go out of business unnecessarily. The manufacturing, aviation and tourism industries are just the worst-affected: measures will be needed across to board to help these and other sectors.

It is impossible that we will be able to do this with just a one-day sitting.

Here’s another fact: we haven’t heard anything of substance so far from the government on this.

And the stimulus packages—as I have argued elsewhere—are only short-term stopgaps at best.

More will certainly need to be done to help unemployed and vulnerable Malaysians.

We need urgent action now. There is so much that needs to be worked out, including how to restart out economy in light of the “new normal” of social distancing.

This cannot be left to the Executive alone. Rather, the people—through their Members of Parliament—must also be heard and be allowed to scrutinise the policies proposed.

The rakyat and their industries shouldn’t have to and indeed, cannot wait until July for our government to figure out what needs to be done.

That is why Parliament needs to sit sooner and for much longer than just one day.

Steps can be taken to ensure that social distancing is observed.

It should be noted that the Parliaments of the UK and Australia as well as the US Congress continued to sit throughout the First and Second World Wars, as well as during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918—1920.

There is a strong desire on the part of the rakyat that politicians put aside their differences and work to get our country through this crisis.

This does not mean suspending the political and legislative process.

This cannot happen if institutions like Parliament are not allowed to function properly.

I hence sincerely hope that the government extend as well as bring forward the next Parliament sitting with all required social distancing measures in place.


The Pakatan Harapan Consensus Is The Better Choice Compared To The ‘Non-Party Government’

Not long after the broadcast by PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad yesterday, the Pakatan Harapan Presidential Council came out with its own press conference at the KEADILAN Headquarters.
It was officially revealed that Pakatan Harapan – KEADILAN, DAP and AMANAH MPs nominated Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim for PM.
Malaysia doesn’t need this the proposed ‘Non-Party Government’ even with the best possible intentions.
This proposed form of government is only ever really necessary during a time of great national crisis, such as how the UK had all-party coalitions or “National Governments” during The World War 1 the Great Depression and World War 2.  
One could argue that Malaysia is facing a “crisis” right now, what with the global Covid-19 outbreak and weakening economy. However, no other country in the world has chosen to meet these challenges by suspending their political processes or expecting their parties to surrender their autonomy to one leader.
The choice conveyed to His Majesty Yang Dipertuan Agong among three blocs of MPs are clear: Anwar as PM, Dr Mahathir as PM or dissolution of Parliament.  There is no consensus on the matter and I believe the option with the biggest bloc of support – Anwar – is worthy of consideration.
Dr Mahathir likes to use the example of Japan, but post World War 2 Japan never had to resort to all-party governments or setting up unaccountable leaders with no checks-and-balances.
Indeed, the only real “crisis” Malaysia is facing currently is the one manufactured by the “Langkah Sheraton” plotters. They are the ones who rejected Pakatan Harapan’s consensus and manifesto. So the urgency for a “unity government” is simply not there. Also, the utility of such an arrangement is questionable.
We must allow our nation’s constitutional processes to take their course. Setting aside “politics” is not going to help improve our economy or ease the distrust between our different communities.

What Stunt Is PAS Trying To Pull?

What stunt is PAS trying to pull with its so-called “confidence motion” for Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to continue as Prime Minister for a full term?

Clearly, the party is not acting in good faith.

There’s really no need for it. The current administration’s position in the Dewan Rakyat is not in question.
The government is still in the majority with 139 of the 222 seats (i.e. 129 from Pakatan Harapan and 9 from Warisan as well as 1 from UPKO).

No one has tried to lodge a vote of no confidence.

Indeed, PAS’ motion, assuming it even gets debated and passed (because government business takes precedence in Parliament) is in no way legally binding.

It won’t prevent Dr Mahathir from resigning when he wants to. And the government will still fall if someone manages to get a motion of no-confidence passed later on.

Also, PAS’ behaviour is strange given that it’s ally UMNO has just won 2 Parliamentary by-elections straight.
A normal, rational Opposition would be using this as proof that the incumbent government is losing the confidence of the people, not trying to enter it through the backdoor.

Indeed, most of its GE14 campaign was focused on demonising Dr Mahathir.

So why is PAS going against the wishes of its voters as well as those of its so-called “Muafakat Nasional” ally, UMNO and Barisan Nasional?

There’s all kinds of rumours that this will be the precursor of the formation of a new, “backdoor” government.
The purpose of this move is supposedly to prevent Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim from becoming Prime Minister as agreed under the PH consensus.

The legitimacy and sustainability of such a government, that would more or less be monoethnic in every possible scenario, would be deeply problematic.

Also, it would be atypical of PAS to engage in such tactics, given that they fell victim to “backdoor tactics” during the 1977 Kelantan Emergency.

Basically, there was a split in PAS (which was then part of BN) between Kelantan Menteri Besar Dato Mohamed Nasir and party President Tan Sri Asri Muda.

The Kelantan State Assembly then had 36 seats: PAS had 22, UMNO 13 and MCA 1.

20 of the PAS State Assemblymen passed a no-confidence motion against Nasir, while the BN reps walked out.
The Menteri Besar refused to resign and attempted to dissolve the legislature. Protests broke out.

An emergency was declared, lasting between 8 November 1977—12 February 1978, essentially allowing the Menteri Besar to remain in office.

PAS was ousted from BN while Nasir created the BERJASA party. In March 1978, elections were held in Kelantan: UMNO won 23 seats, BERJASA 11 and PAS 2.

UMNO ended up with the Kelantan Menteri Besar-ship while BERJASA then joined the BN. However, PAS regained Kelantan in 1990 and has held it ever since.

PAS had for decades been campaigning on its victimisation by UMNO in 1977. Indeed, this was why the late Tuan Guru Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat was vehemently against any future PAS-UMNO tie-ups.

I can only hope that PAS return to becoming the responsible Opposition they once were.

There’s so much work to be done for Malaysia—including navigating the renewed global economic uncertainty due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

PAS can either help the country or make a nuisance of themselves. The choice is theirs.
Either way, the rakyat will judge.


Learn From The Mistakes Of PPSMI

I strongly urge the government to reconsider the announcement made by the Prime Minister cum Acting Minister of Education, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad over the possible revival of the use of English in the teaching of science and mathematics in Malaysian schools.

We must accept the importance of English, but to reintroduce PPSMI has a major impact on the effectiveness of education. It is hence important for us to recall why the PPSMI was abandoned back in 2012.

Basically, the PPSMI as implemented led to students with weak English skills facing difficulty in learning mathematics and science.

An entire generation of students from such backgrounds were arguably “lost” to those subjects as a result.

Indeed, there were teachers during that period who faced the dilemma whether to make the switch to English as they had students who simply could not keep up.

This was to say nothing of the fact that there were also educators whose English was not good and who could not be brought up to scratch or be easily replaced.

We must be clear about what our objectives are in the first place.

If Malaysians want to strengthen the standard of English among students, we should work to improve the quality of that subject and its syllabus in our schools.

That would do more to improve the standard of English in our country rather than switching the teaching of other subjects to it.

On the other hand, if we want to strengthen our mastery of mathematics and science, we should not forget that the Dual Language Programme (DLP) has been in place since 2016.

The DLP basically gives eligible schools the flexibility to use either Malay or English in their teaching based on the capacities of their students and choice of parents.

I am sure that this is the better approach as parents and individual schools will have a better gauge of their own students and teacher’s abilities compared to a one-size-fits-all system.

Look I am a father of a school-going kid in a national school. I would rather the government make the existing system work than keep tinkering with things.

We should avoid making sudden and changes to our education system without planning and patience. The students and teachers will suffer as a result.

We should be seeking to uphold the spirit of the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 that was issued by the-then Minister of Education, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin. The parameters that it set ought to remain the framework that governs our educational policies.

Our focus should be ensuring that all Malaysians have access to the best educational opportunities possible as well as boosting investment in the same.

Also, efforts to strengthen Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) should continue, as well as ensuring that our students at all levels are being prepared to compete in the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Again, what is required is consultation, foresight and patience.