There are many paths for Pakatan Harapan to choose. However, I do think there are three mistakes that we need to avoid.
1. Harapan cannot wait for PN to implode
First, we cannot rely on Perikatan Nasional (PN) imploding.
Coalitions of expedience (which is what PN is) as opposed to coalitions based on principles (which it certainly is not) stay together only when their components believe that the alternatives are worse for them.
The individuals who brought about the downfall of the first Harapan federal government bolted because they would have been the “biggest losers” had the alliance succeeded and carried out the Buku Harapan manifesto.
Don’t get me wrong: the country and its people would have profited handsomely had Harapan gone the distance – but the cabal behind the “Sheraton Move” would have been left out in the cold and so that is why they went off to form PN.
The PN’s main proposition – the only reason why it was formed and why it is sticking together right now – is power. Even the so-called Malay-Islam agenda is secondary to power, as those who even actually believe in it convince themselves that to implement the agenda, one has to have power by any means necessary.
So, while concerns about its infighting and disunity are valid, PN will likely hold together until the 15the general election – if only to ensure that Harapan doesn’t get back into power.
There will be passive-aggressive statements or social media posts, even open arguments or disputes about seats. But they will stick together if it means holding on to the levers of incumbency.
Their components will be willing to accept any compromise, bear any indignity and even start acting like a proper coalition – all to stay in office. Make no mistake: they will do anything to stay in power.
2. PN cares nothing for the rakyat
But when it comes to governing justly and for the many? No – because that would be the antithesis of their existence.
If they really cared about the rakyat, the architects of PN (below) would have stayed in Harapan.
What does it tell you about their priorities that they have just started working on a Covid-19 related temporary relief measures bill – which will only be tabled in Parliament in July?
Singapore got theirs sorted by April 2020.
But when it comes to appointing PN-connected individuals to GLC posts? Well, look who has the bandwidth all of a sudden!
3. Harapan must offer a better future for Malaysians
That leads me to the next mistake Harapan could make: believing we can win without good policies.
Certainly, calling PN to account for the Sheraton Move and their failings in office – especially during the Movement Control Order (MCO) – will be a major issue during the next general election.
But that cannot be the only thing Harapan brings to Malaysian voters.
As I have argued before: we didn’t win the 2018 general election on the back of the 1MDB scandal alone. We were going up and down campaigning about fighting kleptocracy. I am sure many Malaysians don’t even care or understand the word. Buku Harapan was what Malaysians desperately needed at the time and it played a major role in our victory.
The world and our country are, of course, very different places right now. But I strongly believe there are two important sub-lessons here: one positive, the other negative.
The positive is that we can come up with substantive policy ideas while in the opposition. Harapan’s achievements in government, including reducing the voting age to 18, have and will change the country forever.
The negative is that it shows what happens when we abandon our principles and policy lodestar.
As history will show, certain senior Harapan leaders have rubbished the Buku Harapan. Some even made it their mission to do the exact opposite.
We must never repeat the same mistake: failing to live up to our manifesto and getting distracted by other things.
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.
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.
NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD
KEADILAN CHIEF ORGANISING SECRETARY
KEADILAN CENTRAL LEADERSHIP COUNCIL MEMBER
SETIAWANGSA MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT
While Muhyiddin Yassin was sworn in as Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim met KEADILAN leaders.
He revealed that prior to the crisis there was an offer for him to become Prime Minister with the condition that he abandon our political allies in Pakatan Harapan and accepting leaders from UMNO en bloc, including those facing corruption charges in court.
He naturally refused to betray the mandate of the people simply for the sake of obtaining the premiership.
The crisis was caused by a group of individuals who were power-hungry and betrayed the mandate given to us by the people during the 14th General Elections. History will condemn them as having damaged our democracy and as willing to do anything—including manipulating the truth—for the sake of power.
The crisis undoubtedly began with the PH Presidential Council meeting on 21 February 2020. At the meeting, the issue of the power transition between Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar was closely discussed.
When the meeting took place, Azmin Ali allegedly hoped that PH would split. However, the issue was brought under control when Anwar acted to cool things down.
As will be remembered, Azmin was absent from the subsequent press conference. Anwar, reiterated his willingness to give Dr Mahathir the space to run the country. Tun Dr Mahathir also calmly noted that the transition would take place after the APEC Summit, albeit with no specific date or time.
On 23 February 2020, BERSATU held a meeting to decide on the direction of their party. At the meeting, Muhyiddin Yassin was said to have proposed cooperation with UMNO en bloc. As other media reports have stated, Muhyiddin was also said to have expressed willingness to work with controversial or contentious leaders like Najib Razak, Zahid Hamidi etc.
Dr Mahathir did not accept this, feeling that UMNO which was rejected by voters should not be accepted as a bloc, what more with the presence of individuals who had faced corruption allegations while in government.
Azmin’s team meanwhile alleged that all parties would agree with BERSATU’s move to work with UNNO and PAS. After going to the Palace in a hope to seal the deal, Azmin invited political leaders from UMNO, PAS and BERSATU to dinner at the Sheraton PJ Hotel. This “Sheraton Move” will go down in history as an attempt to steal the mandate of the people.
Given the increasingly critical situation, on the morning of 24 February the main leadership of PH sought to immediately meet with Dr Mahathir. Anwar Ibrahim, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Mohamad Sabu and Lim Guan Eng tried to persuade him.
However, after this discussion, Tun Dr Mahathir decided to resign. That the same day, BERSATU announced they would leave PH. Tun Dr Mahathir was appointed interim Prime Minister until a new premier could be appointed.
That evening, the PH Presidential Council held an emergency meeting. Our leaders invited Tun Dr Mahahtir to chair it, but he declined. The meeting unanimously nominated him as Pakatan’s candidate for Prime Minister in accordance with the PH’s consensus and the mandate the people had given to us.
An idea for a unity or non-party government was floated. PH was against this because we felt that it went against the principles of constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy. The existence of political parties is crucial for checks-and-balances. Their absence would cast serious doubts about the two pillars of our nation-Constitutional Monarchy and Parliamentary Democracy.
On 28 February, when the other parties switched their support to Muhyiddin, Anwar and PH agreed for Dr Mahathir to be our prime ministerial candidate once more.
The crisis was a severe test for Anwar’s leadership and patience, but he decided to forsake the position for the sake of the nation.
The entire affair has been most upsetting, especially as many of our politicians came across as seemingly not having firm stands or appreciating the mandate given to them by the people.
One fears that the youth will become disillusioned and disgusted with the political games they have witnessed. Whether consciously or unconsciously, our own behaviour as leaders is often the reason why the youth refuse to get involved in politics.
There are many lessons to be drawn from this sad, sordid affair. At the very least, it has shown us who our real friends are.
Moreover, the people will now be able to judge who has truly upheld or betrayed their trust.
In this excerpt from the 27 February episode of #ConsiderThis on Astro AWANI hosted by Melisa Idris and Sharaad Kuttan, I debate with Ambiga Sreenevasan on whether a unity government or minority government is the best way to solve Malaysia’s current political crisis.
First time Sharaad interviewed me was in 2001 when I was a 19 year old kid who just got hooked onto Reformasi.
Credit: Astro Awani.
Full video: https://www.facebook.com/astroawani/videos/1126734654385391/
Unity or Minority Government? Nik Nazmi debates Ambiga
In this excerpt from the 27 February episode of #ConsiderThis on Astro AWANI hosted by Melisa Idris and Sharaad Kuttan, I debate with Ambiga Sreenevasan on whether a unity government or minority government is the best way to solve Malaysia's current political crisis.First time Sharaad interviewed me was in 2001 when I was a 19 year old kid who just got hooked onto Reformasi.Credit: Astro Awani. Full video: https://www.facebook.com/astroawani/videos/1126734654385391/
Posted by Nik Nazmi on Thursday, 27 February 2020
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.
NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD
KEADILAN CHIEF ORGANISING SECRETARY
KEADILAN CENTRAL LEADERSHIP COUNCIL MEMBER
MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT FOR SETIAWANGSA
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.
NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD
KEADILAN CHIEF ORGANISING SECRETARY
KEADILAN CENTRAL LEASERSHIP COUNCIL MEMBER
SETIAWANGSA MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT