Time to end Perak’s circus

Taking steps to let the people decide the government and to stop any attempt to thwart their will is the ultimate solution to the problem.


FROM whoever’s point of view, the ongoing circus in Perak is a mockery of democracy, its institutions, and the state and federal constitutions as politicians jostle for power over, and control of, the state.

The root of the problem is the infamous three hopping out of Pakatan Rakyat to be Independents friendly to Barisan Nasio-nal.

That does not mean the Pakatan government is blameless. It was, after all, their de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim who famously or infamously – depending on your orientation – declared that he would topple the Federal Barisan Government.

But it turned out to be an empty boast. The Sept 16 deadline last year has expired and the Federal Government still stands strong and firm – with its 58-seat majority, just eight short of a two-thirds majority, intact. Not a single Barisan lawmaker hopped over to the opposition.

The amazing thing about that episode was that while as long as it was thought that Anwar had a chance to pull off that major hop, the criticism against thwarting the people’s will was muted among Pakatan’s leaders.

The one clear exception was the old lion and DAP stalwart Karpal Singh.

And for Pakatan as a whole to acquiesce to the suggestion that the Federal Government be overthrown by party hoppers was nothing short of appalling. And dangerous, too.

Does it not mean that the people’s will was being thwarted? After all, the people voted in Pakatan for only five states – as important as some of the states were, such as Selangor, Perak and Penang. They did NOT vote in Pakatan for the Federal Government.

What that abortive attempt to unseat the Federal Government meant was that Pakatan had lost the moral high ground to protest when its three representatives in Perak hopped out and declared themselves Independents friendly to Barisan.

However we may argue the situation now, the undisputed fact is that Barisan has the majority of seats in the Perak State Assembly. Everything else is procedural. If the state assembly were to sit, who will enjoy the confidence of the majority? The answer is plain.

But just as Barisan has used a legal, if underhand, tactic to get to power, we can expect that Pakatan will exhaust every trick in the book to delay and question the issue by all means legal and politically expedient.

That means the cauldron will continue to simmer for a while yet. It may even overflow occasionally if Pakatan can induce some crossovers and get the pot to boiling again.

Already the circus has descended to the physical level – which has been largely kept out of our legislative assemblies. The public has had to bear ridiculous – even comical, if it were not so serious – scenes such as the assembly under a tree, which gained world headlines. And then there was yesterday which we all could have done without.

The people are restive. They elected somebody else but someone else has come to power by the back door. The process is still not over and there are going to be challenges and counter challenges.

In the meantime it will be the state and the people who suffer while politicians focus on politics and neglect government.

The problem is the politicians have not shown themselves to be responsible. On one side of the divide, they threatened to overthrow the government and on the other side they actually did. Both of them showed complete disdain for the people.

Now it is high time to put these things behind us. If politicians agree that the will of the people has to be respected – anyone who disagrees is not only not a politician but a despot to boot – then they must do what is necessary to actualise that.

At the end of the day, there is only one way to end the circus. Let the people decide. And put in place the laws to stop party-hopping by elected representatives. If they do, they must be made to face the people for a fresh mandate.

It was Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, then a government minister in charge of law, who proposed that party-hopping of elected representatives be discouraged by forcing automatic by-elections.

It came to pass that his proposal was not only rejected by many within Barisan but met with lukewarm reception from the opposition as well.

Realistically, as far as Perak is concerned, we have probably passed the point of no return. That means continuing turmoil to the detriment of the people and state, at least until elections are held again.

But the public itself should not give up hope. It should push for its will to be respected and followed. Accordingly, it should pressure the two main coalitions to publicly declare support for by-elections in the event of party defections.

If one of them declines, we know who to vote for. If both decline, we have a problem – we have to start looking further. If both agree, we don’t have a problem, right?

We just have to work out the mechanics in full public view so that the people can judge who is balking.

That’s the beauty of having choices and alternatives.

Managing editor P. Gunasegaram remembers too many disgraceful episodes of party-hopping over the last 25 years. It is high time we put a stop to it, he says.