No policy paralysis in Malaysia, so no failed government

By Jamari Mohtar

In the beginning, there were many repeated assurances by DAP supremo, Lim Kit Siang, that Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin shouldn’t be worried about attempts to oust him if he agrees to reconvene parliament.

He gave an undertaking – even though he is not the Opposition Leader – should Muhyiddin reconvene parliament, a no-confidence motion won’t be tabled, as parliament will singly focus on the issue of how to mobilise the nation as one unit to ensure an ‘all-of-government’ and ‘whole-of-society’ strategy and approach in the war against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sounds good and believable but an important question is why must the pursuit of an all-of-government and whole society strategy and approach be led by parliament only, especially at a time when parliament is suspended?

In a statement on April 25, this strategy of DAP became very clear when its secretary general, Lim Guan Eng, urged Muhyiddin to let Parliament or voters decide on a new government.

Meanwhile, more than a month ago, both the chairman of Pakatan Harapan (PH) who’s also PKR President, Anwar Ibrahim, and the chairman of Barisan Nasional (BN) who’s also Umno president, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi – like a teacher and a student – issued a media statement separately that were not only written in the same tone, but with some passages corresponding word for word, urging the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to call for parliament to convene during the Emergency.

Because of the confusion created when an opposition party and a party in government are in cahoots with one another in that they thinketh alike the way wise men do or the way fools seldom differ, the BN secretariat later had to withdraw Zahid’s statement, claiming it was a “mistake”.

And then on April 25, this mistake was rectified when Umno formally called on the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government, of which it is a part, to lift the suspension on parliament. This was endorsed by the party’s supreme council, perhaps in an attempt to show that the decision is not a personal one on the president’s part but undertaken by the supreme council.

The most revealing of all the above statements is the one by Guan Eng who, whether he realises it or not, has let the cat out of the bag by making it clear the ultimate goal of the Opposition is still the politicking for a power grab either without the need for a general election (let parliament decide) or if need be, through a general election (let voters decide).

To hell with the four-digit daily infection figures which are now in the 2000s, and to hell with the economy that’s just beginning to recover too. What’s important is for the Opposition especially PH, and the non-Opposition BN especially Umno to get back to power at all costs, and the country be damned!

Hence, the King’s statement that the legislature can still convene even during the Emergency, provided Prime Minister Muhyiddin advised him to reconvene parliament is taken to mean by the Opposition that the King has given a royal decree, allowing parliament to reconvene during the state of Emergency.

However, the de facto law minister, Takiyuddin Hassan explained the statement made by the Palace was to explain that there will be no Parliament sitting, and any decision to convene a sitting must be made by the Cabinet.

Turned out Takiyuddin is right when on April 22, the High Court dismissed Anwar’s application for leave to proceed with his lawsuit against the prime minister and the Malaysian government over their alleged unlawful advice to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to suspend parliament during the Emergency.

Judge Mariana Yahya in dismissing the application said the ouster clauses in Articles 150(6) and 150(8) of the Federal Constitution are valid, and that these clauses precluded the courts from carrying out judicial review of matters relating to the proclamation of an Emergency and the resulting Emergency Ordinances, including the advice given by the prime minister and his Cabinet to the King to promulgate such Emergency ordinances.

The learned judge also considered the said advice of the prime minister did not amount to a decision which was amenable to judicial review under Order 53 of the Rules of Court, 2012 as a ground in dismissing the said application.

When all else have failed to get back to power, a very cunning strategy is devised, in that the so-called “failure” of the PN government to contain the daily Covid-19 infections which have remained in the four-digit for quite some time as constituting a failed government.

And thus, “Failed Government” will become the battle-cry of the Opposition in the 15th General Election (GE15) for regime change in much the same way as the battle-cry of 1MDB was used successfully in GE14 in bringing down the BN regime.

But there is no policy paralysis in the government’s handling of the Covid-19 so it’s indeed strange for the Opposition to make a claim of failed government. It’s just mere politicking to get back at power.

Elements of policy paralysis such as failure to act, refusing to act and acting too late are synonymous with the Trump Administration’s approach to handling the Covid-19 pandemic, or the Modi’s administration handling of the current second wave of Covid-19 in India, resulting in daily infections that were in the five-digit, and massive daily death numbers which in the case of India, there are more deaths resulting in the lack of oxygen tanks in hospitals rather than being killed by the virus.

In Malaysia, it’s ridiculous for the Opposition to say the government has failed when the daily infections are in the four-digit as compared to some countries with a five or six-digit daily infections, the death rate at 0.4% being among the lowest in the world, and a recovery rate of more than 90%.

This is not to say that we should be happy with four-digit daily infections, rather all parties including the Opposition should give a helping hand in making it to a two-, one- or zero-digit daily infections, thus making it easier for example for Umno to have its party elections soon or for the government to accede to Umno’s ultimatum of having a GE by the end of the first quarter of this year.

And the latest desperado act of the Opposition after all else had failed was to make a mountain out of a molehill when it comes to the government’s decision to tap into the National Trust Fund (KWAN) for purchasing Covid-19 vaccines and related procurement.

As mentioned by a reader of Malay Mail, Edmund Loh, in the past, it was reported that RM42mil of KWAN funds was used for the preservation of the wetlands in Putrajaya, and also for the purchase of a stake in Putrajaya Holdings, the master developer of the federal administrative capital.

Loh then asked, “Are critics saying that it is alright to use KWAN’s funds to preserve wetlands and hold equity in a company but not to buy vaccines and other related purchases that can save lives and help end the pandemic, so that some “normalcy” can return? The logic is absurd and asinine.”

At this time when the possibility of Malaysia having to face the fourth wave is no longer a moot point, all parties should give some helping hands in making that possibility remote.

This is the time for the Opposition to heed my earlier call of taking a political sabbatical and works together with the government in managing the pandemic and the recovery of the economy instead of harping on issues of democracy which camouflaged the impatient desire to capture power, come what may!