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M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

My Photo
Location: Morgan Hill, California, United States

Malaysian-born Bakri Musa writes frequently on issues affecting his native land. His essays have appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, International Herald Tribune, Education Quarterly, SIngapore's Straits Times, and The New Straits Times. His commentary has aired on National Public Radio's Marketplace. His regular column Seeing It My Way appears in Malaysiakini. Bakri is also a regular contributor to th eSun (Malaysia). He has previously written "The Malay Dilemma Revisited: Race Dynamics in Modern Malaysia" as well as "Malaysia in the Era of Globalization," "An Education System Worthy of Malaysia," "Seeing Malaysia My Way," and "With Love, From Malaysia." Bakri's day job (and frequently night time too!) is as a surgeon in private practice in Silicon Valley, California. He and his wife Karen live on a ranch in Morgan Hill. This website is updated twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays at 5 PM California time.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Anwar As "Wartime" Prime Minister


Anwar As "Wartime" Prime Minister


M. Bakri Musa (www.bakrimusa.com)



When the Agung meets Anwar Ibrahim on Tuesday, October 13, 2020, he should be treated in the same manner as Muhyiddin Yassin was back in February 2020. Then, recognizing the current public health emergency, the Agung should appoint Anwar as the equivalent of a Wartime Prime Minister.


If Anwar were to be denied the opportunity to lead Malaysia despite his documented majority support in Parliament, then the Agung would risk becoming entangled in the nation’s current toxic political bickering by his favoring one politician over another. He would also have to bear the heavy responsibility for unnecessarily exposing Malaysians to Covid-19 should he opt for a general election. The recent experience with Sabah should sober the Agung on that point.


A wartime leader has precedents within and outside Malaysia. Britain had one during both World Wars. Canada invoked its War Measures Act in 1970 following the riots in Quebec. A recent American Library of Congress survey found that many countries including such bastions of democracy as Sweden, Australia, and Germany have already adopted special legislative measures in response to the unprecedented challenges of Covid-19.


In May 1969 the then Agung suspended Parliament following the race riots. He appointed Tun Razak as the de facto Wartime Prime Minister, with the National Operations Council, also appointed, as his cabinet. The Agung sidelined the leader of the winning coalition Alliance, Tengku Abdul Rahman. Today, unlike in 1969, Agung need not suspend Parliament. It could still continue its oversight functions as with authorizing Bills.


Although the number of deaths from Covid-19 thus far is much lower than with the 1969 riot, nonetheless the uncertainties and number of livelihoods adversely affected already far exceeded that of the 1969 incident, and fast climbing. Make no mistake, this Covid-19 pandemic is war – against the smallest and toughest adversary. An effective weapon has yet to be developed. A wartime-type leader is exactly what Malaysia needs now.


As a Wartime Prime Minister, Anwar would be spared parochial party considerations and petty political obligations that now plague Parliament and the government. He could pick the best in and outside of Parliament or his party to be in his cabinet without having to worry about the political and other ramifications. Witness the current obscenity of Prime Minister Muhyiddin’s bloated cabinet, and his appointing scores of MPs to head GLCs or as special envoys. Those are but crude schemes to buy the loyalty of these yahoos in Parliament. The public pays twice, one through their incompetence and two, the exorbitant associated costs.


As for Covid-19, Muhyiddin is but a pathetic figure of an ineffectual abah (father) with a cane to effect his quarantine measures. That is kampung leadership of my youth, well over sixty years ago! His Health Minister Adham Baba is no better. All he could offer is air suam (warm water). And this character is a doctor!


In picking his cabinet, Anwar should exclude those who had served in the Najib Administration. Their allowing the 1MDB debacle to happen is disqualification enough. So out with Mustapa Mohamed, Hishammuddin Hussein, and the rest. Zahid Hamidi and Tengku Adnan are awaiting criminal trials while Najib Razak is a convicted criminal. He should not even be in Parliament.


Spared the threat of endless “no-confidence” votes in Parliament, the attendant distracting and destructive political jockeying would be gone. The current army of noisy jumping frogs would have their legs cut off, and Malaysians spared their ceaseless croaking.


Why jump parties when that would have no effect on the country’s leadership, or more precise, your political position? Slimy characters and jumping frogs like Azmin Ali would now have to divert their backroom skills and posterior apertures elsewhere outside of politics and government.


Calling for a voluntary political ceasefire or for the Agung and Council of Rulers to have these politicians work together, as a few have suggested, is the height naivety. These are political animals to their core.


This “wartime” appointment should last till the end of the current parliamentary mandate. Imagine, Malaysians spared the threats of jumping frogs, Sheraton moves, Meridien maneuvers, and other yet to be exposed backroom shenanigans! All, including Anwar and his cabinet, could then focus on their work and the challenges at hand. That would be a welcomed and refreshing relief, quite apart from being productive.


This would also give the various leaders time to strengthen their parties for the 2023 elections. UMNO for example, could begin the difficult but much-needed task of ridding the corrupt, racists, and incompetent from within its ranks. Currently those political parties are distracted from undertaking these necessary tasks because of the never-ending drama and uncertainty in Parliament. Clean, strong, and stable political parties are the backbone of a robust democracy.


For Anwar, focus on Covid-19, corruption, and education while grooming the next generation of leaders. Execute those well and he would have achieved under three years what Mahathir could not in his nearly a quarter of century leadership.


For Malaysians, a wartime-like leader would be a welcomed and much-needed reprieve from the current endless scheming. The burden of Covid-19 is heavy enough on everyone.


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