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M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

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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, November 20, 2022

Let Anwar Ibrahim Form The New Government

 Let Anwar Ibrahim Form The New Government

M. Bakri Musa


Malaysia’s 15th General Elections on November 19th 2022 saw the implosion of UMNO and the humiliating rejection of its longtime former leader Mahathir. While my third prediction (outright victory for the Anwar-led Pakatan Harapan) did not happen, nonetheless it had won the most (81) parliamentary seats. As such the Agung should give Anwar the first crack at forming the new government.


            The Agung would be failing in his constitutional duties as well as moral responsibilities to the rakyat if he were to do otherwise. The rakyat have expressed their collective decision. It is now for the Agung to make the call, as constitutionally mandated, to choose from among the leaders of the various contending parties the one who would or could command the confidence of the new Parliament. It is a judgement call reserved only unto him.


            It would then be up to the new Parliament to accept the Agung’s decision or contest it through an open debate following a formal vote of no-confidence on Anwar.


            The scenario with the previous parliament where individual MPs were summoned to the palace with their statutory declarations in hand, a la errand schoolkids being called to the headmaster’s office, would not do it. It did not work then and it would not now. The Agung would be well advised not to repeat that charade. There is no constitutional provision for this extra “voting.” Those so-called statutory declarations were made following secret inducements, aka corruption; hence Muhyiddin’s and Ismail Sabri’s bloated Administration with new ministers, ambassadors-at-large, and chairmanships of GLCs.


            A decision taken following open robust debate is fluid and dynamic, the outcome often unpredictable right up to the last minute. Not so with backroom deals, whether concocted in a secret hotel room or at the palace. That is scheming, not constitutionally sanctioned, and borders on being illegal if not immoral. The affairs of state should not be handled as if you were haggling at a souk.


            Following the election, the Agung’s Comptroller of the Royal Household issued this statement. “The parties and coalitions will be asked to give a name of one MP who has the confidence of the majority of MPs in the Dewan Rakyat to be the Prime Minister by 2 PM on Monday Nov 21, 2022.” Syntax aside, that is misguided. It is for the Agung and not anyone else to make that call, with the House then having the prerogative to affirm or deny his choice. Let’s not repeat the “headmaster scenario” of the last Parliament, and the consequent political debacles.


            There are other issues with that royal edict. The instructions given to Speaker Azhar Harun was misplaced as he is no longer the Speaker. His Dewan had long been dissolved. It would be the new Parliament’s prerogative, after it has been properly constituted with all its members sworn in and a new Speaker elected, whether Anwar could continue.


            This Agung had goofed twice before with the outgoing Parliament. When Mahathir resigned in February 2020, the Agung should have followed standard procedure and appointed Mahathir’s then Deputy Wan Azzizah to take over. Had that been done, Malaysia would have been spared much of the subsequent unneeded political uncertainties. By “reappointing” Mahathir as “caretaker Prime Minister,” an unprecedented practice except when Parliament is dissolved in anticipation of an election or during a declared emergency, the Agung fell for Mahathir’s ruse.


            Voters rightly saw through that even if the Agung did not; hence Mahathir’s utter humiliation by voters during this last election.


            That sneaky Mahathir’s maneuver led to the subsequent so-called “Sheraton Move” and the attendant political uncertainties and backdoor scheming. Reprehensible, as Malaysia was then (still is) facing the Covid-19 pandemic. Mahathir’s deception culminated in an unwise general election being called prematurely and during the treacherous monsoon season.


            As for picking leaders from the other coalitions, Perikatan Nasional’s Muhyiddin had proved his utter ineptness during his brief (fortunately) earlier tenure. His vicious diatribe against Christians and Jews during the last campaign only cemented his unfitness to lead Malaysia. The Agung would have learned nothing if he were to reappoint Muhyiddin.


            Barisan Nasional does not even know who is its leader. Zahid Hamidi, its president, is facing serious criminal charges. Ismail Sabri was an abysmal failure earlier on. The Agung would again show his utter lack of capacity to learn if he were to give Ismail another opportunity.


            The only and wise option is for the Agung to choose Anwar to lead the new government. Let him then use his political skills and unique talent to craft the necessary coalition to secure Parliament’s confidence. Any other option would disrespect the citizen’s decision, regardless how eloquent or legalistic the rationale. Forming a new government should not be reduced to the trading and bartering of a souk market, as the Agung’s latest edict has already triggered.


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