Notes on a New Nation, Day 4

Notes on a New Nation
Day 4 Post-GE14, 13 May 2018

It has been the quietest day in news since election day (thankfully). Kudos to the media that has been faithfully following the news daily; they must be exhausted, but hopefully we all had a good night’s sleep last night, as the rest of the workforce prepares itself to get back to the grind tomorrow after a very long election holiday.

The biggest news since I last wrote the daily update has been the press statement issued by PKR’s Rafizi Ramli yesterday (Saturday 12 May), in which he stated that PKR assumed that the discussions were still underway and that Tun Dr Mahathir’s announcement is not final; that any decision on any appointments should be made collectively by all four parties within Pakatan Harapan; and that Tun Dr Mahathir was on the way to discuss with Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim in the Cheras Rehabilitation Hospital regarding these nominations.

Rafizi’s statement essentially implied that Tun Dr Mahathir had not consulted all parties before making the announcement of the three Cabinet ministers yesterday. I am unclear as to the facts of the matter, whether PKR was or was not in the consultation meetings, and do not wish to speculate. It is of course unfortunate that this came only three days after the joyous jubilation many Malaysians were feeling. This is a historic moment, and Rafizi’s statement came as a dampener of sorts – too public, too soon – could he not have resorted to internal measures first? Could he not have discussed it with PKR leaders first? One may, however, consider it to be realistic, since governing in coalition is going to be a constant series of give-and-take. Working in a PH coalition will be invariably different from working in a BN coalition, where UMNO’s decision ruled supreme.

Tun Dr Mahathir today in a live telecast seemed to respond to these sentiments, stating that while names would be submitted by each party for each of the ministerial portfolios, the Prime Minister would make the decisions for Cabinet. And that within Cabinet, “we will also use the majority rule because if we try to do it by consensus, we will not be able to have any decision at all.” Some might equate this to be dictatorial; this seems to be a practicable solution for the time being. Without a firm decision, it is true that nothing would be able to move. This does not mean that there is no room for opposition; I believe most Malaysians would not want an authoritarian rule again, the likes of under Najib, but there has to be some fair balance struck between getting things done and airing one’s views on the appropriate platform at the appropriate time.

Mahathir also committed to a small a Cabinet as possible, not more than 25 and at maximum, 30. He reiterated the importance of having a non-corrupt government, that donations cannot be received by any party or person within the government except for what is permitted by Cabinet alone. He committed once again that Malaysia would be a business-friendly nation, reducing the processes of running business. The Anti-Fake News Law would have a clearer definition so that the public and media outlets would know what is fake and what is not fake. Infrastructure projects that are large would see foreign participation only if Malaysia does not have the expertise for it, and all would follow an open tender system. Finally, that several laws would have to be repealed by going to Parliament. An emphasis on “cleaning up” of government was repeated several times.

In other news, Nurul Izzah Anwar said that her father Anwar Ibrahim would receive a full royal pardon and will be released from prison on Tuesday (15 May). If this comes to pass, the next few weeks and months will be exciting, as the nation will once again see the return of the formidable duo – the time machine bringing us back 20 years to 1998 and before! There are bound to be challenges, given the two individuals’ separate leadership styles, ideologies and policy preferences, but it is hoped they can work things out for the sake of the country’s future, and all of us who voted them in to improve things, not shatter them further than the frail and fragile state of things we are already in.

As for the fate of our now ex-Prime Minister Najib Razak, the police were reportedly stationed at his private residence at Jalan Langgak Duta, Taman Duta, today. Five policemen were spotted stationed at his residence, said to be there for “security monitoring” purposes (source: http://www.theedgemarkets.com/…/police-cordon-entrance-naji…). Yesterday, police also raided his deluxe apartment block in Kuala Lumpur to search for “sensitive documents the new government fears may be taken out of the country” (source: https://www.thestar.com.my/…/police-raid-rosmah-deluxe-con…/). At this point in time, he is still a civilian and it is unclear how long these security measures can be sustained.

Finally, the states! Shafie Apdal of Warisan was sworn in at 9.11pm last night (Saturday 12 May) as Sabah’s new Chief Minister, after his party obtained a simple majority of 35 seats when six BN state assemblymen from Umno (four) and UPKO (two) defected to Warisan. But it is utterly confusing, because Musa Aman (who, as we recall, was sworn in as Chief Minister on Thursday 10 May, refuses to step down and in fact held its first State Exco meeting already at the Sabah State Administrative Centre yesterday (11 May). So it seems that Sabah has two Chief Ministers at present. (source: http://www.theborneopost.com/…/sabah-has-two-chief-ministe…/)

As for the other states, I made a mistake in yesterday’s post (I have edited to include the correction), in which I said that Nizar Jamaluddin was sworn in as Perak’s new Menteri Besar (this was wrongly reported in the news). In fact, PPBM Perak Chair, Faizal Azumu (also known as Peja) has been sworn in as the new Perak Menteri Besar. This is an intriguing case study because the two BN state assemblyperson who supposedly defected to PH have actually NOT jumped. They have chosen to remain as BN members, but supported the candidacy of Faizal Azumu as Menteri Besar. This is where the constitutional requirement of only commanding the majority of the assembly is required, not of party. I will have to check if there has been precedent of such a thing in the past.

In Johor, PPBM state assemblyperson Osman Sapian has been sworn in as its Menteri Besar yesterday. He has not gotten off to a good start; he announced that opposition members of the assembly would not be getting their constituency allocations. This is precisely what Pakatan had been critical of all this time, that the Barisan practised unfair treatment, especially when it came to financial aid of their constituents. It is hoped this will be reversed, since fair treatment of all assemblypersons should be practised.

Today, Lim Guan Eng has confirmed that Chow Kon Yeow will be taking over as Penang Chief Minister and will be sworn in as such on Monday 14 May. This follows yesterday’s announcement that Lim Guan Eng is the country’s new Finance Minister. In Negeri Sembilan, PKR assemblyperson and PH state chair Aminuddin Harun was sworn in yesterday as its new Menteri Besar, and I had not written it previously but Adly Zahari (Malacca PH Chair and Amanah assemblyperson) was sworn in as Malacca’s Chief Minister, as well as Azmin Ali (incumbent MB) as Selangor’s Menteri Besar on Friday 11 May. There have been no updated news yet on the situations in Perlis, Pahang and Sarawak at the time of writing.

So, the summary of states now again (since there have been changes since my last state tally) is as follows: PH holds 7 states (Kedah, Penang, Perak, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Malacca, and Johor), BN holds 3 states (Perlis, Pahang and Sarawak), PAS holds 2 states (Kelantan and Terengganu) and Warisan holds one state (Sabah).

Of the PH states, PPBM holds 3 MB positions in Kedah, Perak and Johor; PKR holds 2 in Selangor and Negeri Sembilan; and DAP, Amanah and Warisan each hold one Chief Ministership position in Penang, Malacca and Sabah respectively. (Thanks to Robert Lip Seng Kee for compiling this information).

Today’s reflection ends with this. Today Singapore (a daily) interviewed me a few days ago about whether I think this election spells the end of race-based politics in the country. It is apt that today is 13th May, the bogeyman often used by the previous government to scare us into thinking that trouble would spill out on the streets should we oppose the government. While I expressed my rather realistic (in my opinion, at least) doubts that it will take a long time for Malaysia to move away from racial politics (after all, PPBM still campaigned as a Malay party, and positioned itself as an alternative to UMNO to champion Malay rights), I do think we are moving in the right direction. This election, more than any before, indicated that voters were willing to put aside their differences to come together to fight a larger cause: corruption. Of course once this larger monstrosity is dealt with, it may come naturally that minute differences show up again starkly. I hope and pray that we are on the right trajectory. If Tun Dr Mahathir alongside the new leaders are bold and brave enough to do away with racial politics once and for all, we will finally be able to bury that ghost of 13th May for good. Pakatan Harapan is a coalition made up of parties not based on race (with the exception of PPBM which although is not explicitly formed based on race, does transparently champion Malay rights and allows for only partial membership status for non-Bumiputera), which is already miles and miles ahead of the Barisan Nasional consociational model of ethnically divided parties (which worked for the Malaya of yore, during the early formative years of the nation, but not any longer).

On that note, happy end of the long election “break”, and all the best to Malaysians who return to work tomorrow in what we can all consider to be a new Malaysia.

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