The turn of political events in the past two weeks was unprecedented, leading to feelings of dismay and disappointment among Malaysians in the face of worsening crises. As daily Covid-19 numbers worsen, recent events further increase the frustration and trust deficit to the Prime Minister and his government.
The Royal rebuke “amat mendukacitakan” following a statement by a Minister regarding the Emergency Ordinances in the Dewan Rakyat was an expression of utter disappointment by the Palace in the way the government handled (or rather mishandled) the issue. Unsurprisingly, detractors were quick to come up with the label of #KerajaanDerhaka.
On July 29th, the Dewan Rakyat’s afternoon session was postponed three times, before it was finally adjourned, amid concerns about Covid-19 infections in the Parliament. Consequently, the Parliament sitting was cut short to only three and a half days, despite the Covid-19 positivity rate of less than one percent.
Even before the special sitting of the Dewan Rakyat started, frustration mounted as the agenda of the short, five-day sitting was dominated by briefings of ministers. Without debates in the Parliament, there’s concern that the check and balance already curtailed since the State of Emergency started in January would be non-existent.
In the meantime, the total number of Covid cases had breached the 1 million mark with a concomitant rise in the number of deaths. The healthcare system is overwhelmed and the economy has yet to show any sign of improvement. Due to the lockdown and political instability, the ringgit has taken a beating while more SMEs and businesses are on the verge of closing down.
All these point towards an ineffective government. In times of crises like these, the rakyat want to see positive changes that would offer hope and improve their wellbeing as the country struggles to navigate out of the pandemic.
Never has the cry for a professional government, inclusive of experts and civil society been louder to steer the country out of the crises, in tandem with the best brains and resources that the nation can muster.
To stay true to the democratic principles of the nation, the Prime Minister must convene the Dewan Rakyat as soon as possible for a confidence motion. Dragging the session to September would further deepen the political quagmire for a country already facing multiple crises.
Whatever the outcome and whomsoever is tasked to lead the nation should consider the dire need to form an inclusive, broad-based government of capable politicians, technocrats and civil society leaders, consistent with calls for a reset.
This is a critical juncture to put the best people to govern and steer the country on the road to recovery. The right people should be given the chance to lead, not merely based on party affiliations but based on competency, capability and integrity.
With multiple crises facing the nation, this is certainly not the time for continuous political manoeuvres. Indeed, there has never been a better time in the nation’s history for institutional reforms and better governance. And this can only materialise with the right mix of people at the right place.
Badlishah Sham Baharin, Deputy President, IKRAM
Mohammad Abdul Hamid, Public policy consultant