MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku



10 APRIL 2024

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

A grand unity government: Unifying and rebuilding Malaysia


Not many people are aware of one critical fact: Malaysia is a federation of 14 states (including Federal Territories). Despite all the symbols and numbers of stripes on the national flag that signify the collection of 14 states to form one country, Malaysia is often seen as a polity almost self-existential on its own.

To the degree that anyone still questions the structural integrity of the population, that is whether this multi-racial and multi-creedal country can last and last, with the goal to thrive. Cynics often point to the unlikelihood of Malaysia getting everything into one unifying act.

As this is written, there are 60 countries that could crack economically and politically in 2023, going by the estimate of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, according to President Joko Widodo of Indonesia, in a Tik Tok video that has gone viral in the latter half of 2022. 

Joko reminded the audience that "Indonesia" is not one of them. Thus, regardless of the pain in the spiral in the cost of living, Indonesia can pull through in any looming recession, even if it were to last two to three years.

The timeframe of three to four years is based on the view of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who has prepared the British to face the austerity drive. There is a need for the United Kingdom (UK) to tighten its belt, as the government pulls back from higher public spending. 

The world economy has been suffering from the triple whammy of the Pan-Slavic war between Russia and Ukraine and the ostensible attempt of the United States (US) to decouple itself economically, and the effects of the Covid Zero policy that has made China's economy moving in spurts, in turn, affecting the supply chain of the world of international commerce.

Under such adverse circumstances, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Malaysia, which has been growing from 2010 to be exposed to global trade by 110 percent, it goes without saying that Malaysia would not be spared from the triple whammy too. It does not mean the Malaysian economy would tailspin into a recession ineluctably, but the likelihood is strong.

Anwar at the Istana Negara, after his swearing-in as the 10th prime minister

In complying with the royal advice of the monarch and the Conference of the Malay Rulers on Nov 24, a unity government was indeed formed by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim on the evening of that very same day, at 5pm. Barely three hours later, the 10th prime minister of Malaysia was already working with the press. 

None of the constitutional provisions that touch on the central role of Islam, the rights and customs of Malays, would ever be affected, even though the Coalition of Hope (Pakatan Harapan) under Prime Minister Anwar has received, arguably, according to one study, 11 percent of the Malay votes, as opposed to 94 percent and 83 percent of the Chinese and Indian votes.

What is worth noting is that even given the nature of the Parliament, where no side truly gained a majority of the votes to form a government, not unless as many coalition pacts work together to first cross the minimal 112 votes in a legislative chamber of 222 parliamentary seats, based on the first-past-the-post system, Malaysians of all races and religions, did not fall into their worst temptation to the bay for the blood of one another.

In fact, Anwar had the wisdom to courteously urge all jubilant Malaysian supporters, who had been waiting for him to be elected as the prime minister over a period of 24 years from 1998, to exercise self-restraint in public celebration, in order to allow the law enforcement officers to ensure an even more peaceful transition of power.

Perikatan Nasional announces the rejection of Anwar’s officer to join the federal coalition government

This came despite the incendiary rhetoric of some Perikatan National (PN) supporters who had refused to give in to the prospect of serving as the Opposition. The supporters of Harapan were asked to stay at home. Malaysians complied.

That message was enough to encourage the supporters of Harapan to stand back and exercise sheer discipline. The moral authority of Prime Minister Anwar was, of course, critical. But Malaysians do want to live in harmony and in peace, in turn, the rule of law.

It is, therefore, nothing if not strange to see the likes of Professor James Chin of the University of Tasmania and the Bureau Chief of The Straits Times in Singapore, both of whom are Malaysians, to wonder if Malaysia can stay intact as a Grand Coalition of the Unity Government. 

The issue is, of course, they can. If they don't, not only will the nation feel the full whiplash effects of the triple whammy, but the country would be trapped in the escalating costs of food, animal feed, fuel and fertilisers, all of which can be compounded by the insidious effects of financial leakages of Malaysia's national subsidy programmes that run into tens of billions of ringgit.

As I write this today, Nov 29, the federal cabinet has still not been formed. Between Nov 25 and Nov 28, Prime Minister Anwar has had to live up to his original pledge, to create a "Malaysia that is for all Malaysians". 

In this context, instead of forming a cabinet first, which is concurrently being discussed with other coalition partners such as Barisan National (BN), Gabungan Parti Sarawak(GPS) and Gabugan Sabah Progressive (GSP), and in turn, Warisan, was pioneered by the former chief minister of Sabah Mohd Shafie Apdal, Anwar, has focused on instructing the civil servants to look into how to ensure that the Council of Living Cost to focus on ensuring that the highly targeted subsidies programme will bring down the cost of living, especially on food items.

Former Sabah chief minister Mohd Shafie Apdal

The fact that Malaysia can have an election without any fisticuffs, with 73 percent of the electoral turnout of more than 21 million voters on Nov 19, 2022, has proven once again that Malaysians of all backgrounds can exercise and choose the moderate way.

That is no matter how acute each of the electoral contests was to be, all parties that subscribe to the basic tenet of elections must be willing to concede openly and willingly, and consequently without any rancour; should the losing party lose each of these electoral contests. It is to the credit of PN that had finally conceded, on Nov 26, that it is Harapan that has won the 15th general election by congratulating the new PM.

While post-election rhetoric between the members can continue unabated, even after their election is clearly over, the key is to work together to challenge only those causes worth opposing, lest they lose sight of the importance of donning the role of checks and balances.

In a functioning and working democracy, effective and strong opposition is critical towards rebuilding this nation. PN through Bersatu, PAS and lesser Gerakan, can play that part, both in and out of Parliament. It is important to note that all must stop immediately the escalation of identity politics of race and religion, two very combustibly toxic elements in politics.

The sudden avalanche of such messaging in social media and WhatsApp groups led Inspector-General of Police Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani to issue a preemptive notice that such actions would not be tolerated and actions would be taken against such perpetrators.

Likewise, all political leaders across all aisles must also encourage their respective followers to move forward and not to engage in actions that can fan racial and religious sentiments.

Election campaigns are over, elections are over and the PM has been appointed. Now, all need to move forward, unifying the people and rebuilding our economy for all the people. 2023 is going to be very harsh globally, with one-third of the global economy going to be in deep recession, Malaysia included. Hence, move forward and all must play a role, administration, opposition, civil servants and the people. - Mkini

RAIS HUSSIN is CEO of Emir Research, a think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of MMKtT.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.