WHEN DAP MP and party publicity secretary Tony Pua said the deal between Pakatan Harapan and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob was a second bite at the cherry, only less sweet, he was perpetrating a falsehood that needs to be corrected.

It is important for DAP to better deal with those people at Bersatu, who have shown themselves repeatedly to be adept at tugging at DAP’s heartstrings and enticing them towards doomed deals that may give DAP extra power but prevent the full slate of reforms needed for Malaysia to progress.

Pua feels, together with his fellow DAP MP Ong Kian Ming, both of whom brought the deal to the PH table, that the deal would have been sweeter with former PM Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who offered up a slew of reforms in return for support from PH.

But he would have found out that the first cherry offered by Muhyiddin would have been sugar-coated, but bitter and poisonous inside, and would have left any hope of reform dead under the cherry tree.

It would have been much like what twice-born PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad did before, enticing DAP into his well-disguised soft folds over sharp steel deeper inside by offering the plum cherry of the finance minister’s post to DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, having him eating out of his hand after that.

Remember, DAP cried “PM’s prerogative” over the lopsided cabinet appointments then, which saw all Bersatu’s 13 MPs getting key posts – 12 of them becoming ministers and deputy ministers and the last one, Dr Mahathir’s son, becoming chief minister of Kedah.

PKR, which did much more for reform than any other single party, was sidelined with veteran party members reporting to rank juniors, some of them incredibly first-time MPs and first-time ministers. For one of Dr Mahathir’s blue-eyed boys, becoming minister was his first job!

That incident almost ruptured the fragile coalition then and together with Dr Mahathir’s enticement of then strong Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim supporter Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali into the cabinet, effectively shaving Anwar’s strength within PH to the bone.

Sections of DAP, probably sanctioned by the leadership (whoever heard of renegade DAP MPs?) moved down the same perilous path to effectively divide the opposition yet again, seduced by an offer by Muhyiddin to forestall Umno from coming to power.

This was reminiscent of the strong support for DAP to bring Dr Mahathir into the PH fold ahead of the 2018 elections, even agreeing to Dr Mahathir becoming interim prime minister. That move led to an all-round disaster and the collapse of the PH government.

Let’s dissect the heart of Muhyiddin’s proposal first. He had pretty much offered earlier what Ismail Sabri had offered which was encapsulated in the recent memorandum of understanding between the government and PH.

The main points look like a carbon copy of the earlier proposals by Muhyiddin – enabling voting for those 18 and above, a two-term limit for the PM, Covid-19 plans, an economic recovery plan, etc.

But here is the vital difference – Muhyiddin wanted the confidence motion to be passed before he implemented any of the proposals. There is no such requirement by Ismail Sabri.

There is nothing to ensure that Muhyiddin would have gone on to implement the reforms after getting a confidence vote passed in Parliament. Pua maintained that if that happened, then the opposition can withdraw support for him in the other bills that need to be passed.

But would not the opposition look silly voting against Muhyiddin days after supporting him? And in the meantime, political machinations may have resulted in the equation having changed  by then. Then what?

The current arrangement is being made without any danger of these and support can be withdrawn at any time if the government does not keep its promises. Also, it provides some sort of stability to deal with the serious problems of Covid-19, economic recovery, and judicial independence.

DAP needs to realise once and for all that it cannot trust both Umno and Bersatu, most of whose key officials have a strong whiff of Umno anyway and who act and behave the way Umno does, especially in the way they whip up Malay emotive sentiments to stay in power.

They seem to have short memories of how Dr Mahathir demonised DAP again after PH won GE14, splitting the core PKR-DAP coalition and causing a serious rift within PKR by cunning and devious moves.

Dr Mahathir never wanted Anwar to succeed him as prime minister but so long as DAP had the finance minister’s position, they were happy. Almost nothing else, especially the reforms promised in the manifesto, seemed to matter as much.

Does Pua, Ong, and the gang – and DAP as a whole – actually think they can trust Muhyiddin when he stabbed them in the back, made a deal with Umno and PAS, and left them high and dry after that? Who in his right mind would pay a thief the money first and expect him to return it with interest afterwards?

That’s the problem with DAP – they are quite intent on making deals with Malay parties and individuals that will give them position and power but sideline Malay leaders who can bring real reform in the country by bringing meaningful change for the country as a whole, which will truly benefit all communities.

That’s a rather short-sighted move by key sections within DAP and a rather dangerous one, giving rise to mistrust among progressive Malay leaders themselves and even non-Malay leaders of DAP’s nebulous, ambiguous ways. DAP needs to support the PH coalition unequivocally. Period.

Now is the time for the opposition to regroup into a single identity and work with the government for real change without compromising its aims and ideals, instead of b*tching about fallacious opportunities lost to keep Umno out.

The second bite of the cherry is the only meaningful one the opposition ever had. Make the best of it. Gird yourself for the battle ahead and let not your foes divide you even before the swords are drawn. – The Vibes, September 16, 2021

On this Malaysia Day, P. Gunasegaram restates a rather overused but still relevant saying: united we stand, divided we fall. He is chief executive of Sekhar Institute and senior editorial consultant of PETRA News