IN yet another attempt to delay the inevitable and prolong the leadership crisis, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin claimed that he has the support of the majority of MPs, but inexplicably delayed the vote in Parliament to next month.
While it gives him some respite, the end game is uncertain, as there are options available to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong if those opposed to Muhyiddin can prove that they have the majority and choose a prime minister among themselves.
As Muhyiddin made the announcement, an array of senior ministers stood beside him, including Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, MCA president Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong, MIC deputy president Datuk Seri M. Saravanan and Senior Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali. Most of them stood grimly and meekly with their hands crossed in front of them.
If he indeed has the numbers as claimed, then it is incumbent on him as the prime minister to reduce uncertainty and needless politicking by convening Parliament as soon as possible – say Friday – and settle this issue once and for all.
That way, all uncertainty and needless politicking can be removed, and the focus can be on governing in the time of Covid-19.
But that is not the case. It is easy enough for him as prime minister to summon an emergency meeting of the august House for the sole and express purpose of legitimising him as the prime minister by the most supreme body in the country – the Parliament.
Why is Muhyiddin not doing that? Wouldn’t any sane person who has majority support in Parliament welcome the opportunity to show that he has it and put a stop to this continuous incessant politicking, which has cost the country and rakyat dearly, in terms of lives and livelihoods lost?
The only reason that he is postponing the decision to September is because he does not have the majority now. In the month or so leading up to the sitting, we are going to witness one of the most, if not the most, brutal fights for power.
Money and power will be traded like never before for the votes of a few swing MPs, who will become fabulously rich beyond their wildest dreams. In the meantime, the Covid-19 situation will be exploited to the hilt to delay Parliament as long as possible.
If Covid-19 cases start to suddenly climb, it will be a good excuse to further delay things. Thirty days hath September, but Muhyiddin cannot even fix a particular day in that month. In the meantime, he can use the Covid-19 situation to further delay the confidence vote, even beyond next month.
If he indeed has majority control, he can put this immediately behind him. Instead, he chooses to continue to mire this country in dire difficulty and adversely affect the poor – especially in fighting the deadly Covid-19, where the situation has been allowed to deteriorate into chaos, with Klang Valley hospitals desperate and in total disarray.
This is a decision made in bad faith because a special parliamentary session called on – say Friday – could have easily established confidence in Muhyiddin or otherwise, instead of delaying the process.
Here’s the gist of what Muhyiddin announced:
In his usual trademark style where the press is not present to ask questions, he first apologised that he has to explain the situation in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I was informed by the king that eight Umno MPs had written to the speaker of Parliament to say they have withdrawn support for me.”
The king then made two references to the constitution – Article 40(2), which says: the Yang di-Pertuan Agong may act in his discretion in the performance of the following functions, that is to say: (a) the appointment of a prime minister. And Article 43(4), which says: if the prime minister ceases to command the confidence of the majority of the members of the House of Representatives, then, unless at his request the Yang di-Pertuan Agong dissolves Parliament, the prime minister shall tender the resignation of the cabinet.
Muhyiddin said he informed the king that he has received statutory declarations to show that he has the majority at the moment, and therefore, the question of his resignation does not arise under Article 43(4).
However, he showed no list. If eight, and as many 14, Umno MPs have withdrawn support for him, how can he have majority? That question, which must have been on everyone’s minds, was not answered.
He declared pompously: “My position as prime minister and Perikatan Nasional as government will be determined according to the law and constitution when Parliament convenes in September. The king noted this.”
There was no explanation as to why Parliament cannot convene earlier. Does it mean that we have to wait for it to sit sometime in September before things are decided? Not necessarily.
It is now up to those MPs who are opposed to Muhyiddin. If they can convincingly and demonstrably show that they have the majority and support one among them to become prime minister, then the king must exercise his discretion under Article 43(4) accordingly.
There is no need to wait for a session of Parliament, as I explained in this article yesterday.
Meantime, former attorney-general Tan Sri Tommy Thomas exhorted for a session of Parliament.
“…the 220 living MPs must debate, deliberate, horse-trade, bargain, and finally, reach a majority decision of at least 111 of them for our political future… Never in our post-Merdeka history have we required so desperately a competent, professional, honest, accountable, listening and good government,” he said.
Well put, but it should be a parliamentary session, which is sooner rather than later.
Muhyiddin’s move is not a checkmate, yet. The endgame can move in favour of those who oppose him, provided they make the right moves now and in a hurry. It is incumbent upon all MPs to do exactly that and bring to an end the misrule of this government, which has shown that it is interested in nothing but staying in power.
Muhyiddin’s delayed confidence vote can be defeated – now. – The Vibes, August 4, 2021
P. Gunasegaram is amazed at the level of treachery to stay in power. He is chief executive of research and advocacy group Sekhar Institute and editorial consultant of The Vibes