Anti-corruption rhetoric will never purify unelected PN government

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Muhyiddin Yassin's coalition - Photograph: Bernama/Malay Mail

The Center to Combat Corruption & Cronyism (C4 Center) has watched in disbelief the political turmoil in the country and registers its utter abhorrence at the formation of the unelected government of Perikatan Nasional (PN) through an outright power grab.

If there is one thing to sum up the treachery that has unfolded, it must be that this entire internal power struggle is a direct assault on genuine democracy, which squarely places the source of all power and sovereignty in the hands of the people and never the political elites.

It bears reminding that this unelected government came about with the collusion of forces that lost the last general election because of entrenched grand corruption, abuse of power and bigotry.

The internal coup conveniently paved the way for these very parties and their dark horses to seize power from the people by trampling on the mandate given in the last general election. All of this was of course done in a clandestine manner, keeping everyone in the dark, causing massive levels of betrayal and mistrust by the people.

It is impossible of course for an unelected government to have a manifesto that is endorsed by the people of this country. We do not expect one, as the mandate to govern was never endorsed by the voters. Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin says “give us a chance”. What chance, we ask?

The heavy rhetoric around leading a clean government through anti-corruption policies, such as asset declarations, sounds awkward as the very cabinet members appointed into the PN government have gone on record to resist declaring their assets during Pakatan Harapan’s (PH’s) reign in power.

Do we believe their earnestness over this? C4 Center believes that Muhyiddin is trying to ease the anger of many, and such pledges are thrown around to pull wool over Malaysians’ eyes.

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If this unelected government was genuine about leading a clean government, why form themselves in such a clandestine manner, usurping people’s power and even worse delaying parliamentary sessions from being held to rectify the country’s woeful political situation?

It is, therefore, our responsibility to keep reminding ourselves not to normalise this blatant seizure of the people’s mandate.

Horse-trading and ‘buying of MPs’?

Could the delay in convening Parliament by almost two months to 18 May be an attempt to buy time for the unelected government to stabilise and strengthen its power?

The highly probable horse-trading, which started a few weeks ago behind the scenes, sought to gain majority power and displayed how politicians could be easily bought and had no problem abandoning the promises they had previously made to their constituents and the people.

We urged recently that the MACC initiates investigations on the possible horse-trading that took place a few weeks ago. Has that taken place?

We are further terribly disturbed that while Umno has found its way back in power, several cabinet ministers appointed into PN were silent and indeed complicit to grand corruption scandals, namely on 1MDB and SRC. How would the Rakyat have any shred of confidence that the anti-corruption pledges made by Muhyiddin are anything but empty rhetoric?

More appointments astound us. For example, Hanifah Hajar Taib – the youngest daughter of the former Chief Minister and current governor of Sarawak, Taib Mahmud – is among the controversial politicians appointed to the cabinet. Her family members including herself are major shareholders of Cahya Mata Sarawak Berhad (CMS), notorious for capitalising on Taib’s position to scrape off lucrative state contracts such as the construction of the Sarawak Legislative Assembly building, the Borneo Convention Centre, Kuching’s Darul Hana, the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy and the Pan Borneo Highway.

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The new Foreign Affairs Minister, Hishammuddin Hussein was allegedly implicated in a case when he was heading the Ministry of Defence. The ministry paid RM300m for six MD530G light scout attack helicopters through direct negotiations and the deal was spared from value management checks. The helicopters were never delivered to the army. The proposal was approved by Najib Razak, the then-Prime Minister and Finance Minister.

Our new Environment Minister Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man tried to defend the logging in Kelantan by excusing the state with the MS ISO9001:2008 certification in 2012. However, the certification that was given for sustainable logging had expired in 2016. Kelantan’s Certificate for Forest Management was revoked by Sirim QAS International Sdn Bhd in 2016 as well. Are we heading for deforestation or sustainable forestry with the new environment minister in town?

What about our new finance minister Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz, the chief executive of Malaysian banking group CIMB? He is talented for sure but maybe on the musical side as he showed his talent off as one of the chief executives in a politically motivated music video. Dubbed Hebat Negaraku, the song lavishes endless praise on Najib Razak. Zafrul was part of the CIMB team when Nazir Razak, the chairman of CIMB and brother of Najib Razak, was exposed for dispensing RM29m in support of Najib Razak in the 2013 general election.

It pains us to witness the changes that have smoked out many anti-corruption reforms that have been initiated over the last two years.

Divisive race-based politics

Muhyiddin proudly announced that he is a Malay first and Malaysian second. In this multicultural and multi-religious country, Malaysia, it signals that non-Malay votes do not count; they are simply unimportant. Non-Malays, who have a long history in Malaysia including fighting for the independence of the country, have unfortunately been relegated to an inferior position.

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It is clear that the political manoeuvring was initiated to accommodate and pave the way for political forces that will do anything to advance race-based politics, which is needed to ensure the political elites remain in power.

Demands

In light of Malaysia’s harrowing political reality, we demand the following.

  • To all Malaysians, stop legitimising this unelected government; we must never be taken for fools that things are “normal” and can be normalised
  • To those whose MPs have betrayed them and were involved in the power struggle, we urge the voters to flood their service centres with protest notes and letters, head over to the centres and demand rightful explanations from them for betraying your trust;
  • To MACC, investigate impartially horse-trading allegations and the movement of money to buy MPs. C4 hopes to work with the MACC and other institutions to strengthen the need for accountability from politicians
  • To MPs who are being approached to cross over, please be courageous enough to withstand it and report it publicly. That is the only way we can curb money politics
  • To PH, we trust that the lessons from being in government will ensure you work closely with the people to live out your manifesto and reforms

Over and above the fears of coronavirus and in this state of political upheaval, we urge that we the people remain steadfast and strong and push for democracy to be returned to our shores.

Cynthia Gabriel is founding director of C4 Center

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