Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia (GBM) calls for the broadening of the political base for government policies to be competent, comprehensive and coherent to beat the Covid pandemic and save the livelihoods of Malaysians.
This is best achieved by a confidence-and-supply agreement between the government and opposition parties to effect a political ceasefire and restore political stability.
Instead of overcoming the political crisis since February 2020, the emergency has severely weakened Malaysia’s response to the pandemic in two ways.
First, the questionable majority of the government preserved by the emergency has resulted in insular and narrow-based policymaking, marked by blind spots, incoordination and disconnect from the public.
Second, the suspension of parliamentary oversight has worsened the “dua darjat” (double standards) phenomenon – double standards in law enforcement and queue-jumping in vaccination – and fuelled public discontentment, giving rise to a suspicion of corruption when the government seems underperforming and incapable of solving many issues relating to the national immunisation programme, since the programme started more than three months ago.
GBM calls upon the government and opposition parties to express their willingness to enter a confidence-and-supply agreement that
- paves way for broad-based policymaking and parliamentary oversight through a reopened and empowered Parliament with every ministry scrutinised by a parliamentary select committee and every opposition MP and government backbencher sitting on at least one such committee
- ensures political stability for an extended period before a pre-agreed date for the next general election so that all parties and MPs can concentrate on policies instead of electioneering
- ensures equitable treatment of all MPs in committee appointments and allocations of constituency funds and [protection] from selective prosecution.
GBM finds the idea of unity government both inviable and undesirable. Extensive reshuffling of the cabinet and inter-party negotiations for ministerial portfolios will probably cause more inter-party and inter-personal power struggles than reducing them, hence causing more disunity. And in the unlikely event of success, an all-party unity government also means no opposition and weaker parliamentary oversight.
GBM opposes the idea of a national operations council, which will further narrow instead of broaden the political base of policymaking. An unelected body – consisting of one or a few politicians with the heads of the civil service, military and police – has no democratic legitimacy. Any misstep by such a council may trigger a colossal public backlash that erodes the legitimacy of the bureaucracy, security forces and even the constitutional monarchy.
Badlishah Sham Baharin is chairman of Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia (GBM). This piece was released for and on behalf of the GBM executive council