Government-opposition MoU: Winners and losers

It looks as if Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob will have the last laugh

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Is this what the ‘New Deal’ is all about, we wonder?

Many have said that the recently signed Memorandum of Understanding (Mou) between the government and Pakatan Harapan was a positive move because it would bring some political stability. 

On the surface at least, everything seemed to move in the right direction. But who has gained from this MoU? The opposition or the prime minister?

It looks as if Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob will have the last laugh: his legitimacy has not been questioned because the confidence vote was not tabled, and it appears he can sit comfortably in the prime minister’s chair until 2022.

Other than to provide “political stability” so that all may focus on dealing with the pandemic, why did the opposition sign this MoU? There are no apparent benefits for PH even though Anwar Ibrahim sounded a caveat that the signing should not imply the opposition was obliged to support Budget 2022.  

Will this help the opposition in the next general election? I doubt it.

Warisan leader Shafie Apdal questioned the wisdom of PH in signing the MoU: “The opposition has said that the Sheraton Move stole the people’s mandate, and yet we are now working with them.”

What else is in this MoU that has made the signing “historic”? The pact is expected to strengthen the fight against Covid, transform the administration, usher in parliamentary reforms, strengthen judicial independence, fulfil the pledges in the Malaysia Agreement 1963 and see the formation of a steering committee.

All this sounds well and good, but where are the details? For instance, what are the reforms to strengthen judicial independence? What are the steps needed to implement the Malaysia Agreement, which will immensely interest the East Malaysian states? 

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We could do with more clarity. Why is the opposition just being silent when these are crucial issues for the people and the country? Inquiring minds want to know.

The MoU mentions the plan to fight Covid. Many people in the medical line were all gung-ho with Khairy Jamaluddin being appointed the health minister a month ago. But the numbers are still worrying, with new workplace clusters still being found. So what exactly will the prime minister and the health minister do?

Some disturbing news emerged that the Islamist members of the government, led by the prime minister himself, are planning to push ahead with a controversial Sharia bill that could infringe on the rights of those practising faiths other than Islam.  

DAP secretary general Lim Guan Eng said recently the MoU also “covers the protection of fundamental constitutional rights of Muslims and the status of Islam as well as the rights of non-Muslims and freedom of religion to practise their own religion among non-Muslims”.

He added that “despite the MoU not covering other areas not mentioned, let me state categorically that if fundamental constitutional rights are adversely affected, the MoU will also cease to have effect and be nullified”.

Since this statement was made, there has been little reaction from the prime minister or other leaders in the governing coalition. 

There is a saying: silence means consent. So we can assume that the freedom of religion for people of faiths other than Islam will be a talking point again, sooner rather than later.

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Let us hope that the signing of this ‘historic’ document is something that will bring results rather than regret.

Isn’t it sad and pathetic that there are some people who refuse to acknowledge that manipulating religion or race for political ends will further divide the country, already traumatised by this pandemic? Their desire for popularity and electoral success, regardless of the vital interests of the people and the country, will only make a bad situation worse. 

These people belong to the dark ages. They flex their muscles, especially in religious matters, because they think this is the way to appeal to their base and the only way to remain in power.

Meanwhile, many foreigners in the Malaysia, My Second Home programme are seriously thinking about leaving because of the political situation, the rampant corruption, the religious intolerance and the more stringent revised rules that new applicants and existing residents must follow.

Not only will this lead to a loss of revenue, it will also scare investors. This is something that does not bode well for the country.

On a lighter note, Ismail Sabri has given his ex-boss the position of chairman of the national recovery council, a ministerial-level position. The national recovery plan is a four-phase strategy to exit the Covid crisis. Remember, Mahiaddin Yasin could do little right during his 17-month tenure as PM, so he now has an exit plan!

Then again, was the offer made because Ismail Sabri needs the 31 Bersatu seats? This position could also provide an avenue for Mahiaddin to engineer a comeback in the next general election. Why, even Najib Razak is not ruling out standing for election again! Does he think he is he going to be freed from all the corruption charges soon?

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Then there is the prime minister’s brother Zamri Yaakob’s appointment as chairman of the National Farmers Organisation (Nafas). It seems he is qualified for the position too!

Padang Rengas MP Nazri Aziz said that “it is not ethically wrong as he has the qualifications and capabilities…. and the decision was finalised by the Nafas board members.”

Maybe, like in the choice of Mahiaddin, there were no other more suitable and qualified persons for the job?

So why did PH sign the MoU with Ismail Sabri instead of with Mahiaddin when he was PM? According to Anwar, the difference was that Ismail Sabri, even though he had won by only a small majority, called the opposition immediately after becoming PM. Mahiaddin, on the other hand, only wanted the opposition to legitimise his government.

Jem, an Aliran reader, still cares deeply about Sabah, despite having lived in the peninsula for some time

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