It is quite possible no one can put Humpty Dumpty together again and form a state government that has majority support, Jeyakumar Devaraj writes.
The news that Perak Menteri Besar Ahmad Faizal Azumu lost a vote of confidence in the state assembly yesterday took most Perakians by surprise.
Rumours had swirled at almost every state sssembly sitting during his term as head of the Perak Pakatan Harapan government that he might be toppled. But nothing happened then. But yesterday he lost the confidence motion 48 to 10.
Several community leaders who the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) has been working with called to discuss the matter. Is this beneficial to us – they wanted my opinion.
I replied with a question – was Faizal Azumu implementing a policy that was beneficial to you?
The bottom 20% of households in Sungai Siput have been asking since Barisan Nasional times for a rent-to-own housing scheme. Their appeals have not elicited a positive response from the BN, PH and now the Perikatan Nasional governments.
The Orang Asli communities in Pos Piah and Jalong Tinggi (both in Sungai Siput) have been appealing to the government to intervene and stop the logging near their kampungs. Azumu has told the press how much he cares for the Orang Asli while continuing to approve new areas for logging.
The small vegetable farmers from several locations in Perak have appealed to Azumu to intervene and stop their impending eviction – but to no avail. Despite a couple of dozen letters, Azumu hasn’t once met any of these farmers’ groups.
Clearly, he hasn’t been a great supporter of these groups. But is there any reason for us to rejoice? Will the replacement for Azumu, who will probably come from Umno ranks, be more receptive to the people’s requests?
Will the new MB use his vast powers over land matters to offer land to the federal Ministry of Housing to build rent-to-own houses for the bottom 20% in Perak?
Will he approve the gazetting of 300 acres of land for each Orang Asli village in Perak?
Will he ensure all farmers involved in food production be given security of tenure in the form of long-term leases that enjoin them to use the land only for food production?
The new menteri besar could do all of this, as according to our Federal Constitution, land is the prerogative of the state government. But will he?
The temptation will always be there for leaders at the state level to use their powers to enrich themselves through opportunities arising when loggers, property developers and industrialists seek permits or ‘grants’ to land.
As it stands, there is no mechanism within the National Land Code that acts as an effective mechanism of checks and balances on the menteri besar’s overwhelming power. The menteri besar, together with the Perak Lands and Mines Office and the forestry director, does not have to answer to anyone regarding his decisions concerning land.
Will the incoming menteri besar be any different? Will he put the interests of the bottom 20%, the Orang Asli and the small farmers above his need to amass a huge war chest for the next general election?
Or will the Pakatan Harapan save the day by pledging support for the Umno menteri besar in return for promises to seriously tackle the problems of the bottom 20%, the Orang Asli and the vegetable farmers in Perak?
Optimism is a positive trait but not when it leads to foolishly unrealistic expectations. Power will concede only when challenged – when the people forge a multi-ethnic grassroots movement that puts social justice and inclusion as its first priorities.
Good policies have to be “bottom-up”! Ordinary people cannot just rely on the magnanimity of the elite. Unfortunately for Malaysia, we have drifted away from the goal of building a multi-ethnic grassroots movement since May 2018!
There is really no reason for ordinary Perak citizens to be enthused about the disposal of Azumu. On the other hand, there is much to fear. It is quite possible no one can put Humpty Dumpty together again and form a state government that has majority support. In that case, there might be no choice but to dissolve the state assembly, which would mean that an election date has to be announced within 60 days.
We all saw how the Sabah election fanned the Covid-19 epidemic. Most Perakians do not want that reenacted here. Not only will many get sick, the economy would again be crippled by lockdown measures, and many will suffer economic loss.
And if a state election was held, will the main contenders – BN, PH, Pas and Bersatu play fair and use rational arguments – or will they leverage existing ethnic apprehensions and misgivings to paint the other side as an evil threat?
If it is the latter, it would take us even further away from building a multi-ethnic political movement – the only movement that has the potential to heal the wounds we have inflicted upon ourselves and build the cross-ethnic, cross-religious consensus that we need to steer this country towards greater harmony, justice and inclusiveness.