WH Cheng believe the Perikatan Nasional government will have a hard time repairing its trust deficit in the eyes of the people.
About four days after the so-called Perikatan Nasional took over the seat of government in Putrajaya, its began unleashing its policy orientations one by one, some of them picking up the pieces from the past.
The first came from a former defence minister who took up the foreign affairs portfolio in the Perikatan government. He pledged that the six new army helicopters that he ordered many years back would be delivered by the supplier by the end of this year.
Then, the teaching of science and maths in English and free school breakfasts would be reviewed by the newly appointed education minister.
Ties with Saudi Arabia would be mended after the relationship between the two countries soured under the previous Mahathir-led government.
This was followed by an attempt to resolve the palm oil spat with India.
PN cabinet ministers were also readying themselves to have their salaries reduced in the face of current economic uncertainties.
The PN prime minister also pledged to reintroduce the goods and services tax after years of his opposition to the implementation of the GST, when he was on Pakatan Harapan’s side.
Then a top Umno leader dropped a bombshell calling on the new attorney general to review all corruption and criminal charges against a number of Umno leaders who are currently undergoing lengthy trials.
That Umno top leader then called on the authorities to begin investigating all previous PH ministers for any possible crime or wrongdoing during their 22-month stint in power. Umno leaders wanted revenge, and it was payback time.
Following a recent meeting of the Umno supreme council, the Umno top leader also described the PN government as not one with a coalition of parties but merely a government of mutual understanding among the members of Parliament from Pas, Umno, Bersatu, the MCA and the MIC.
A former Umno secretary-general who was abruptly replaced by someone else during the party supreme council meeting recently said the current government, which seized power from the previous ruling coalition, would not last and a snap election had to be called to gauge its support and popularity.
Tiong King Sing, president of the Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party, which is part of the ruling Gabungan Parti Sarawak, rejected his deputy ministerial position because it apparently reduced his stature as head of his party, for which he was apparently supposed to get a full minister’s position.
There is a grave problem here after the PN parties, which consist of Pas, Umno, Bersatu, the MCA and the MIC, seized power after playing the numbers game at the end of last month.
Do the governments of foreign nations recognise this PN government? The leaders of Singapore and Indonesia have congratulated the new government. As for leaders of other nations, how many have called on the new prime minister here to offer their recognition of his new administration?
The question of legitimacy of the PN government has arisen following the wave of defections from the previous ruling coalition.
Umno and Pas have decided to take advantage following Bersatu’s departure from the PH coalition government. After Bersatu’s defection, a number of state governments collapsed and were taken over by Umno and Pas.
Days later, Bersatu was split between the pro-Umno and pro-PH camps as the party waits for its election in April 2020. If the poll goes ahead, it is certainly going to be a tough contest between the Mahathir faction and the Muhyiddin faction to wrest control of the party.
Earlier Mahathir had resigned as Bersatu party chairman but then decided to take back the position after many in the party leadership rejected his resignation. Bersatu president Muhyiddin then claimed the party had sacked Mahathir as party chairman and the party president himself would assume the role of acting party chairman.
In between the factional rift, both the Bersatu secretary-general (who has since been replaced) and the party youth chief decided to throw their lot behind Mahathir’s leadership, arguing that whatever action carried out by the party president was illegal.
More and more leaders in Umno then voiced their dissatisfaction over Muhyiddin’s new cabinet. Sabah Umno complained that none of their leaders were included in the new administration.
So, Perikatan Nasional is faced with a challenge here: the government recently installed has remained unrecognised by many foreign nations probably because they have doubts over the legitimacy and the way power was seized.
Foreign investors were cautious about placing their investments here because the investors’ confidence fell as the economic uncertainties worsened. The ringgit has dropped to its lowest level after PN seized power, followed by weeks of political crisis and now the coronavirus pandemic.
Making matters worse, many have been distrustful of the PN government due to the presence of those who had defected from the previous ruling coalition.
If the distrust continues, will this government be respected? Will people respect those who have betrayed others or defected from their previous parties? Will people trust these PN ministers, who are now running our nation and deciding how public funds are used? How secure are these funds now under their management?
How is PN going to erase or deny the fact that the current administration includes those who were involved in the pre-2018 government, which allowed corruption and abuse of power to flourish for six decades?
Source: Inter-Research And Studies (IRAS)