The country has been on this bumpy road before.
It is tiring for Malaysians who expect the ruling politicians to focus fully on the various challenges brought on by the pandemic rather than being distracted by the shadow of its own political insecurity.
Like the Mahiaddin Yasin government, the new government led by Ismail Sabri Yaakob seems to be jittery about holding a vote of confidence when Parliament meets on 13 September.
Certain government politicians, and Attorney General Idrus Harun to boot, have made public statements recently that allude to such a position of the government, saying that testing the political strength of Ismail Sabri in Parliament is to undermine the power of the Agong.
This assertion has been debunked by critics who argued it is important for Ismail Sabri to test his majority so his government’s legitimacy can be established and consequently, political stability of some degree can be achieved.
In fact, the King, in fulfilling Article 40(2)(a) and 43(2)(a) of the Federal Constitution, had already decreed on 18 August the new government must hold a confidence vote in Parliament. In short, having the confidence vote is in accordance with the royal decree.
The King did not want the consequences of a political crisis to be borne again by the people who are grappling with the twin problems of the pandemic and the dwindling economy.
The fact that the current cabinet is made up largely of the old one from the previous government – which had lost the confidence of the majority of MPs – necessitates the holding of the confidence vote to secure its political legitimacy.
Politics-weary Malaysians are mindful of the long suspension of Parliament, shortened parliamentary sessions and delayed meetings that suggested foot-dragging by the previous Mahiaddin government with the implicit purpose of stalling a confidence vote.
Such developments in the recent past obviously delayed the robust discussion of urgent matters, such as finances and strategies to combat the pandemic and revive the sluggish economy, affecting the people, apart from causing a dent on our parliamentary democracy.
Ordinary Malaysians expect the Ismail Sabri government to swiftly establish its legitimacy so that it can fully concentrate on matters that are important to the people and the nation. This is apart from carrying out the institutional reforms that were bandied about.
If Ismail Sabri is to heed the ‘advice’ from the attorney general, he may risk jeopardising a political breakthrough in Parliament through a confidence-and-supply agreement with the opposition that would bring about a political truce needed to focus on fighting the pandemic, as well as addressing other challenges.
Incidentally, reappointing a few individuals to positions of ministerial status is not on the people’s priority list, especially if these posts have dubious functions and significance – not to mention the huge financial implications involved.
To be sure, Malaysians are still not out of the woods as far as the pandemic is concerned – which is why the people hope for the government not to be distracted from the urgency of tackling the pandemic, which has taken many lives and unleashed sufferings on thousands upon thousands of people.
The battered economy, too, needs the government’s unwavering attention, as many livelihoods and businesses have been destroyed by the pandemic.
Education is another area that demands the full attention of the authorities. According to government data, the first two months of this year witnessed 1,176 pupils across the country dropping out owing to the pandemic and difficulties in coping with online studies.
Many lower-income families cannot afford to send their children to school, as whatever money they have left is used to make ends meet. This is clearly disturbing as it jeopardises the future of children from poor backgrounds and our future generation.
These and many other pressing issues obviously have to be dealt with squarely. Hopefully, the Ismail Sabri government will do what is needed for the benefit of the people. – The Malaysian Insight