The politicians are now playing around with the politics of convening of Parliament. But it took the Agong and the Malay Rulers to inject real life into that happening.
Umno talks about “it must happen within 14 days”, the Prime Minister has formed a committee to look into it, and a disgraced former Prime Minister says he could on his own organize a meeting of Parliament without need of a committee, suggesting perhaps a man and his dog could do the trick.
All this political trivialization does not make the point the Malay Rulers did which is Parliament is essential in Malaysia’s democracy. It is one of the three pillars of government under the Federal Constitution: the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary.
Neither does it make the killer point if even services and factories deemed essential are allowed to operate with SOPs under the current strict MCO, it is a travesty of the Constitution that the representatives of the people should only be allowed to meet when it is considered “safe” for them to do so.
Therefore the call by the Agong and the Malay Rulers that Parliament must meet “secepat mungkin” should not be disingenuously taken to mean “as soon as possible” with the emphasis on “possible”, and to stretch it out.
It should be noted in the media statement by the Malay Rulers in support of the Agong’s call for Parliament to meet the word used is “segera” – immediately.
Care must be taken not to take the mickey out of Their Majesties.
The royal media statements want Parliament to debate the ordinances issued under the emergency, which is to end on August 1st, as well as the Covid National Recovery Plan (NRP). If it meets just before the last phase of the NRP is reached, what kind of meaningful review and suggestions can be made?
As it stands the NRP is woefully short of “what ifs”, things not happening according to plan, or rather hope. There are no alternatives should they not be met. There is no Plan B.
A statement by the Malaysian Health Coalition last Saturday raised scientific questions about the adequacy of measures of performance and progress against the Covid pandemic on which the NRP is based. There must be national debate on these issues which have existential implications.
Going beyond, there needs to be developed an outline of a practical financial and economic recovery plan. The Asean Business Advisory Council Malaysia had submitted to the government in March this year 137 action steps in “Pathway for Malaysia 2021”, based on discussions with professional bodies, trade associations, chambers of commerce and foreign business associations & business councils in the country.
These kinds of recommendations should be stood on their head, thrashed out and debated.
It is already possible for Parliament to meet NOW. At the most 28 days from notice of meeting. So if all goes smoothly Parliament should meet in July. This week is critical to show the call by the Agong and the Malay Rulers is being taken seriously. There could be a dragging of feet such that Parliament does not meet until September as previously planned, but this would be tantamount to thumbing the nose at Their Majesties.
It could also presage a constitutional crisis, which the country does not need when it is already facing the huge Covid nightmare. We do not need it even if there were not the crushing Covid crisis.
Legal opinion is divided on whether the Agong could himself convene Parliament, or must and only act on the advice of the Prime Minister. The most compelling view I have heard, from one of Malaysia’s leading legal minds, is that the Agong can do so under Article 55 of the Federal Constitution.
At any rate, there is also strong argument Section 14 of the Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance 2021 promulgated for the emergency in January allows the King to call for Parliament to reconvene without the advice of the Prime Minister.
This will not be the first time in politics that that which has been created has come to bite the hand that feeds it. It is hoped it would not come to that point. There has been enough excitement and drama in Malaysian politics since May 2018 and, particularly these last 17 months, to last a political lifetime.
The only good political sense has come from Mr. Lim Kit Siang, the doyen of Malaysian politics, when he suggested that there be a “political moratorium” in the next one-two years. This great statesmanship is something yet to be seen among all the other political leaders.
On the contrary, what is heard is of the PKR leader trying to cobble together an arrangement with discredited Umno leaders to form a new government. It is to be hoped the DAP with its 42 MPs will have nothing to do with it, because such a government will set Malaysia back again.
It is also unbelievable that some politicians are talking about forcing a general election at this time. It shows how little they care for the people in their thirst for power. A general election must not be held now because the virus will spread like wildfire, with deaths – now nearing 4500 against 471 the whole of last year – and brought-in-dead (BID) shooting up.
The Prime Minister should establish a broad-based unity government. Ironically that would require support of the 42 MPs from the DAP so often demonized. Let this be the time for beginning the healing process towards greater national unity.
There is a long, long way to go of course but, if not now, when is the time to address the immediate challenges, and to think through deep issues that divide the nation, by setting up a consultative body representing civil society, professional groups and business interests. What I have previously called the Malaysia First Council.
The Agong and Malay Rulers had alluded to the need for a strong, stable and effective government which has support from the majority of the people. If this is not a hint to the Prime Minister to get cracking on forging such a government, I don’t know what is.
The Prime Minister is in the best position to show true leadership by forging a united and broad-based government which has the backing of Parliament, representing the people, to save the nation. There is really nobody else, as every interested political leader falls short, carries too much baggage, imagines only that at last it is his time or has thinking and megalomaniac inclinations not acceptable today.
The country is in a tight spot. The political leaders have failed us. The Agong and the Malay Rulers are to be applauded for stepping up to the plate when the people are lost with no one else to turn to.
They have done so with great sensitivity. The last sentence of the very last paragraph of the Malay Rulers’ media statement is profound: the critical importance of constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy in a culture of governance that adheres to the Federal Constitution and the rule of law. The Agong and the Malay Rulers have done what they have done – and will do what they must – but they are not interested in a systemic shift from being constitutional monarchs.
If only there were such sensitivity among the politicians of this country.
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