By Jamari Mohtar
IT seems politicians and their politicking are an inseparable lot!
Hours after the Istana came out with a statement where the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, had expressed confidence in the government led by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin in managing the COVID-19 pandemic and warned politicians to stop all politicking that could destabilise the government, Amanah chief Mohamad Sabu did just that.
In his tweet, Mat Sabu called for the resignation of Muhyiddin and claimed MPs from various political parties will find the best way to form a government and save Malaysia.
Save Malaysia from what? He is so obsessed with forming a government that it has blindsided him from grasping and understanding the King’s message to refrain from politicking that will destabilise His Majesty government.
And why should Muhyiddin resign? There was never any instruction from the King as per the Istana statement for Muhyiddin to resign. When the King himself has confidence in the Muhyiddin administration, why is Mat Sabu defying the King in this matter?
The declaration of a state of emergency in Malaysia is provided for in the Constitution and the Agong has the constitutional right to declare an emergency, and he has said no to an emergency for now.
In this regard, the only right the prime minister has is merely to consider, and not to declare, an emergency. Thus, after a special meeting with his Cabinet on Oct 23, Muhyiddin has considered the necessity of an emergency and has brought it up to the King.
Up to this point, everything that has happened is something that is not against the Constitution in the Malaysian system of parliamentary democracy with constitutional monarchy as one of its core components, so there is no need for Muhyiddin to resign unless the Agong requires him to do so.
And judging from Muhyiddin’s response to the King in which the PM assured His Majesty on the priority of his Cabinet and the government to protect the rakyat from the COVID-19 pandemic, and at the same time appreciated the King’s confidence in him to lead the government, resigning is far from his mind.
So where does this resignation stuff come from? The short answer is politicking.
The Agong had also urged the rakyat, regardless of their background and political affiliation, to put aside all their differences and quarrels to be united in helping the government in the war against COVID-19.
He had also stressed the importance of Budget 2021 for the rakyat in managing the COVID-19 pandemic and reviving the economy. The budget will be presented on Nov 6 in parliament.
On Budget 2021, Muhyiddin on Oct 13 has specified four thrusts and three pillars of the budget which have the hallmarks of the economics of empathy.
Acknowledging many groups had been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, even though the government had provided various stimulus packages amounting to almost RM300 bil, the first thrust of the budget will provide another form of assistance and support to these groups.
As for the second thrust, the budget would focus on supporting industries through specific incentives once recovery measures are implemented.
The third and fourth core thrusts are empowering service delivery and developing sustainable living respectively.
All these thrusts of Budget 2021 are aimed at preventing the B40 group from falling into poverty by providing a stronger safety net.
“My wish is to make the rakyat and businesses more resilient in the face of uncertainties due to COVID-19 and for the sake of national progress,” he said.
Muhyiddin also stressed the focus of the budget will still be on efforts to save lives and livelihoods of the rakyat.
“For this, we will focus on the three main pillars, namely empowering the rakyat, supporting business and continuing to strengthen the economy. Besides that, we want to ensure public health and support for the frontliners that has been done so far can be continued.
“Budget 2021 will continue the momentum of economic recovery that has been achieved through Prihatin, Prihatin Plus, the National Economic Recovery Plan or Penjana, and Kita Prihatin packages,” he said.
What will happen if Budget 2021 is not passed? Under this scenario, the country will be facing for the first time a government shutdown with all its accompanying hardships to the rakyat.
This is because not only the government won’t be able to dish out the necessary assistances to the rakyat and businesses as contained in Budget 2021 to alleviate their sufferings due to COVID-19, it can’t even pay the salaries of civil servants.
As the classic experience of the American citizens has shown, each time the US government had to shut down due to the squabbling and politicking of the US politicians, citizens who want to report to work had to be turned back home because the government couldn’t pay their salaries.
And they can’t even work from home because there is no guarantee that the government will pay their salaries.
In the Malaysian context, what is needed is for the sake of the rakyat and the economy, there is a dire need for a magnanimous action of politicians of all hues to pass the budget.
With the Agong calling for unity and solidarity by avoiding politicking, the passage of Budget 2021 should be a breeze with voting on a non-partisan line.
As it is, based on the past two voting in parliament, despite the voting being on a partisan line, the government has always won; during the motion to remove the Speaker back in July, the vote was 113 vs 109 for the government. In the voting for the supplementary stimulus budget in August, the vote was 111 vs 106 for the government.
Logically speaking, the government will always have a maximum of 113 votes and the Opposition will have a maximum of 109 votes. But this will only happen if there are no politicking among politicians.
If there is political goodwill, then we will see the votes for the government exceeding 113 which shows the politicians finally get it i.e. it is not the “Muhyiddin Budget” they are voting for but Budget 2021 for the rakyat and the economy.
Jamari Mohtar is Director of Media & Communications at EMIR Research, an independent think-tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based upon rigorous research.