Ramasamy: How to explain PH’s conundrum of opposition and cooperation?


THE Memorandum on Transformation and Political Stability was signed on Sept 13, 2021 in Parliament between the Government and the Opposition, principally Pakatan Harapan (PH).

It is certainly an historic deal aimed to mitigate the constant bickering between the Government and the Opposition to ensure time and energy can be spent on fighting the menace of the COVID-19 pandemic and enable the economy that remains subdued.

However, the coming together of the Government and Opposition in the larger national interest is nothing new.

There are many examples how under exceptional circumstances that both the parties have come together to sink their differences to cater for the larger national interest.

In Malaysia, in the aftermath of the 1969 racial riots that rocked the country, the formation of the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition that incorporated 14 political parties under its fold was to reduce political tensions.

Although it was not a cooperation between Government and Opposition, some oppositional forces were included.

Through this political mechanism, BN was able to reduce politicking with the inclusion of some of the Opposition forces.

Therefore, the MoU on the CSA (Confidence and Supply Agreement) might be timely and very much needed to contain the pandemic and to revitalise the economy.

I have no disagreement on this matter, although the question of trust remains.

The Government with a thin majority and the sizeable Opposition, after much discussion, have signed the MoU to focus on reforms.

The CSA can be described as a quid pro quo arrangement.

The  Opposition in return of the promise of reforms in several areas agreed to give the Government some breathing space in ensuring that critical legislations and the Budget would be passed without much difficulty.

The CSA MoU is supposed to last until the date of the next general election in July 2022.

A steering committee would be set up with the equal participation of both Government and Opposition nominees to monitor the developments on a fortnightly basis.

Among the highlights of the CSA MoU are limiting the post of prime minister to two terms, the passage of an anti-hopping law, elevation of the status of the parliamentary Opposition leader to the level of a government minister, and a more balanced composition of parliamentary committees, among others.

Matters such as judicial independence and the Malaysia Agreement 1963 was touched on but not elaborated.

The CSA MoU might not be detailed but the steering committee, I understand, might need to fill in the gaps as the limited cooperation gets underway.

I am sure given the extraordinary circumstances the nation is in, it is not difficult to rationalise or justify the need for a CSA.

While former prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was desperately in need of a CSA having lost the majority, this was not the case with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaacob.

Ismail Sabri was not under political duress as was Muhyiddin.

Whether the MoU on the CSA will last until the mid-2022 remains to be seen.

If the pressure to cooperate to deal with the pandemic and the economy is overwhelming, then there are chances that that limited cooperation on essentials might last.

The MoU is not something that is ironclad, as things might go wrong to the detriment of the agreement.

It could be mutually terminated.

The problem here is not so much the Opposition but whether the Government can deliver the promises.

The question of UMNO and PAS pulling the rug from under the feet of Ismail Sabri remains something real and ever-present.

Ismail Sabri might be committed, but what about forces within and without?

The opposition, PH, faced many difficulties before inking the agreement.

It might have been a lot more easier for the Government to conclude the MoU rather than the Opposition.

Even if the agreement fails, the Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition has the Government, but the Opposition might face the wrath of its supporters.

The question of whether the PH will cease to be an opposition remains in the minds of many especially the supporters of the coalition.

I don’t think that the MoU has redefined the role of the Opposition.

PH will remain as an opposition except in areas that it supposed to cooperate with the government in the spirit of the MoU.

It is not going to be easy for PH to play its oppositional role in the context of the CSA agreement.

The question is how to delicately balance its  role as an opposition and to work with the government on critical areas.

There is nothing in the CSA MoU to explain or elaborate. Nothing is defined.

But we have to wait and see how PH is going to carve out its role in a newly defined atmosphere.


Ramasamy Palanisamy is the state assemblyperson for Perai. He is also deputy chief minister II of Penang.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.


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