14Ogos2020

Agenda Daily

CALL FOR ACTION

While the opposition coalition seems to be facing numerous problems, the ruling coalition is not faring any better, judging from the shenanigans of the MCA and the MIC. To top it all, the consistently damaging Auditor-General's report year in year out demands that the government does something about it, failing which a price will have to be paid at a later date, slowly but surely.

 

Survival is a powerful instinct. But in the case of the beleaguered Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), it is an understatement. Survival is the only motivation.

So, it does not come as a complete surprise that the warring factions and their respective chiefs agreed to a handshake on Oct 22.

The MCA-controlled Star newspaper, jubilantly described it as a breakthrough when MCA President Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat and his former deputy Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek shook hands and pledged to work together for the sake of party unity.

Ong, who lost a no-confidence vote at the party's extraordinary general meeting on Oct 10, and Dr Chua, whose removal as party deputy president was confirmed by the meeting, were reported to have set aside their differences.

Well, what else could they have done? Neither of them have the legal and moral authority to claim leadership of the party.

Ong had not only lost the confidence of the delegates but had himself swore that he would step down if he lost any one of the three resolutions tabled at the Oct 10 EGM.

He lost two and according to NSTP Emedia, Ong appears to have gone back on his word.

The same goes to Dr Chua. Although he was reinstated as party member, his sacking as Deputy President was endorsed by the delegates.

Now reality has sunk in. They realise that they are no longer wanted by the delegates and the general membership is divided.

So with their ruffled feathers, they had little choice but to flock together, shake hands and walk the moral high ground on the pretext that they were burying the hatchet for the sake of party solidarity.

In the interim, they may survive. But in the longer term, a more concrete solution is needed. The party has to identify and rally around more credible leaders.

With the majority of Chinese voters having deserted the Barisan Nasional (BN) in last year's general election and, as the results of recent by-elections have shown, are not showing signs of returning, only the strongest and most credible leaders can hope to reverse the trend.

Two lame duck leaders shaking hands and promising to bury the hatchet may not convince the Chinese voters and should not fool Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Abdul Razak that the sun is once again shining on the MCA.

The fallout from the ongoing Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) investigations has badly damaged the image of the MCA.

Irrespective of whether the fiasco implicates the present or past leaders of the MCA, the Prime Minister should consider taking away the Transport Ministry from the MCA and replacing it with another portfolio.

After all, he had made a noticeable move by taking away the Works Ministry from the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) — rightly so as the party did terribly badly in the last general election.

The convention of assigning certain key ministries to leaders of the BN parties limits the Prime Minister's ability to move his ministers around and, as history has shown, guaranteed tenure leads to some appointees treating the ministries as their fiefdoms.

As for the promises and pledges made by Ong and Dr Chua to bury the hatchet, I think they should be taken with a big pinch of salt.

The deep animosity between the two is not new and if party assemblies (ordinary and extra-ordinary), elections and resolutions have in the past failed to bring peace, there's not much to hope that this latest settlement will last.

Trouble in paradise

THE CORRELATION between political parties and political crises is a little bit like the relationship between an epidemic and the human body — when the latter is weak, the former can easily infect.

Malaysian politics has weakened significantly since the BN's historic victory under Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in 2004.

Abdullah's inability to use his massive mandate to strengthen Umno and make good on his lofty promises and slogans caused the voters to cast protest votes that saw the BN losing its traditional two?thirds majority in Parliament.

It also conceded five states and the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur

to the combination of Party Keadilan Rakyat, the Democratic Action Party and the Pan Malaysia Islamic Party.

Almost two years have since passed and the BN is yet to show a convincing recovery. It has lost all but two of the nine by-elections held since then.

Its key member, the MCA, is without legitimate leadership and its Indian caucus has split further with the formation of a new party, the Malaysia Makkal Sakti Party.

But the epidemic has not spared the Pakatan Rakyat parties either. Early last year, it lost Perak when two PKR Assemblymen and a DAP Assemblywoman quit their parties and pledged support for the BN, causing the unofficial alliance to lose the state to the BN.

Now both the PKR and Pas are having internal problems of their own. The PKR's national leadership is shaken by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's sodomy trial and a series of sexual and corruption allegations against its key legislators.

Its Sarawak and Sabah liaison committees have undergone leadership changes and the entry into the party of the former Umno Minister and Senator, Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, is causing bad blood among ex-Umno members of the party.

Zaid has since been barred from going to Sabah to attend party matters which he has promptly disobeyed.

The Kelantan lawyer was briefly a member of Abullah's Cabinet. But as I wrote in my blog on Oct 21, upon realising that Abdullah's days were numbered and his chances of remaining in the government in the post-Abdullah era miniscule, he beat a hasty retreat.

On Sept 15, 20o8, he resigned from the Cabinet and on June 13 this year, Anwar announced that he had joined PKR.

Zaid was then quoted as saying that he felt he would be most effective in PKR, which fits his ideals, and he chose the party because he knows Anwar was a good man, plus he would help improve ties among the PR parties.

Just as Zaid is ruffling some feathers in his new party, the PKR's information chief and the Batu Member of Parliament, Tian Chua, was sentenced to six months' jail and fined RM3,000 for biting a police constable and obstructing him from discharging his duty two years ago.

If he loses his appeal, he loses his Parliament seat and another by-election will have to be called. In last year's general election, he beat his BN rival, Lim Si Pin, with a majority of 9,455 votes.

Now it's the turn of Pas. In a continuing battle with party president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, the party's spiritual leader and Kelantan Menteri Besar, Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, wants an extraordinary meeting to be held, possibly to remove the latter.

Having failed to promote the unseating of Abdul Hadi and his team at the party's recent general assembly, the maverick Kelantanese has used his blog to promote another round of Abdul Hadi bashing.

Taking the cue from the BN parties, Nik Abdul Aziz wrote in his blog: `If Umno could do something by holding the EGM and the MCA had done the same to remove its President and Deputy President, and the same was done by the PKR to change its constitution, why not us?

`Our problem is with two or three problematic leaders. If the Indian community could go against Samy Vellu (S Samy Vellu, the MIC President) by forming another party, what's so unusual for us to call an emergency meeting?'

Other than his nemesis Abdul Hadi, he identified the party's secretary-general, Mustafa Ali, and its Selangor Commissioner, Dr Hassan Ali, as the otl*r problematic leaders.

Nik Abdul Aziz has also in the past berated Deputy President Nasharudin Mat Isa. Their sin, according to Nik AbdulAziz, was their support for the proposed cooperation with Umno to form a so-called unity government.

The idea, however, is strongly opposed by Nik Abdul Aziz and the pro-Anwar elements in Pas led by Kelantanese Datuk Husam Musa, who is one of the party's vice presidents. And like the MCA leaders, Nik Abdul Aziz said he would respect the wishes of the delegates if they refused to remove Abdul Hadi.

Of the two, the simpler and simplistic Nik Abdul Aziz is more willing to compromise with the DAP and PKR in their three-way political act.

No to mere lip service

The Prime Minister's promise to take the Auditor-General's report seriously will continue to be treated with skepticism until and unless he hauls up and punishes those wrongdoers without fear or favour.

Promises by Prime Ministers to act on the Auditor-General's report are neither new nor serious. Had they been genuine, the report would not be so grossly mind-boggling year in year out.

Having followed the Auditor-General's report and known successive Auditor-Generals for decades, I must, in all frankness, say that I do not see why we should spend time, money and energy preparing the documents if our government is not serious about acting on its findings.

I can't say I sympathise deeply with the Auditor-Generals now and in the past. They were civil servants and they knew the general attitude of the civil servants when it came to money.

They were merely carrying out their job in accordance with the rules and regulations set for them by their political masters. I don't think they cherished preparing and presenting the reports. They might have enjoyed extensive media coverage because they had a sensational story to tell.

But for all their efforts, they got called all kinds of names by their errant fellow officers who got off scot-free because their political masters were good only at making promises and threats. The public, not knowing that the Auditor-General is a man (or woman) with a big title but little power, blamed him for not taking action.

Had the government kept its promises to act on the Auditor-General's report, I am sure we would have been spared these mind-boggling stories of daylight robberies of taxpayers by cheating, corrupt and abusive civil servants a very long time ago.

Maybe some of today's politicians, civil servants and journalists are too young to know or remember the famous `noodles affair' when the Armed Forces was allegedly supplied with instant noodles at ridiculous prices, resulting in the resignation of several senior military officers some decades ago. Or have some conveniently decided to forget the episode?

If the government is not serious about acting on the annual findings of the Auditor-General because punishing civil servants can cost it support at the ballot boxes, it should stop wasting taxpayers' money preparing the report. This is an insult taxpayers can do without.

Either Mohd Najib resolves to act decisively on the latest Auditor-General's report or he should not make any promises.

Having seen what broken promises and lip service had done to his predecessor and to the BN in last year's general election, the Prime Minister has only himself to blame if he too is high on promises and low on action.

As I told a minister, who is also a senior Umno leader, just days ago, he should not expect praises from me if he does the right thing. But he'll almost certainly hear from me if he does the wrong thing.

I told this young man that doing the right thing is what a leader is elected and paid to do. So, no praises needed. It's a contract. But doing the wrong thing is not what he's elected for and paid to do. So, he must be punished.

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