06Ogos2020

Agenda Daily

PLAYING THE COURTING GAME

While members of the ruling coalition are busy restoring the confidence in the Prime Minister’s leadership capabilities, the Opposition’s de facto leader, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, has been busy enticing Members of Parliament from the ruling coalition to cross over to topple the Federal Government. Judging from the mood of the people as evident in the recent general election, this cannot be taken lightly.

 


UNDER NORMAL CIRCUMSTANCES, I WOULD not take any statement by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Mohd Nazri Aziz, too seriously.


The man is capable of exaggerating or speaking out of turn. Some see him as a loose cannon, while others, more generously, as a perpetually angry person.


He was, until the shocking March 8 polls, one of the Prime Minister’s most loyal defenders in the fight with former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.


But since the Barisan Nasional (BN)’s historic electoral drubbing, he has been somewhat more

subdued. Maybe like most BN leaders who survived the electoral massacre, Mohd Nazri now realises that the Opposition is no longer to be taken lightly.


So, when speaking in the Dewan Rakyat on May 8, he rather humbly said the BN Government needed the co-operation of the Opposition to fight graft.


He said fighting graft was the top priority of BN’s 2004 manifesto but it was impossible to do it in a short time.


‘What has been done so far clearly shows our battle against corruption. I hope you will give your cooperation.


We need co-operation from the Opposition to fight graft,’ he said. Mohd Nazri was responding to a question by the Democratic Action Party (DAP) member for Ipoh Timur, Lim Kit Siang, on whether the Government had the political will and commitment to fight graft.


The minister could also be, indirectly, pre-empting the move by the Opposition in the states that they now rule, namely, Kedah, Penang, Perak, Selangor and Kelantan, in stamping out corruption and abuse of power.


The Pakatan Rakyat or People’s Alliance governments of these states have made fighting graft

a major policy thrust not only to fulfill their electoral promise but more so to expose possible wrongdoings by the previous BN state administrations.


They have since initiated reviews and investigations into a string of projects to determine if contracts and other agreements were properly entered into and were

graft-free.


Some People’s Alliance state governments have already implemented new tender systems for state projects and assets.


In Kedah, the Pas Menteri Besar, Azizan Abdul Razak, for instance, is so sure that the state’s new tender system for logging concessions would generate more income that he has gone ahead to reduce a variety of local taxes to the joy of ratepayers.


He said the negotiated tender system had caused the state to receive more than RM50 million less annually, adding that it could earn as much as RM25,000 per hectare instead of a mere RM1,250 to RM2,500 through negotiated tenders.


Azizan estimated that the state should be able to earn RM60 million from 2,400 hectares that it releases for sustainable logging annually. In Penang, the DAP Chief Minister, Lim Guan Eng,

has initiated a review of several major development projects to ensure that they are properly planned, free of graft and are beneficial to the people.


In Selangor, the Parti Keadilan Rakyat Menteri Besar, Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim, is reported to have engaged independent auditors to carry out forensic examinations of state government companies like the Selangor Development Corporation and the state investment arm Kumpulan Darul Ehsan.


The senior Lim (he is the father of the Penang Chief Minister) has said that there is a lack of political will and commitment in the Government’s fight against corruption as was apparent in the 18 high-profile cases highlighted in 2004.


Of these, only two have been brought to court, namely, the criminal breach of trust (CBT) charges against the former Perwaja Managing Director, Tan Sri Eric Chia, and the former Rural Development Minister, Tan Sri Kasitah Gadam.


Chia was last year acquitted by the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court of charges of committing CBT involving RM76.4 million while Kasitah’s case is still in progress.


Reforming the Judiciary


DESPITE the misgivings and objections of many parties, the government, it would appear, is going ahead with the setting up of a commission for the appointment of judges.


The de facto Law Minister, Senator Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, told Parliament that the framework for the judicial appointment commission is expected to be tabled in Cabinet in three weeks’ time and at the second sitting of Parliament in June.


In their post-election disarray, Umno leaders in general appear to be unconcerned with this major development. They are either still in a deep state of trauma or are simply unable to fathom the impact of the proposal.


The Judiciary is one of the pillars of the country’s governance. It is a key element in the power-sharing concept and check-and-balance mechanism that involve the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. Then, on top of it, we have the King and the nine Malay Rulers.


When the Malayan Constitution was thrashed out among the representatives of the Malay organisations, led by Umno, the Malay Rulers led by Datuk Panglima Bukit Gantang and the representatives of the immigrant races on the one side and the British on the other, it was decided that the power to appoint judges would be shared among the Chief Justice, the

Prime Minister and the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. It could not have been a mere coincidence that the power was vested in the three parties as set out in Article 122B of the Federal Constitution.


What is the problem here, the Constitution or its implementation? It can be recalled that it all started with the appointment of the Chief Justice (CJ) a couple of months ago when the choice of the Executive was shot down by the Rulers and had to be ‘renegotiated’.


The question must be asked by Umno — since it provides the Prime Minister, at least for now – of the Rulers, for giving their consent, and the Judiciary, the Chief Justice in particular, for identifying candidates in what is wrong with the existing constitutional provisions?


Do they want outsiders, whom if we are to believe Zaid, will include, among others, lawyers and politicians, to decide on their behalf who should be appointed to the Judiciary and who gets to be promoted?


Can lawyers, who will appear before judges to represent their clients, and politicians, who may end up in the dock, be the best people to choose who should be made judges and who in the Judiciary should be promoted?


Since this is supposed to be an era of transparency, openness and great press freedom, we must all be asking these questions instead of waiting for Zaid to tell us what he is doing next.


The Sun online newspaper on May 9 quoted Zaid as saying that the commission would comprise 12 to 14 members representing political parties, the Bar Council and the Attorney-General’s Chambers.


He was silent on the representation of the Judiciary although the judicial sources said the judges were hopeful that the ‘big five’, namely, the Chief Justice, the President of the Court of Appeal, and the Chief Judges of Malaya, Sarawak and Sabah, would be included.


Keeping the Prime Minister in power

SPEAKING to reporters at the Parliament lobby on May 8, Zaid affirmed that the move would require an amendment to the Federal Constitution.


Asked if he was confident of getting the two-thirds majority, he said: ‘I believe that if we do something good for the country, sensible politicians will give their support.’


The proposal is a shrewd move engineered by Zaid to shore up the sagging image of the Government in the post-March 8 polls debacle and to stifle any attempt by the Opposition to move a motion of noconfidence against Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.


Zaid knows all too well that the reform of the Judiciary is one bait that the Opposition cannot afford to ignore since the state of the Judiciary has for years been the target of its complaints.


And by promising the Opposition and the Bar Council seats in the commission, Zaid has more or less cornered the government’s two most strident detractors.


However, he later denied that political parties, including the Opposition, would become members of the Judicial Appointments Commission. He clarified that the views of political parties, including the Opposition, as well as everyone else’s, would be sought and considered in the establishment of the commission.


Already the DAP, via its Secretary-General Guan Eng, has said that the party viewed the proposal in a positive light, but cautioned that the real test would be in its implementation.


The Bar Council President, Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, on her part, acknowledged that the

council had been consulted on the final model of the commission.


She said the council’s proposals would be submitted to the Prime Minister’s Department and published inthe council’s website.


But can the judges make their position be known, if at all they are being given an opportunity to present their case? Can they publish their views and recommendations in the Judiciary’s website?


A yes vote for the Bill by the Opposition will almost certainly be spun by Zaid and the BN’s propaganda machinery as a vote of confidence for Abdullah.


But Zaid could be biting off more than a Senator can chew. Already, he has antagonised some members of his own party and Cabinet colleagues by openly endorsing the Opposition’s call to amend or do away with the Official Secrets Act (OSA) and the Internal Security Act (ISA).


His grandstanding could unravel, and this could further tarnish the image and esteem of the Prime Minister.


Zaid has been reported as saying that he found the ISA and OSA unacceptable, adding that he was against any unjust and harsh laws.


Already, Home Minister and Zaid’s senior in the Cabinet, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar, has declared that the ISA would remain.


And in the same breath, Syed Hamid told Parliament that Sri Lankan BSA Tahir, a former

business partner of Abdullah’s son, Datuk Kamaluddin, would stay put under ISA detention. He

was detained in June 2004.


The great cross-over


OF course, all this will not matter much to Mohd Nazri, Zaid or the Prime Minister, if the Pakatan Rakyat de facto leader, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, succeeds in enticing enough BN parliamentarians to jump ship.


Anwar has been spending much of his time the last couple of weeks holding meetings with them in Sabah, Sarawak and in a number of neutral grounds.


He has for weeks been claiming that he has enough support from BN Parliamentarians for him to think of forming the Federal Government by or before Malaysia Day on Sept 16.


The latest ‘shocker’ was, however, delivered not by Anwar or any member of the People’s Alliance but by a BN Member of Parliament (MP), Datuk Anifah Aman.


The Kimanis MP, who snubbed Abdullah by rejecting a deputy ministerial post, on May 7, said in Parliament that ‘there was nothing wrong with BN MPs crossing over to the Opposition side’.


Speaking on the motion of thanks for the Royal Address, he said, ‘If there is no more space in the existing bungalow house (meaning BN), what is the harm in them moving to a smaller terraced house?’

This was greeted with cheers from the Opposition side and nods from Sabah backbenchers. He used the analogy when responding to the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who asked whether Sabah backbenchers were tempted to cross over to the Opposition.

It is understood that BN Parliamentarians from Sabah are going down to the ground to meet party members and grass root supporters to explain the approaches made by Pakatan Rakyat and to seek their opinion.


A high-level Umno source in Kuala Lumpur, who has been accurate in his predictions in the past, said Anwar could have clinched the support of up to 25 BN Parliamentarians, adding that it is not confined to Sabah. BN members from Sarawak and the Peninsula might also be siding with the Opposition in Parliament.


Speaking to the Press in Putrajaya on May 8, the former Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, said there was great danger in Pakatan Rakyat taking over the Federal Government, adding that there were signs of members of the component parties in the Peninsula, Sabah and Sarawak crossing over.


He said when the BN had a two-thirds majority in Parliament, it was not worth for any component party to cross over.


But now that the BN no longer has a two-thirds majority, they had nothing to lose by crossing over because they would still be in the Government – the Pakatan Rakyat Government.


Stating that Pakatan Rakyat was a force to be reckoned with, he said Anwar’s threat to the BN has to be taken seriously.


And Anifah’s warning becomes more ominous with each passing day.


‘I am not saying I am crossing over. There may be a handful who may want to move. This matter of crossing over is not a serious matter. What is serious is the fact that millions in the five states in Malaysia crossed over to the Opposition,’ said the younger brother of the Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman.


Like most Umno leaders around the Prime Minister, Zahid continues to underrate and ignore the sentiments of the people, they way they did before the general election.


It is clear from Anwar’s strategy that if he fails to topple the BN Government via defection in the

immediate future, he would rather have Abdullah continue as Prime Minister. The reason is obvious.

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