On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Royal reasons for progress

IF anyone expects our politicians to stop plotting and instead wholeheartedly heed the advice of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, then they’re setting themselves up for disappointment.

All the pledges by our political party leaders seem to be just lip service, following our King’s request last week.

Members of Parliament have submitted a shocking number of motions to undermine Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, detailed Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun.

“We have received more than 16 no-confidence motions from the MPs and we have listed them in the Order Paper, ” he said, adding that he was scrutinising each for inclusion into Parliament’s agenda when the Lower House convenes from Nov 2.

A news portal, however, reported that a record 25 Opposition MPs have filed motions of no confidence in Muhyiddin, as listed in the Order Paper. One motion is from DAP Kepong MP Lim Lip Eng, and another from Tawau MP Christina Liew, Sabah’s PKR chief.

Similar motions have come from all 11 MPs from Amanah, seven from Warisan and five from Pejuang. There are also two motions of confidence submitted by Pasir Puteh MP Nik Muhammad Zawawi Salleh from PAS, and Arau MP Shahidan Kassim from Barisan Nasional.

The no faith motions will not crop up because government businesses will take precedence, but the point is, no one has asked for the motions to be withdrawn.

Rules 15 (1) and (2) of the Standing Orders state that government affairs shall have precedence over other matters and arranged in accordance with government considerations.

So while the party leaders were pledging loyalty to the King, their underlying ploys were to continue with their plans, and we can only deduce that their party bosses have given them tacit approvals. Or are we supposed to naively believe that their party MPs are free to do what they want at the Dewan Rakyat without any control by their party whips?

Basically, no one – including our King – should trust our politicians’ words.

These guys can draft letters to the King and later claim they didn’t sign anything, as reported by some media.

Last Sunday, His Majesty said in a statement issued by the Istana Negara, that he thought there was no need to declare a state of Emergency in just some parts or the entire country. Comptroller of the Royal Household Datuk Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin said the King feels the government has efficiently handled the Covid-19 pandemic, which has entered the third wave in several parts of the country.

“After deliberating and consulting with the Malay Rulers, as well as taking into consideration the situation beleaguering the country, Al-Sultan Abdullah is of the view that the present government has managed to deal with the pandemic effectively.

“Al-Sultan Abdullah is also of the view that at the moment, there is no need for His Majesty to make an emergency proclamation nationwide or for any part of the country, ” read the statement.

Next came the reminder, which one may call a caveat, where Ahmad Fadil said the King reiterated his message for politicians to stop all forms of politicking and disrupting the country’s administration.

Al-Sultan Abdullah, he said, was also under the impression that there was no need for members of Parliament to continue with irresponsible actions that could undermine the stability of the current government.

In a nutshell – don’t reject the Budget, and there’s no need to table a vote of no confidence in the PM.

On Wednesday, the King issued another statement, which urged all MPs to give “solid support” to the 2021 budget for the sake of the people’s well-being and the country’s economic recovery from the pandemic.

The King also conveyed his “full confidence” in the PM’s ability to lead the country during this period when Malaysia is being tested by “various crises”.

In a statement issued by the palace on Oct 28, Ahmad Fadil said the King has stressed that the 2021 national budget, to be tabled in Parliament on Nov 6, is “very important” for the government and authorities, especially frontliners, to continue implementing policies to overcome the unending threat the pandemic poses.

“Al-Sultan Abdullah has urged MPs to respect the advice of His Majesty for them to stop all political quarrels and instead, focus on the well-being of the people and the country so that the 2021 national budget will be passed without disruptions, ” the statement said.

The statement from the palace issued on Wednesday was certainly worded more strongly than the one from Sunday evening, following the meeting of the King and the Rulers.

The rejection of the proposal to proclaim a state of emergency to fight Covid-19 and the economic downturn was viewed by some political opponents as a rejection of the PM.

It didn’t help that there was a second statement on the same day, which contributed to more interpretations, although it could just be a case of misinterpreting a straightforward statement.

The second statement said the King and the other eight Rulers considered implications of an emergency in context of the country’s image, views of other countries, investor confidence, prosperity of the country, people’s livelihood and their welfare.

“The King and the eight Rulers felt it is important to respect the check-and-balance mechanism between the various branches of government, and the role of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, which is to balance various demands to ensure justice and to check any abuse of power, ” said the Keeper of the Rulers’ Seal.

The phrase “check any abuse of power” immediately set alarm bells ringing as analysts tried to read between the lines.

Others said analysts shouldn’t dissect what was simply an additional statement by the eight Rulers to express appreciation to Yang di-Pertuan Agong for consulting them before deciding to declare an Emergency, or otherwise.

But in a charged atmosphere, it would have been sufficient for the palace to simply stick to one statement.

And by 11pm, word got out that the PM wanted to quit. At that point, many ministers were already at his house.

The next day, the Umno supreme council ended speculation by expressing its support for the PM and the Perikatan Nasional government. It also said it wanted better cooperation based on “respect” and “political consensus” – which simply means it wants more powerful positions and a stronger voice in the government.

Umno also said it would not work with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and the DAP – and that as good as killed off any form of government by Anwar, since he would need to include the DAP. That means it would now be impossible for Anwar to work out a new government to topple Muhyiddin.

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak also found out that Umno would never work with Anwar and by extension, the DAP. His Facebook was bombarded with angry comments. It was hardly news to anyone who understands Umno. Unsurprisingly, many found Najib’s proposal reeking of a desperate attempt to save himself.

So, what comes next?

Most likely, the Budget will get passed, but the difference this time is, the government can no longer take it for granted that it will be a done deal. The government will not be able to ignore the demands from the MPs, including those in the government, and with the PM’s razor thin majority, immediate changes may have to be made, which would need inclusion in the supplementary budget.

A Cabinet reshuffle is imminent as Umno has made it loud and clear that it wants the deputy prime minister post. The names of at least four Umno leaders have been thrown in the hat. The Dewan Rakyat meeting will end in December and that has most likely – given the strong advice of the King – won the PM a reprieve of six months, at least.

At the same time, the Opposition is trying to push for a Confidence and Supply Agreement to ensure political stability, but the conditions include appointments to select committees and proper allocations for their MPs’ constituencies. Some Opposition MPs have also said there should be no snap elections.

It remains to be seen whether the government would want to accede to such demands.

The Dewan Rakyat will meet again in May and by then, it won’t be surprising if a general election needs to be called. For Sarawak, June is the deadline, and we all pray Covid-19 infections will at least be curtailed by then. And if we desperately need to call for polls, let’s find new ways of campaigning to ensure the rakyat’s safety.