March 26, 2019.
Recollections & Reflections – A commentary
IN what is rarely seen in Malaysian politics, members of the Public Accounts Committee from both sides of the political divide recently showed a common ground regarding their disapproval of retaining its chairman, especially since it goes against what is spelt out in the May 2018 election manifesto of the Pakatan Harapan coalition.
Pakatan chairman and Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad first defended his decision not to replace Sabah’s Datuk Seri Ronald Kiandee as chairman to the point of saying the position is not institutionalised.
The problem is that Kiandee was appointed when he was an Umno member and thus an Opposition lawmaker and that fitted in with the Pakatan promise. But he and several others have abandoned ship to join Mahathir’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, which now makes him a government member. Retaining Kiandee would also mean that both the PAC chairman and deputy are from the government and that is another moot point for disapproval.
The first member of the committee to cause a storm was PKR’s Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar through her resignation late last week and on Monday, the three committee members from the Opposition also quit with immediate effect. The other members from Pakatan wrote to Mahathir to inform him of their disagreement with retaining Kiandee.
Mahathir must have found the backlash a bit too hot, just as hot as the Malaysian temperature these days, for him to then say that Kiandee will only remain in his chair while a replacement is being considered.
The objections by everyone involved is a breath of fresh air in a political environment dominated by subservience and deference, so much so that even politicians previously known to be vocal and uncompromising have turned into lawmakers who have learnt to become adept at boss management, expressing undivided support or agreement with whatever is said or done by those at the top.
It is this check and balance the protesting PAC lawmakers were insisting on that is missing elsewhere in the federal administration and this is not good from the perspective of good governance.
What the dissenting voices have also shown is that no one should treat unfulfilled promises and pledges in an election manifesto for granted, something to be swatted aside. Some have been conveniently blamed on the previous administration – the favourite two words of those in Pakatan since assuming federal power last May 10 – but some which do not involve finances should not be ignored willy-nilly. But at least there are still a few who care enough and hold on to the principle that a promise must be honoured.
Those Pakatan MPs who decided to write to Mahathir must also have known that the feelings on the ground against the failure to keep to the promises can be damaging to the ruling coalition, as seen from the by-election results in Cameron Highlands and Semenyih.
One man, PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, has been trying his utmost to limit the damage control from Nurul’s decision and especially following her interview with Singapore’s Straits Times in which she didn’t spare her thoughts on Mahathir and whatever her father has said in her defence, the press conference she gave at the Parliament lobby today showed that Nurul hasn’t moved an inch from her earlier position.
Anwar on damage control mode
Anwar also tried to downplay the seriousness of the issue to the point of being too rhetorical and even ambiguous.
The reality though is this: It doesn’t look like anyone in the party or the family is going to be able to stop Nurul from speaking her mind and making another bold decision. After all it was only in mid-December that she quit as PKR vice-president and chairperson of its Penang chapter following what was said to be the flaws she found in Pakatan.
She may not say it in so many words but in making public her disagreement with the way the country is being governed, she is also being critical of the leadership of her party and of the role of her mother, Datuk Seri Dr. Wan Azizah, who is deputy to Mahathir. And who is heading PKR? Her father Anwar.
In fact someone wrote in the comments section of one online news portal following her Singapore newspaper interview to ask why she had remained silent about the roles of her parents.
Another of Anwar’s attempt at damage control after what Nurul had said about Mahathir was to say that “the family supports Mahathir’s leadership”. Who he exactly means by that he’s not telling but surely Nurul Izzah is not one of them.
Nurul has pledged to serve out her term as an MP but if Anwar does take over from Mahathir as PM in a little over a year from now, any differences of opinions on fundamental issues during Anwar’s reign could present an entirely different challenge for father and daughter.