Anwar should be opposition leader in Parliament

Malaysiakini

FRANCIS PAUL SIAH

COMMENT Anwar Ibrahim has the prime minister’s post snatched away from him right under his nose in February.

That was the unkindest cut, particularly when the move came about from betrayals by the PKR president’s own party members and coalition partners.

Even the worst Anwar detractor would be able to see the great injustice done not only to Anwar personally but also to the majority of Malaysians who swept Pakatan Harapan to power in May 2018.

The backdoor Perikatan Nasional (PN) government is still considered “illegal” in the eyes of many, no matter how one views it, and no matter how it has been “constitutionally” mandated according to the laws of the land.

Many are just counting the days for this precarious and “illegal” PN coalition to fall. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Meantime, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has his hands full today.

In Muhyiddin’s own words: “I took office besieged with challenging political, economic problems and the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic.”

I doubt anyone will envy the prime minister’s job today.

In all fairness to Muyhiddin, he has handled the pandemic crisis quite well – probably with an able helping hand in the person of the dynamic Health Ministry director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

I will not be a critic of the prime minister on the pandemic front although there were many teething problems involving the movement control order (MCO) and the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPEs) for our doctors, nurses and other frontliners. I consider those oversights forgivable.

What is unnerving is the prime minister’s actions on the political front, rewarding members of parliament with plum jobs in government-linked companies (GLCs) and making other political appointments.

While many Malaysians have lost their jobs, here we have a prime minister moving to appease his political allies by giving them a “second salary”.

Muhyiddin must be told that Malaysians find such appointments out of place at this desperate time and totally unacceptable.

I would want to see such issues debated in Parliament and certainly the RM261 billion stimulus package which was announced by the prime minister earlier in three stages.

Hence, I support the move by the Pakatan Harapan presidential council in calling for a full sitting of Parliament starting May 18 to deal with matters related to the economy and the rakyat’s welfare in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The May 18 sitting has been slated only for a day by the speaker.

I also agree that the standard operating procedures (SOPs) which were set by Parliament earlier can facilitate the sitting for at least two weeks.

This is seeing as economic sectors are being allowed to operate again in the fourth phase of the MCO, starting April 29.

Another issue yet to be decided is the appointment of the opposition leader in Parliament.

There is no doubt that Anwar should be the opposition leader. By convention, the position is held by the leader of the political party not in government that has the most seats in the House.

With DAP, Amanah and his own PKR lawmakers solidly behind him, Anwar could easily lay claim to being the leader with the most seats on the opposing side.

The role is also not new to Anwar as he has been the opposition leader in the past.

I do not expect any other candidate to be elected the opposition leader when the election for the post is held according to the rules of Parliament.

And no, not even Dr Mahathir Mohamad, with the utmost respect to him.

I would also expect DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng to be given the seat next to opposition leader Anwar on the left-hand side of the centre table, opposite the prime minister. The seat next to Lim should rightly be for Amanah president Mohamad Sabu.

That’s the little respect in the august House that the speaker or the minister in charge of Parliament should accord the honourable senior leaders of the opposition parties. It’s the dignity within the halls of Parliament that is rightfully theirs, and they deserve to be accorded such respect.

As opposition leader, Anwar is also entitled to the facilities of the office of the opposition leader in Parliament. I do not doubt that the office will be meaningfully utilised in the weeks and months, if not years, ahead by Anwar.

I am somewhat saddened that Mahathir did not propose Anwar to be the new opposition leader, even after the Langkawi MP had said that he would sit with the opposition in Parliament.

I will not speculate as to why Mahathir was not magnanimous enough to do so.

Whatever, Anwar should be the opposition leader in Parliament come May 18.

Surely, no one will snatch that post away from him too.

– Malaysiakini


FRANCIS PAUL SIAH heads the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS) and can be reached at sirsiah@gmail.com.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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