Mukhriz Mahathir has to step out of his father’s shadow

Malaysiakini

FRANCIS PAUL SIAH

COMMENT It has been said that “A son may outgrow a father’s lap, but never his heart.” Indeed, a father’s love is eternal.

For most of us growing up, dad would ensure that we have enough to keep us going, that we do well in our studies and have a decent circle of friends.

Later, in adulthood, he would let us roam free to choose our own career path and lead our lives as we think fit.

Surely, your dad did not choose a wife or husband for you, did he? Well, mine didn’t.

That’s that way it is for most ordinary families.

However, for the family of Dr Mahathir Mohamad, when dad has been the prime minister, things will surely take on a different dimension. There is the family name, legacy and honour to uphold.

Politically, that burden of the Mahathir family falls on the shoulders of Mukhriz, the third child of Mahathir and Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali.

Mukhriz is probably considered the scion of the family as he is the only Mahathir child to be active in politics and a well-known public figure.

I believe it is not wrong to assume that Mahathir paved the way for Mukhriz’s entry into the political arena because the father probably knows which of his children has what it takes to be in the rough and tumble of politics.

Neither is it way off to suggest that the Mahathir name has helped Mukhriz’s ascension up the political ladder.

Following his maiden electoral outing in the 2008 general election, Mukhriz was appointed by then prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as a deputy minister.

In 2013, he became the menteri besar of Kedah, after BN reclaimed the state from PAS. This time, his appointment was made by then prime minister Najib Abdul Razak.

It is true when Mahathir had said he had never encouraged any of his children to be in politics when he was prime minister (from 1981-2003). Only after he left office, did Mukhriz contest for a parliamentary seat.

It is unfortunate, however, that Mukhriz has never been able to step out of his father’s shadow ever since. At least, that is the general public consensus.

It isn’t Mukhriz’s fault. When your father is such a dominant political figure, that’s a mountain to climb.

Still, a son should not be dependent on his family name, nor his father’s protective nature to ascend the political ladder or to move on generally in life.

Speculation about Mahathir’s ambition for Mukhriz

At 55 today and having been in active politics for more than a decade, Mukhriz has to step out of his father’s shadow and fight his own political battles. Dad will not be around forever.

When we hear speculation about Mahathir’s ambition for Mukhriz to be prime minister one day, some of us would shake our heads, either in disagreement or disbelief.

Why must a father set such a lofty goal for his son? Is his son up to the job and capable enough to be prime minister? Heck, what’s the big deal about being prime minister anyway?

Pak Lah did not have a father to push him up to be prime minister. Neither did Muhyiddin Yassin or Najib. All came up through their own steam and their own merit.

(Aaha, even becoming PM via the backdoor is also getting the coveted job via your own steam.)

No previous prime minister, too, has ever attempted to fight for his son to be PM as Mahathir is perceived to be doing. Maybe, it’s because they did not live long enough.

But Pak Lah (above) is still around. I’m not sure whether any of his children are active in politics.

Abdul Razak Hussein passed on when Najib was only 22. Yet, Najib rose to become PM.

Neither did we ever hear of Hussein Onn attempting to push his son, Hishammuddin Hussein, up the political ladder. And Hishammuddin, too, isn’t doing too badly in his political career today.

As for our revered “Bapa Malaysia”, none of Tunku Abdul Rahman’s children are ever known to have a political career.

It’s time for Mukhriz to be his own man, fight his political battles his own way and prove himself as a national leader.

Mukhriz has to dismantle the “Daddy’s boy” image, the sooner the better. It isn’t helping his political career nor stature as a scion of the Mahathir family.

Daddy must also realise that it is not in his son’s interest to be involved in the child’s political affairs all the way. Time for dad to step back. It’s good enough to keep a father’s love in your heart.

I say forget Kedah, Mukhriz. Move up and take on Putrajaya. May the force be with you.

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.

Posted in MoCS (Sarawak)

If Azmin Ali is PM, game over for Malaysia!

Malaysiakini

FRANCIS PAUL SIAH

COMMENT Has Azmin Ali been unfairly vilified by the media? His acolytes and supporters would think so. But the majority of Malaysians know better.

No, I don’t think the media has crucified him. Even if some journalists loathe the sight of Azmin, for whatever reason, they do not have to write or say anything negative about the senior minister.

His fellow politicians are already doing the talking, and in my opinion, were right to size up Azmin, pitting him as the most untrustworthy and dishonorable politician in the country today.

Anwar Ibrahim called him “arrogant”. Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow called him “lazy”.

On May 4, Umno leaders Khaled Nordin and Abdul Rahman Dahlan ticked off Azmin over his failure to discuss with states before deciding to restart the economy through the conditional movement control order (MCO).

They claimed this was something “embarrassing” as it portrayed a weakness in leadership.

That is indirectly calling Azmin “weak”.

Then, DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang described Azmin’s explanation that his warning to the states to abide by the federal ruling on the CMCO as a reminder and not a threat as “pathetic”.

I understand that as Lim calling the senior minister “pathetic”.

The DAP supremo is correct. I also think that Azmin is a miserably inadequate minister. A lousy administrator but undoubtedly, one who excels in politics, politicking in particular.

So, we have now heard four negative connotations of Azmin – arrogant, lazy, weak and pathetic.

These senior politicians have aptly and rightly told Azmin off on behalf of many who now seriously doubt the minister’s integrity and credibility as a national leader.

A lazy, weak and pathetic man, let alone an ambitious politician who does not hide his desire to hold the highest office of the land, has no business being arrogant. 

Humility in politics is often seen as a sign of weakness but our politicians, by and large, have never learnt to defuse political arrogance.

Azmin falls in that category.

Being politically ambitious is not necessarily a negative trait. But once the politically intoxicated indulges in betrayal, backstabbing and conniving with the enemy, that is cheap, unscrupulous and despicable treachery.   

Azmin falls in that category as well.

To those watching Azmin’s moves closely throughout his political career, he has been seen to be most adept at getting what he wants for his personal benefit at all costs.

That Azmin was the prime mover in the Sheraton putsch in February was no surprise. This man would even betray the people’s GE14 mandate as long as his political ambition is on track.

Remember the Kajang Move in 2014. Azmin had no qualms about betraying his own party president then, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, in order to be the Selangor menteri besar.

Suddenly, we also witnessed the involvement of royalty in Selangor politics with a decree forbidding a woman to be MB.

It’s strange how royalty works here. Wan Azizah could not be the menteri besar of a state but she could be the prime minister of the country as the premiership was first offered to her by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (then Sultan Muhammad V of Kelantan) on May 9, 2018 after Pakatan Harapan’s historic victory.

I will not dwell on the sensitive royalty subject here but Malaysians are the best judge on this matter.

In my article on Sept 4 last year, I had cautioned Anwar that “I find his (Anwar’s) tolerance level of Azmin, Zuraida Kamaruddin and their camp both incredible and disappointing. 

“Incredible because the party president is giving too much leeway despite the zero efforts to reconcile by the other side.

“Disappointing because Anwar is wasting too much time pandering to the dictates of his deputy’s group”.

With the Azmin gang now out of the equation, PKR should set its sights on strengthening the party and be prepared to face more tumultuous challenges ahead.  

I don’t think Azmin will have it easy from now on. That he was quick to assume he is the second-in-command to Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has already ruffled feathers with his uneasy partner, Umno, in Perikatan Nasional.

Umno people were actually shocked that Azmin has quietly moved into the deputy prime minister’s official residence and has occupied the DPM’s office.

Officially, Muhyiddin has not chosen a deputy but appointed four cabinet members as senior ministers. The PM has also declared that the four are of equal rank.

Azmin’s impatience to be prime minister was clearly manifested by his careless action to occupy the DPM’s residence and office which were not due to him.

If Azmin continues with his well-documented penchant for the good life with expensive family holidays and lavish weddings for his children, he will be hammering another nail into his political casket.

Already, people are talking that the man is now fighting for his own “reformasi”, not the reformasi movement initiated by Anwar in 1998.

Mengejutkan! rakan homoseks Azmin adalah Haziq SUSK Timbalan Menteri?

And who could forget the gay sex video Azmin was alleged to be involved in. Whatever the official take might be, I think I believe that Haziq Abdul Aziz knew who his partner was that fateful night in the Sandakan hotel.

Haziq knows. You know, I know. Anwar knows. Umno’s Lokman Adam also knows. Only Azmin does not know. Or pretend not to know. Talk about lying through one’s teeth! 

Seriously, if I were still in active politics today, I would not touch Azmin with a 10-foot pole. I wouldn’t want to be involved with him in any way. You will never see it coming – that dagger behind your back.

Finally, let me share my greatest fear of all on this man with fellow Malaysians: If Azmin Ali is prime minister, it’s game over for Malaysia!

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

Posted in MoCS (Sarawak)

Asia Watch: They said it

Francis Paul Siah: Outlier voice in Malaysia

March 4, 2020 | Michael Shannon

Reflexive hostility towards Israel and sympathy for the Palestinians has been institutionalised into the foreign policies of Malaysia and, in a different way, Indonesia for several decades. Whenever the Israeli-Palestinian issue flares into the international arena, one can expect pro forma official statements of condemnation/support along with the odd tirade from a zealot. Then there is the occasional outlier or voice of reason.

There was a certain predictability in the response to the release of the Trump Administration’s peace plan for the Middle East.

In Malaysia, condemnation of the plan and reaffirmed support for the Palestinians was almost unanimous. 

Taking the lead, naturally, was [then] Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed, describing the plan as “utterly unacceptable” and “grossly unjust” to the Palestinians. 

“This deal will only bring more conflict to the region, and will antagonise billions of people around the world,” Mahathir said in Kuala Lumpur at the third conference of the League of Parliamentarians for Al-Quds, which was attended by senior Malaysian politicians as well as parliamentarians from Muslim and African countries. 

Dr. Mahathir added that keeping quiet over the Israeli “massacres” of the Palestinians is like being complicit in the crime. “If we, too, choose to be silent, the blood from the murders and killings of the Palestinians by the Israelis is on our hands as well.”

Similar sentiments came from his notional ally Anwar Ibrahim, who told the conference that the Trump peace plan “confers and supports the dispossession of people’s land, robbing people’s land.” 

Anwar also criticised fellow Muslim countries for supposedly allowing Israel to defy United Nations resolutions pertaining to the Palestine-Israeli conflict. “Muslim countries and developing countries must answer why we are complicit, abdicating our moral responsibilities (in seeking justice for Palestinians),” he said.

Deputy PM Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Anwar’s wife, told the Al-Quds conference, “While Malaysia remains supportive to any genuine effort made by any party aimed at achieving just and comprehensive peace to the Palestine-Israel conflict, Malaysia stands by its position that the creation of an independent State of Palestine is by way of a two-State solution and be based on pre-1967 borders.”

Nothing particularly surprising about the previous comments, but there was not complete unanimity. 

A comment piece in the Malaysian Chronicle by Francis Paul Siah, who heads the Movement for Change, Sarawak, asked why should any Malaysian take sides in Israeli-Palestinian issues when they do not impact life in Malaysia. “If it is only because we share the same religion and believe in the same God as one of the warring parties, that reason sounds pretty shallow to me,” he said.

“I wish to proclaim here that my prime minister, Mahathir, does not speak for me, a Malaysian, in his never-ending tirades against Israel… When others say that Mahathir has a personal vendetta against the Jews, I believe they were not wrong… We, Malaysians, must surely be aware that there is nothing in our Rukun Negara or constitution, declaring that all Malaysians must consider Israel as their common enemy. I am still at a loss today as to why Malaysians are barred from visiting Israel.”

In neighbouring Indonesia, reaction to the Trump peace plan was muted, and the language measured and formal. 

Concerned that the peace plan did not adhere to “internationally agreed parameters”, a Foreign Ministry statement to the Jakarta Post said, “The issue of Palestine shall be resolved based on the principles of the ‘two-state solution’ that respects international law.

“Indonesia once again encourages the resumption of dialogues among relevant parties to achieve stability and lasting peace,” the ministry said.

Interestingly, a January article in the Jakarta Globe by Ari Aprianto, a diplomat in the Foreign Ministry, argued (in a personal capacity) that Indonesia should look at other means of supporting the Palestinians and promoting peace, chiefly through facilitating “grassroots dialogues” between ordinary Israelis and Palestinians. 

Acknowledging the “tricky” problem of Indonesia having no diplomatic relationship with Israel, Aprianto suggested that programs could be run through networks of non-state actors: 

“The trickiest part would be managing the sentiments of certain elements of the Indonesian society since the program will likely include the visits of Israeli citizens to Indonesia…

“It is high time to educate the Indonesian public about the realities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While Israeli occupation and violence toward Palestinian people is a fact, there is also the fact that there are people from both sides who seek peace.

“It is also high time for many Indonesians to learn that a lot of their sentiments about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may no longer be valid. Islam is not the only religion in Palestine. The Middle East and the Arab world is changing.”

– AIJAC – Australia/Israel Jewish Affairs Council

Posted in MoCS (Sarawak)

Banks must be quick to act on scam tip-offs

Malaysiakini

FRANCIS PAUL SIAH

COMMENT About 10 days ago, I received an appeal for help from a foreign student via WhatsApp. He told me he was from a neighbouring country and has been studying in Malaysia for the past two years.

He said he was stranded in his apartment and was running out of cash and food, adding that he was surviving only on bread and water.

As my mobile number is listed in my NGO blog, it is easy to contact me. This is also the purpose as I am also involved in social and voluntary work.

I didn’t think much of the student’s request, as I thought it was one of those who needed food aid to tie them over the movement control order (MCO). I took note of the city he was in – Kota Kinabalu.

After I wrote about the scourges of urban poverty here, I have received several requests for assistance, either for cash contribution or food aid. 

In most cases, I forward their requests to the elected representatives in their respective constituencies.

I am glad to report that all were quick to respond, including a Sarawak minister who got back to me within 30 minutes upon receiving my message. All of them have the noble intention to reach out to others in this desperate time of need. I salute them. Well done.

In the student’s case, I told him that I could get a friend in Kota Kinabalu to send him some food immediately.

When I asked for his residential address, he declined to give it to me, giving the excuse that food delivery was prohibited in his apartment.

That was the first red flag. Why would a hungry student not welcome food being delivered to his home, and for free?

The second red flag was when he appealed for a cash donation to be banked into a Maybank account which he gave me. (This account is bona fide, a check with Maybank later revealed.)

And the so-called student finally gave himself away when an initial appeal for food turned into a cash request of quite an exorbitant amount. Anyone could smell a rat from afar by now. This was clearly a con job.

On May 1, I called the fraud department of Maybank to report the case.

This was a public tip-off about a possible scam job using a Maybank account.

The young man at the other end of the line told me that “we cannot do anything until you lodge a police report”.

He explained it was the bank’s SOP, even after I gave him the account number in question. I have the staff’s first name. I also gave him my name and contact number.

I understand SOPs but in this case, why should I be the one having to do the leg work – lodge a police report and then go to the Maybank branch to inform the bank – for the second time – about the fraudulent use of an account with the bank.

Over the past few days, I also had a bout of gastritis and was in no mood to run around.

But he insisted I have to lodge a police report first. Realising I was getting nowhere with the young staffer, I asked to speak to his supervisor or any of his seniors.

He called me back to tell me that the account indeed has been utilised to receive donations but repeated that “we cannot block the account until a police report has been lodged”.

So, Maybank expects anyone tipping off the bank about possible scams involving the bank’s accounts to run around for them?

I don’t think that such SOPs of banks and financial institutions are helpful in solving the many fraud and scam jobs that we have been hearing of regularly.

The first thing I would expect them to do, upon receiving a bona fide tip-off, is to launch a probe immediately and to keep a close eye on the account transactions.

The bank should also notify the police so that the owner of the account could be located and duly investigated.

On May 3, I called the bank again to follow up on my tip-off 48 hours earlier.

This time, a young lady answered and she told me the same thing – lodge a police report first. I also have her first name.

At my age, I try to be patient with young people, hoping to tell them to take more initiatives in their work other than to blindly follow SOPs.

I attempted this posture with her: Assuming I witness a robbery in a Maybank branch and I call you. Would you tell me to lodge a police report first about the robbery before you could take action? Would you not spring into action immediately?

The message I was trying to covey was the same as two days earlier. If the bank just sits on my tip-off, the account in question could have been used to scam more gullible, innocent, kind-hearted souls over the past 48 hours.

Then, I enquired whether there was a record of my report on May 1 and her reply was that she did not know but have to check with her colleague who spoke to me on May 1. Clearly, my tip-off was not in the fraud department’s system.

I have no intention to complain about these two young staff of Maybank. They are only doing their job and I do realise that entertaining a persistent person like me, bombarding them with multiple questions, is not easy.

My questions are for the management of banks and financial institutions.

Are they interested at all in receiving tip-offs from the public about possible scams and fraud cases? If not, just let us know.

Do not make things difficult for us and put us off with outdated SOPs. We are only trying to help nab conmen and scammers and bring them to justice.

Is the bank’s nonchalant and indifferent attitude one of the reasons why Malaysians have been easily scammed of more than RM5 million on the sale of face masks over this MCO period?

I would think so. Add in the many gullible Malaysians and being a conman could well be quite a lucrative profession in this country.

By the way, this is the Maybank’s number at its Kuala Lumpur headquarters that I’ve called – 03-58914744.

If the bank needs further clarification from me, your two staffers have my contact number.

I hope the bank will respond.

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.

Posted in MoCS (Sarawak)

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.

Posted in MoCS (Sarawak)

Abang Jo was right to keep Rohingyas out of Sarawak

Malaysiakini

FRANCIS PAUL SIAH

COMMENT On the Rohingya issue, I have to give credit to my Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg. He had made the right call.

In 2017, when Malaysia started to accept Rohingya refugees, Abang Jo shut Sarawak’s doors on them, declaring that the state would not provide temporary sojourn for Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar.

This came about after Sarawak Education and Science Minister Michael Manyin stated that he would oppose any attempts to bring the Rohingya refugees to Sarawak, especially into the Serian and Bau districts.

Manyin was commenting to a report that a certain number of Rohingya would be housed in his hometown of Serian.

He had declared then: “Sarawak will never welcome the Rohingya refugees to our shores”.

That was three years ago.

Yesterday, I checked with a Sarawak minister (not Manyin) as to whether the “No Rohingyas in Sarawak” policy was still in place. I received a reply in the affirmative.

With what has been going on with the Rohingya community in Selayang over the past few days, am I glad that Sarawak is spared of such problems and distractions? Especially at this desperate and challenging time of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sarawak has enough to deal with. We can certainly do with one less burden. On this, at least for once, I have to say that Abang Jo was perhaps ahead of his time. Refugees are an additional problem Sarawak can do without.

I am also glad to be able to verify that the chief minister’s “No to Rohingya refugees” policy of 2017 is still in place today.

In an on-going Immigration Research on Sarawak undertaken by the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS), the NGO which I head, we have also found no trace of Rohingyas in the state. At least, from Lundu to Saratok, so far. We don’t expect to find them in the other districts we have yet to cover.

However, other foreigners, especially Pakistanis are in Sarawak. Although they are not refugees, their presence in such large numbers has been unnerving to a cross-section of Sarawakians. But that will be my query to the chief minister at another time.

The videos, audios and photos circulating through social media about the happenings in Selayang do paint a very negative picture of the Rohingya community. I hope it will not turn out to be a security threat that will become an additional burden we can do without at this time.

If guests in the country have the audacity to call a part of the city as their own territory and out of bounds to others, including citizens of the nation, then something is seriously wrong somewhere.

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The Rohingya refugees must have forgotten that they are only in Malaysia on a temporary sojourn; we accepted them on humanitarian grounds under the auspices of UNHCR.

Refugees are directly under the care of UNHCR and the UN body is supposed to take care of their needs. I believe the government helps out too, out of compassion.

At the very least, housing is provided for them and many are allowed to work legally.

As of May 2018, there are some 157,580 refugees and asylum seekers registered with the UNHCR in Malaysia. Of the figure, 72,490 or 46 percent are Rohingya refugees.

Malaysia is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugees Convention or the 1967 Protocol. It lacks legal or administrative framework regulating the rights and status of refugees in Malaysia.

That Rohingya refugees have turned so gung-ho here has invoked fears among Malaysians that they could have been used as political pawns by certain quarters. I hope such concerns are unfounded because it is not right to “use” non-citizens for political purposes.

As a Sarawakian, I am glad there are no Rohingya refugees in Sarawak not because I lack compassion for my fellow human beings.

It is because our hands are full. The same is true for the whole nation. Everyone needs help and all at the same time. There is only as much as one could do to lend a helping hand.

Truth be told, Sarawak has many “refugees” at home too – the poor, hungry, sick and destitute. And they are right in the heart of Kuching, our capital city.

Here’s a little example.

Two cousins of mine in Kuching are running a soup kitchen in MJC, Batu Kawa, six days a week from Monday to Saturday. They could only manage to distribute 40 packs a day.

It’s sad to learn that when they started registering those who needed help, more than 100 turned up in a single day.

Then, my good cousins also help out regularly to repair the dilapidated slum dwellings of some poor families in Kuching, the latest one of which is at Kampung Kudei in Nanas Road West.

This is the home of a woman who has to undergo dialysis three times a week. She has two young kids at home.

My family members are publicity-shy and I do not have their permission to write about their deeds. So, no names will be mentioned.

Many generous Sarawakians are also helping out their neighbours who are in need. But there is as much as individuals and NGOs can do. We need the political will to attain maximum results.

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My point is that we have to do what we need to do for our fellow Sarawakians first. Surely, that is not out of line.

I agree with Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob when he said that Malaysia cannot take care of the needs of foreign workers in the country. They have to seek help from their respective embassies.

Yes, Ismail Sabri, let’s take care of our home front first and yes, Abang Jo was right to give priority to Sarawakians and say “no” to Rohingya refugees.

Dear Abang Jo, please continue to keep all refugees out of Sarawak. We have enough “refugees” to take care of at home.

– 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.

Posted in MoCS (Sarawak)

Does Muhyiddin have a parliamentary majority?

Malaysiakini

WONG CHIN HUAT

COMMENT In theory, yes, but Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is acting as if he does not command a majority. 

His behaviour is like a delinquent student who fears the discipline master and wants the morning assembly to be over in five minutes.

That is why our Parliament will be convened for only one day on May 18

A 10-week pushback from the original date (March 9), the May 18 seating has to happen for one reason. If not reconvened, the Parliament will stand dissolved by June 5, six months from Dec 5, 2019 when it was last in session.

That’s the constitutional mechanism in Article 55 (1) – to make sure the government cannot be unaccountable to the Parliament for more than six months.

A Westminster Parliament in long recess cannot exercise its four functions: 1) retaining or firing the prime minister (as the electoral college), 2) scrutinising government, 3) making or approving laws, and 4) approving budgets (called “supply bill”, technically a type of law).

On May 18, only government bills and motions are scheduled, with no further details on Parliament’s official website till now. 

Neither questions nor motions are allowed. Of course, no debate and voting on Muhyiddin’s Covid-19 stimulus package – announced in three stages on March 16, March 27 and April 6 and totalling RM261 billion, which is what any honourable government would proudly do. 

To prevent any motion of no-confidence to be mooted, parliamentarians are deprived of their right to question ministers.

Since a budget rejected is equivalent to a motion of no-confidence passed, parliamentarians are further deprived of their right to “be prihatin” (care) and vote on Muhyiddin’s Prihatin budget.

In short, Muhyiddin disables two functions – scrutinising government and approving budget – of the Parliament to prevent its most important one – retaining or firing the prime minister.

Counting Muhyiddin’s changing number

Muhyiddin should have confidence of his own survival because, in theory, he should have 113 out of 222 votes, based on his administrative lineup.

It is important to note that parliamentary democracy does not necessitate a majority government. A minority government can survive as long as it can get the support of enough opposition members on a “confidence and supply” basis, namely to defeat a vote of no-confidence, to carry a vote of confidence or to pass a budget (supply bill).

A government’s members cover both frontbenchers (ministers and deputy ministers) and backbenchers. In the UK, government backbenchers can and often vote against their own government, without switching sides. 

With majority governments, backbench revolt becomes a key device of check and balance. 

In contrast, ministers and deputy ministers must always vote with the government, because of collective responsibility. Because they are on the government’s payroll, they are also called payroll votes.

Ministers and deputy ministers normally join the government as party representatives. However, occasionally, some frontbenchers may be independents without party or act without party affiliation. 

On March 9, Muhyiddin announced a 70-member frontbench including six senators. The remaining 64 parliamentarians come from four main blocs and three one-MP parties – BN with 42 (of which 39 from Umno); Muhyiddin’s Bersatu with 31; PAS (18), GPS (18); PBS (1), PBRS (1) and Star (1).

Adding up these numbers, Muhyiddin would have secured a 112-vote majority in the 222-member House. Two more, Bukit Gantang MP (ex-Umno independent) and Sri Aman MP (PSB) voiced their support for Muhyiddin on March 1 but the latter’s party soon announced a U-turn

Adding Bukit Gantang MP on a “confidence and supply” basis, Muhyiddin has a 113 majority in Dewan Rakyat.

On March 12, Umno-vice president Mohamed Khaled Nordin declared on Facebook the position of Umno’s supreme council: Perikatan Nasional (PN) is a coalition of parliamentarians, not of parties. In other words, Umno is not part of PN, only 16 ministers and deputy ministers are.

This reduces Muhyiddin’s government members to 89, namely 73 from the parties and 16 independent frontbenchers from Umno.

If Umno’s remaining 23 parliamentarians will support Muhyiddin on a confidence and supply basis alongside Bukit Gantang MP, then Muhyiddin still commands a 113 majority to survive any ouster attempt. But Umno does not even promise that.

Now everyone is a payroll vote?

Why does Umno pull Muhyiddin’s leg? As in the ousted Pakatan Harapan government, Bersatu grabs a chunk of payroll votes much larger than its seat share warrant. Only five of 31 Bersatu MPs are backbenchers (including Ahmad Faizal Azumul who is already Perak menteri besar), as compared to 23 out of 39 from Umno. (Table 1)

But Umno was not the only party eyeing for ministerial posts. Tiong King Sing, president of PDP believed he was too senior to be the deputy minister for National Unity. 

On April 20, his self-appreciation was rewarded with a ministerial job – as Muhyiddin’s special envoy to China

Earlier on April 2, PAS president Hadi Awang was made the first minister-rank special envoy to the Middle East

Hence, Muhyiddin’s administration is expanded to 71, with one less deputy minister, but two more ministers who are paid RM39,900 in salary and allowance monthly.

When three out of five PN parliamentarians are either a minister, deputy minister, deputy speaker or menteri besar, how do you convince the remaining 45 that they are not losers?

In a country with no convention of backbench revolts but only a tradition of party-hopping, the meaning of payroll vote naturally has to be stretched.

If only there are indeed 500 countries in the world, perhaps Muhyiddin can easily appoint 45 more special envoys.

Unfortunately, since Malaysia has only 108 foreign missions, the “payrolls” have to come from some government agencies and government-linked companies (GLCs).

To be fair, Harapan too appointed politicians to head government agencies and GLCs. However, many appointments – especially by Bersatu and Amanah – are for non-MPs including lost candidates like Husam Musa (Kada), Wan Saiful Wan Jan (PTPTN) and Nik Omar Nik Abdul Aziz (Yadim). 

From my google search, only 12 PH backbenchers were ever appointed to lead a government agency or GLC, or 15 percent out of 82 PH parliamentarians who were neither a federal/state frontbencher nor a deputy speaker.

They were Mustapa Mohamed (Teraju), Nurul Izzah Anwar (Tvet), Tan Kok Wai (MCBC), Charles Santiago (Span), Steven Choong (Span), Wong Kah Foh (Seda), Wong Tak (MTIB), Chan Foong Hin (LPA), Hasanuddin Mohd Yunus (Hospital Pusrawi) , Rozman Isli (LCAC), Larry Sng (MPB) and Alice Lau (Niosh) .

Announced on April 12 by – aptly – the minister in charge of parliamentary affairs, Takiyuddin Hassan (below), the PN government would take the expansion of payroll votes to unrivalled height: every government backbencher would be on some GLC’s or government agency’s payroll

Since PN has only 45 backbenchers who have yet to get their second salary or allowance, the 100 percent payroll KPI is certainly achievable.

So far, three MPs have got their second job – two from PAS and one from Umno.

As reported by Harian Metro on April 12, nine more appointments are speculated for government backbenchers – six for Umno, and one each for Bersatu, PAS and GPS-PBB.

Two non-MPs are also speculated to get plum jobs: Umno deputy president Mohamad Hassan (TNB) and Bersatu Sabah chief Hajiji Noor (Tabung Haji).

If the speculation comes true, the remaining 33 PN backbenchers – 16 from Umno, eight from GPS, six from PAS and three from Bersatu – would really look like the losers.

However, since Muhyiddin fears anyone of them voting against him, he will not leave any PN backbencher behind. Sooner or later, everyone will get a second salary.

Since the money comes from you as a taxpayer, perhaps you want to keep a record of whom ‘you’ have or will employ. (Table 2)

By the way, are you thinking what I am thinking? Which GLC will Muhyiddin let P085 Pekan and P075 Bagan Datoh manage now that the US has returned RM1.3 billion of 1MDB money to Malaysia?


  • Malaysiakini
  • WONG CHIN HUAT is an electoral system expert at Jeffrey Sachs Centre on Sustainable Development, Sunway University. He also leads the clusters on electoral systems and constituency delimitation as part of the government’s Electoral Reform Committee (ERC).

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

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