End political bickering now – hold vote of confidence soon

Tomorrow is Maal Hijrah – the beginning of the Islamic New Year.

The day marks the migration of Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina in the year 622AD. It signifies the freedom from suffering for Muslims living in Mecca then.

Tomorrow will also be about self-reflection.

The nation is knee-deep in political morass, exacerbated by the spiralling number of Covid-19 deaths that has claimed more than 10,000 lives, to date.

While much attention is naturally on the high number of Covid-19 cases in Malaysia, politicians also seem to be hogging the spotlight, as they battle to garner support ahead of Parliament’s opening next month.

Nevertheless, the government of the day – despite its wafer-thin majority and with at least two Umno leaders quitting the Cabinet – is still confident it has the numbers.

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, with his deputy Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob – who is also Umno vice president – had last week dismissed talk that the government had collapsed.

This was barely 24 hours after Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said his party had decided to withdraw support from Muhyiddin and Perikatan Nasional (PN) with immediate effect.

Opposition lawmakers continue to be vociferous in their insistence that PN is no more.

One common trait among the politicians, no matter which side of the aisle they stand on, is their insistence that they are righteous in their fight, that they were in line with the decree by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

They all seem to have different interpretations of what the King had said, though. Just like how they interpreted the powers of the Agong during the state of emergency, as provided for by the Federal Constitution.

The Yang di-Pertuan Agong had said, since February, that Parliament could reconvene. Instead, a special sitting of the Dewan Rakyat began on July 26 after the Agong’s third call for Parliament to open.

It, however, ended prematurely, due to the sudden onset of Covid-19 infections in the august House.

Since everyone claims to have the numbers, it’s best that a vote of confidence be held before MPs gathered in Parliament next month. The building would have been fully sanitised by now.

Pengerang MP Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said, in her Aug 6 “MPs held hostage” posting, gave a simple breakdown of what would happen if the vote of confidence were to be held on the first day of the new Parliament session on Sept 6.

“The Agong descends upon the Parliament and proceeds with the traditional Procession. The Agong delivers his royal address, which contains the government’s agenda for the year in the Chamber, with an audience of 220 MPs plus dignitaries … (followed by) motion for (a) vote of confidence.

“If the government fails to secure the vote of confidence, does that mean that the Agong will have to read a new royal address prepared by a new government? Sounds rather ridiculous, not to mention, a waste of time and resources,” she wrote.

A vote of confidence, if held soon, would end the political turmoil once and for all, and perhaps narrow the trust deficit between the people and the powers-that-be.

It must be noted that Muhyiddin’s government was not formed through the polls, but came about following the collapse of Pakatan Harapan, then led by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. From the outset, this was seen by the people as a travesty of the democratic process.

However, the pandemic diverted the attention of the people up until recently, no thanks to a series of decisions that have neither reduced the number of daily infections and deaths, nor helped the people put food on the table.

A vote of confidence, if held earlier, would also put an end to talk of horse trading, carrot dangling, back-channel negotiations, or alleged “threats” against those unwilling to “cooperate”.

Instead of September, let’s hold a special sitting next week or the following week and get the vote of confidence out of the way, once and for all.

Let’s start the new year with self-reflection, with renewed hope, and by ending all speculation.

Salam Maal Hijrah.