Politics and Policy: The all-important meeting of Feb 21

This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on February 17, 2020 - February 23, 2020.

Photo by Sam Fong/The Edge

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WAS Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim trying to commit the prime minister to a transition date when he issued a media statement about his meeting with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad on Feb 13?

A top editor of a local newspaper thought so. But a political observer describes it as “a fair statement representing what transpired between the PM and him”.  Another sees the statement as being “in keeping with the Pakatan Harapan agreement on the transition”.

However, the observer thinks Anwar was trying to pre-empt those behind the statutory declarations (SDs) in support of Mahathir and prevent them from forming a backdoor government. This confirms that the news of SDs being collected from federal lawmakers in support of Mahathir remaining as prime minister, at least until the end of his term, is real. Even Anwar said so in his media statement. He called it a plot involving PAS, a group from Umno and a small number from PKR, the party he leads. The political observer adds a few from Bersatu to that list.

Incidentally, when the news about the SDs broke, Anwar had said he was in the dark about it while PKR vice-president Zuraida Kamaruddin denied the report outright. Zuraida, need I say, is a staunch supporter of Anwar’s estranged deputy Datuk Seri Azmin Ali and she is adamant that she is not involved and has never signed any SD.

Earlier, sacked Umno supreme council member Datuk Lokman Adam, in one of the many video presentations he has posted on social media platforms, had alleged that Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had collected SDs from his party MPs in support of Mahathir.

Although Mahathir had told Anwar during their meeting that he was not involved in the SD campaign, according to the observer, there will be no end to the machinations from all sides within and outside PH, especially Muafakat Nasional, the Umno-PAS alliance.

“The axis — Ketuanan Melayu, No DAP in the government, No Anwar as PM8 — forms this unholy alliance of convenience’s agenda in the name of agama, bangsa dan negara. Never mind betraying the trust and choice of the rakyat in GE14,” says the observer.

The so-called plotters would want everyone to believe they have the backing of Mahathir — despite the prime minister having said openly that “I did not invite anyone to form a new government under the Pakatan Nasional banner”. His openness in meeting opposition leaders, Mahathir said, had been misinterpreted by some.

If I may ask, could it be that some of those who had taken Mahathir’s kind gesture wrongly are opposition leaders themselves?

Nonetheless, as far as the collection of SDs is concerned, the political observer says those involved seem to have “some sort of a black ops team working ferociously on this, instead of building economic resiliency in the wake of the poor fourth-quarter 2019 gross domestic product growth and impending lower growth in 1Q2020 due to the COVID-19 epidemic and similar reasons for the poor growth in 4Q2019”.

“This unholy alliance is working overnight to betray the trust of the people. This is surely the Betrayal of the Century for all Malaysians,” says the observer.

However, as Anwar says in his statement, Feb 21 has been fixed for the PH presidential council to meet and discuss the transition.

The second political observer puts it this way, “There is a need to make the transition date more definite as PH approaches the halfway mark of its rule, more so because of the political manoeuvrings by PAS and factions of Umno and PKR.”

Indeed, despite their repeated denials, there have been clear attempts by PAS and factions of Umno and PKR to force political realignments that favour them.

And as much as Mahathir has said he will stick to his pledge to pass the baton to Anwar, rumours of a backdoor government with Mahathir at the helm have persisted due to the absence of a definite date for the handover.

PAS’ so-called vote of confidence will become moot if Mahathir and Bersatu give their unequivocal support to the transition and the date agreed upon by the PH presidential council.

The observer concurs that only by doing this can PH expose the folly of those trying to set Mahathir against the very coalition that was voted in by the rakyat — just because of their dislike for Anwar.

“By openly saying he is agreeable to Mahathir staying on until the Apec summit, Anwar is showing he is not only a team player but also agreeable to Mahathir’s timetable for the handover, although it means less time for him to prepare PH for the next general election,” says the observer.

The first political observer says a decision by the PH presidential council meeting would be aimed at stopping all this unholy manoeuvring as, once a date is agreed upon, perhaps a transition team can be formed at a later date.

Malaysia will host the Apec summit in November. Hence, the observer says, “The agreed transition time is after Apec, so it should be December 2020 for the handover.”

We will have to wait for December. But until then, it is not beyond the plotters to continue plotting despite Mahathir’s latest remarks that some people want him to be PM for 22 years and that he will be 95 years old in a few months, hence “mana boleh tahan”.

Besides, he has reiterated that he will hand over power after Apec in November.

But a firm, clear decision by the PH presidential council on Feb 21 will put an end to all political ploys as far as the transition is concerned.

 

Mohsin Abdullah is contributing editor at The Edge. He has covered politics for over four decades.

 

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