3 March 2020
A Pyrrhic Victory for TSMY and Malaysia (Part II)
From UMNO’s standpoint, this is a miraculous rescue from a state of gradual paralysis and implosion brought by the sudden loss of power in 2018. Fractured by the loss, their prominent leaders, men and women facing a battery of charges, yet holding the reins of power, UMNO has not quite reinvented itself nor extricate honourably from the political ruins (normally achieved by removing these culprits and replacing them with new and fresh blood). UMNO is still saddled with them two years post GE14.
So this fresh opportunity at power and a chance to redeem their battered image is unlikely to lead to any major changes except to maintain the status quo. It is business as usual. We do not expect to see a rejuvenated and cleaner UMNO faction to emerge in this coalition rather the same actors albeit dressed in new and fresh clothes.
They may be back with a vengeance upon the PH coalition (or what is left of them) for causing their unexpected defeat. Expect DSAI to face another round of sodomy allegations, charges of corruption against ex-UMNO politicians still remaining in the opposition and perhaps a tightening of freedom of press, which they utilized to the maximum during the last 22 months to denigrate the PH government and belittle their achievements.
Of PAS, nothing great can be expected of their contribution in the new coalition except to sanctify and justify the actions of the new government especially to the Malay-Muslim population. A chance at sharing power at federal level is akin to manna falling from the sky and one has to be judicious and careful to preserve this unexpected opportunity after a hiatus of 43 years lest it slips away like in 1977 when they were unceremoniously kicked out of BN.
Indeed such was his eagerness to be part and parcel of the new government, Ustaz Hadi Awang was asked by the press whether he thought UMNO leaders with criminal charges should be part of the new government. Ever the astute politician, he replied that the main focus of the new government should be to save the economy and that Pakatan Harapan leaders also had their charges dropped. So by implication he is hinting that “if you could do it so can we” and if Pakatan leaders had their charges dropped, then so could UMNO leaders of the Perikatan Nasional (PN).
An ominous sign that PAS for so long the self-proclaimed champions of amar ma’aruf and nahi mungkar (Islamic teachings of enjoining good and forbidding evil) will tolerate thieves and robbers to populate the new cabinet in the interest of political expediency. This does not bode well for the reputation and integrity of the new government if the religious wing is prepared to turn a blind eye to corruption.
TSMY has to prove his new cabinet is whiter than white for him to win over the many detractors and doubters in this country but this is not the sort of beginnings he may have wished. PAS should take over the mantle of pushing for genuine social, political and economic reforms and move towards a civil society and bring NGOs into this struggle but true to form, it is adapting a pragmatic “if you can’t beat them, join them”.
Another big challenge for PAS would be to come up with national figures of the same caliber as Mat Sabu, Khalid Samad, Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad (undoubtedly by consensus the best performing Health Minister thus far), Salehudin Ayob and to demonstrate their competency when given cabinet posts. Had these same characters not been forced to leave PAS, they would serve a good role model of PAS Islamist leaders within a multi-cultural society. But their departure has left PAS with a dearth of such talents but a surfeit of religious leaders who can vie for the post of Religious Minister and little else.
So Ustaz Hadi has his work cut out to propose names for the future government in which PAS is expected to play a major part. As part of the government and no longer the opposition, it stands to reason to expect a more mellowed approach by PAS in dealing with the Non-Malay and Non-Muslim population especially with their call for the introduction of hudud etc. In opposition, you can say anything you like but as a member of the government, you must act more responsibly. This they must manage at the risk of being labeled as betrayers of the Islamic struggle by their erstwhile supporters.
The challenges faced by the new PM8 and his cabinet are as follows:
1. Tackling the economy with limited room to maneuver due to unstable geo-politics and the looming coronavirus19 pandemic impacting on global economy
2. Continue the reform initiatives or risk losing the trust and confidence of the rakyat
3. How to continue the reform agenda whilst working with those who stand to lose most by these very changes
4. To unify his own fractured party
5. Govern the country whilst hemmed in by two bigger parties with opposing ideologies
6. Protect the cabinet from tainted politicians facing corruption charges which would damage its credibility, not to mention the country’s already battered reputation
7. Present a government that works for all Malaysians and not a government for only some Malaysians
8. Face an opposition that is now more united and purged of traitors and cancerous elements led by TDM, a formidable adversary even well into his nineties
The rakyat expects immediate and prompt outcomes as the PH government found to its detriment. A government that came to power by usurping the popular will of the people or cynically touted as “kerajaan pintu belakang” is severely handicapped from its inception and would benefit from acts of miracles, which we are sure the Pak Lebais from PAS will solicit from the heavens for their survival up until GE15.
We however, do not feel that TSMY has the dream team with the staying political power to survive up till GE15, let alone win it.
The previous week unprecedented scenes, reminds us of the story of Pyrrhus the king of Epirus (318-272 BC) who fought a war against the Romans. He won the battle at Asculum but at great cost and even then the Romans were able to replenish their army. So the sacrifice in men lost amounted to nothing. He was reported to have said “ If I had another battle like this I might be coming home to Epirus alone” Thus a pyrrhic victory entered folklore as a victory achieved at unbearable cost.
The political path of khianat aka betrayal empowered TSMY to grab the much coveted PM8 from the two other giant protagonists. In winning the PM battle, or more appropriately “pengkhianatan hak rakyat” aka travesty of justice, TMSY might actually be landed with a pyrrhic victory.
However, only time will tell. We reckon, he might live to regret the day he left his PH coalition and betrayed his mentor. As for now, he has to contend sleeping with 2 strange and seemingly incompatible bedfellows.
Prof Dr Awaluddin Mohamed Shaharoun
Dato’ Dr Musa Mohd Nordin
Muslim Professionals Forum