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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Against a unity government

MARCH 14 — Muaz Omar (personal Opinion) | malaysiainsider

It is a fact that too much politicking has affected governance in Malaysia with calls and demands for an establishment of a unity government growing louder by the day.

This was captured well by the full-page advertisement in The Star where businessman Anas Zubedy called for a political truce between both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat and asked them to concentrate on the business of governing.

This has been made more dire and dramatic with the deteriorating economic health of the country, where recession is almost inevitable.

The King and Sultan of Kedah have also joined the chorus and called for the people to be united in facing challenges that are threatening to tear the social fabric.

Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah proposed a unity government between Pakatan and BN to diffuse all the conflicts, and was seconded by Pas president Datuk Hadi Awang as well as several leading Umno figures like Agriculture Minister Datuk Mustapa Mohamed.

However, will this “unity government” be the solution to ensure that the focus will be on governing the country and reduce politicking?

Following the 1969 general election, a unity government called Barisan Nasional was formed in 1972 replacing the Alliance (Perikatan) with the inclusion of Gerakan and Pas into the ruling coalition, albeit for a relatively short period.

Back then, the country had just come out of a bloodbath in the form of the May 13 riots and the heavy losses endured by the Alliance to the DAP and Pas.

The unity government, which was supposed to bring about a political ceasefire, didn’t stop the politicking.

In fact, it was for this reason that Pas was kicked out of BN due to accusations and counter-accusations between Umno and Pas trying to outmanoeuvre each other especially in Kelantan.

In 1977 the federal government time enforced emergency rule in Kelantan under the authority of Mageran for several years, which temporarily halted the Pas stranglehold on Kelantan for many years until a resurgent Pas came to the fore under the tutelage of Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat.

Closer to recent memory, after the 1999 general election where Umno lost many seats to Pas and the Barisan Alternatif coalition, a similar unity government model was espoused to ensure that the Malay voice stays united and not divided.

Umno, reeling from the aftermath of demonstrations and condemnation following the sacking and imprisonment of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, had to offer Pas the olive branch using the banner of Malay unity.

However, the whole notion of Malay unity totally subsided following BN and Umno’s landslide win in the general election of 2004.

It is very clear that a pattern is being recycled over and over again, abusing the mantra of unity government or Malay unity whenever the axis of power is seen to be drifting away from Umno-BN towards the opposition (now in the form of Pakatan Rakyat).

Whilst the slogan of unity government or Malay unity is being overplayed in the print and electronic media, subversive elements are attempting to revert power back to the old guards in order to retain hegemony.

This resulted in the current political impasse following the coup d’etat in Perak and currently making its way into Pakatan-ruled states like Selangor, Penang and Kedah.

The federal or state government and its institutions should be able to function regardless of anyone at the top.

The impartiality of these sacred institutions must be upheld with vigour and the observance of the rule of law must be strictly adhered to without the interference of partisan politics.

The confused state in Perak reflects an overwhelming interference of partisan politics in the running of these institutions, and civil servants playing the all-in-one role of judge, jury and executioner, like in Perak, may just repeat itself in Selangor, Penang and Kedah.

There is little justification and practically lesser need for a unity government as it will only breeds compromise and reduce political competition to provide the best service for the people.

While some exuberant politicians will try and pull apart society with their racially-charged rhetoric, it will also reveal their true colours and the voters will decide whether they deserve to be elected again.

However, which is of more urgency is that there needs to be a strict and sacred separation of powers between institutions of governance and partisan politics.

Only then will we see the politicians actually act as servants of the people rather than their current filthy state and greed for power.

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