Less than eight hours before the tabling of Act 355, the Parliament made a new record by ending its session at 5.05am after a 20-hour frenzy to pass multiple bills. Rushing bills without sufficient scrutiny is never a good democratic practice. Initially, some MPs were dumbfounded by the need to expedite the process. However, by noon they found out that the marathon was necessary to give way to YB Abdul Hadi Awang’s bill.
In the process, not only were bills rushed through thus sacrificing accountability and scrutiny, some important bills were put on the backburner to prioritise Hadi’s bill.
This could be understood if the vote was made there and then. Unfortunately, once more the debate was postponed to the next parliamentary session. This is not the first, nor is it the second, but the third postponement from Umno-PAS.
Umno was successful in pacifying PAS who felt cheated when Umno dropped the need to table the bill. However, this token act was sufficient to continue the romance between Umno and PAS. The fact that PAS leaders weren’t angered at the postponement indicated that they tacitly agreed with Umno’s political power play.
Umno conveniently can now claim that they are in support of the bill but got stopped by their component parties. This will work well in the Malay heartland while subtly roping in PAS on-board.
While Hadi’s bill was tabled, no representatives from Pakatan Harapan were allowed to engage in the ongoing lecture. I can’t call it a debate as it was a one-way show. Despite the speaker of the house promising to give room to MPs from Pakatan Harapan, he abruptly stopped the lecture and postponed it until the next parliamentary session.
This conveniently paves the way for Umno to now blame the speaker for the “failed vote” while they bask in the glory of disuniting the opposition.
Unfortunately, the disunity is not only felt by political parties, but goes deep into the Malaysian social fabric. Non-Muslims and Muslims who disagree with the bill are swiftly labelled as ‘Anti-Islam/Liberal’. Worse when there are those who call the opponents of the bill as ‘Kafir Harbi’, a term reserved for the worst enemies of Islam which warrant their killing.
There will be those who think that PAS is the winner here. I humbly disagree.
Postponements after postponements will take a toll on PAS’s support base. The hardcore voters will still stay with them; however, the rest will be hard hit by PAS’s complicity in Umno’s power play. The fence-sitters especially will be fed up with this kind of politics. We can see the result of this in multiple trusted surveys, from Rafizi Ramli’s Invoke findings to surveys done by Merdeka Centre.
Third postponement indicative of something
Maybe some might be fine with the first and second postponements, but the third time right before the general election is indicative of something.
Since the next session will most probably take place after the general election, in a three-way fight which Umno has made possible due their political theatrics, both PAS and Pakatan Harapan might lose some of their seats. Again, all surveys done show that PAS will be the biggest loser.
I am not in any way claiming that Pakatan Harapan will be the biggest winner, they will lose out as well. The point is, Umno wins. Post-election, when PAS gets weaker, it becomes much easier for Umno to repeat history by stabbing PAS in the back with the keris. They’ve done this when they successfully wrestled Kelantan back from PAS.
Umno thrives when they have a lot of political capital to spend on. Just look at how many electoral promises they backtracked on post-elections.
To the proponents of Act 355 who say, “Failure is okay, at least we have tried.”
Unfortunately the continuous insistence on ‘trying’ time after time again has divided the opposition and Malaysians to the benefit of Umno. Unfortunately, bread-and-butter issues like resolving systemic corruption, dealing with the increase in cost of living, cheap housing, education and scholarships have been put on the backburner due to politics.
To those who say, “Why can’t we do both! Act 355 and speak up against corruption?”
Let’s be honest with ourselves. How many top PAS leaders have spoken up against 1MDB and Najib Abdul Razak? We can’t fully blame them. They just have different priorities. In politics, your political capital is limited, thus optimising it requires the shedding off some issues.
Speaking against 1MDB and corruption is a political trade-off for PAS as acknowledged by the party’s information chief last year. He explicitly said that if Umno disallowed the tabling of Act 355, PAS will start to attack them in full force again.
In this process, the rakyat are fed with diversions that “Act 355 is for Islam and those who oppose it are kafirs and munafiks. Umno supports Act 355, but just wait for it post-election. Thus, mass corruption and bad governance are forgotten. It’s sad that the opposition is also focused on attacking one another than aiming their guns at Umno.
Little by little, we have sold our country away to the corrupt elite. Corruption is normalised. The Future get more and more bleak. The national debt is growing beyond our control. Cost of living is getting more burdensome. All of these secured due to a political power play which took place.
Umno wins, Malaysia loses.
Congrats to Umno. Commiserations to Malaysia.
SYED SADDIQ SYED ABDUL RAHMAN is a part-time lecturer at Universiti Islam Antarabangsa (UIA) Malaysia and is Asia’s best debater, winning the United Asia Debate Championship in May 2015.
Source : @ Malaysiakini