Friday, August 16, 2019

Questions about the Lynas decision

The outcome was not surprising. Indications were already there that the Cabinet would allow Lynas to continue operations.

According to Mkini, at least 13 ministers had in 2012 signed a pledge to scrap Lynas. Yet, Syed Saddiq claims the decision to allow Lynas to continue operations was a collective Cabinet decision.

Just to be clear that what he means by "collective Cabinet decision" was that all agreed to it, he said: "This is the cabinet's decision, how can the cabinet decision come out with people (who) don't agree?"

So, if what Syed Saddiq says is true, the 13 ministers have a lot of answering to do. Why did they change their minds?

Did they agree grudgingly because Dr M wanted it? Was it a case where some ministers actually objected but were outvoted and then agreed to go with the majority? If so, who among the 13 actually raised objections? Or were they all readily agreeable?

Once can't help but speculate, had Anwar been the PM instead, what would the stance of the 13 be? Would they have still voted for allowing Lynas to continue operations or would they have voted for it to shut it down instead?

Such imponderables!

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

How PH can stabilize

When Pakatan Harapan won GE14, here was the breakdown of seats won:

PKR: 47
DAP: 42
Bersatu: 13
Amanah: 11
Warisan: 8

Since then, there have been some defections from the other side and now the composition is:

PKR: 50
DAP: 42
Bersatu: 26
Amanah: 11
Warisan: 9

As you can see, Bersatu has grown the most, doubling its seats to 26. Even so, that's still very few compared to PKR and DAP, who collectively have 92 MPs. Yet, it is Dr M of Bersatu who is in the driver's seat.

This was all part of the agreement that the various component parties made prior to GE14. So when PH unexpectedly won in GE14, Dr M became the PM despite his party having very few MPs. A deal is a deal, so they stuck with it.

What was also decided was that Dr M would only be an interim PM and that Anwar would take over after about two years. Dr M has said he would keep his promise but his actions so far have only served to create doubts and uncertainty about his willingness to hand over power to Anwar. He seems to favor Anwar's once trusty lieutenant, Azmin Ali.

There is now some doubts about whether Dr M will actually relinquish power when the time comes. Or will he find some excuse to either stay on or pass the baton to Azmin instead? This kind of uncertainty is not good for the country and does not bode well for PH if it carries on for much longer.

Stability could come in two forms. One is that Dr M actually keeps his promise and steps down in a year or so, after which he would truly retire from politics. Without him at the helm, Bersatu will no longer be the unstable element that is rocking PH. Nobody in Bersatu is as cunning as Dr M is and frankly, Bersatu's influence will become more in line with the number of MPs it actually has (which is not many).

The other possibility, if either Dr M stays the full term or someone else of his choosing takes over, is for the other PH component parties to win enough seats in GE15 to form the government without Bersatu's MPs.

That doesn't mean PH doesn't welcome Bersatu in the coalition anymore. It just doesn't need Bersatu to form the government. In such a situation, Bersatu would no longer be in any position to muscle its way around. And PH would be more stable.

Let's face it, the other component parties' alliance with Bersatu was a marriage of convenience, nothing else. That is why the marriage is so rocky. When the other component parties don't need Bersatu anymore, that's when the PH coalition can finally have some semblance of steadiness.

Glass half full

There are a lot of things to be disappointed about regarding Pakatan Harapan. Many things they promised have not been fulfilled and some policies are downright BN-ish. At the same time we have to acknowledge some good things.

Certain appointments, especially that of Elections Commission Chairman, the Attorney General, the MACC Chief and the Chief Justice all seem to be good choices.

The government and the ministers are generally perceived to be cleaner. The government also seems to be more responsive to criticism and feedback from the public compared to BN (granted, this is a very low bar, using BN as a benchmark).

On the whole, we are much, much better off now than we were before GE14. But of course we want more. We want things to be even better. Unfortunately, many of the reforms we are looking for may have to wait until there is a change in PM because the current one is not about reform. Let's just hope there's a smooth transition in a year or two.

PH's saving grace

Right now things are looking quite bleak for Pakatan Harapan, with component parties constantly bickering while many promises remain unfulfilled. To make it worse, Dr M has insisted on some policies that seem to be antithetical to what PH is all about.

Fortunately for PH, there are several factors it's got going for it:

a) The next general election is still some time away (slightly less than 4 more years to go). People have short memories. If PH can turn things around before GE15, and the economy is in good shape, all this turmoil will be forgotten.

b) As chaotic as PH is, the opposition (BN + PAS) is in an even bigger mess. Plus BN/UMNO now has got no money with its bank accounts frozen. And being in the opposition does not exactly endear them to political donors.

c) There might be some protest votes but most people who voted for PH are not going to suddenly vote for BN just because they are disappointed with PH. As disappointing as PH may be, it's still a gazillion times better than BN. Very few unhappy PH supporters would be able to bring themselves to vote the kleptocrats back into power just to spite PH. It just won't happen.

PH's biggest challenge is to avoid imploding. PKR, in particular looks dangerously like it could splinter. And Dr M is so unpredictable. With him, the maxim: "There are no permanent friends or permanent enemies, only permanent interests" really applies. So, a PH implosion is not completely out of the question. But if PH can avoid imploding, it should be able to win GE15, what with BN being in such bad shape.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

DAP leaders doing a horrible job of spinning

In his article, DAP facing its worst crisis since GE14, Liew Chin Tong unconvincingly says:

The fact is that the Harapan government is a coalition government. No party has absolute power. Most things have still got to go back to the cabinet and the Pakatan Harapan presidential council for endorsement and that is how it should be.

He is right that the Harapan government is a coalition government but it does seem like Dr M wields quite a lot (if not absolute) power. And it doesn't seem like a lot of things go back to the cabinet or the Pakatan Harapan council for endorsement (though he is right in saying that's how it should be).

In his article, Wrong for Dr M to use 'racist' label, but Dong Zong not in the right either, Lim Kit Siang says:

In actual fact, however, the khat subject controversy was a legacy of the former government, as the final decision on the new textbooks for Chinese/Tamil primary schools to introduce the khat subject for Standard Four pupils in 2020 was made by the Education Ministry Curriculum Committee chaired by the then education minister and the then two deputy education ministers in a meeting on Sept. 30, 2015.

Well, it's now 2019 and Pakatan Harapan is the government, not BN. Why can't PH change that decision? The answer of course is that it can.

It seems every attempt by DAP leaders to spin the criticism it has been receiving from the non-Malay community has only made the situation worse.

So what should they do? They need to grow a spine and state their true stance on the matter, instead of trying to justify what Dr M has been doing lately, which is making unilateral decisions that are contrary to what the majority of Pakatan supporter want and expect.

If they don't start to do that soon, they will suffer the fate of MCA, which lost the confidence of the Chinese community.