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Datuk Wilfred Madius Tangau

5 July 2021

KOTA KINABALU: The United Progressive Kinabalu Organisation (Upko) has urged Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to take the necessary steps to end the political crisis plagued by the concentration of power and oligarchic policy-making so that the government and people can focus on the pandemic and economy.

Its president Datuk Wilfred Madius Tangau said he welcomes Law Minister Takiyuddin Hassan’s announcement on July 2 that the Parliament would be reconvened before Aug 1.

"I sincerely hope that the prime minister’s medical condition would not be used as an excuse to delay the decision and cause the public to lose patience. The rising number of suicides should remind all of us how the Arab Spring started in Tunisia in 2010.

"More than reconvening, the Parliament must be a professional institution with real power, where both opposition MPs and government backbenchers get to contribute ideas and represent their constituents' interests in the policymaking process," he said in a statement today.

The prime minister must recognise that at the core of the political crisis is oligarchic policymaking which was firmly established after 1969, he added, where key decisions are made by ministers and senior civil servants, the Parliament’s real function is to ritualistically debate and pass all government’s bills, budgets and policies laws, and public demands are contemptuously distrusted and dismissed as “politicking”.

"This oligarchic policymaking results in the concentration of power which drives politicians crazy and corrupt, privileged access and tremendous influence by warlords and cronies, and most damagingly, disconnect from the wider society with competing demands.

"By shutting down the Parliament and shifting power on key decisions from the Cabinet to the nine-men National Security Council (NSC), the Emergency has made the ruling oligarchy even smaller. The consequences are policy blind spots, followed by public backlashes, policy flip flops and finally trust deficit in government.

"On top of that, the power struggle between NSC deputy chairperson and International Trade and Industry Azmin Ali and Defence Minister Ismail Sabri adds insult to injury," he stated.

To step out of the crisis, Madius reckoned that Malaysia needs a thorough debate and consensus across the aisle on the fundamental direction of our Covid-19 policy on either flatting the curve or returning to normalcy.

He asserted that either direction has its own risks, requires different package deals of policy measures in health and economy, and may not be politically unpopular.

Cross-party consensus is important to avoid partisan potshots and build the public’s confidence, added.

"Currently, we have only nine PSSCs that cover 17 out of the 28 ministerial portfolios, denying 88 (40 per cent) of the 220 existing MPs - 79 from the opposition bench and nine from the government’s backbench – any committee responsibility. And the Parliament meets only two months a year. All these must change.

"The post-1969 oligarchic paradigm must be buried as we are now in the digital age of the 21st Century. Technocrats would remain important but their policy ideas must be scrutinized by PSSCs and not just the Minister and Deputy Ministers.

"Our triple crisis of politics, health and economy is more structural than personal. If we keep the outdated oligarchy of ministers, civil servants and privileged political-business elites, we will continue to see policy blindspots, public backlashes and policy flip-flops. Even changing a new prime minister every month will not get us out of the quicksand." Madius stated.

The prime minister must also not let his courtiers make arrogant and ridiculous demands on the Opposition, he said.

"Just like any other MP, Parliamentary Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has every right to move a motion to bring down a dysfunctional government. Nothing wrong with him wanting to be a prime minister if the incumbent refuses to seek peace and secure a majority.

"A weak government can seek but not demand a ceasefire. A disconnect from this political reality will only cause the PM more humiliations, narrow his options, and ultimately paint himself to the corner."


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