Taking heed of the King’s advice

By Mohsin Abdullah

Amidst escalating political crisis over the premiership and the legitimacy of the current government, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong wants all warring politicians to settle their disputes in accordance with the Federal Constitution for the sake of the rakyat and country.

In a statement released by the Comptroller of the Royal Household Datuk Indera Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong called on politicians to sort out their differences through discussions and the legal process as enshrined in the Constitution.

Politicians, according to His Majesty, should not let disagreements lead to animosity but instead resolve it through negotiations and the legal process.

Hence, now the onus, or rather the responsibility, is on the politicians concerned to take heed of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong's advice and act upon it fast.

But first, as I see it, for any discussion, what more negotiation to take place, it must be premised on the agreement or acknowledgement that the Perikatan Nasional government has lost its majority and thus a new prime minister needs to be sworn in.

Whether the political stakeholders can agree on a candidate to replace Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is debatable. But if the Muhyiddin administration takes the stand that it is still the legitimate government of Malaysia and "insists" Muhyiddin has the majority support, then a hindrance is already in place, because the obvious question would be why Perikatan Nasional would want to enter in any talks with anyone outside the coalition. Thus the risk of the talks being dead even before it gets started.

As such, for discussions to take place as per advised by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Muhyiddin must first prove that he indeed has the majority support in the Parliament.

As I write this, several opposition MPs are lining up in filing motions of no confidence against Muhyiddin. Whether the motion will be tabled and debated in the Parliament is very much in question, as Speaker Datuk Azhar Harun has been consistent that on any parliamentary sitting day government business shall take precedence over Private Members' and other matters.

At the time of writing also, we are getting news that in a bid to save his Perikatan Nasional government, Muhyiddin has asked Umno to state its demands.

This come days after a decision by the Umno political bureau that the party is to consider withdrawing its support for Perikatan Nasional as it feels it has been getting the short end of the bargain.

But Muhyiddin's willingness to hear out Umno demands while giving the impression he is willing to sit down and discuss, has also seen him being exclusive as discussions are between him, his party Bersatu and Umno. Not what one might call inclusive which is needed to end the current political turmoil as other parties are also very much in the equation.

And I'll have to say I don't know if such "exclusive negotiations" fall within the advice of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

Going back to abide by the Monarch‘s advice for warring politicians to discuss and negotiate, I would say the first step would be to find a mediator.

As in any discussion in finding solutions to disputes, mediators are needed — fair and impartial mediators to set the ground rules and agenda to make sure things are on track and not going out of control.

Without a mediator, solutions, or should it be resolutions, would be hard to come by, in particular for the political dispute we are seeing now. But getting the right mediator to handle the job at hand is, to put it lightly, no easy feat.

Still, discussions and negotiations must be done. Malaysians need a resolution urgently as the COVID-19 pandemic is worsening. Needless to say It has severely impacted jobs and livelihood.

As of this month, many Malaysians who do not qualify for the targeted moratorium on loans are forced to resume payment although they remain badly affected by the economic downturn.

Calls for the reinstatement of the blanket moratorium for the B40 and M40 groups as well as SMEs have been ignored by the present government.

The CMCO in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Selangor and Sabah portrays a bleak future for the rakyat. The fate of the 2021 Budget hangs in balance.

As such, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong's call for discussions must come with the need for our politicians not to drag their feet or jostle excessively for power or to remain in power. Compromising and accommodating are among the key factors.

And most importantly, the politicians at the discussion table must set a reasonable time frame to find a solution that provides leadership yearned by ordinary Malaysians. All Malaysians.

That solution, whatever it may be, must not be delayed for the sake of the country.

(Mohsin Abdullah is a veteran journalist and now a freelancer who writes about this, that and everything else.)

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