KUALA LUMPUR : The Malaysian opposition will not “complicate” the vote of confidence for Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob if the government introduces “pro-people” programmes in its COVID-19 pandemic management, said Pakatan Harapan (PH) chairman Anwar Ibrahim.
He said this to the press after meeting Mr Ismail Sabri at Putrajaya together with two other PH leaders, Democratic Action Party secretary-general Lim Guan Eng on Wednesday (Aug 25).
Mr Ismail Sabri, who was sworn in as prime minister last Saturday, has to prove his legitimacy in the parliament, as decreed by King Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah last week during the political turmoil.
“We told him, if the situation is such, and if the programmes are pro-people, we will not complicate (the vote of confidence),” Mr Anwar told reporters.
Mr Anwar said he took the meeting as a good start to bring up issues such as better, more effective COVID-19 handling measures and “pro-people” programmes that focus on poverty and loss of employment.
“We agreed to soothe and bring down the political temperature,” he said, adding that people’s issues were stressed as priorities to the prime minister.
To a question on whether opposition’s participation in the National Recovery Council or Cabinet was discussed in the meeting, the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president added that they did not attend the meeting to ask for positions.
“This did not come up.”
“I didn’t want to make this an issue, and we have said from the start, we did not come to ask for positions, but to discuss COVID-19 and the issues faced by the people,” he added.
He expressed his appreciation for the meeting with Mr Ismail Sabri, who is from the United Malays National Organisation, adding there would be follow-up meetings at committee level by both parties to work out points of agreement and the necessary steps.
“So that the situation of the prime minister and the country is more controlled, and there is more political calm,” he said.
Mr Ismail Sabri took over the top post from Mr Muhyiddin, who resigned last Monday. Malaysian MPs were then asked to submit statutory declarations (SDs) naming their preferred prime minister candidate to the king.
A total of 114 MPs chose Mr Ismail Sabri, giving him the majority in the Lower House which currently has 220 MPs and two vacant seats.
Out of the 114 SDs, 41 were from the Barisan Nasional coalition, 50 from Mr Muhyiddin’s Perikatan Nasional, 18 from Gabungan Parti Sarawak and one from Parti Bersatu Sabah. Four other SDs came from independent lawmakers.
Veteran UMNO MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah had abstained from backing Mr Ismail.
PH’s candidate of choice, meanwhile, was Mr Anwar.
The king had lcalled for all parties to work as one team and set aside the “winners take all” mentality.
In Mr Ismail Sabri’s maiden speech as prime minister on Sunday, he said opposition politicians would be invited to join the National Recovery Council or the special committee on COVID-19. He confirmed the next day that opposition leaders would not be appointed as ministers.
In a statement issued earlier on Wednesday, the PH presidential council said the coalition would consider Mr Ismail Sabri’s invitation for the opposition politicians to join the two bodies. PH does not wish to become mere rubber stamps for the government’s views, it added.
The presidential council also decided that Mr Anwar, as the leader of the opposition, would meet the leaders of all opposition parties in the near future and invite them to join or cooperate with PH.
“This is in line with the resolution of the PH leadership retreat in Port Dickson in April that states PH’s openness in negotiating and cooperating, and mobilising all efforts under the concept of ‘big tent’ to solidify the opposition bloc that has 105 MPs,” the statement read.
MEETING FOCUSES ON COVID-19 MANAGEMENT
In a joint statement issued after Wednesday’s meeting, the prime minister and the three PH leaders said the meeting on Wednesday was held to heed the king’s call for the political temperature in the country to cool down.
The meeting, which lasted more than an hour, focused on finding a common ground in the management of the COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to lift people out of economic hardships.
“A mutual agreement was reached in strengthening the function of the Malaysian parliament as a responsible and constructive institution, and in checking and balancing the executive to be more transparent and (to ensure that it) meets the needs of the people.
“We also agree and understand the importance of judiciary independence, institutional reforms and good governance in ensuring a more conducive environment for the people and the country in the context of the Malaysian family,” the statement read.
The Malaysian family concept was introduced by Mr Ismail Sabri In his speech on Sunday to promote inclusivity across religious, racial and ethnic boundaries.
By : Vincent Tan – CNA