‘Opposition’s views will actually be considered now.’
Pakatan Harapan will continue to play its role as opposition despite the coalition having signed a deal to support the federal government in the Dewan Rakyat with conditions attached.
In an interview with KiniTV, DAP publicity chief Tony Pua said the onus now was on the government to fulfil its pledges, failing which it will lose credibility and Harapan’s support.
Pua (below) said there is nothing in the agreement which still stops Harapan from playing an opposition role and criticising the government when necessary.
“If the government fulfils its terms… by passing all the reforms and (fulfilling) the requests we have made, then the rakyat benefits and Malaysian democracy benefits.
“It’s a no-brainer for us because there’s nothing for us to lose,” said Pua.
On Sept 13, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, on behalf of the federal government, signed the ‘Memorandum of Understanding on Transformation and Political Stability’ with Harapan.
Therein, the government promises a long list of reforms which includes:
- Parliamentary reform (immediate implementation)
- Lowering the voting age
- Passing a bill to discourage lawmakers from defecting
- Term limits for the prime minister
- Improving the nation’s Covid-19 response
- Ensuring judicial independence
- Fulfilling the Malaysia Agreement 1963.
The implementation of these reforms will be monitored by a 10-member, bipartisan steering committee that will meet fortnightly.
Pua said Harapan MPs will get nothing out of the deal personally, but the coalition will now have a say in government bills, especially supply bills to do with the budget.
“To me, that’s a win for the opposition, Harapan, and the people. It is not a situation where the opposition is being subjected to the government’s whims and fancies. It is the reverse,” he said.
Traditionally, the federal government adopts an adversarial approach that would ignore the opposition, said Pua.
With this deal, the opposition’s views will be somewhat incorporated into government policy, he added.
“I’ve been in Parliament for 12 years now, 10 of which was with the opposition… In those 10 years, I can scream as much as I wanted. People like it but none of it actually gets incorporated. There’s no substantive gain.
“Going forward, our views, indirectly or otherwise, will actually be considered from a substantive standpoint and be incorporated into part of the bills.
“That is progress. That is good for Malaysian democracy,” he said.
Pua, alongside DAP colleagues Ong Kian Ming and Anthony Loke, were among the key architects of the deal on Harapan’s side.
The trio worked on a similar deal offered by former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin on Aug 13.
The deal offered then was after Muhyiddin lost the support of 15 Umno MPs led by Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Najib Abdul Razak.
However, the deal was rejected by Harapan’s top leadership. This forced Muhyiddin to resign and allowed Ismail Sabri to take over on Aug 22.
Avoiding Najib-Ismail Sabri pact
Pua said he was surprised Ismail Sabri was willing to go with this deal so early in his reign.
He speculated the new prime minister was concerned he may go the same way as Muhyiddin.
“(Ismail Sabri) is doing this upfront to make sure that Zahid and Najib now cannot have his ‘Umno 10′ or ’15’ threaten him and pull out for whatever reason.
“We all know they all want to get out of jail and they want to have their cases dropped. That’s what we want to avoid,” said Pua.
The Damansara MP said he understood there were concerns among Harapan supporters that Ismail Sabri and Najib were still allies and that this deal was as good as an alliance between Harapan and Najib.
Harapan, said Pua, demonstrated its leverage by cutting a public deal first to hopefully ensure that Najib and Zahid will complete their trials.
“My position is very simple. If we don’t sign the deal with Ismail Sabri, he will definitely cut a deal with Najib because he needs his 114 (seats).
“With the (Harapan) deal with Ismail Sabri, perhaps he will not concede as much (to Najib),” said Pua.
Najib has already been convicted for laundering money owned by SRC International Sdn Bhd. He is appealing this conviction. He is also facing similar corruption trials concerning 1MDB.
As for Zahid, he is facing trial for laundering money through a charity.