Wednesday 12 September 2012

Reverse defections hurting BN - Amir Ali

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak's administration has made incredible efforts to change undemocratic laws but is that enough to swing votes in BN's favour?

In Malaysian politics, there is no messing around with the powers-that-be.

But when members of the judiciary and those of the executive start abandoning those powers, something is definitely changing in the country.

Since 2008, it was a one-way traffic with the defections of several opposition MPs and YBs who either joined the majority or formed a so-called independent group in Parliament or the State Legislative Assemblies.

These defections hurt the opposition’s ego and image a lot at that time but today, the defections of MPs from the majority is definitely hurting the Barisan National badly.

Before 2004 – the year when former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim was freed following a reversal of a judgment in the Sodomy 1 case against him – the opposition leader could not win any case in the Malaysian courts.

During the heydays of the “reformasi” movement, this earned the Malaysian judiciary the title of “kangaroo” courts. “Reformasi” was a movement launched by Anwar on the eve of his arrest in 1998.

Are we now witnessing an erosion of the stranglehold of powers on the judiciary in Malaysia?

The opposition leader was jubilant in May this year when a former solicitor-general Yusof Zainal Abiden joined his legal team in the Bersih 3.0 case.

“This is a positive development… I think more lawyers are biding their time to join me as well,” Anwar said at that time.

Erosion of power

The opposition has since then been reinforced with the presence of former chief justice, Salleh Abas, who said he was ready to provide legal advice to PKR strategy director, Rafizi Ramli, who is facing charges related to the controversial National Feedlot Corporation (NFCorp) project.

Rafizi confirmed he received a call from Salleh informing him of the latter’s willingness to make suggestions on how to deal with the allegations he is facing under the Banking and Financial Institutions Act (Bafia) 1989.
In Malaysia, the “executive” body of the government, commonly known as the legislative body, is a vital element in the making of a government.

It is the majority that the government controls that keeps it in power. An erosion of this power – with members of Parliament leaving the majority – is sign of an impending crisis. And such crisis cannot be seen as a positive development by foreign investors and international backers.

It is common knowledge that if you are a supporter or a member of the ruling coalition, you will not be supporting or giving advice to the opposition and this is how Malaysia and most Westminster- style democracies work.

Needless to point out then that the additions from the judiciary to the opposition ranks signify a new trend in Malaysia.

It also obvious that the establishment, which is crucial to the good running of a government in power, is shifting away from the powers-that-be in Malaysia.

The efforts by the prime minister to offer a half-month bonus to the civil servants is a clear message that civil servants are probably shifting their support.

As a matter of fact, the Barisan National leadership was sent into disarray with the defection of two MPs from Sabah.

Trouble for BN

The holding of a mass rally by BN defectors on Aug 12 may altogether signal a definite downslope for the BN in the Borneo states.

And the descent into troubled waters did not end there for the BN.

Anwar, the dashing opposition leader and head of Pakatan Rakyat, won a case against S Nallakaruppan. The case – with that of his January victory in the tainted Sodomy 2 case – has opened a breach in the loyalty of the “justice” system towards the BN.

It is to be noted that amid all the accusations against Anwar, none of the accusers dared sue the opposition leader except in the sodomy case.

On the contrary, Anwar is suing his accusers and now that he is winning the cases, it is imperative for the BN to think of an alternative plan to counter Anwar.

Then came BN’s idea of dragging Anwar and his close allies to court for the Bersih 3.0 demonstrations.

What will come out of these deliberations in court will surely decide the fate of the BN rather than that of the Pakatan or of Anwar himself. He can only come out bigger than life when the case is over.

The slipping away of this powers from the hands of the BN is certain. If there were any doubts, the massive support of the Bar Council for the opposition is a point to take into consideration.

Another point is the other massive entry of professionals into the ranks of the opposition parties.

PAS today can boast of the presence of several of the nation’s scholars and lecturers or teachers as well as top former civil servants within its ranks. The same goes for the entire Pakatan grouping.

More and more leaders or former leaders of the judiciary and the executive are joining PAS, PKR and DAP and this cannot be ignored.

New impetus

What will the BN do to stem the exodus? Will the jailing of Anwar, Rafizi and their closest associates be the solution?

The government under Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has made incredible efforts to change the laws that were regarded as undemocratic.

It has also opened up more space for constructive criticism of its work while it allowed the opposition to have more avenues (including demonstrations) to express its disagreement with the authorities.

But did these sacrifices work in favour of the government?

One thing is certain though. The opening up of the once closed spaces and the granting of more democracy in Malaysia is creating a new impetus.

It is allowing more people to express themselves, to join the groups or parties they feel are more likely to fulfil their dreams.

Incredible, however, is the strong unity that is seen among the BN leaders and members, despite the fact that some MPs have bailed out and joined Pakatan.

Perhaps the BN will have to depend on this “unity” among its ranks in order to defend the incredible efforts it made to bring that many changes in Malaysia within this year.

While several observers within the government are dismissing the “warning” signs as temporary or fabricated by the opposition, the latter is boasting that it is in a stronger position than before and will conquer Putrajaya.
However, it is very difficult to say where the mass of the Malaysian electorate will move when the general election is called.

Amir Ali is a writer and political analyst for Warisan Melayu, based in Kuala Lumpur.

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