Emergency: When Umno catches a cold, the nation goes into crisis

Emergency: When Umno catches a cold, the nation goes into crisis

EVERY time Umno is in crisis, do not be surprised if it is accompanied by an Emergency declaration or political turmoil. It would be naive to believe that the Emergency is being called for COVID-19 purposes.

The Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed -Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah crisis in Umno spurred a multitude of events. The Internal Security Act (ISA) crackdown known as Ops Lalang, the removal of then Lord President Tun Salleh Abas, the deregistration of Umno and the creation of Semangat 46.

The Mahathir-Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim skirmish brought on the reform movement, the Anwar black eye incident involving the Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Rahim Noor and the formation of Parti Keadilan Nasional (PKN).

So, we can conclude that every time Umno is in crisis, the nation gets thrown into crisis as well. The question now is whether Umno is really in crisis right now? The answer is yes.

The Emergency eclaration is the ultimate weapon by the Prime Minister and also Rulers who wish to save themselves during turbulent political times.

The 1948 Emergency was declared in the name of fighting communist influence. However, the Emergency also succeeded in bringing to heel the radical political coalition of PUTERA-AMCJA, who was pushing for Independence from British Rule.

In 1964, Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman declared an Emergency due to confrontation with Indonesians. Analysts at the time were sceptical of this and believed that a key factor in declaring the Emergency was to wipe out the left leaning block of the Workers’ Party and Parti Rakyat, who were putting up a valiant fight against the Western front during the Cold War.

The 1969 Emergency was proclaimed with the justification of managing the racial tensions of May 13. However, the true reason was that for the first time in political history, Umno and Perikatan had lost their two thirds majority in Parliament, control of five states as well as control of the capital city of Kuala Lumpur to the Opposition.

Today, the Emergency has been declared under the pretence of COVID-19.

Emergency 2021 and three key words

If we break down the current Emergency by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, it can be noted whilst COVID-19 seems to be the subject matter, there are three imperative issues to note.

Those matters are:

  1. Parliament will not be in session
  2. There will be no elections
  3. The Judiciary will function as usual

To put it plainly, there can be no change of Government either through a Parliamentary mechanism or elections. Yet, the court proceedings against Umno President Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi, as well as cases involving other top ranking Umno leaders will be moving forward.

If we look at Muhyiddin’s previous attempt at declaring a state of Emergency in October last year, the intention to delay Parliamentary sessions was obvious because the current Government was afraid of being voted down during the budget debates.

At that crucial juncture, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong was forced to intervene and rejected the request for an Emergency. The Agong further advised MPs to support the passing of the crucial budget.

It is evident that the true intention and purpose of the Emergency declaration was not COVID-19 related but rather to prevent and delay Parliament from sitting and elections from going forward.

Umno’s crisis

In this article, I will argue that the Umno crisis was the catalyst for this current Emergency. The party is currently is the throes of a crisis between the President’s team, who needs a General Election to save their skins and a Team B, which is the Vice President’s Team and those serving in Muhyiddin’s Cabinet who are eager for the court to expeditiously sentence Zahid.

If a sentence is meted out to Zahid first, that would result in him being unable to run for elections and as a result, he would not be able to become the Prime Minister in the event of an Umno victory.

If Zahid loses in court, the doors will swing wide open for new contenders in Umno’s power struggle. In the party’s governance structure, the role of its President carries a huge amount of power and influence.

Whoever occupies that seat has the authority to decide who runs for general elections. Thus, if someone has electoral ambitions, it would be intelligent to remain on the President’s good side.

It is clear that if the general elections were held today, Umno along with its allies PAS would likely return to power. That is precisely why team Zahid is pushing for an election with great urgency.

Having an election now would allow a string of victories for Zahid. He would be able to cull enemies within his party, regain control of Parliament and free himself from court proceedings.

For Muhyiddin and the team opposing Zahid internally in Umno, they are in dire need for the elections to be delayed and for the courts to continue to hear cases. Two siblings, one the Dewan Rakyat Speaker and one the Attorney General, will see the mission of the ruling party and its goals through.

The Emergency Ordinance also forced Umno cancel their General Assembly, scheduled to be held on Jan 30 and 31. One of the main motions that was supposed to be tabled was to end their alliance with Bersatu. If Umno’s history is any indicator, their loyalty to their splinter parties have been woefully lacking.

Umno and its long-reach in Malaysian politics

As for Anwar and Pakatan Harapan, they can only attain federal power with Umno’s support. However, their power is limited to the extent permitted by Umno. Anwar’s situation is pathetic as he is beholden to Umno, subject to their will.

No matter how you slice it, Umno’s ideology still has remarkable influence. Remember, PAS itself was formed from a splinter group that emerged from Umno’s religious affairs bureau in 1951. A group that opposed Umno in 1998 broke away to form PKR and those who exited the party in 2016 went on to become the founding members of Bersatu.

So, Umno’s ideological presence will be felt and its DNA will continue to live on through name changes and new alliances with BN, PN or PH, whether or not Umno emerges victorious in the upcoming election.

COVID-19 and the “new political norm”

It is true that the pandemic poses a threat to the economy as well as public health. Elections will have to be held eventually and the people would be wise to elect a Government that will focus on bread-and-butter issues affecting Malaysians such as job security, healthcare and affordable housing policies.

When the Prime Minister announced the Permai stimulus package, I awaited an announcement of salary cuts from the remunerations enjoyed by the Prime Minister, Ministers, CEOs of Government linked companies (GLC) and MPs to fund the COVID-19 relief efforts.

However, that announcement never came. It may be because they need to save up to buy votes for the upcoming election.

The Government is insistent that the Emergency is justified because they need to pull in resources from private hospitals, run by GLCs. For one’s information, the National Heart Institute (IJN), Subang Jaya Medical Centre, Pantai Hospital, Prince Court, Gleneagles and KPJ are among the GLC-owned hospitals in Malaysia.

At the end, we are on our own. The question now is whether the pandemic will change our political narrative away from one spearheaded by Umno? – Jan 21, 2021.

S Arutchelvan is the deputy chairperson of Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM)

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of The Leaders Online