Malaysia: Unity Government?

August 12, 2015

Gotch Ya, Najib

Malaysia: Unity Government

by John Berthelsen

Malaysia’s deteriorating political situation has driven two once-implacable foes – former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and his onetime rival for UMNO party leadership Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah – together to try to form a unity government to remove current Prime Minister Najib Razak.

“There is a leadership crisis in Malaysia and the consensus is that only one candidate can end it,” said a longtime friend of Razaleigh who played a role in setting up a meeting between the two figures. “That is Ku Li [Razaleigh’s nickname], the only solution. The question is how to put together the mechanics of how it is to be done.”

Sources in Kuala Lumpur say Najib has dug in his heels and refuses to entertain the idea of stepping down voluntarily. It is believed that he has threatened to bring down other politicians and officials with him if he is forced out.

Friends and associates of Razaleigh have been trying for weeks to persuade him to join the effort to oust Najib. But the fact that the former enemies within the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) would seek common cause is an indication of how deep Malaysia’s political and economic crisis has become.

Dr M and Ku LiCan they form Unity Government

Mahathir and Razaleigh met Tuesday, August 11, the source said, adding that the biggest hurdle with be forcing a vote of no-confidence in the parliament.

The two believe they would have unanimous support from the opposition Pakatan Rakyat coalition, which holds 89 of the 222 parliamentary seats although some Parti Islam se-Malaysia votes would be questionable after the fundamentalist Islamic party split earlier this year. Attempts to reach Pakatan officials were unsuccessful.

Parliamentary dysfunction

The ruling Barisan Nasional holds 132 seats, but UMNO has only 88 of them. A general election is not due until April 2018 – unless events overtake Najib’s defenses.

“The Parliament is dysfunctional in that the speaker [Pandikar Amin Mulia] is not a democratic speaker,” said the source, a constitutional lawyer. “He controls parliament on behalf of the ruling coalition instead of being a neutral speaker.   He won’t allow a vote of confidence on an incumbent Prime Minister who has lost the confidence of the people.”

However, with rank-and-file sentiment growing restive in the face of a financial scandal linking Najib to irregularities in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad investment fund, some of the component parties in the BN could be open to changing horses. The Malaysian Chinese Association, for instance, has grown disenchanted with UMNO’s increasing embrace of fundamentalist Islamic views and Malay-first rhetoric. Christian parties in East Malaysia could also be up for grabs.

How much real clout the two elderly politicians have is unknown. Although Razaleigh, 78, has retained his seat in Parliament, he has been out of a leadership position since 1987, when he challenged Mahathir for the premiership and lost in a battle that split UMNO and guaranteed their enmity. Mahathir, 90, remains a more potent force, but he has been attempting to bring down Najib for more than a year, largely without traction.

Declining fortunes

However, the economic situation may play as much of a role as politics in forcing the issue. Global Risk Insights, the international risk rating agency, warned on August 12 that the 1MDB scandal has “shattered business confidence in Malaysia” and that the government has been distracted as a result from dealing with economic issues like the impact of falling global oil prices on oil-dependent Malaysia’s government debt. Household debt is climbing.

The ringgit, having fallen through the psychologically important RM4:US$1 barrier, is one of the globe’s worst performing currencies. The raid on the currency from global traders appears to be picking up speed, with the ringgit weakening to RM4.25 to the US dollar before the central bank used enough reserves to drive it back down to RM4:03. Banks have begun to limit retail withdrawals to RM3,000 and currency traders say there is a shortage of foreign currencies as people seek safer havens in the dollar.

In the meantime, Najib may be losing his grip on UMNO. He still has the loyalty of a large number of the 191 divisional cadres, mostly through vast payments that provide them with electoral resources and jobs between elections, but the grass roots are another matter.

An extraordinary video went viral earlier this week, for example, of a young woman going postal on Najib during an UMNO women’s wing gathering in Langkawi, accusing Najib in a screeching voice of having “urinated on the 3 million UMNO members. He needs to be sent for medical treatment.” The video has been seen by hundreds of thousands of people.

Sleazy trail

BERSIH, the reform NGO, has ordered what it hopes will be a massive rally for August 29. Mahathir is urging people to attend and has suggested they bring water bottles to mop up the tear gas. The Police have threatened to block the rally.

The focal point of the whole mess is 1MDB, which was set up as a state-backed investment fund in 2009 with the advice of Jho Taek Low, the young Penang-born tycoon and friend of the Najib family. In the intervening years, the fund, as a result of what appears to be extraordinarily bad management, has run up debts that by some estimates have reached RM50 billion, an unknown amount of that unfunded.

Najib in anxiety

In early July, the Sarawak Report and the Wall Street Journal reported that US$680 million was transferred from unknown sources through a complex web of transactions to Najib’s personal bank account at AmBank in Kuala Lumpur prior to the 2013 general election. Sarawak Report has released graphic details on the flow of millions of ringgit through banks, companies and government agencies linked to 1MDB into accounts held by Jho Low, as he is known, and other accounts.

Najib has said the money was not for his personal use, leaving others to hint that it came from Middle Eastern sources to be used in the 2013 election. But sources have told Asia Sentinel that at least RM1billion flowed out from Najib’s accounts overseas. Neither the source of the money nor its final destination is clear. Certainly, given the relatively small amounts needed to fund electoral races in Malaysia, it would seem impossible to spend such a huge amount

On his blog, Che Det, Mahathir ridiculed the idea that the money came from unknown Arab sources, saying “his claim that Arabs donated billions is what people describe as hogwash or bullshit. Certainly I don’t believe it and neither can the majority of Malaysians if we go by the comments on the social media. The world had a good laugh.”


22 thoughts on “Malaysia: Unity Government?

  1. Din
    On Tuesday Tun M had a busy day. He met Zahid Hamidi in the morning then He call Mahayuddin to see him. In the afternoon he meet with TR.
    He ask TR do you have enough support from MP to form the new government . TR reply yes. I have 129 who had sign SD to support me to form a new government . TR said how do we do it . The speaker won’t allow the vote of no confidence in Parkiment.
    Tun suggested we follow Perak style when BN took over from Pakatan.
    In the afternoon he ask TS Abu Talib to follow up with Diminic Putuchary .TR lawyer .
    Meantime Sultan Johore was mandate to negotiate with Mahayuddin and Zahid how they could help to replace Najib. They want to avoid the new government lead by opposition.
    The Sultan will meet Mahayuddin tomorrow at the end of his Kembara tour. Follow by a speech by him.
    He will say among other thing that Malaysia need a new leader.
    Meantime Najib had indicated he prepare to go if Zahid can replace him as new PM.He don’t trust Mahayuddin as new PM.
    Meantime Tun M want a positive respond when he return from Italy in a week time.

  2. No need to go for no confidence vote in Parliament. The highest court in Malaysia had set a precedent, in the infamous Najib coup de tat of the Perak PR government, that a government can be changed without going to the legislature. I think the principle applies to the federal government too. So why not quid pro quo for Najib?

  3. It seems like “the powers that be” are finally getting the message. But in the end, Ku Li always disappoints. He talks a good game, makes great speeches, and then goes home.

    Will this time be different? I hope so — because Ku Li has a good sense of what Malaysia needs to do for its economy, which is now in dire straits. His views on how to fix Malaysia’s educational system in order to produce well-educated and skilled Malaysians for the future also are very well-thought out.

    Meanwhile, I see that Muhyiddin and Zahid are “making nice” down in Johor. So is there a deal in the making — that Muhyiddin will become PM and Zahid will continue as DPM? That will get rid of Najib. But , it won’t change Malaysia.
    Good comment, Ambassador Mallot. But we would like to know Washington’s view (Obama’s White House,The State Department and the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee and what Ambassador Joe Yu in Kuala Lumpur is feeding home) on political developments in Malaysia.

    As a friend, I think The White House should start thinking who are our next Prime Minister will be instead of courting a corrupt and increasingly repressive Najibian ancien regime.

    Watch what can happen on August 30 BERSIH 4.0 rally. There will likely be brutal Police repression and arrests of civil society leaders. I resent sweet talking Obama and meaningless statements of concern from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Obama is taking Malaysians for granted or maybe we are not important enough in terms of US national interest.–Din Merican

  4. “…. I think The White House should start thinking who are our next Prime Minister will be…”—@Din Merican

    Din, I hope by the above you don’t mean to request for the White House to have any role in deciding for us who our next Prime Minister should be???

  5. Remember what one former Prez of the USA said about a S.American dictator. ‘So he is son of a bitch BUT he is our son of a bitch’ TPPA?
    Also please read General McCrystals book ‘NEVER IN LINE AGAIN’

  6. Malott,
    Just as these 2 clowns (RPK and ktemoc) says that Anwar is so passe. Likewise for Ku Li. Come on Ku Li, you expect dinner to be served in a silver platter. I have much respect towards Michael Foot than this fella. Michael Foot took up the Labour leadership challenge when Thatcher ousted Callaghan in the definitive 1979 general election.
    Michael Foot’s magician speech is lagendary.

  7. It’s a wrong game to play in the hands of UMNO with Tunku Razaleigh and TMM spear heading the change. Do you think there can be any change from all these corrupt leaders from UMNO except TR ?

    Let’s look for new avenues to throw this Barisan and to give a new lease to the people of Malaysia who are so fed up with the kind of administrators talking cock and bull stories.

    Mahathir is scared of his wealth and that of his sons’ once a new government is placed over the ballot paper. The same goes with all the UMNO Veterans who piled their wealth in the past over 5 decades.

    It’s wise to change the government totally rather than putting back the old regime by merely overhauling the culprits.

  8. Sir, I worry what police aggression will look like at bersih 4 . Last night’s heavy handed arrests of 2 Bersih lads guilty only of raising bersih banners woke the peaceful neighborhood of PJ was an OTT reaction. 5 squad cars no less?!
    We need a solution yesterday. BN needs a complete overhaul and TSMY nor his successor will make that a reality. TR might just work

  9. Dear Mallot.
    Yes , something is cooking up in Johore today.
    Sultan is meeting Mahayuddin today may be to persuade him to give way to Zahid as new PM.

    Najib don’t trust Mahayuddin, he will only resign if Zahid is PM.
    Meantime T Razaligh is working in his unity government minus UMNO.
    Mahathir prepare to support T Razaligh if Mahayuddin cannot get the support from UMNO,with one condition,he must not release Anwar from Prison.


  10. We are so used to having UMNO internal politics alone to install the post of PM that nobody thinks anything wrong for UMNO internal politics alone to remove a PM of all Malaysians. But it is wrong, as wrong as a mother thinks she can take away the life of a child to whom she has given life.

    A PM position is meant to lead all Malaysians, including those who do not vote for the particular PM. The PM is not supposed to be under a dog leash of UMNO. The Constitution gives the PM enough room to be independent from UMNO when the Constitution allows the PM to continue his role as long as he still can command confidence from majority parliamentarians who can be from oppositions.

    Opposition parliamentarians are about to fail Malaysians if they fail to reassert the authority of Parliament in deliberating the removal of PM; And fail to stop UMNO internal politic from subverting the authority of Parliament.

    In order to assert the authority of Parliament, opposition parliamentarians must be willing to negotiate with PM on a deliberation process that the PM feel fair. Such compromise is a manifestation of more matured polity. It was done in many developed nations – that’s why transition of leaders can be done more transparently and orderly. We must demand such maturity from opposition parliamentarians.

    Mr. Berthelsen alluding to all these UMNO internal politics in removing PM of all Malaysians as business-as-usual is not serving us much good. Opposition parliamentarians’ shortsightedness and failure to do their jobs are what we should highlight, not just the business-as-usual UMNO internal politics.

    We should stand with Najib when he wants to defend his post from unruly UMNO internal politics. This should be true even if Najib might misuse the several billion ringgits.

  11. DM: You’re absolutely spot on about Obama who’s really no different from his predecessors when it comes to dealing with Third World wannabes and petty dictators.

    With their usual motherhood statements about democracy, human rights et cetera and stage-managed photo ops for the consumption of local state-controlled media, these fellows will (as Eliot put it) continue to “come and go, talking of Michelangelo”.

    So let’s just take them serially, my friend. Never seriously.

  12. salam Bro Din, i don’t foresee any change if najib (or nyonya mansor) abdicated the throne for we are yet be ruled by umno baru dynasty, only different is the maharaja. we can only hope to see positive changes when 1. separation of power is reinstated & 2. wakil2 rakyat behave as wakil rakyat & bukan emperor atau napoleon kecik, among many other flaws that require corrections.

  13. Changing one UMNO leader with another UMNO leader from the current rotten crop is like pouring the same coffee from one cup into another. It will be business as usual – corruption, cronyism, bumiputraism, religious bigotry, media control, racial supremacy, rigged elections, etc.
    However, Kuli will be an acceptable choice.
    I doubt, the Opposition will accept Muhyddin or Zahid as PM.
    In any case, I doubt Kuli has the numbers for the no confidence vote. One more thing, UMNO MPs can be bought like sheep in a market place.

  14. Looks like we the people will still have the dead albatross UMNO THRUST UPON US by the powers whose credibility is questionable.
    Note all these shenanigans is by UMNO leaders past and present who have always subscribed to what Cardinal Caraffa said “populus vult, decipi ergo decipitur”( the public wishes to be fooled,therefore let it be fooled)

    So all these negotiations is an attempt to keep this corrupt UMNO regime in power, not a real effort to get good governance. WAKE UP and lets be in KL ON 30th AUGUST and remove the shackles of UMNO.

  15. It is a vey good article. He has given all the reasons why Unity Government will not work. You can hire the best F1 driver but if you give him a 1968 MGB GT there is no way he is going to win any of the F1 races.

  16. Speculating about the ‘Abomination in Desolation’ are we, folks?
    I’d rather watch this degenerative tragicomedy from afar.
    Anything can or will happen – but Occam’s Razor applies and serendipity we have not.
    Let us Pray (nondenominational) for serenity, courage and wisdom:

  17. Singapore has a population of 4 million and they can have any of the top 15 cabinet members step in as PM.

    Malaysia has a population of 28 million and we have not a single candidate from the present crop of cabinet members.

    And yet we condemn Singapore…. well SGD1.00 = MYR2.86…. that says it all

  18. Siang,
    No condemnation but just pure bullshits even from some commentators. By the way, it’s 5 million already. By the way to that idiot Abnizar, listen to what Jon Stewart got to say

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