COMMENTARY, Feb 14 — As many as 138 out of 222 MPs are alleged to have signed statutory declarations (SDs) in support of sitting Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad staying the full term in the latest political twist enveloping Malaysia.
According to news reports, the remainder denied signing any SDs or being approached by anyone about it, raising questions on the existence of such a document and more significantly its purpose and relevance.
For such SDs are different than the ones signed by the late P. Balasubramaniam, a former private detective in relation to the murder of Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibu and by her convicted killer, former police officer Azilah Hadri.
If such SDs exist, for those MPs who signed them in support of Dr Mahathir and then choose to lie low is mind boggling even to the ordinary Malaysian who see it as an attempt to portray the sitting PM as lacking confidence in his own support.
This does not bode well for Malaysia given that public confidence in the Pakatan Harapan coalition they voted in has declined in just under two years.
If the purpose of the SD is only as a promise of support, it would be better to table it as a motion in Parliament as PAS has suggested.
But if the Dewan Rakyat Speaker were to reject the motion, would those MPs who signed the SDs then seek an audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong for Dr Mahathir to continue leading the government until the next general election?
Or would the prime minister-in-waiting Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim push for a motion of no-confidence against his own coalition chairman so he can take over the government?
And if there were to be such a move by Anwar, would the purported SDs in support of Dr Mahathir then lose their validity?
The real crux of the political matter boils down to the matter of when Dr Mahathir should hand over the prime minister position to Anwar.
Supporters of Anwar want a specific date, which Dr Mahathir has repeatedly said he cannot give because of the current administrative problems he hopes to complete beforehand.
Furthermore, Dr Mahathir is not a person who would seek support through SDs to convince Parliament and Malaysians that he is doing the right thing to remain in government until such a time as he feels he should leave.
In 2009, the Perak state government then under Pakatan Rakyat fell to Barisan Nasional because three assemblymen jumped over.
It prompted then mentri besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Nizar Jamaluddin to call for a dissolution of the assembly, which was refused by the sultan.
The matter went to court and the Court of Appeal ruled that the sultan had the right to decide who held the mandate, which in the Perak constitutional crisis went to the BN.
No SDs were involved then.
In the end, it is a vote by MPs in the Dewan Rakyat that really matters.