KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 26 — Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the government must not stand in the way of it being an effective Opposition, according to a PH MP and two political analysts.
On September 13, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, members of the government and top PH leaders signed what has been described as a historic bipartisan agreement.
With the inking of the deal, PH agreed to either support or abstain from voting on Budget 2022 in Parliament, along with any legislation that, if not passed, could be taken as a loss of confidence in the government — provided that the Opposition is first consulted on these matters.
In return, the government agreed to work on several “transformations” including a Covid-19 plan, administrative transformation, parliamentary reforms and judicial independence, as well as push through agreements under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).
However, Bangi MP Ong Kian Ming, and political scientist Wong Chin Huat both stressed that the MoU did not stop PH’s ability to fulfill its check-and-balance role as the Opposition, and added that it was a valuable tool that kept unnecessary political fragmentation at bay.
“PH has to do a much better job at separating our push for political reforms via the MoU, from our responsibility in opposing the government in matters which are not in the MoU that we do not agree with.
“We do not want the MoU to collapse and for it to be used by certain quarters in Umno to trigger GE15 in the first half of 2022, which won't be good for the country,” Ong told Malay Mail yesterday.
The MoU, initially touted by signatories as an ensurement of political stability, has however sporadically come under fire from its detractors who say it hurts the Opposition coalition’s ability to stand up to the government.
This impression was further exacerbated by two recent cases — one involving an estimated RM100 million housing claim by former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak who has been convicted of corruption; and the second centred on former Umno minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor — commonly known as Ku Nan — who was acquitted of corruption in July.
Although the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) initially appealed the latter’s acquittal under the government of Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, it was later repealed on November 17 — once Ismail Sabri came to power.
Ong nevertheless asserted that Ismail Sabri and several other ministers have shown public commitment to seeing parts of the MoU implemented, such as the push for an anti-hopping law.
The RM100 million land request by Najib and the Ku Nan case, he reiterated, were not part of the MoU.
This was echoed by Wong, who said PH leaders not satisfied with the Ku Nan case ruling could instead demand for a reform of the AGC to be added as a new condition to the MoU, instead of asking for its immediate termination.
“The vague mention of judicial independence is indeed an exit clause pre-empting the government's intervention to let Umno's court cluster walk free, but how does one pin down that the government has intervened in court?
“The dropped appeal against Tengku Adnan is really an old problem: the attorney general's conflict of interest as both the government's legal adviser and the public prosecutor.
“If Opposition MPs are really angry about Tengku Adnan they should demand for the creation of a Public Prosecutor's Office that is independent from AGC,” he said.
To note, in countries such as the UK, New Zealand and Canada, where the public prosecutor is independent of the AGC, if the AG recommends a case be dropped, the public prosecutor can appeal against this decision — as an additional layer of check and balance.
Meanwhile, independent political analyst Khoo Kay Peng, who also agreed that PH needed to have more teeth as the Opposition, said that he thought the MoU was not worth retaining.
“The MoU is not expected to last very long and it has not been very effective in the first place.
“PH is facing severe criticism over several decisions, including the Najib housing claim and the Ku Nan case, as well as the low allocation to non-Muslims in Budget 2022,” he said.
He further said that voters in the recent Melaka state polls were disappointed with PH for not speaking up “when necessary” and that they were partly complicit in the decisions of the Ismail Sabri government.
“Clearly, the MoU is not being respected and is costly,” he added.