A frog, by any other name, hops

pic by BERNAMA

FOR the next two weeks, all eyes will be on Sabah, where the electorate would get the opportunity to demonstrate if they are fine with party hoppers, or if they are sick and tired of such self-serving, self-indulging politicians, whose considerations are only for and about themselves.

While it could be argued that such specimens are in abundance in the peninsula, the opportunity to test the people’s resolve emerges in Sabah and it should not be wasted at any cost.

On the sidelines, either by chance or design, four lawmakers — a minister, two deputy ministers and one ordinary MP, all from the hastily cobbled coalition that rules the nation — are becoming quite central in the debate of who should win the people’s mandate in Sabah.

The minister is of course the symbol of double standards, still defending his actions of not subjecting himself to the Covid-19 quarantine and some of his backers have been busy finding religious edicts and narratives to justify his irresponsible behaviour.

Then, there are the two deputy ministers who had somewhat tag-teamed to take on the Sabah lass over the search for Internet connection from a tree top.

Unable to find it in themselves some humility, their take on the issue threatens to unravel what little affection Sabahans may have for the coalition they are part of.

Finally, the MP, whose controversial remarks in Parliament that the Bible had been distorted, is also causing the ruling coalition to lose ground in the Sabah polls for his insistence of holding on to his words and refusing to apologise for them.

These acts could be summed up similar to a title of a 1990s runaway hit movie, albeit with a little tweak — “Four Lawmakers and a Funeral” — of which their indiscretions may help bury the chances of their parties and partners in the Sabah polls.

Another development that should probably remind the nation of what it faces is the inability or refusal of the ruling Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia’s leadership to punish by sacking a Johor assemblyman who had openly flouted the party rules by associating himself with the Opposition.

The reason for the refusal to act on the errant assemblyman is simply because the equation in Johor that is the ruling coalition only has a one-seat majority and sacking the assemblyman would spell a hung government and the possibilities of a snap state election of the change of state government, if one more assemblyman decides to abandon it and join the Opposition.

With that, the assemblyman had literally snubbed and given the middle finger to the Bersatu leadership, which is led by no less than Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin himself.

It is not out of sheer gumption that the assemblyman was doing it, but rather out of the awareness that the current government, both at the Johor state as well as at the federal level, suffers from the insecurity and paranoia of one without the numbers.

It is without doubt being threatened from all angles — each politician knows that they are precious in the equation and no matter what they do, there was nothing to suffer from the centre.

The centre — in dealing with these indiscretions from among its ranks — decides to take the only recourse it could or rather capable of; remain silent and hope that the issues will come to pass eventually.

It could not even muster enough strength to utter a reprimand, let alone discipline or punish the errant ones. Expecting a sacking would be something extremely far-fetched.

For now, the government is actually defending the fort on a one issue legacy, that it had successfully handled the Covid-19 pandemic.

That goodwill from the public is, however, slowly thinning and growing displeasure is becoming less muted.

The inability of the leadership to step up and address publicly these displeasures, especially when the MPs from the ruling coalition break ranks and commit something outrightly unacceptable, as in the case of the four, is anything but wise.

There never was any elegance in a leader’s silence despite attempts by an out of touch leader who wanted to justify the quietude as such in a previous administration.

Neither does the current leadership’s silence elegant nor acceptable regardless whether it is a government that was voted in by the people or otherwise.

In fact, since it is not a government voted in by the people, it is actually more incumbent on the leadership to address such misdeeds and indiscretions among its lawmakers and members of the Cabinet.

Otherwise, not only had it usurped the will of the people, it had also chosen to not be responsible for the wrongdoings, refused to acknowledge them and inevitably, failed to take remedial measures.

That will, in time, affect the dignity and pride of the leadership, which, in such a tumultuous period, are precious commodities in holding public trust and affinity.

Unless, the elegant silence 2.0 is actually a strategy to camouflage a sweeping power play that would be unleashed when the time is right and ripe.

But a sting in the tail seems the more likely.

Shamsul Akmar is the editor of The Malaysian Reserve.