To oppose or not to oppose, that is the question

pic by TMR FILE

IT DOESN’T take long for public opinion on Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s (picture) idea of inclusiveness as projected in his Keluarga Malaysia or the Malaysian Family concept to take a cynical turn.

Indeed, a swallow does not a summer make, but a family member appointed to a government’s entity can unravel Ismail Sabri’s intended inclusiveness.

Sceptics are now cynically saying that when the prime minister spoke about Keluarga Malaysia, he actually meant his own family first.

Such was the impact of the appointment of Ismail Sabri’s elder brother, Datuk Zamri, as the chairman of the National Farmers’ Organisation that pundits viewed the week-old memorandum of understanding (MoU) of bipartisanship signed between the government and the Pakatan Harapan (PH) Opposition block was put in jeopardy.

DAP secretary general Lim Guan Eng, one of the signatories of the MoU on behalf of PH, issued a strongly worded statement over Zamri’s appointment, saying that the move reeked of nepotism and conflict of interest which “would increase greater scrutiny or scepticism about the government’s commitment towards the institutional reforms mentioned in the MoU”.

Obviously, Lim and the rest of the PH had to quickly clarify their stand on such political excess by Ismail Sabri and the government, lest they would be accused of endorsing it since they had signed the MoU.

There is actually some confusion and disgruntlement down the PH ranks. Apart from being unhappy that their leaders had chosen to cosy up to the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government, they too are unsure as to whether that meant the PH’s role as the Opposition has now become diluted.

Their concerns are actually not misplaced. If Lim and the rest of the PH leadership attempt to distance themselves from Ismail Sabri and the PN government over the perceived nepotism, how do they justify the fact that the MoU they signed involved a government that is formed with support from kleptocrats and backstabbers, frogs and opportunists, apart from a government that literally rose from the ashes of a failed government.

Are the PH leaders saying that nepotism is unacceptable, but the rest of the other “sins” are, for the time being, tolerable?

Of course, the PH leaders had been working overtime trying to convince their supporters that the signing of the MoU does not change their stance of being the Opposition and that their collaboration with the government was over specific subjects.

But their interpretation of the understanding inked with the government seems to differ from that of the government’s side when a PAS MP told off the Opposition leader for levelling unsubstantiated accusations against the government despite having signed the MoU.

In other words, as the PH leaders work overtime to convince their supporters that they have not become less of an Opposition by inking the MoU, the PN side seems to think otherwise, that the PH is expected to be friendly to the government. And friendly means to argue and complain less.

Then, there is the matter of the DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang batting for the MoU, urging other Opposition parties — Parti Pejuang Tanah Air, Parti Warisan Sabah and Malaysian United Democratic Alliance or Muda — to also sign up.

In the first place, with or without the three Opposition parties, the trio have only a handful of MPs between them to cause any discomfort to the PH/PN huddle.

Unless, and only unless, there is concern that the MoU may, in the long run, affect the position of the PH as an Opposition. If the rest of the Opposition parties become party to the MoU, then none can upstage the other when the general election is called.

Then again, such views may be deemed cynical when the clarion call made in the justification of the MoU was for a political ceasefire in the face of unabating deaths and infections caused by the pandemic.

Nevertheless, as pointed out, with or without the three smaller Opposition parties, the PH and PN are sitting pretty, of course with the kleptocrats and backstabbers in tow.

And staying out meant that there is an Opposition that can still raise issues regarding the specific subject matters in the MoU, which may have loopholes and shortcomings that only those from the outside may notice.

Even then, the PH need not concern themselves with the other Opposition parties as the combined might of PH and PN will ensure whatever Bills within the stipulated MoU will definitely pass through Parliament unfettered.

That established, the PH should be in good spirit, be it in the Malaysian Family or that of Ismail Sabri’s.

Then again, unless the smaller Opposition parties are reminding them of what they used to be.

It is understandably difficult for the PH to break their Opposition mindset having been one for years to no end, except for the brief 22 months of remission. Being in such a prolonged state can at times imprison and shackle the thoughts.

Somehow, Lovelace’s “stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage” comes to mind.

Shamsul Akmar is the editor of The Malaysian Reserve.