Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and two other Pakatan Harapan leaders, Lim Guan Eng and Mohamad Sabu, met new Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob on the latter’s invitation.
This was to uphold the King’s reminder during the process of selecting the new prime minister for all parties to lower the political temperature as we face the health, education, and economic crises in the country.
This is not a question of a unity government.
Instead, the focus was rightly on an accord of some form of stability for the executive in exchange for reforms for the legislature after Harapan had urged the government for radical improvements in the strategy to combat Covid-19, and bigger fiscal spending focusing on workers as well as small and medium enterprises.
The previous prime minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, too tried to reach out to the opposition, but this was rejected by the Harapan leadership.
What is the difference this time?
Muhyiddin had ample time to reach out to the opposition but not only did he did not do so, he kept postponing the parliamentary sitting, suspended Parliament with the emergency and his government misled Parliament on the revocation of the emergency.
In short, Muhyiddin’s offer was made by a collapsing and discredited government grasping for survival; Ismail Sabri is the new prime minister with a working (albeit small) majority. The former did not deal with Harapan – the biggest opposition bloc – officially; while the latter has met with the Harapan leaders not only formally but openly.
The key is to go beyond a transactional approach to politics. As such, we must think outside the box and aim for something much larger.
Malaysia, like it or not, needs fundamental reforms, including of its Parliament to ensure that its role as the voice of the people and an effective check-and-balance to the executive is restored.
We also passionately believe that this shift will contribute to a more successful national response to the pandemic and the revival of our economy.
The government must commit to and promptly carry out substantial reforms for Parliament, including the revival of the Parliamentary Services Commission to make the legislature truly independent from the executive and a more balanced and better functioning Select Committees.
At the same time, the government must look into a radical overhaul of the Election Commission and an immediate implementation of Undi18.
There must be cast-iron, irrevocable guarantees that these reforms will be carried out to the letter, without the possibility of equivocation or hesitation in exchange for the opposition not pursuing a vote of no confidence against the government.
This will provide stability and help facilitate Malaysia’s recovery from Covid-19 as well as its economic revival, but also ensure that long-needed reforms to our democracy are carried out without hindrance. Stability without reforms would be meaningless.
In terms of the next steps, the discussions of the working committee should be finalised after the appointment of the new cabinet.
At all times, the rakyat’s best interests must be our supreme goal.
CHANG LIH KANG PKR vice-president and Tanjong Malim MP
NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD PKR chief organising secretary and Setiawangsa MP.