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a backdoor government born out of treachery and betrayal and supported by an axis of “crooks and kleptocrats” who have found common cause with extremists and opportunists…

I simply could not bring myself to watch the swearing-in ceremony of the 8th prime minister yesterday. Such occasions ought normally to be a celebration of our democracy but this was a mockery of it.

Like millions of other Malaysians, I am stunned and angry that political parties that were soundly rejected by the people at the last elections have plotted and schemed their way back to power. How is it even possible that we could so quickly go from dancing in the streets at the rebirth of our democracy to sullenly and helplessly resigning ourselves to the fact that a nefarious coalition – which includes UMNO and PAS and putatively led by Muhyiddin – is now the government of the land.

Unlikely to inspire confidence

Muhyiddin has called on all Malaysians to respect the decision of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and unite behind the new government; he is asking too much of us. His Majesty fulfilled his constitutional obligations, of course, and cannot be faulted. Having found that Muhyiddin had the numbers, he had to follow the constitution and appoint him prime minister. But the king’s decision was not an endorsement of the character of the man or the way he schemed his way to power.

The whole way it was done will certainly not inspire confidence in his legitimacy nor will it persuade Malaysians to unite behind him. The country is deeply divided; it is not likely that he will be able to bring the people together.

Whichever way you look at it, what we now have is a backdoor government born out of treachery and betrayal and supported by an axis of “crooks and kleptocrats” who have found common cause with extremists and opportunists. Muhyiddin may have the numbers on his side but he will never be able to claim moral legitimacy.

He and the rest of the unprincipled politicians who now shelter under his banner should not minimize how deeply shocked, distressed and aggrieved millions of Malaysians are by their treachery. It will not easily be forgiven nor will it be forgotten.

Our fate now in the hands of Sabah & Sarawak

There is still a glimmer of hope that our parliamentarians will do the right thing when Parliament reconvenes and bring down this backdoor government through a no-confidence motion.

Given the intense horse-trading and deal-making that will go on between now and when Parliament eventually reconvenes, anything is possible. With many politicians interested only in advancing their own careers, nothing is certain until Parliament votes, if it ever votes at all.

The fate of our nation is particularly dependent on parliamentarians from Sabah and Sarawak. How they finally vote when Parliament reconvenes will determine whether Muhyiddin’s backdoor government stands or falls. I can only pray that the people of Sabah and Sarawak will rise to the occasion and urgently make their views known to their parliamentarians.

No one will blame them, of course, for demanding the best deal they can get for their respective states in exchange for their support; they have been neglected by Putrajaya for far too long.

They should not, however, have any illusions that they can isolate themselves from the consequences of supporting Muhyiddin.

They should not think, for one moment, that they will be safe, for example, from PAS president Hadi Awang’s grand scheme to turn Malaysia into a fully-fledged Islamic state. Hadi has repeatedly stated his intentions about hudud, repeatedly called for the exclusion of non-Muslims from high office, repeatedly shown his bigotry towards other racial and religious communities. Now, thanks to Muhyiddin, he will be in a position to legislate his bigotry and extremism into law.

And whatever he does in the Peninsula will, sooner or later, touch Sabah and Sarawak too. GPS leaders may dislike the DAP for challenging them but there can be no doubt that Hadi is the biggest threat to the democratic and secular moorings of our nation.

They should remember too that a vote to prop up the Muhyiddin administration is a vote for the return of kleptocracy, corruption and maladministration. Scandals like 1MDB will become commonplace; the country will be driven to insolvency. They shouldn’t be surprised as well if some of the leaders now facing charges for corruption and abuse of power are let off the hook, especially now that Tommy Thomas has resigned and Muhyiddin will get to appoint his successor.

And there is every possibility that our democracy itself will suffer tremendously. UMNO got overconfident pre-GE14; it took too much for granted. It will not make the same mistake again. Together with PAS, they will set out to reorder the political landscape of the country to ensure they never lose power again.

Last but not least, we will begin to see the strengthening of anti-democratic legislation to stifle dissent and quench opposition to their rule. They will have no choice but to crack down on freedom because the government will remain deeply unpopular and resented by many.

History repeating itself?

No doubt some will say that this is simply a worst-case scenario; I suggest it might well be a case of history repeating itself. We’ve been there before, remember? It was why Malaysians of every ethnicity, religious and social background demonstrated, protested and pressed for change. Before GE14, we were headed for a failed state; it looks like we might now continue down that path once more.

This is what is at stake when Parliament reconvenes. If our parliamentarians, or at least enough of them, do not come to their senses and vote against this backdoor government, our nation will be dealt a body blow from which it may not recover.

[Dennis Ignatius |Kuala Lumpur |Monday, 2nd March 2020]