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Every time Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin (if that is still his name) sallies forth with a pronouncement on the state of the nation, he provokes a frenzy of disbelief, confusion and anger. His recent announcement that Parliament can only be reconvened after at least 40% of the nation has been fully vaccinated is a case in point.

What has the 40% target got to do with reconvening Parliament? It might be germane if he was talking about a general election – everybody agrees that it would be foolish to hold another election until at least a significant part of the population has been vaccinated – but to link vaccinations and herd immunity to the functioning of Parliament is simply preposterous. Clearly, the prime minister is desperate, stalling for time and running out of excuses. He is more fearful of Parliament than the pandemic. 

Such is his standing that his pandemic exit strategy was immediately panned by economists warning of economic ruin and even political chaos. Plainly, people have lost all confidence in the government’s ability to manage the pandemic and the attendant social and economic fallout. It is no longer just about their legitimacy but about their competency in managing arguably the worst crisis we’ve ever experienced.

In any case, the rulers have now sent an unequivocal message to the prime minister: it’s time for Parliament to start functioning again. 

Since the rulers’ meeting, politicians, lawyers and columnists have gone into overdrive analysing what the monarch can and cannot do under the Constitution. Some have suggested the monarch can demand that Parliament reconvene while others insist that the monarch can dismiss the prime minister and appoint someone else.

They may be missing the point. The rulers know full well the extent of their powers under the Constitution. What the rulers have done is send a very carefully crafted message to the prime minister that [1] they are not happy with the way he has managed things thus far, [2] they see no reason for Parliament to remain shuttered, and [3] they will not countenance an extension of the emergency beyond August 1st.  

What it means is that Muhyiddin can no longer hide behind the declaration of emergency; he must face his peers in Parliament and be accountable to them. Perikatan Nasional leaders are now in an untenable position; failure to reconvene Parliament will be seen by the nation as disrespecting the rulers. Already, their bungling and discourteous response to the rulers have infuriated many.

With the reconvening of Parliament all but a forgone conclusion now, PN ministers are insisting that the opposition should not use the opportunity to wrest power from the government. Hishammuddin Hussein, who has suddenly become very hyper, said that calls for reopening parliament cannot be used as a tool to gain political power. He went on to call on MPs to unite behind the government’s national recovery plan for the sake of the people. What a pathetic, self-serving statement!

It makes no sense to unite behind a leader that has proven himself completely incompetent and incapable of steering the country out of the present crisis. Nothing will change – whether Parliament sits or not – if the present administration remains in office. Any national recovery plan must begin with the exit of this government. We are running out of time. We are going deeper into debt. Businesses are closing. Thousands of jobs are being lost. People are hurting and getting increasingly desperate.

It is time for Parliament to unite to bring down this incompetent administration at the earliest opportunity through a vote of no confidence. Send the whole bunch of ministers in Muhyiddin’s bloated, fractious and ineffectual cabinet packing. Only a new government under a new leader can chart a new course for the nation, restore confidence and implement the kind of measures that are needed to quickly manage the pandemic and get the economy going again. 

Replacing such a hopelessly incompetent government is no longer an option but a sacred duty. The rulers have spoken. The people have spoken. It’s time for Parliament to act.

[Dennis Ignatius | Kuala Lumpur | 18 June 2021]