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Things are moving very quickly. The political situation is extremely fluid. Rumours abound of shifting alliances and ambitious men waiting in the wings. The King’s rebuke of the government is unprecedented. The Prime Minister’s terse response – curtly telling the King not to interfere – is shocking, disrespectful and so unMalaysian. He has since backtracked somewhat but remains unrepentant and defiant.  All told, this prime minister has upended more than half a century of democratic tradition and made a mockery of the spirit of the Federal Constitution. If he gets away with it, Malaysia’s democracy would have been dealt a body blow from which it might never recover. 

For Malaysians, the drama currently unfolding in the nation’s capital is more than just a game of thrones; it is directly impacting their lives and livelihood. To say we are on the brink of catastrophe would not be an exaggeration. Thousands are now unemployed; businesses are closing; families are going hungry; people are dying. Who would have ever thought this could happen in a nation once touted as the next Asian tiger? 

The pandemic didn’t cause this crisis; it merely exposed the utter bankruptcy, the lunacy even, of a governance model premised upon what the late Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman decried as a “wild and fantastic theory of absolute dominion by one race over the other communities regardless of the Constitution”. What we are now seeing is the cumulative effect of decades of misguided policies and practices that prioritized race and religion over merit, integrity, justice and principles of good governance. It is the natural consequence of a system that, to quote former Bank Negara deputy governor Sukhdave Singh, has “elevated mediocre minds…and lifted unqualified and incompetent individuals into positions of leadership” and given them licence “to enrich themselves through dishonest means, to betray public trust, to loot public funds – all with impunity”. 

The Sheraton Move was but the final straw that brought down the whole rotten race-based governance model that was constructed in the aftermath of May 13. The disrespect for the King exposed the utter hypocrisy behind all their posturing about being defenders of the Malays and the Malay rulers. They have no manifesto, no clear goals and no idea what to do with the power they have seized other than enriching themselves. 

It is not their only act of treachery and betrayal. For years they have pillaged and plundered the nation while snugly wrapped in the flag. As Tun Daim Zainuddin, who once headed the Council of Eminent Persons noted, “The 1MDB scandal was not the only example of misuse of public funds. Unprecedented levels of debt and corruption had seeped into every level of Malaysian government and society, resulting in the shameless robbing of the very institutions that were established to help and uplift our rakyat. The pillage of trust bodies like FELDA, LTAT, Tabung Haji, and KWAP were astounding and heart breaking.” 

Over and over again they have demonstrated by their misdeeds that they are not defenders of the faith; they are defrauders of the faithful. They are not champions of anything or anyone; they are but conmen. 

Just look at how they have rewarded themselves with lucrative sinecures, pay rises, new cars and appointments galore. Muhyiddin has a cabinet that is so large that photographers have to switch to ‘pano’ view just to take them all in. It’s just a way of buying the loyalty of men without integrity, a way of rewarding people for abandoning their responsibility to the nation. 

To top it all, they have shown themselves to be stunningly incompetent. They have mismanaged just about everything. Their flip-flops, incoherent and ill-considered pandemic-related orders have just made a bad situation worse. It is no surprise that even the Malays have given up on this so-called Malay unity government. 

As the political crisis intensifies, UMNO president Zahid Hamidi – a man who has been charged with 47 counts of corruption, criminal breach of trust and money laundering – is desperately manoeuvring to position himself to replace Muhyiddin as prime minister. And he is not without support. That alone should tell us just how sick and rotten the whole system has become, how low we have sunk as a nation.

It’s time to publicly acknowledge what we have known for some time now: in the name of race and religion, our governance system has been so abused that it is now beyond repair. A different prime minister or even fresh elections won’t resolve our problem if the system remains unchanged. We either reform or we perish. 

Dennis Ignatius | Kuala Lumpur | 11th August 2021