Thursday, July 16, 2015

Najib’s options: Go on leave or face confidence vote

 15 Jul 2015 10:00 AM


OUTSPOKEN: Suggestions that embattled Prime Minister Najib Razak should go on leave and allow the 1MDB investigation to go full scale and unhindered have been made by many people.
These include DAP’s Tony Pua being the first and former deputy prime minister Musa Hitam being the latest. In between, a former Melaka Chief Minister Rahim Thamby Chik also did the same.
The 81-year-old-Musa served as a deputy minister in the Tunku Abdul Rahman administration and then a cabinet member during Abdul Razak premiership. Musa was the deputy to Dr Mahathir Mohamad between 1981 and 1986. He resigned because of differences with the latter who is now spearheading the attack on Najib and his administration.
In the meantime senior journalist A Kadir Jasin wrote that it was possible for Najib to be prosecuted; should the Attorney-General decide to do so. Legally this is fine view. After all, this is what Article 145(3) of the Federal Constitution is all about. Kadir cited the case of former Mahathir’s deputy Anwar Ibrahim who was sacked from the cabinet and Umno in 1998.Ma
Mahathir (left) and Anwar (right)
Be that as it may be, one must bear in mind the political factor; something that is crucial when it comes to senior political figures. Those who followed Anwar’s case from the day he was sacked by Mahathir would readily accept the point.
The same with the corruption case involving former Selangor Menteri Besar Harun Idris in 1975. For the record, Harun was seen as the challenger to then premier and Umno president Abdul Razak Hussein, Najib’s father. Harun emerged as a Malay hero during the post-1969 political crisis.
The bottom line here is this: the crucial factor which determines whether a case eventually ends up in a court trial is political; namely the green light from the Prime Minister’s Office. And this underlines the air of unreality in the view expressed by Kadir.
As for the suggestion that Najib should take leave to allow full scale investigation on the agency that was his brainchild, one has to remember that the problem here is not about the PM taking leave, for example on official visits overseas when his position can be covered by his deputy. The matter we are discussing is something controversial; one that goes to the very heart of the government itself.
It is public knowledge that the government is either divided or in the dark about 1MDB. That notwithstanding, the allegations include the use of the 1MDB funds to finance Umno BN campaign during the GE13 in 2013. It looks like that most, if not all of them, benefit from the funds.
Whatever it is, Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and a senior Umno minister Shafie Afdal have been critical of Najib. Going by the Constitution, Najib is at liberty to sack the two Umno leaders from his Cabinet. And if the two ministers are men of principles, they should have resigned like Rais Yatim in 1987 or Ghafar Baba in 1976. This is what collective responsibility is all about.
Such is also the basis for the position of prime minister and his government are interchangeable. This means that the prime minister is the government and the latter is the former.
Asking Najib to go on leave is like severing the Cabinet its head or main pillar. This seems to be the inescapable implication given that only Najib and a handful of ministers have been defending 1MDB.
From Najib’s point of view, going on leave and let Muhyiddin assume the mantle means giving away the advantage that he knows he enjoys. It goes without saying that this could mean putting himself at the latter’s mercy.
Whatever the position of the Cabinet on the 1MDB issue, the one thing that is difficult to deny is that Umno-BN as a whole could have benefitted from the funds during the last general election. In other words, the whole Cabinet is quite culpable of it.
As such, the better solution is to have a vote confidence taken in Parliament. This will allow the 222 MPs to decide whether they still support Najib and his government.
Should he fail to get the minimum 112, then he has to resign and make a request for a dissolution of Parliament to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. This will enable a general election to follow where the people would have the chance to put a government they prefer in office. Such will also allow a swift end to the 1MDB saga.
That course of action will also allow BN parliamentarians who are not on the same page with Najib to have their say. In a way, it will also put the seriousness of the likes of Muhyiddin Yassin and Shafie Afdal on the issue to the test.
Of course, some will ask whether it is at all possible to request for a vote of confidence in Parliament, and they will surely raise about what was done by Speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia in 2009 to prevent it from taking place.
They have a valid point indeed and this is the problem with the so-called truncated or distorted Westminster system in Malaysia.
Dr Abdul Aziz Bari is formerly IIUM law professor where he taught law for more than 22 years.
- See more at: http://www.theantdaily.com/Main/Najib-s-options-Go-on-leave-or-face-confidence-vote#sthash.txJIFOYq.dpuf

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