Malaysia Dateline

How should the Cabinet Ministers prepare for the transition ?

“A week in politics is eternity,” the former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson once said.

As the clock ticks down to a transition from the rule of Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammad to Prime Minister in Waiting Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, by 2020 in general, things that have been pre-planned cannot be left to mere waiting.

All hands must be on deck to steer the vessel from any impending ice berg. Take Japan for example. Emperoror Akihito of Japan had wanted to step down as early as 2017.

Yet the Imperiald Household Agency of Japan kindly asked for an abdication process of two years. In England, Prince Charles should be stepping up to replace his mother, Queen Elizabeth II. But he held his breath and waited close to seventy years and is still waiting patiently.

In Taiwan, for example, when President Jiang Ching Guo passed on in 1986, it took more than a year of careful calibration to ensure the consolidation of President Lee Teng Hui, the first native Taiwanese, to be the leader of the island republic.

With a degree from Kyoto University, and a major in agricultural studies, coupled by a PhD from Cornel University, Lee’s Japanese and English were probably much better than his command of Mandarin Chinese, since he spoke in a smattering of Taiwanese minanhua and heavily accented local Chinese, familiar only to the locals in Taiwan. Lee was not trusted by mainland China at all.

By 1996, President Jiang Zeming of mailand China was lobbing missiles into the Taiwan Straits to ostensibly prevent Taiwan from going independent.

Whether the latter is true or not, it goes to show that politics can be a delicate affair. In the case of Taiwan, it took the arrival of the US Seventh Fleet to compel mainland China to behave. The status quo was maintained.

On Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammad and Anwar Ibrahim, no one will be sending any fleets. This is a transition which both of them had agreed, and what most Malaysians want, which is why May 9th resulted in the defeat of UMNO and Barisan National.

But to ensure a smooth transition, all eyes must ensure that the Cabinet, government and other forms of Government Linked Investment Companies (GLICs), Goverment Linked Companies (GCCs) and the transition of the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) can all be in place.

As of now, efforts on all sides to ensure a smooth transition must be doubled or tripled, which is why Anwar, to his credit, has emphasized the importance of patience. Internal politics of PKR, AMANAH and DAP cannot spill over to affect this transition too. All must learn to hail the Chief and the new Chief in Coming.

To be sure, patience does not mean a display of inert movement; of doing nothing. Nor does it mean an attempt to do everything that can lead to Anwar’s official confirmation sooner rather later

Rather, patience suggests the need to have constant and regular communication with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammad to ensure zero miscommunication, where the two gentleman can continue to honor their words, based on what had been said, or, left unsaid. In this sense, even Dato Azmin Ali and Rafizi Ramli must get it into their heads that the top duo had agreed to watch after the interest of each other, and all sides must stay close to this script without fail. A promise, after all, is a promise.

As things stand, there are healthy signs that Anwar does have that connection, invariably, chemistry with Tun Dr Mahathir. In this sense, things are working.

In numerous interviews, Anwar Ibrahim have reassured international investors and journalists alike that he can call Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammad anytime, even in the deep hours of the night. This is a privilege not granted to many, if at all. The stronger the transition, the mode other countries will respect the unique process of democratic transition too.

Indeed, such access that leads to invaluable face time between the top two cannot be under estimated at all. It suggests a return to a genuine rapport that had been there in the early 1980s and 1990s.

More importantly, it also creates a dynamic of mutual reassurance that Pakatan Harapan will not be vulnerable to current, and future, snipings from what remains of Barisan National (BN).

To be sure, all Cabinet Ministers cannot perform to the satisfaction of both Prime Minister and Prime Minister In Waiting. The reasons is simple; While Tun Dr Mahathir and Anwar Ibrahim can agree on the collective importance of Look East, which all Cabinet Ministers can climb on board, not all Cabinet Ministers can agree if it is Japan that is more important or China first, or, perhaps South Korea ? For the benefit of all, since Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammad understands Japan more than he does with China for now, Cabinet Ministers and officers must Look East by focusing on understanding Japan first, especially Japanese values of honesty, integrity and professionalism. China remains super important, but Japan first, so as to permit Tun Dr Mahathir to guage if the Cabinet Ministers even know how to handle the dossier on Japan. China must come in. But all ministers must grasp the importance of Japan from technology transfer to learning from their impeccable values and ethics.

If the United States is a stable Pacific power, all Minister can look East to the East of Japan to engage the market opportunities provided by California, the sixh largest economy in the Pacific too.

But Malaysia is still trapped with 1MDB, which is primarily dealt by the the Department of Justice in the Eastern beltway of Washington DC and New York, both of which are totally unfamiliar to most Malaysian politicians. Thus Cabinet Ministers can relate to the US, but the litmust test of how hope they are still revolves and devolves on Nippon.

In fact, if Umno and Pas, directly or indirectly, have consolidated their tie. By December 8, they will invariably, be protesting against the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).

It is ironical that they want to protect against ICERD, as Lim Kit Sing pointed out, when they were sheepishly silent on the grand larceny of 1MDB. Did outright robbery of the state matter less than an international convention that does not even have the teeth to change the Malaysian Constitution ? With the blind leading the blind, PAS and UMNO will fall into a ditch, if not by next year, certainly by 2023, the next general election, if not sooner.

Thus, it is all but a given that both are ready to spurn other races in Malaysia to become a formidable force in Malay heartland, which is where they hope to transform into their rustic fortress. Fat chance. The rural heartland looks to the Federal government to increase their agricultural incentives and subsidies which Minister of Agriculture Datuk Salahuddin Ayub promised to look into with the Minister of Finance Lim Guan Eng.

But Umno and PasĀ  will continue to be much mistaken. Rural Malaysians may be once enamored with issues verging in race, royalty and rent provided by Umno, the people want the room to grow too. They do take democracy seriously, and the transition that was promised.

The outstanding performance of Rafizi Ramli against Azmin Ali in the PKR election is a case in point that many Malaysians are ready to accept Anwar Ibrahim in future. He has been imprisoned before. He knows the pain of the poor people. And they in turn want a Messiah-like figure to redeem and save them, just as they look at Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammad to salvage their pride and position as a people of dignity.

Umno and Pas are kaput, for the lack of better word. There is no way that the urban and rural constituencies can trust their brand of politics given the kleptocratic excesses which they have engaged with sheer flatulence.

They recoil from Umno’s mutiple charges.of criminal breach of trust. Pas is also finished in light of the large sponsorship with which it has primarily received from Umno in the run up to the 14th general election.

The fact that MACC cannot come a knocking at Pasat this stage cannot mean that they will forever be immuned.