Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ethics, or just a numbers game?

By Bob Teoh

ANWAR Ibrahim has been bragging that, come next Tuesday, 30 lawmakers from the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition will cross over, giving him the numbers to make him prime minister of Malaysia. Some ethical issues have been raised.

First of all, it is said to be a betrayal of the voters who elected the MPs, since they elected the lawmakers based on the BN platform. Another is that it involves corruption,since the party-hopping is also seen as a buy-over, with massive amounts of money changing hands.

The third contentious issue is that it is an all-out power-grab aimed at toppling the government in power, and hence highly unconstitutional.

The words being bandied about in the media are "betrayal","corruption" and "unconstitutional". But Tun Musa Hitam, the former deputy premier and Umno kingpin, has the uncanny ability to simplify things which
are profoundly political. To him,the object of politics is to be in power, period. He who grabs the most numbers fastest wins.

Indeed, he, together with Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah,made a power-grab in 1987 that nearly saw the defeat of Dr Mahathir Mohamad as party chief and prime minster. But let us go back in history. After the bloodbath of 1969, Dr Mahathir set the power grab in train by demanding that then premier Tunku Abdul Rahman hand over power.

There was a palace coup and Tun Razak Hussein, Tunku's deputy, took charge. But it was also in 1969 that the ruling coalition lost the popular vote in the general elections, although it retained the key two-thirds majority in parliament by a whisker.

It lost the Penang state government to the new Chinese-based Gerakan. In Perak and Selangor, it was a hung assembly. The solution was to invite (read: crossover or buy-over) one or two of the opposition members to join BN to enable it to form the two state governments.In due course, the Gerakan was also "invited" to join the enlarged coalition.

PMIP, or what is now known as Muslim party PAS, which was making increasing inroads into the Malay heartland, was similarly extended an "invitation". In Sabah and Sarawak, the PBS crossed over to team up with Tengku Rzaleigh's Semangat 46 to challenge the ruling coalition in 1990. Both rejoined.

So what's the big deal about party-hopping or crossovers, or power-grabbing and the morality of it all?

Bah! -- Sin Chew Daily, ANN