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January 27, 2021

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By Chandra Muzaffar

A National Unity Government is not feasible at this stage for a couple of reasons. One, since major political leaders of all stripes are preoccupied with positions, a government made up of such leaders will be fighting tooth and nail for certain positions. This scramble will not only absorb all their energies but also lead to more instability. Simply put, there will be massive disunity rather than unity within government. Two, the distrust and antagonism between and among political parties today is at its nadir. There has never been a time in our history when the outright rejection of a political party or a political leader is thrust forward as the pre-condition for political cooperation. Given what has happened in the last few years the bare minimum required for adversarial political actors to work together within a single framework is not present.

Instead of expending time and effort over a Unity Government, it would better to enhance and strengthen a mechanism which the government has proposed as a measure to oversee the Emergency of 13th January 2021. The joint committee comprising members of the government and the opposition augmented by experts from the health sector should be given a wider role especially after the Emergency is lifted to address all issues pertaining to the coronavirus pandemic and the economic recovery. I had first suggested this idea about 6 months ago and repeated it a couple of times. Government- opposition committees at federal and state levels with a specific agenda of immense significance to the people’s well-being, will hopefully reduce mutual distrust and suspicion and improve inter-party and inter-personality relations.

I had suggested that in establishing such a mechanism at federal and state levels His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and their Highnesses the Sultans play a decisive role. The committees will function under the auspices of the Conference of Rulers. The proposed committees will report to the Rulers individually and collectively taking into account our federal structure. Since their role would be advisory, they will not impinge in any way upon the functions of the Federal Cabinet and the State Executive Councils. Besides, since the purpose and function of these advisory committees is directed towards the pandemic and the economic recovery, their boundaries would be clearly articulated. By providing the Conference of Rulers with this role, we would be rendering greater meaning to the institution as the fourth dimension of governance in our society.

From all accounts, it may take a couple of years to ensure a full economic recovery following the pandemic. A high degree of political calm and stability is vital during this period. The last thing we need in the next two years is political uncertainty created by political manoeuvres and ousters. Such uncertainly we can be absolutely sure will not only impede severely our fight against the coronavirus but also thwart our economic recovery and impair the peace and harmony we cherish as a nation.

Dr. Chandra Muzaffar

Kuala Lumpur.

26 October 2021.