Oleh Muhamad Firdaus Ali
This op-ed was published by South China Morning Post on August 7, 2021.
Malaysia’s former prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, has proposed the formation of a national recovery council recently in light of political turmoil in Malaysia.The suggestion was made in the spirit of bipartisanship, to be implemented the situation gets better, and the government can call for a fresh election.
Council members, under his proposal, would include medical specialists, business people, bankers, lawyers, education practitioners and a few bipartisan politicians.
The concept of a National Recovery Council is not new to Malaysia.
In 1969, in light of racial riots, Tunku Abdul Rahman (Malaysia’s first Prime Minister) advised the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to form Majlis Gerakan Negara (MAGERAN) or National Operations Council led by Tun Abdul Razak as Director of Operations to restore law and order.
MAGERAN was proven to stabilise racial climate among civilians more than 40 years.
Holding a fresh election is the real solution for this never-ending political turmoil. However, it is very unlikely for the government to call for General Election amid the pandemic, as it might produce the same outcome as Sabah election in 2020.
Forming a governing council in lieu of the elected government will further extend the period of emergency in Malaysia, obstructing the exercise of checks and balances through parliamentary system. However, considering the nation is facing a severe political crisis where members of parliament are facing trust issues, it could serve as a a short-term solution.
Yet, it seems unlikely it will be established without the political will of the current government. In 1967, the council was established with the recommendation by the Prime Minister.
There are also questions revolving around well executed national Covid-19 immunisation programme mandated to current Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation Khairy Jamaluddin. The future of the vaccination programme is one of the important aspects that should be considered with regard to the establishment of the council. Appointing new team to conduct the vaccination programme will only hinder its progress, as running the programme requires understanding in national political framework and seamless coordination between multiple agencies.
So is National Recovery Council the solution Malaysia needs? Yes and no. Yes, if it is truly created to expediate Covid-19 mitigation plans and act as bipartisanship platform solely for nation rebuilding purposes. No, if it is formed with the intention to lay out a foundation of power for particular figure or organisation. Let the general election decides.
Muhamad Firdaus Ali, student, Shiga University, Japan