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Malaysians face collateral damage as PM dices with monsoon for political survival

By Jay Ihsan* 
In 2001, we had Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding, an Indian comedy-drama film that shared the gamut of emotions a family faces dealing with the marriage of a relative come the monsoon season.
The Monsoon Wedding emerged as best film at the Venice Film Festival. Mira's efforts in depicting the cultures and families clash endured by the characters were well rewarded.
Two decades later, the same cannot be said of Malaysia's attempts at yet again organising a monsoon general election, the country's 15th never mind that brickbats came crashing on prime minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob and the ruling coalition.
Ismail who is president of ruling coalition Barisan Nasional and Malay political party Umno, was as desperate as one could be to get the 15th GE over and done with before curtains fell on 2022 - all because Ismail Sabri feared he would otherwise fail to capture the waning Malay votes.
So armed with a messy political narrative, Ismail Sabri succeded when he finally got the king, Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, to say 'aye' for the Parliament to be dissolved.
In a statement on Oct 10, Comptroller of the Royal Household of Istana Negara, Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin, said the ruler was disappointed with the current political developments in the country.
“The king expressed his disappointment in the current political developments of the country and had no choice but to consent to the prime minister’s request to return the mandate back to the people for a stable government,” the statement went.
Ahmad Fadil pointed out the king hoped the Election Commission will hold an election soonest, taking into account the northeast monsoon season that is expected to begin in mid-November.
“The king has insisted that a resilient country is important to ensure political stability and continued economic prosperity for the wellbeing of the people."
The statement further said the king had consented to the dissolution of the parliament in line with Section 40(2) and Section 55(2) of the Federal Constitution.

Political imbroglio and messy GE15

While an election is not due until September 2023, Ismail Sabri had been under pressure from some factions of his ruling coalition to get the general election done before the end of 2022.
On Sep 30, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) supreme council decided that the parliament shutters must come down soon to make way for GE15 within the next two months.
UMNO president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who last month was acquitted by the High Court of 40 charges of receiving bribes from a company to extend its foreign visa system (VLN) contract had been busy playing devil's advocate in demanding that snap polls be held if possible at the snap of a finger, figuratively speaking, all for his own political resurgence.
One very big worrying problem which Ismail and his supporters refuse to acknowledge - October is when the monsoon season kicks off and a time when Malaysians are left struggling with flash floods and its aftermath.
In 2014, the nation suffered its worst ever flash floods which saw 118,000 people scurrying to safety while then prime minister Najib Razak remained oblivious to the disaster back home and continued enjoying golfing with United States president Barack Obama in Hawaii.
A paradox indeed that while Najib refused to return home and aid the people, Ismail Sabri, 62, too has decided to act likewise by rejecting calls to defer the general election until after the monsoon season has ended its run.
It is hubris and not the people's hardship that remains loyal on Ismail Sabri's radar as he stayed stubborn about wanting GE15 before the dawn of 2023, going so far as to say the decision to dissolve parliament is the prime minister's prerogative.
The cocky Ismail Sabri, hardly the welcomed choice for a premier, has developed a taste for blood, figuratively speaking, all for his political survival and with no remorse at abandoning the people's welfare and nation's well-being in the wilderness.

Precarious wet months ahead

The Malaysian Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia) meanwhile has raised the red flag for continuous heavy rain in the country from mid-November, when the northeast monsoon which is active during that period could result in major floods.
During last year's monsoon floods, 70,000 people were displaced and 50 others were dead. The nation's economic loss was estimated between RM5.3 billion and RM6.5 billion.
Did this rude awakening wisen Ismail Sabri up? Not at all. On the contrary, he sees no harm in Malaysians fumbling their way to the polling stations in the midst of floods or heavy downpour.
Bottomline? Ismail Sabri has no intention of being replaced as the next prime minister of Malaysia, despite him being incompetent and irresponsible as a leader of a country.
One example was the hurriedly tabled Budget 2023 on October 7. The RM372.3 billion (US$80.06 billion) budget for 2023 is one of the largest budgets in Malaysia's history - given the prime minister's politically-motivated fevered excitement for GE15 ASAP in spite of the ferocious monsoon floods, Budget 2023 was simply a revolving-door attempt by an insecure Ismail Sabri.
Democratic Action Party (DAP), the nation's largest secular opposition party had reminded Ismail Sabri not to go ahead with Budget 2023 if he was instead busy harbouring plans to dissolve the Parliament.
DAP chairperson Lim Guan Eng reprimanded Ismail Sabri saying:
“I want to remind the prime minister, if he intends to dissolve (Parliament), don’t table the budget. That’s just a waste of our time. But if it’s tabled, then make sure it is carried out till completion."
DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang meanwhile had lamented that five bills passed in the Dewan Rakyat on October 3 would become void if Parliament was dissolved before the bills reached the Senate and obtained the King's assent.
“A responsible prime minister would not mock Parliament by making the Dewan Rakyat debate and pass bills that do not become laws,” Kit Siang had bemoaned in a statement.

Monsoon GE? No-brainer for Malaysia

That Malaysia did in fact hold a monsoon general election, the 10th, back in November 1999 is no exemplary precedence.
Ismail Sabri, Malaysia's ninth premier, is not one to learn from mistakes as his pathetic reaction to last year's devastation caused by the monson floods revealed.
Then, barely four months into the job, he earned the wrath of Malaysians who were livid with the government's feet dragging attitude in offering help to flood victims.
In a typical show of lip service, Ismail Sabri admitted "weakness" in responding and as quickly promised to do better in future.
“This post-flood work needs proper coordination as I do not want delay in the implementation process, including in providing assistance to flood victims,” he was then quoted by Malay Mail as saying.
“We also need to be prepared for the second wave of floods, if it happens.”
Malaysia is no stranger to annual floods come the monsoon season, from November to February, but last year's were the worst since 2014.
The 2021 floods left at least 48 people dead and five missing across Malaysia, according to officials.
In the face of the deadly floods, the government declared it was seeking $3 million from the United Nations Green Climate Fund (GCF) to develop a national plan to adapt to climate change.
In response to questions sent to the Environment and Water Ministry on Malaysia’s approach to climate adaptation, Secretary-General Zaini Ujang told Reuters news agency the ministry would request GCF funds to help develop a National Adaptation Plan by the end of next year (2022).

The plan would focus on areas such as water, agricultural and food security, public health, forestry, and infrastructure.

“The ministry also has long-term plans to request for climate funds that can assist in implementing programmes addressing the impact of climate change,” Zaini had said.
Should Malaysians jump for joy at news of Malaysia holding the alms bowl for GCF funds? Given Malaysia's phenomenal appetite for corruption, the people must stay vigilant.
The fact is Monsoon Wedding earned director Mira Nair much acclaim and applaud while the Ismail Sabri government has brought Malaysians nothing but a never-ending series of miseries as seen from the political imbroglio that finally led to the dissolution of the Parliament on October 10, forcing the 15th general election to take place in the company of an unpredictably moody monsoon.
---
*Freelance journalist

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