The country is sick and in crisis.
Today sees the rout of the Malaysian ringgit which fell to a record 17-year low of 4.26 to a US dollar and another record low of 3.08 against the Singapore dollar.
Malaysia’s foreign exchange reserves fell 19% since the start of the year, dipping below the US$100 billion for the first time last month since 2010, fueling speculation that Bank Negara is digging into the reserves to shore up the currency.
It has fallen to US$94.5 billion on August 14 from US$96.7 billion on July 31.
The lower a country’s forex reserves, the less it is able to do to shore up a sinking currency.
Meanwhile, capital outflows from the country are accelerating, to three times the size of capital investments in the country in Q1.
The reserves slid four times as fast as Indonesia, whose rupiah is the second worst-performing currency in the region.
Although there are other factors to the devaluation of the ringgit, like the unanticipated devaluation of China’s renminbi on August 11, which has pushed crude oil prices below its March low of US$42 a barrel to just over US$40 a barrel on August 24, former top civil servant Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam has rightly pointed out that “the performance of the ringgit is like a thermometer that measures our economic fever” and that Malaysia’s “economic temperature is rising, while our socio-economic and political health is failing”.
Ramon warned yesterday that “If we do not arrest our ringgit decline, our economy, like our health, can deteriorate rapidly” and we are looking at the horrendous prospect of ending up as a “failed state”.
The 1MDB scandal has been described as a “one-tonne millstone” which Najib will carry with him wherever he goes is equally “one-tonne millstone” for Malaysia as well, weighing down our economic capabilities and potentials.
Malaysia is not only faced with an economic crisis, but also a political and governance crisis with the national institutions bearing a second wave of attacks on their independence, integrity and professionalism.
This is why the foremost agenda for all patriotic Malaysians now is not to save any individual, faction or political party but to save Malaysia from becoming a rogue and failed state because of rampant corruption, socio-economic injustices, breakdown of the rule of law and constitutional guarantees, and the collapse of good governance.
There is now not only the 1MDB scandal which, according to former Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, has passed the RM50 billion mark, but also the RM2.6 billion Najib personal bank accounts scandal – which has caused former Cabinet Minister, Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz to ask whether the Prime Minister’s acceptance of RM2.6 billion, said to be from a Middle Eastern donor, has opened UMNO, and therefore the Barisan Nasional government, to being manipulated by foreigners.
The acknowledgement yesterday by the Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar that any “no confidence” move against Najib is neither criminal nor police concern will allow a proper and less inhibited discussion of alternatives to the present Najib administration.
On behalf of the civil society, Datuk Ambiga Sreenivasan has proposed a “national government” as a temporary caretaker administration to form a non-partisan Cabinet with new ministers capable of leading Malaysia for the next 18 months.
consisting of MPs from both BN and opposition – that in times of crisis, and this has happened in many countries like recently in Sri Lanka, everyone puts aside their political differences and does what is best for the country.
Any interim or caretaker government will have to be limited to the MPs elected in the last general election.
Is a national caretaker government feasible?
The country is faced with two scenarios.
The first scenario is the continuation of the status quo, with Najib as Prime Minister, whether for the full term or Najib stepping down before the 14th General Election – although it is not certain who will succeed him as Prime Minister, whether Deputy Prime Minister Zahid or Deputy UMNO President Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin (unless Muhyiddin is sacked as UMNO Deputy President).
The second scenario which contains many variations and possibilities is a no-confidence move against Najib whether by a motion of no-confidence in Parliament when it reconvenes on Oct. 19, or by way of statutory declarations ala Perak by Members of Parliament from both sides of the House before Oct. 19.
The three former Pakatan Rakyat parties of DAP, PKR and PAS have a total of 88 MPs while UMNO/BN have 134 MPs, i.e. 88 UMNO MPs and 46 non-UMNO BN MPs, comprising:
UMNO – 88
MCA – 7
MIC – 4
PBB – 14
SUPP – 1
PBS – 4
PRS – 6
SPDP – 4
UPKO – 3
PBRS – 1
I have said that although the three former Pakatan Rakyat parties of DAP, PKR and PAS have a total of 88 MPs, it will be foolhardy for anyone to assume that the 21 PAS MPs will all support a vote of no confidence against Najib unless there is clear and specific directive from the PAS President, Datuk Seri Hadi Awang himself. By Oct. 19, a new Islamist party would have been formed by Gerakan Harapan Baru.
In the circumstances, the safest bet is to assume that some 75-78 Opposition MPs will take a united common position on the no-confidence motion with the balance having to be made up from UMNO and Barisan Nasional MPs.
Are there at least 35 UMNO/BN MPs who are prepared to join with Opposition MPs on a “Save Malaysia” agenda including a no-confidence motion on Najib?
This scenario has many possibilities of combinations and permutations, two of which are:
(i) As suggested by former Prime Minister, Tun Mahathir, a new Prime Minister from UMNO but the government remains UMNO/BN.
(ii) A caretaker government until 14GE including non-UMNO/BN parties, in which case the new Prime Minister would be chosen not just from among the present UMNO MPs but from all MPs supporting this option.
The formation of any such national or caretaker government is unchartered waters for Malaysia. It may be feasible or otherwise but all political parties and national players must be prepared to explore such possibilities.
Bersih 4 rally has come at a specially momentous time in the nation’s history. It is an occasion for all Malaysians, regardless of race, religion, region, gender, age or political beliefs to acknowledge that the nation is facing an unprecedented nation-building, political and economic crisis, show our love for the country and demonstrate our resolve to unite as Malaysian patriots to find a national solution in line with our constitutional commitments on fundamental liberties and through peaceful, democratic and constitutional process.
For this reason, the various government authorities should extend fullest co-operation to ensure the success of Bersih 4 not only as a Carnival of Democracy but as the Salvation of Malaysia – instead of issuing all sorts of threats and warnings as Bersih 4 participants are united in their common endeavor and commitment to peaceful and non-violent expression of support for democracy and an united Malaysian nation.
(Media Conference Statement at DAP Penang Hqrs on Tuesday, 25th August 2015 at 1.15 pm)