Tony Pua: Unity govt an impractical idea

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Being part of a unity government is impractical and may even work against Pakatan Harapan, DAP’s Tony Pua told an online forum.

The Damansara MP said problems will arise when ministers disagree on reforms or policies that the cabinet has to vet.

“Once you’re in the cabinet (of a unity government), it’s like a coalition. You’ll get blamed (by your voters) if you can’t implement a reform that you want.

“Then if the other side wants a certain policy we don’t agree with, we will again get blamed for being in government yet allowing such a policy to take place.

“A unity government from a practical perspective, it doesn’t work,” Pua told the forum on current developments in Malaysian politics organised by The Oxford and Cambridge Society, the video of which is posted on his Facebook page.

Pua was asked about the hopes some Malaysians had for a unity government after Muhyiddin Yassin resigned as prime minister on August 16 when he lost majority support.

He was succeeded by Umno vice president Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who had met opposition party leaders Anwar Ibrahim, Lim Guan Eng and Mohamad Sabu to discuss reforms on Wednesday, two days before announcing his cabinet line-up.

Due to Ismail’s thin majority of 114 MPs out of 220, there was also speculation that he might opt for a unity government as a way to end politicking and to focus on fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.

Pua disagreed that a unity government would offer more political stability.

“You either have a lame-duck unity govt, or a government where one party will always be unhappy with another.”

Pua was one of few opposition MPs who openly supported the idea that the opposition should accept the reforms Muhyiddin promised in exchange for support prior to his resignation.

He told the forum the reforms Muhyiddin promised are now back on the table with Ismail, and expressed optimism that an agreement could be reached, as the new prime minister would want to protect his position from internal threats.

Among the reforms Muhyiddin had promised are an anti-hopping law, limiting the prime minister’s term, speeding up implementation of Undi18, raising the stature of the opposition leader, parliamentary reforms, and prior consultation with the opposition before bills are tabled.

Pua felt the idea of striking a deal to support a slim-majority government in exchange for reforms was more practical than a unity government.

“We are not in the government but we have a say. This time, the opposition will be consulted before a bill gets tabled, and when the bill is tabled, it will be agreed to by both sides.

“Ismail will want to avoid bills being defeated, so to avoid that, they will talk to us first. We can agree first on what should be put into, say, the budget, then there will be no fear (of defeat) when the budget gets tabled.

“To me, this is a major step forward for Malaysian democracy. It’s a great start as our democracy has always been very adversarial.

“We’re now seeing an opportunity for consultation, both sides giving and taking in the best interest of the people. I see this as a better option without us being stuck in government and being plagued by all sorts of problems,” Pua said. – TMI