At this stage, Malaysia may well be described more as a dysfunctional state rather than a failed state, as is commonly understood.
A failed state is usually associated with a collapse of central authority, the lack of the rule of law, widespread disorder and matters of such genus. As things stand today, none of these elements of a failed state exists in our country.
However, we have a rather unique façade of a “Westminister style” democratically elected government, now consisting of one man. We have an interim prime minister without a Cabinet, not even a similarly constituted “interim Cabinet”, which ordinarily would allow sitting Cabinet members to continue to co-govern our country until permanent appointments are made.
This situation may be a first in a common law jurisdiction where the principle is that the prime minister is entrusted with the duty to govern in consultation with the Cabinet. Even in countries where presidents are directly elected, the principal officers of government are, at the very least, promptly appointed to ensure continuance of governance.
It has been argued that our Constitution allows an interim prime minister to hold office indefinitely and that there is no time limit imposed on the interim prime minister to appoint Cabinet members even in key ministries. Given that collective decision-making is a cornerstone of legitimate democratic authority, this argument goes against every principle of good governance.
It is painful to see the breakdown of the very heart of our system of governance. It is just as bad to realise that the expectations or rather, the sacred trust that a majority of Malaysians placed into the hands of Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s government and its supporting components lie crushed.
The hopes and expectations of ordinary Malaysians do not seem to matter to our politicians and this includes politicians of all stripes. It is therefore urged that all politicians take a step backwards and take a good hard look at the people you are required to serve. You should be concerned with sufficient food for all, proper and accessible health care, quality education for our young ones, proper job creation, etc. Stop being unduly focused on who should hold the levers of power or who should be absolved from their alleged crimes or how wealthy one could get through political positions or alignments.
Truth be told, the only reason why Malaysia has not yet descended from a dysfunctional country to a failed state is the principled and mature role played by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
Reports available in the public domain have revealed a strong King with strong mind and hand. His Majesty is the glue that holds our country together at this very moment. He is the central authority in our country, without which we may have descended into chaos. With no disrespect to the other Malay rulers, it would seem that the Almighty has placed the right man at the right place and at the right time.
That said, the general request to Mahathir is to honour his promises or representations (if preferred) in respect of the succession plans. If indeed Mahathir now has reservations in this regard, please tell the nation of such reservations. The common man needs to hear it from him. It should be noted that his utterances have great influence over the Malaysian mind, including those who do not always agree with him.
Further, while it is generally agreed that there are indeed pressing economic issues that require urgent attention, it is also a generally held view that announcing clear succession plans would go a long way in assisting to overcome our economic challenges.
Dear Tun Mahathir, what is at stake here is the stable growth and survival of our country; our government cannot disintegrate any further. Paraphrasing Robert Frost, you have “promises to keep and miles to go before you sleep”. While most Malaysians hope and pray that you would have many, many more miles to go, the fragility of the mortality of humans is also not lost on us.
Watson Peters is an FMT reader.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.