A unity government is what we need now

A unity government is what we need now
By Zan Azlee

I may be a little late to the game, but my wife and I have just started watching the Netflix series “Designated Survivor”. It’s really thrilling and entertaining!

In the series, whenever there is a State of the Union address in the US when the entire government is under one roof at the Capitol Building, one of them will be the designated survivor and will not attend. Instead, this individual will be placed in an undisclosed location protected by the Secret Service.

The reason being is that if anything untoward were to happen and the Capitol gets attacked or whatever and the entire government gets killed, this designated survivor will then become the country’s president and so the government will still continue.

And this is exactly what happens in the show’s first episode. The Capitol gets blown up by terrorists and the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, played by Kiefer Sutherland, becomes president.

The entire series looks at how his administration then goes about rebuilding the nation. I’m enjoying the show and binge-watching it as much as I can. It’s got a good cast with Kiefer Sutherland, Natacha McElhone (I loved her in “Californication”!) and Kal Penn (I’m a GenXer so “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle” is naturally on my list of coming of age movies!) On that note, forgive me for name-dropping, but I’m buddies with Kal Penn!

Okay, not really … but we did work together on a documentary on corruption called “This Giant Beast That Is The Global Economy for Amazon Prime” in 2018. He was the host and I was hired as a content consultant (for the Malaysian episode).

We had numerous breakfasts and lunches together when we would chat about the political and social scene in Malaysia for the purpose of his research. A very nice and smart guy!

Zan Azlee and Kal Penn.

But I’m not here to talk about how I rub shoulders with Hollywood celebs. Neither am I here to talk about the riot that happened in Washington DC yesterday as Trump supporters besieged the Capitol during a session that was supposed to certify president-elect Joe Biden. Oh, man! If you see the news photos and videos, you would think it came right out from an episode of “Designated Survivor”!

What I do want to talk about is all the political bickering that is happening in Malaysia right now and gripe about how immature and selfish our politicians and elected leaders are. Yes, I know that it’s nothing that we don’t already realise but if we don’t criticise, then it will never be acknowledged. It is important that we acknowledge it. I also think that we can learn from art and hence, we can learn from “Designated Survivor”.

In the show, the US is in a crisis. The president and vice-president have been killed and the entire government has been wiped out except for the designated survivor. Kiefer Sutherland is quickly sworn in as president and then through a baptism of fire, he makes an attempt to rebuild a government and save a country. A very tough endeavour and it isn’t something an individual can do without help.

In a show of support for “president” Kiefer Sutherland, a huge majority of the newly elected congresspersons declare themselves as independent so as to not be aligned to any political party. The reason being that the country is in crisis and they need a united government. Both majority and minority groups have to come together, be non-partisan and collaborate to rebuild and do what is best for the people.

Unnecessary politicking

Look at the current situation in Malaysia right now. We have a pandemic on our hands that is blowing up like crazy. Yet we also have politicians and elected leaders who are not taking it seriously and playing a tug-of-war of power play. Umno and Bersatu are squabbling which could end in the collapse of the current Perikatan Nasional government. Political parties aren’t being allowed to register themselves, i.e. Pejuang and Muda.

And all this hasn’t just been happening only now. It’s been going on for most of 2020. There was the Sheraton Move which was, although not illegal, very unethical and rude. Then there was the Le Meridian Move where Anwar Ibrahim announced that he had the numbers to topple the PN government.

Nothing came out of it but it caused Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to then want to declare an emergency. Luckily the Yang di-Pertuan Agong was against it.

All this politicking is unnecessary and unneeded at this point in time. We just need an effective government that can manage and control the pandemic and also be efficient at administering and making sure the country runs.

I have been one of the advocates who believes that a general election could solve everything. Let the people vote and give a clear mandate to a new government. I still believe that but I also understand the fear of the pandemic.

The Agong had actually gotten it right with his statement when he denied Muhyiddin’s request for an emergency proclamation. He had expressed that Budget 2021, which was to be tabled then, needed to be approved by Parliament. The way I interpreted his statement was that he wanted the government and the opposition to discuss and come to an agreement for the Budget to be approved.

Instead, the government interpreted it as they could do whatever they wanted with the Budget and the opposition just had to agree with it and not vote against it. Sigh! But bygones are bygones and Budget 2021 has been passed.

Kiefer Sutherland in ‘Designated Survivor’

We can’t cry over spilt milk for too long. We just need to move forward and think of ways to improve and make things better for the people and the country. But we can’t improve and move forward if all this powerplay is still going on. So back to “Designated Survivor”. Why can’t Malaysia form a unity government right now?

Both the government and opposition can come together and agree to put politics aside and work unitedly and in solidarity for the people and the country in this current crisis. It’s not a difficult concept to grasp or even to execute. Provided they can put personal gains and self-interest aside.

It can actually be done. The state of Perak did just that when they came up with the Confidence and Supply Agreement whereby both state government and opposition agreed to certain outlines and guidelines on how to administer the state moving forward. Of course, this happened after a dramatic vote of no- confidence against the former menteri besar Ahmad Faizal Auzumu. That was unnecessary politicking too, but at least something came out of it.

This is just a plea to see if our politicians and elected leaders can be mature enough to understand that they are supposed to serve the people and not themselves. There is going to be a lot of scepticism against this idea. So many Malaysians are bound to say that it will never happen.

In fact, I may be leaning towards that too. But sometimes, blind idealistic faith can be good for the soul if not just for escapism. Who knows? It might just happen.

I’m on season two of “Designated Survivor” right now. The initial crisis of the terrorist attack has passed and “president” Kiefer Sutherland has formed a proper government. The non-partisan and unity government ceases to function and normal politics resumes with all the checks and balances of democracy back on track.

Maybe it isn’t such a farfetched and unfeasible idea after all. Art can imitate life and life can imitate art. Just sayin’. The show is a must-see!

[This article was originally written for and published at Malaysiakini.com]

Get Zan Azlee’s best-selling book ‘Liberal, Malay and Malaysian‘ today!

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