The political drama that has been playing out since last weekend has been quite gripping. It culminated on Wednesday with the sudden announcement of promotions in the Cabinet. And this came at a time when Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin was warded in hospital with an infection in his digestive system.
There was jubilation all around in the winning clusters in Umno and all the coalition partners in Perikatan Nasional sent non-stop statements of congratulations to new deputy prime minister Ismail Sabri and senior minister Hishammuddin Hussein.
In short, there were expressions of so much joy that the feuding leaders forgot for a moment that the Covid-19 figures had crossed the 7,000 mark again and that the deaths were still mounting.
The story of Rome’s decadent Emperor Nero and his rumoured antics in the first century comes to mind. Nero apparently played his fiddle as Rome burned and citizens suffered. He was indeed an ineffectual leader in a time of crisis.
It won’t be wrong to compare this to what is happening in the country now.
Malaysians, especially those in the M40 and B40 groups, are in dire straits with many raising the white flag to survive the Covid-19 onslaught. But what do the politicians do? Play politics.
The prime minister chose to play political chess from his hospital bed, making moves to try to checkmate Umno by winning over many of the 38 MPs the party has just to ensure his parliamentary majority will not be lost.
It was clearly a political move as it came hours before the Umno Supreme Council was supposed to meet to make a final decision on whether the party would withdraw its support for PN, threatening the coalition’s collapse. It was not to save the country.
There are rumours that fewer than 10 MPs chose to remain with Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, a situation that could put paid to his position if true. Obviously, Zahid, too, was playing the game and made many moves.
Malaysians are now asking a simple question: Was it necessary to fill the post of deputy prime minister at a time when the prime minister and his Cabinet have more important things to handle in the worsening Covid-19 crisis? Or does promoting Ismail and Hishammuddin add value to the nation’s battle against the raging pandemic?
Of course not. It will neither reduce the number of cases and deaths nor help put food on the table for struggling Malaysians. Only yesterday the entrepreneur development and cooperatives ministry said a recent survey found that around 580,000 businesses, or 49%, of the micro, small and medium enterprises sector could collapse by October if operations did not resume by then. Workers are worried about losing their jobs overnight.
If the Cabinet move was to include some new faces or brains, it could have been different but reshuffling people who have failed to stem the spread of Covid-19 makes it seem that the prime minister has got all his priorities wrong.
Many are saying top Umno leaders are not going to take this move by the prime minister and party leaders aligned with him lying down. We must brace ourselves for more political intrigues, as if worrying about the pandemic isn’t enough.
For Malaysians, the takeaway from all these non-stop political manoeuvres is that the people do not matter to the politicians in power and others who benefit from them. This shameless display of politicking confirms our worst fears – that we have a bunch of leaders who are operating with their political blinkers on.
None of them seem to even bother that people are losing their homes, cars and jewellery in trying to survive. A whole generation of our children has not been having proper school sessions since March last year.
Muhyiddin’s declaration when announcing one of his aid packages that “no one will be left behind” rings pretty hollow now.
We hope the leaders will spare us their oft-repeated exhortation that everything they do is for the people and with their interest at heart.