Articles, Opinions & Views: Budget bungle - Harapan made it about politics, not policy - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy


 
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“When you're left wounded on

Afganistan's plains and

the women come out to cut up what remains,

Just roll to your rifle

and blow out your brains,

And go to your God like a soldier”

“We are not retreating. We are advancing in another direction.”

“It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.”

“Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.

“The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace,

for he must suffer and be the deepest wounds and scars of war.”

“May God have mercy upon my enemies, because I won't .”
“The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.

“Nobody ever defended anything successfully, there is only attack and attack and attack some more.

“Fixed fortifications are a monument to the stupidity of man."
“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died.
Rather we should thank God that such men lived.

The Soldier stood and faced God


Which must always come to pass

Photobucket
He hoped his shoes were shining

Just as bright as his brass

"Step forward you Soldier,

How shall I deal with you?


Have you always turned the other cheek?


To My Church have you been true?"


"No, Lord, I guess I ain't


Because those of us who carry guns


Can't always be a saint."

I've had to work on Sundays

And at times my talk was tough,

And sometimes I've been violent,

Because the world is awfully rough.

But, I never took a penny

That wasn't mine to keep.

Though I worked a lot of overtime

When the bills got just too steep,

The Soldier squared his shoulders and said

And I never passed a cry for help

Though at times I shook with fear,

And sometimes, God forgive me,

I've wept unmanly tears.

I know I don't deserve a place

Among the people here.

They never wanted me around


Except to calm their fears.


If you've a place for me here,


Lord, It needn't be so grand,


I never expected or had too much,


But if you don't, I'll understand."

There was silence all around the throne

Where the saints had often trod

As the Soldier waited quietly,

For the judgment of his God.

"Step forward now, you Soldier,

You've borne your burden well.

Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,

You've done your time in Hell."

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Budget bungle - Harapan made it about politics, not policy - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Thursday, December 03, 2020


Malaysiakini :"Had there been a well-planned shadow budget, would it be difficult for Harapan to vote down Muhyiddin’s budget without the accusation of sabotage?"  – Wong Chin Huat

COMMENT | Pakatan Harapan’s attempted use of Budget 2021 as a means to delegitimise this backdoor government was always a tricky proposition.

By ginning up the base and amplifying the bellicose rhetoric of Harapan-friendly talking heads, what the coalition did was create a set of expectations that Harapan political operatives were too chicken manure to carry out.

I kept telling any Harapan operatives that would listen to make this about policy issues instead of a political one. In this way, you could get support from a diverse range of people by making the argument that Perikatan Nasional (PN) was letting down the rakyat through specific policy initiatives and wastage. 

This would have made it more difficult for non-Harapan MPs to wash their hands of this fiasco and instead defend their support or opposition to PN on policy grounds. The irony was that some political operatives were worried that choices Harapan made with its budget would be dredged up. Well, there is that.

Even former Harapan prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who vowed to be a thorn in the side of his former protégé, could not muster the “moral fibre” to make it clear he was dethroning the current PM. Instead, he chose to go down this chaotic route were deflection and misdirection are the stratagems at play.

The Harapan base wanted a clear signal that this government was illegitimate but what they got were factional politics and the perception that Anwar Ibrahim is an incapable opposition leader. Truth be told, this plays into the narrative of his detractors both within Harapan and on the outside.

What was on display was the kind of infighting and lily-livered deflections that has come to define the post-Sheraton-Move Harapan. The fact is that Budget 2021 should never have been a referendum on Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin's regime. 

Do not get me wrong, it could have become one but it should not have been framed as a mechanism to delegitimise the government during a pandemic.  This is why there is a mad scramble to not look as if MPs are playing politics with lives and livelihoods on the line, when clearly politicians were playing politics in the lead-up to this budget fiasco.

Pasir Gudang MP Hassan Karim continuing to question the legitimacy of the PN government is more of the kind of weaselly politics that is defining the Harapan opposition. 

It does not matter if the PN government does not have a significant majority. What matters most is the reality that the PN government can carry through with its agendas even in this highly partisan political landscape, and the perception that Harapan was so incompetent it could not strategise with its allies to move against the PM.

Umno MPs sitting out of the bloc vote does not cost them anything politically. They can continue questioning the legitimacy of the Muhyiddin government but they do not have to actually “oppose” the budget.  Hence Umno can escape the blowback from the establishment that they are going against the rakyat, or more importantly, the Malay establishment which includes the royalty.

The same applies to Warisan with the added agenda that they never wanted Anwar as an opposition leader anyway.  The foundational parties of Harapan do not have this luxury. They need to remain relevant and at the very least, advance economic agendas which they could consider a win even if the budget is passed. However, what they are left with so far is finding scapegoats for their inability to form a cohesive and effective opposition.

Folks like to talk about the American experience when it comes to voting but forget that both parties there have shut down the government to advance agendas (even if the primary agenda is obstructionists), which were needed to appease their respective bases. However, by-partisanship did exist with each side making compromises to achieve certain party agendas.

No shadow budget

Which is why having a shadow budget and arguing on grounds of policy and economic efficacy should have been the strategy instead of the rhetoric that this would be a referendum on the PN regime. This makes Harapan look like a power-hungry multi-racial cabal and since so far they have been flailing, the opposition coalition looks like an incompetent multi-racial power-hungry cabal.

Now, of course, the big final vote is coming up and it remains to be seen whether PN can muster the required majority. What Harapan has failed to do up to now is present a coherent strategy but more importantly, an alternative agenda. 

For Anwar, it's the optics of him failing to dislodge this government. But more damaging are the very public displays of dissatisfaction with his leadership.  This further entrenches mainstream narratives that a racially diverse government-in-waiting could not manage its internal affairs without making fools of themselves and carry out its political agendas.

Never mind the fact that during its pre-Sheraton-Move, the “Malay” leadership was too busy backstabbing partners and making moves to destabilise the government while Harapan non-Malay apparatchiks were burying their heads in the sand, blaming every misstep on the deep state and unknown actors while gaslighting the Harapan base. 

The same kind of nonsense is going on now, with Harapan operatives attempting to find scapegoats instead of readjusting the way they do business. Anwar claimed he has the numbers and the rest of his allies always maintained that they are in the dark about this. In the budget fiasco, they were told to stand down and they were not happy about it. What exactly were they unhappy about? 

Anwar also claimed that the PN government made concessions, but how exactly do we evaluate these concessions when Harapan does not have a shadow budget we can use to compare and contrast? Dethroning the Muhyiddin regime on the grounds that the budget is unacceptable means that:

  1. There should have been a shadow budget which we could evaluate how the PN government had failed to meet the requirements of the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting economic fallout, and 
  2. A strategy was in place and agreed to by Harapan (excluding Umno and whoever else tagging along for the ride) that this was the moment when a unified Harapan rejected the budget on policy grounds, making the argument that thereby the government was not up to the job of managing the country. 

Instead what we got were the expectations that Harapan had the numbers and the allies to move against PN which again has proven false. This should not have happened, again. Blaming Anwar is convenient but also disingenuous. The reality is that while Anwar is muddling around for whatever reasons, if the goal was to reject the Muhyiddin regime, then all of Harapan is to blame. 

I suspect that the final vote will go PN's way with Anwar claiming that the “concession” Harapan got was more important than simply opposing a budget during these trying times. Which is a fair enough outcome but again, the problem here is - what exactly has PN conceded to the Harapan political agenda? This is the realpolitik of concessions. 

What did the Harapan opposition get, which satisfies the base and that pushes forward its economic and political agenda?

What we are left with is an ineffectual opposition leader who looks like he is desperately holding on to a slippery, spineless coalition.
posted by Major D Swami (Retired) @ 9:54 AM  
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