Attempts to bring down the government: Which strategy will be successful?

Right now, it seems that Malaysia's politicians are all “being water”, slipping and sliding as they try to bring down the government.


The philosophy of Bruce Lee: ‘Be like water’ are words famously uttered by the martial arts legend, and they seem to have been taken to heart by Malaysian politicians looking to upset the apple cart. —

May 9, 2023

KUALA LUMPUR – “BE water, my friend,” says Li Tsung (played by Bruce Lee).

One smooth operator in Perikatan Nasional seems to have taken this philosophy to heart as he tries to bring down the government of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Lee appeared as Li Tsung in American TV series Longstreet and, in the first episode, The Way of the Intercepting Fist, instructs the eponymous blind hero in martial arts, espousing the famous “Be water” philosophy: “Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless, like water. You put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put it into a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”

A flowing series of strategies is the impression I get as I hear of various attempts to bring down the unity government that has 148 Members of Parliament out of 222. As the plots hit obstacles, the plotters change directions, just like water finding the path of least resistance.

Plot K: Convincing Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and the 26 Umno MPs to ditch the Anwar government. Status: Failed. Move on and hatch the next plot.

Plot L: Convincing Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) and its 23 MPs to jump ship by offering the prime minister post to a politician from Borneo (which would be a historic first if it happens). Status: ongoing as GPS plays a wait-and-see game.

Flow on to the following plot, and so on and so forth.

From the schemes I heard at the Hari Raya open houses I attended, it was clear that the talk of the Opposition and its 74 MPs making a “killer move” soon after Ramadan was not happening. Now what coalition, with lawmakers from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia and PAS, is shaking the foundations of the government consisting of Pakatan Harapan, Barisan Nasional, GPS, and smaller parties and Independents? Well, just observe how the issues of race and religion are being turned into a political heatwave in the country for the answer.

The noise I’m hearing from social media, especially TikTok, is that in the battle for the hearts and minds of the Malay community, it is PKR and Umno (not forgetting Amanah) versus the rest of the Malay politicians who seem to have ganged up against the Federal Government.

Even Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is now part of the “rest of the Malays” gang. As witnessed by the fact that PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang and other party leaders of the Islamic party recently signed the “Malay Proclamation”, which was reportedly Dr Mahathir’s idea.

The killer move – indulge me and let me call it the Fist of Fury movie in honour of Bruce Lee’s 1972 movie – depends on the results of the elections in the six states that will be dissolving their legislative assemblies soon. Perikatan is aiming to win as many Malay-majority seats in Kedah, Kelantan, Negri Sembilan, Penang, Selangor, and Terengganu.

It is a given that Perikatan will retain the three Malay-belt states it governs, ie Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu. If it wins the in Negri Sembilan and Selangor, it would be a huge bonus. But if it doesn’t, it would want to dominate in the Malay-majority seats in the three states on the West Coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Perikatan knows that forming the next government is not only a numbers game but that it also must convince people that it has the majority support of the Malays. If it has buy-in from the powers-that-be, Perikatan won’t even need a solid majority to topple the unity government.

Therefore, it wants to ensure that PKR, Amanah and Umno get as few seats as possible in Malay-dominated areas. Perikatan can then say that Malays have rejected PMX (as the 10th Malaysian Prime Minister is called on social media). And that if the Malay community’s interests are to be protected, Perikatan should form the Federal Government.

On contenders for the 11th PM post, the talk is that the chosen one is Opposition leader Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin, who is Perikatan secretary-general and Bersatu secretary-general. The Larut MP is seen as the driving force behind the Opposition coalition.

Publicly, Anwar seems cocksure that his government will not fall.

“Insha Allah, we, the unity government, will serve a full term until the next general elections. I’m very confident or else I wouldn’t say this,” he said in responding to claims that Hamzah has enough statutory declarations (SDs) from MPs backing him to be the next PM. (Do you feel a sense of deja vu?)

The Pakatan chairman and PKR president basically told Hamzah to bring it on.

“If he has [SDs], wait for the Parliament session, bring the SDs and propose the motion in Parliament. No problem,” Anwar said on Friday.

“It’s like a weekly delirium for him [to make such claims] before the fasting month, before Raya, before Raya Haji, before Thaipusam, Chinese New Year. Let’s just wait and see.”

So, Hamzah as a possible next PM?

I’m told the powers-that-be prefer someone “closer” to them. And that someone is in cold storage in Umno.

Right now, it seems politicians are all “being water”, slipping and sliding as they try to bring down the government.

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