UMNO’s dilemma in the Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition government – Part 1

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, Member of Parliament for Bangi on the 24th of April, 2020 

It has been more than one month since Muhyiddin Yassin’s Perikatan National (PN) cabinet was sworn in on the 10th of March 2020. Each political party within this uneasy coalition faces their unique political challenges in operating as part of the government. But no party faces bigger questions and challenges than UMNO as it grapples with the question of how it wants to work with BERSATU. This is UMNO’s biggest dilemma within the PN government. 

From the outset, let me be clear on this point – UMNO leaders and members would much prefer to be in government together with BERSATU than to be in the opposition. In government, UMNO would have access to the privileges of power including access to positions in Ministries, Government Agencies and GLCs. But there is NOTHING about the arrangement in the current PN government which UMNO would find acceptable in the longer term. Most importantly, from a political strategy perspective, UMNO leaders must realize that BERSATU’s ultimate goal is to replace UMNO in the political arena as the dominant Malay party in government. This is the only way that BERSATU can survive post GE15 and UMNO knows this. 

After ruling the country for over 60 years, UMNO is not used to playing the role of No.2 in government. And yet, this is the position they find themselves in today. With 41 elected Members of Parliament (MPs), they have more MPs than BERSATU, who only have 29 MPs (this includes the 10 MPs from PKR but does not include the 5 MPs who are supporting Tun Mahathir1). And yet, BERSATU have more Ministers (11 including the Prime Minister versus 9 for UMNO) and Deputy Ministers (15 versus 8 for UMNO) than UMNO. Most of the key Ministries are also being helmed by BERSATU MPs (Education, Home Affairs, Economy, Rural Development, Trade and Industry) or individuals aligned to the Prime Minister (Finance) with UMNO having perhaps only one relatively ‘senior’ ministry, namely Defence. Two out of the Four Senior Ministers are also from BERSATU with UMNO having only one Senior Minister.

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Thank you Dr. Ramasamy for your reminder to deliver on Pakatan Harapan’s GE14 Manifesto Promises

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, Member of Parliament for Bangi and Assistant National Director for Political Education for the Democratic Action Party (DAP) on the 1st of July, 2019

In my speech on the 28th of June, 2019 at the launch of the IDEAS 2nd Project Pantau Report card, I asked the public to continue reminding Pakatan Harapan of our GE14 Manifesto promises so that we will continue to feel the pressure of delivering on our promises before the next general election. I also mentioned that one of the most vocal groups of people in reminding the government of our GE14 Manifesto promises is our PH backbenchers through various internal channels. I failed to mention that some of our own state assembly representatives (ADUNS) are equally vocal in their reminders, albeit through more public channels.

I would like to thank Deputy Chief Minister of Penang, Dr. Ramasamy of his latest reminder that it is “not too late to deliver on PH’s election promises!” published on his Facebook page.[1] As much as I appreciate Dr. Ramasamy’s reminder, it would have been a more constructive note if he could have systematically gone through the very detailed report card produced by IDEAS which evaluated the progress which Pakatan Harapan had made on 224 sub-promises found in the manifesto[2] instead of merely responding to a headline in a Malaysiakini article.[3] His Facebook note does not do justice to the extensive work done by IDEAS and the fact that IDEAS statement on the ‘unrealistic’ promises found in the manifesto was directed at a SMALL number of promises namely the target of 1 million affordable houses in 10 years and setting the income contingent level of PTPTN loan repayment to start at RM4000 per month.

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The Next Four Years: What Now for Malaysia?

IDEAS Public Forum – 28th June 2019 – Connexion, 7 Jalan Kerinchi, Bangsar South, Kuala Lumpur

Mr Ali Salman, CEO of IDEAS

YB Dato’ Sri Hajah Nancy Shukri, MP for Batang Sadong

Ms Cynthia Gabriel, Executive Center, C4

Mr Laurence Todd, Director of Research, IDEAS

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen

Selamat pagi, Good Morning and Salam Malaysia Baru

Firstly, I want to thank IDEAS for giving me the honour of saying a few words at this public forum. IDEAS, from its establishment until now, has always encouraged open and constructive dialogue. Under Malaysia Baru, the room for constructive dialogue has expanded significantly and I look forward to more inputs to the new government from IDEAS and also possible areas of cooperation.

Secondly, allow me to extend my congratulations to Laurence and his team for their hard work in the preparation of the 2nd Projek Pantau Report Card including Faiz Zaidi and Aira Azhari, the lead researchers and not forgetting the research interns, Afifa Sahirin and Aiman Wan Alias. In the past, most people in Malaysia, including researchers, would not pay much attention to the manifesto promises of the winning coalition AFTER the general election, much less come up with a report to track the progress of the manifesto. This time, after GE14, I’m glad that IDEAS is committed to systematically track Pakatan Harapan’s GE14 manifesto on the bi-annual basis. As one of the authors of the PH Manifesto, I am glad that at least someone is paying attention. But at the same time, this also places more pressure on PH to deliver on our promises. This is one of the most tangible signs of how Malaysia has changed after GE14 – the fact that promises actually mean something and people expect them to be delivered.

Slightly over a year after GE14, this public forum is asking a very relevant question – What is the plan for Malaysia for the next four years? There are three areas of focus which the Pakatan Harapan should and will focus on to show that we can deliver our promises (or at least a majority of them) in the next 4 years. They are: (1) Continue to systematically deliver on PH’s GE14 Manifesto Promises (2) Identify and Implement new strategies to propel economic growth and create well-paying jobs and (3) Ensure the well-being of the B40.

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