Of the MoU and the 12th Malaysia Plan

By Wong Chen 

In this article, I will share my views and opinions on two subject matters, namely the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the Government and Pakatan Harapan (PH), and the 12th Malaysia Plan.

Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)

On the MoU, I was tasked by Pakatan Harapan (PH) to draft the document. Initially, I worked on the reforms but later, I ended up restructuring and drafting the core document. The entire process from the start of drafting to the signing of the MoU took some 18 days of work. It was a very difficult, anxious and uncertain process, as both sides had little trust or goodwill between them.

In my opinion, the MoU was a contentious but necessary political exercise. Note that this political ceasefire was negotiated in the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic having completely ravaged the Malaysian economy since May 2021, very high daily infection rates, and had caused in totality (at the time of writing) an accumulated death toll of 26,143.

In addition, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (YDPA) had also advised all political parties to put aside their differences to face the pandemic and try to bring about a new form of politics for Malaysia.

The drafting work started on 18th August when the government sent a Confidence Supply Agreement (CSA). I assume that this CSA was the very same one that was offered by Tan Sri Muhyiddin to two DAP Members of Parliament, in the failed attempt to stay in power as prime minister.

I deconstructed the CSA and deemed it to be unworkable and legally deficient as it was couched solely on “best efforts”. Using IT and commercial civil construction contracts as a template, and in particular, using a Statement of Work format structure, I re-drafted the document by separating the core terms in the main body and then listing out reforms in the annexure. I also included milestones to ensure reforms can be progressively monitored, deployed and implemented in line with the progress of the political ceasefire. This is an added safeguard to PH’s position to guarantee that at least some of the fundamental reforms will be carried through.

After finishing the draft and further consulting YB William Leong, YB Anthony Loke and YB Gobind Singh, it was decided that the document should be an MoU instead of an agreement. We also negotiated that we will either support or abstain from the Budget 2022 vote provided that prior consultation and agreement is achieved by both parties as to the content and spirit of the budget. We also agreed to have a monitoring committee that will at least meet once every two weeks to build a consultative approach to reforms.

Before the MoU was announced, the negotiating team had to explain and convince many Members of Parliament and senior parties’ officials to support the same. The public was not aware of these negotiations and after the MoU was signed, the acceptance of the same is still somewhat divided.

I want to assure my constituents that the MoU, its structure and final content are the best possible terms that we could achieve, given all the political disagreements that we have endured since the Sheraton Move until the resignation of Tan Sri Muhyiddin as prime minister. I, therefore, urge you to give peace a chance and to allow some space for this MoU to unfold and deliver reforms during this pandemic period.

The MoU will not reduce the role of the opposition in defending your rights but will instead attempt to aid the recovery of the Malaysian economy. Once the pandemic is over, we will resume an adversarial political position to settle the political impasse of this nation via a general election.

Since the MoU was signed on the 13th of September, I have in fact been even busier. Pursuant to the MoU, Keadilan has asked me to represent the party in the PH committee for pre-Budget negotiations with the Minister of Finance, Tengku Zafrul. This is time-consuming, as it involves inter-party discussions within Members of Parliament from Keadilan, then a second level of negotiations within PH and thirdly, direct consultative negotiations with officials from the Ministry of Finance. As I am writing this article, I am scheduled to meet the Minister of Finance at 6 pm.

In addition, I have been assigned by Keadilan to serve in the National Recovery Council in the coming weeks and months. I have to also advise and assist the Leader of the Opposition in the upcoming Budget 2022 which is set to be tabled on 29th October 2021. The Budget 2022 session is for two months and will only end in the middle of December 2021.

As such, there will be little time for me to meet community leaders for the next few months. In fact, most of my public engagements will only resume in the New Year 2022. Nevertheless, rest assured that my office is always open, and my officers are on standby to assist you on any community and national related matters.

12th Malaysia Plan 

We are now in the middle of the 12th Malaysia Plan debates. I have delivered my speech on climate change and the challenges to the three Malaysian core industries, namely oil and gas, forestry, and palm oil. The 12th Malaysia Plan is essentially a book containing mission statements, targets and roadmaps of the current government for a period of five years. The tabling has been delayed more than a year, but in view of the pandemic, it is somewhat forgivable. While the book is written in idealistic and positive language, the implementation history of previous Malaysian Plans has consistently been one of underperformance.

The core problems are not in the writing, the statements, targets or roadmaps. The core problems faced by Malaysia are rooted in failures to address abuses of power, corruption, a lack of accountability and transparency and a disdain for better democracy. These problems are the same reasons why successive governments have consistently failed to meet all the targets of previous Malaysia Plans. Unfortunately, the 12th Malaysia Plan does not acknowledge these problems and as such, proposed no cure for the same.