Govt & PH Signed A Historic Reformation MoU. Here Are 7 Highlights You Should Know

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) can be seen as a political ceasefire so that all elective representatives can focus on addressing the COVID-19 and economic crises.

Cover image via Prime Minister's Office via Malay Mail & AFP via Daily Sabah

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The government and opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan (PH) has jointly signed a historic Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which officially came into effect yesterday, 13 September

The MoU — dubbed the Memorandum of Understanding on Transformation and Political Stability — is a 17-page agreement that details a list of clauses that two of the biggest opposing blocs in the Parliament can come to terms with.

In essence, the MoU can be seen as a form of bipartisanship, which the agreement states is in line with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong's decree for more cooperation between two opposing political coalitions.

The agreement was signed at the Parliament banquet hall at 5pm on Monday. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob and Communications and Multimedia Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa, representing the government, inked the momentous document.

While PH was represented by:
- PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim
- PKR secretary-general Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution
- DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng
- DAP national organising secretary Anthony Loke
- Amanah president Mohamad Sabu
- Amanah deputy president Datuk Seri Salahuddin Ayub
- UPKO president Datuk Seri Wilfred Madius Tangau
- UPKO deputy president Datuk Donald Peter Mojuntin

The MoU signing ceremony yesterday, 13 September.

Image via Prime Minister's Office via Malay Mail

Although the MoU was signed yesterday, it was only released to the public today, 14 September.

To keep you up to speed, here are seven highlights of the document:

1. The MoU was signed to reach political stability

The first statement in the preamble of the MoU states that the Agong is aware the positions of the government and the Opposition are almost balanced.

Hence, the Agong said the need for bipartisanship is paramount in order to achieve political stability so that elected representatives can focus on addressing COVID-19 issues and restoring the country's economy.

The MoU is said to be designed to create a "new political landscape" that aims to bring transformations and reforms in governance to strengthen the role of Parliamentary institutions.

Prior to the pandemic in late February 2020, Malaysia has been constantly in a state of instability following the political coup dubbed 'Langkah Sheraton', which resulted in the downfall of the PH government.

Then, in early August, the pull-out of some 11 UMNO members from the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government caused another change of power.

With the government and PH coming together to sign the MoU this time, it can be seen as an official record of a political ceasefire.

2. Tabling and passing an anti-party hopping bill

The government and PH agree to table and pass an anti-party hopping bill, a move that can help achieve political stability.

Under the 'Administration Transformation' section in the MoU, both parties agreed to work towards the bill in accordance with procedure as prescribed in the Federal Constitution and/or any related laws.

In the same section, the MoU also stated that both parties will:
- Ensure the Election Commission (EC) speeds up the implementation of 'Undi 18' and automatic voter registration
- Table and approve a constitutional amendment to limit the Prime Minister's term to 10 years

The three implementations must materialise no later than the first meeting of the fifth Parliament session, which is in the first half of 2022.

3. Strengthening the COVID-19 plan

Former prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is currently the National Recovery Council (NRC) chairperson, a post that carries the status of minister.

Image via Prime Minister's Office via New Straits Times

In the MoU, both parties agree to work together to bring the nation out of the COVID-19 crisis.

It listed out seven implementations that they will intend to do before the first meeting of the fourth Parliament session this year.

Here are the seven implementations:

1. 50% of the National Recovery Council (NRC) must comprise of public and private sector experts. The government will nominate half of its chosen experts while the opposition will nominate the other half.

2. The government agrees to pour another RM45 billion fiscal injection to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, an increase from RM65 billion to RM110 billion. The funding will be spent on the healthcare system, given out to vulnerable groups as financial aid, and to support businesses.

3. The funding will also be used to enhance the "find, test, trace, isolate, support, and vaccinate" (FTTIS+V)" regime. Hospitals will be given more intensive care unit (ICU) beds, and the coordination of patient placement from public hospitals to private hospitals will be improved.

4.  RM10 billion financial assistance will be channelled to 11 million recipients in the second half of this year. The assistance will continue in 2022 to help the B40 group as well as M40 income earners who have lost their jobs.

5. The fund will also be used to provide hiring incentives and support for small and medium enterprises, including in the informal and micro sectors.

6. The government will also be expediting the purchase of six million additional vaccine doses, which will be received by early September.

7. The government will work out a plan to provide interest exemption for the bottom 50% of income earners who have accepted a loan repayment moratorium for October, November, and December.

4. Committing to Parliamentary reforms

Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun.

Image via Parlimen Malaysia via @limkitsiang (Twitter)

In this section of the MoU, six clauses have been listed and they must be implemented immediately.

The six reformations the government and PH agree to are:

1. Table and pass laws related to the functions of Parliament after holding discussions to re-establish the independence of Parliament.

2. Ensure Parliament restructures the existing parliamentary select committees and adds more members.

3. Ensure the total number of committees are equally headed by government and opposition members of Parliament (MPs).

4. Implement the necessary amendments to the Standing Order to ensure the proceedings in the Houses run in an orderly and effective manner.

5. Provide equal funding for government and opposition MPs involved in this MoU so that they can effectively help the rakyat.

6. Ensure the appropriate rights and privileges are accorded to the Opposition leader.

Malaysiakini noted that equal funding for all MPs could exclude MPs from Pejuang or Warisan as they are not involved in the agreement. However, it could be extended out of good will.

5. Upholding judiciary independence

"To ensure that the independence of the judiciary is exercised at all times, institutional transformation and good governance must be upheld to ensure more conducive conditions for the people and the country," reads the agreement.

This clause in the MoU is especially important because the current government is headed by UMNO, which is infamous for having 'court cluster' MPs.

The 'court cluster' refers to a group of UMNO MPs who are currently facing trials for their alleged corruption crimes.

6. PH agrees to either support or abstain during the Budget 2022 vote and related supply bills

Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz.

Image via Focus Malaysia

In signing the MoU, MPs aligned with PH must agree to support Budget 2022 and not vote against it.

In exchange, PH will be involved in the drafting of Budget 2022 and other budget-related bills, PH members will have the avenue to negotiate with the government the content of the bills before they are tabled in Parliament.

When voting for the bill, PH must vote in favour of the government and the process shall not be construed as a vote of no-confidence against the Prime Minister.

With that said, PH's role to play check and balance against the government will not be taken away.

7. Parliament will not dissolve until July 2022

The government and PH agree that the Parliament will sit until July next year.

This can be seen as a promise between both parties that they will not oust one another, especially after the federal power has been shifted three times in the past two years.

Other ground rules in the MoU that both the government and PH have to comply with are that the agreement must be made public and that any previous verbal or non-written proposals that are not included in any one of the clauses do not apply.

The MoU also states that any violation of the agreement will render it invalid.

Click here to read the full MoU.

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