The year 2018 will go down in the history books as the year Malaysians reset the nation’s course. On May 9, Malaysians took a leap of faith and embraced change for the first time by voting in an Opposition pact – Pakatan Harapan – to serve as the federal government.
The coalition made up of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, PKR, DAP and Amanah now holds 118 of the 222 seats in the Dewan Rakyat. Barisan Nasional, previously in power for 61 years before losing the 14th General Election, is now down to 37 seats.
Many of the component parties have left the coalition, leaving the party with only three core members – Umno, MCA and MIC.
In Umno, a spate of resignations by its members of parliament since the general election have left the party nearly crippled and its leadership in crisis.
Two other major political forces emerged when the balance of power shifted. The first is PAS with 18 parliament seats, the second is Gabungan Parti Sarawak, a four-party pact with 19 parliament seats which governs the state.
By voting in a new government, Malaysians also opted for the return of a familiar face. Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad leads Malaysia for the second time, earning the 93-year-old a Guinness record as the world’s oldest prime minister.
Widening inequality, rising prices, corruption, the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal and a sense that Malaysia was going astray created a wave of people power that grew and unseated Barisan.
Race and religious issues though, continue to cast a shadow over the country, while the large national debt, financial mismanagement and corruption scandals inherited from the previous administration have delayed Pakatan’s bid to fulfil a number of its election pledges.
Many challenges lie ahead, but this year will be remembered as the year we came together to create a New Malaysia. – Razak Ahmad
From Prison To Parliament
Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim went from prison to palace, and then to parliament this year. The political fortune of Pakatan Harapan’s choice as the next prime minister saw a dramatic turnaround as Malaysians voted for change at the ballot box in the 14th General Election (GE14).
Anwar had been sacked as deputy prime minister on Sept 2, 1998 and charged later that year for corruption and sodomy. He was sentenced to six years for corruption and nine for sodomy.
Released from prison in 2004 after the federal court overturned his sodomy conviction, in 2008, he was again charged with sodomy. Acquitted in January 2012, this was overturned by the court of appeal in March 2014, and Anwar had to serve a five-year jail term.
Two days after GE14, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong granted Anwar a full and immediate pardon. He was released from prison on May 16, and on that same day, granted an audience by the King at the royal palace.
In October, Anwar won the Port Dickson parliamentary by-election held after the incumbent vacated the seat to make way for him to contest, and the following month, Anwar, who was the sole candidate for top position in PKR at the party’s national congress, was officially announced as PKR president. – Razak Ahmad
Tale Of Two Chief Ministers
Voters gave Pakatan Harapan a resounding win in parliament, but no clear winner emerged in the election for the 60 state seats in Sabah.
The then-ruling Sabah Barisan Nasional led by Tan Sri Musa Aman won 29 seats on May 9. It was equal to the tally of Parti Warisan Sabah and its Pakatan Harapan allies, DAP and PKR.
The deadlock was broken when Barisan won support of Parti Solidariti Tanah AirKu (Sabah STAR), winning the remaining two seats in the assembly. Musa was sworn in as chief minister by the Yang di-Pertua Negeri Tun Juhar Mahiruddin on May 10.
However, Barisan’s majority was erased when component party Upko quit the coalition, followed by the defection of six Umno assemblymen. Things tilted in favour of Warisan and its Pakatan allies, and Warisan president Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal was sworn in as chief minister on May 12.
Musa sought a court declaration that he was the legitimate chief minister to nullify Shafie’s appointment. However, he became the focus of the authorities after he left the country following a police report lodged by Juhar against him.
In November, Sabah’s political uncertainty finally ended with the High Court declaring Shafie as the legitimate chief minister. – Fatimah Zainal
Charged For Corruption
True to its commitment to uphold the rule of law, the Pakatan Harapan government lost no time in prosecuting those allegedly involved in corruption. A first in Malaysian history, the country witnessed a former prime minister and his wife arrested for graft charges.
Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak was first arrested on July 3, and on the next day, slapped with charges related to the 1MDB scandal. This happened two months after police authorities raided his residences, and seized luxury possessions and cash.
Najib later faced more charges related to money laundering, bribery and criminal breach of trust (CBT), with the total number of charges against him to date standing at 38.
His wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor was first charged on Oct 3 for money laundering involving more than RM7mil. Fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, who is at the centre of the 1MDB scandal, was charged in absentia on Dec 4.
The anti-corruption crackdown also stretched its hand to many other senior officials linked to the previous administration. Among them were Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, hauled to court for 45 corruption charges, and Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, charged for allegedly receiving RM3mil in bribes from property developers during his tenure as federal territories minister.
Baling MP and Umno supreme council member Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim was also charged over corruption and money laundering allegations. – Clarissa Chung
Toughest Year By Far
This year has not been kind to MCA, which turned 69. It won only three seats (one parliamentary seat and two state seats ) out of the 129 seats contested – its worst electoral performance in history.
Winning the Ayer Hitam parliamentary seat for the fourth time, Dr Wee Ka Siong is the only MCA MP. He was elected MCA president in November.
“It has been six months down the road and we are learning and doing our best in our new role,” he said, adding the party accepted the people’s decision at the ballot box and is focused on being an effective Opposition. – Foong Pek Yee
Looking Into The Minority
For more than a decade, Senator P. Waytha Moorthy has been at the forefront of the Malaysian Indian dilemma. First with Hindraf, then as an exile, and later with a short spell in the Barisan administration. Now, he is with the National Unity ministerial portfolio in the Pakatan government.
The narrative that a majority of the Indian minority has been marginalised is borne out by lower life expectancy, disproportionately low business ownership, and higher crime rates.
Waytha Moorthy said that through the Budget 2019 allocation, the Pakatan government has plans to improve the socio-economic status of Indians including empowering women and promoting home ownership. – Martin Vengadesan