Malaysian opposition MPs open to PM Ismail Sabri’s bipartisan bid, with caveats

Malaysia opposition leaders Anwar Ibrahim (centre) and Lim Guan Eng (left) leaving after meeting the King on Aug 17.
Malaysia opposition leaders Anwar Ibrahim (centre) and Lim Guan Eng (left) leaving after meeting the King on Aug 17.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia's opposition lawmakers are open to Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob's offer to be part of the government to fight against Covid-19 and play a role to resuscitate the economy, but they want it to be something substantial that genuinely fulfils the spirit of bipartisanship.

Democratic Action Party secretary-general Lim Guan Eng said his party is willing to consider the chance for the opposition leadership to be part of the country's National Recovery Council and special committee for dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.

But he said this is provided the offer is not merely token representation or to be a rubber stamp for the government's views.

"The winner cannot take all and the loser should not lose all," he tweeted on Sunday (Aug 22).

His fellow party member and Bangi MP Ong Kian Ming said that whether they will take up the offer depends on the number of positions given to the various opposition parties and the roles and responsibilities in those two bodies.

"The spirit of bipartisanship is important, but it has to be genuine from all sides," he added.

In his maiden speech on Sunday, Datuk Seri Ismail emphasised cooperation across the political divide and invited opposition leaders to join in the effort to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.

He also called for togetherness among all politicians, and urged a halt to any attempts to grab political power as the country grapples with a Covid-19 crisis that has stretched its health resources and also battered its economy. 

Parti Keadilan Rakyat's Bayan Baru MP Sim Tze Tzin said Mr Ismail's offer is a gesture towards the opposition, describing it as a "baby step" taken by the new government.

"We hope that it does not stop there. If we want to do more, the onus is on the government to offer us something substantial.

"We are more than ready to help the government revive the economy and fight the Covid-19 pandemic." 

Parti Amanah Negara’s Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad said the offer by the Prime Minister is in line with the wish and advice of the King.

"This is what has been advocated and enjoined by the King, and (opposition coalition) Pakatan Harapan will surely look into the offer and see how we can constructively engage on this matter," said the Kuala Selangor MP, who was health minister under the PH administration.

He added that such an offer is also in keeping with the spirit of having a safe exit for the pandemic, reopening the economy and ensuring the most vulnerable groups remain protected during these trying times.

Sabah's Upko also welcomed Mr Ismail's offer to work with the opposition, with party president Wilfred Madius Tangau tweeting: "On behalf of Upko Malaysia, I welcome @IsmailSabri's the new PM assurance to work with opposition for the sake of stability thru new politics as directed by Tuanku (King)."

Datuk Seri Madius, who is Tuaran MP, has been pushing for bipartisan politics since last year in an effort to overcome various issues caused by the pandemic.

Earlier on Sunday, he told reporters that he had filed a parliamentary motion for the setting up of a "Team Malaysia" comprising a federal-state council for public health and economy.

He hopes the government under Mr Ismail will allow the motion to be debated when the Lower House of Parliament meets from Sept 6.

Meanwhile, political analyst Sivamurugan Pandian said the offer should be strongly and unconditionally welcomed by the opposition.

"At this point, we can have a ceasefire and move together as one towards a better nation. This will also allow the opposition to get its ideas translated into policy or included in the national delivery system," he said.