KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 7 — Distancing itself from its former chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's "bukan kitab suci" remark in 2018 which suggested that election manifestos are not incontrovertible holy scriptures, Pakatan Harapan (PH) said it is determined to fulfil its manifesto "Harapan Action Plan" as it will no longer face internal sabotage.
Pakatan Harapan communications director Fahmi Fadzil said that there was a sense of sabotage being carried out during PH's time as the previous federal government. — File picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Speaking to Malay Mail after its manifesto also called "Tawaran Harapan", PH communications director Fahmi Fadzil laid the blame for the remark solely on now-rival Dr Mahathir's feet — saying the latter said it unilaterally without consulting allies.
"Well Mahathir is not in Pakatan, he didn't get our sanction to say what he said, that was an irresponsible statement
"It reflects badly on him, not on us," he told Malay Mail in a recent interview when asked about the perception that has since lingered with the remark.
File picture shows Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad during a press conference after the Pakatan Harapan President Council Meeting at Yayasan Perdana Foundation February 21, 2020. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Fahmi said that there was a sense of sabotage being carried out during PH's time as the previous federal government, noting for example the last meeting of the PH secretariat before the its administration collapsed in February 2020 with the abrupt pulling out of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.
In this last meeting with five persons attending namely Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah, Liew Ching Tong, Datuk Radzi Jidin, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin's former aide Datuk Marzuki Mohamad and Fahmi, a question was suddenly asked by both Radzi and Marzuki on what is the prerogative of the PH secretariat council, Fahmi said.
"So after almost three years of being part of the secretariat council, suddenly they questioned. To me, that was already the set-up for 'Sheraton Move'. And all along there was always this sense of undermining, being fifth columnists, saboteurs lah, that was the reality," Fahmi said, referring to the defection of Bersatu.
Did Pakatan fail in its short stint?
When asked if such alleged sabotage was why PH did not manage to achieve some of its GE14 manifesto, Fahmi said: "'Pakatan Harapan tak gagal, Pakatan Harapan digagalkan' (Malay for 'Pakatan Harapan did not fail, Pakatan Harapan was set up to fail'), so there were people who made it their political mission to make sure Pakatan Harapan failed."
"Why would you say the Pakatan Harapan manifesto is 'bukan kitab suci'? That was the platform that we were voted on, how can you renege, how can you go back on that?" he said when questioning the remark made by Dr Mahathir in 2018.
But with GE15 this time around, Fahmi pointed out that PH no longer has such saboteurs within the coalition,
"I think we are dwelling too much on the past. Going into GE15, all those elements, all those saboteurs, those people who didn't help Pakatan Harapan are out.
"So Pakatan Harapan now is strong, compact, with new leadership — DAP and PKR — and we are ready to face GE15 with the experience that many of us had in Putrajaya. So it makes this election plan, this 'tawaran' — to me — much more doable, realistic.
"Plus we understand a lot better now, how the civil service responds," he added. DAP and PKR, two of the four component parties in PH, had held party elections this year.
Apart from Dr Mahathir's remark which was not discussed ahead and allegedly did not reflect PH's stand, Fahmi said there was not much political coordination then between certain leaders in the PH administration and with the PH secretariat.
He explained that the PH secretariat was intended to act as an intermediary to put together working papers between a functioning executive and political parties, as it was the job of the executive branch of government to execute the manifesto they were voted on, while the political parties had the role of making sure that manifesto was interpreted well.
But Fahmi said many of the decisions and issues such as the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) and "the flying car idea" were not brought up to PH for discussion, agreement and execution, and that the PH secretariat council then rarely met and that things were being reported to instead of being discussed at such meetings when they were held.
Fahmi said a lot of the failures could be chalked down to certain individuals whom he said made decisions without prior discussions, contrasting them with "team players" such as Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail and Anthony Loke whom he said did not fail in their respective ministerial portfolios.
"So ICERD was never consulted, it was Mahathir in New York with [then foreign minister Datuk] Saifuddin Abdullah at the United Nations making an announcement, and then everyone was surprised, nothing was discussed beforehand. So it's as though at that time Saifuddin Abdullah, Mahathir didn't care about Pakatan Harapan, eventually we saw they left," he said.
The flying car referred to the remark made by Bersatu's then minister Datuk Seri Mohd Redzuan Md Yusof saying Malaysia’s first flying car was being developed using local technology and the prototype would be unveiled in 2019.
'It's all about priority'
Previously, PH had outlined its manifesto for the 14th general election (GE14) on what it planned to do for Malaysia, only to realise upon forming government in 2018 that the country was actually facing massive debts of billions of ringgit from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), Fahmi said.
Even before PH could fulfil all its plans in the GE14 manifesto, it had to first fix various financial problems and leakages left behind by the previous administration, and was also kicked out by a government that entered through the backdoor, Fahmi said.
Asked why the Harapan Action Plan did not include specific timelines for the goals, Fahmi explained that such timelines can only be realistically set once PH forms the government and is able to look at the actual state of government finances along with the state of the economy.
He explained that a new PH administration would look at seeing which of the points under the manifesto can be prioritised after government finances are assessed and said the prime minister and finance minister would be those best suited to speak on such timelines.
"We will need, once we get into Putrajaya to understand the state of public finances, that is the first order of business, then we know how much money we have left, then we know where there's revenue coming from, then we know what the challenges are, then we can prioritise. You can't prioritise if you don't have these facts," he said, adding that prioritising would mean that certain things may get done first while others get done later.
"After GE15, first I imagine we will need to take stock of the level of finances of the government. Secondly, we have to prioritise, out of all these programmes, which will be the one that will have the most positive impact on the people — both direct as well as if there are multiplier effects on the economy. Those I imagine would be of some focus for the government," he said.
As for policy reforms such as the promise to set a 10-year term limit for the prime minister, Fahmi said these are things that could be done, but said it was not his place to state the timeline such as which parliament sitting it would be carried out.
Rival Perikatan Nasional launched its manifesto last night, while Barisan Nasional is expected to launch its own today.