JOHOR BARU, Dec 22 — Umno’s Datuk Hasni Mohammad is Johor’s third mentri besar since 2018 and from what both his political allies and foes say, the most affable to date.
State lawmakers from Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Bersatu who spoke to Malay Mail described Hasni as an “MB for all Johoreans” ― no mean feat for someone harking from a party that was seen as resistant to reforms, which cost it the 14th general election.
The feel-good feeling could be attributed to his announcement of RM200,000 for all lawmakers to spend on their constituents in Budget 2021 earlier this month.
Coupled with calling Pakatan Harapan (PH) a “strategic partner” during his wind-up speech, the 61-year-old who was catapulted into the mentri besar position 10 months ago displayed political savvy, resulting in the unanimous approval of his maiden Budget in the state legislature.
What Pakatan lawmakers really think of Hasni
Johor PKR deputy chief Jimmy Puah Wee Tse said Hasni showed he valued the Opposition lawmakers Budget 2021 input, adding that it was a promising start to bipartisanship.
“What Datuk Hasni did was to further improve on the allocation that is needed for our constituents due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I believe that this can hopefully be a start for a fairer and more progressive form of governance,” the Bukit Batu assemblyman said.
While Puah pointed out that it was the Johor PH administration that introduced equal allocation for ALL elected representatives, he admitted that it was significant for an Umno mentri besar to continue that initiative.
The PKR man wishes Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin who is also Gambir assemblyman would emulate Hasni’s move for the federal Perikatan Nasional (PN), saying it would improve the country’s governance as a democracy.
“However, the circumstances surrounding the PN federal government is complex and unlike Johor,” Puah said.
DAP’s Perling assemblyman Cheo Yee How described the seasoned Umno politician as a gentleman who does not disparage the Opposition verbally.
He disagreed that Hasni’s gesture was tantamount to bribing the Opposition for their vote on the Budget.
“I won’t say it’s like a bribe. If it was, I am sure only selected parties will gain from it. What Hasni has allocated is fair to all assemblymen,” Cheo said.
The Opposition lawmaker said that Hasni has shown that it is possible for people of different political ideologies to work together.
“In fact, I have always admired how Hasni carried himself since he was a senior state councillor and when I was an assemblyman in 2013.
“He was not snobbish and did not display any bad qualities.”
How about Bersatu, friend and rival?
While the two Malay parties have an informal alliance, there have been a number of open spats between them.
Such conflicts even resulted in the ouster of Bersatu deputy president Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu as Perak mentri besar just earlier this month through a no-confidence vote triggered by Umno.
Many political observers anticipated a similar no-confidence motion against Hasni would be tabled in the Johor assembly in the last days of its sitting ― possibly as revenge for the Perak spectacle.
Such rumours were fuelled by insinuations from former MB Datuk Osman Sapian from Bersatu who has repeatedly accused Hasni of sidelining his party since becoming mentri besar.
However, a party insider said Osman’s verbal no-confidence “threats” were a joke as it failed to material.
“This is not the first time that YB Kempas had courted controversy to discredit the Johor government led by Hasni,” the Johor Bersatu insider told Malay Mail, asking not to be named.
The source said Osman’s loyalty to Bersatu has been questioned by his party colleagues back in August after he was seen publicly rubbing shoulders with members of Parti Pejuang Tanah Air (Pejuang) ― Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s latest political outfit ― during the Slim by-election campaign in Perak.
“We really don’t know his personal political direction or his loyalty as at times he can be very uncertain,” said the source regarding Osman, who is still a Bersatu member.
Osman declined to comment when contacted by Malay Mail for his input on Hasni.
Not all Bersatu politicians are critical of Hasni despite their different party ties.
Mazlan Bujang who is a part of Hasni’s state executive council, had only praise for the Benut assemblyman.
The Puteri Wangsa assemblyman said Hasni is an exemplary leader.
“Politics aside, Datuk Hasni is someone who is fair in his outlook and I appreciate that I am part of his administration.
“Basically, what he did is an extension of how he works,” Mazlan said, referring to Hasni’s maiden Budget initiatives.
What a new Johor leadership signals for Malaysia
Johor Umno deputy chief Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed too sees Hasni as a herald for the new kind of leader Malaysia needs in the current unpredictable political landscape.
He said that no party or coalition today will likely hold the same dominance Barisan Nasional (BN) did for over 60 years.
“It is more fragile. The people are now more divided than ever before.
“In a way, Datuk Hasni is preparing Umno, and in the bigger picture BN, for the new political norm in Johor and the country,” the former Pulai MP said.
Like the Johor Bersatu insider, Nur Jazlan does not foresee Hasni being ousted as mentri besar any time soon.
Like the Johor PH lawmakers, the deputy home minister also said the federal government led by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin should follow Hasni’s footsteps to shape parliamentary accountability and democratic legitimacy.
“All political parties, irrespective of their political allegiance, should contest freely on their own without any coalitions.
“The rakyat will decide who will win and the winning party will then determine whether or not to then form a coalition or announce their respective candidates after the elections.
“This scenario is very likely following the trend for the past elections, especially the recent Sabah state elections,” said Nur Jazlan.
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