Mat Sabu as our next Prime Minister. Why not?

Image from Malaysia Dateline

By Francis Paul Siah

IT’S well and good that Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has finally announced his Covid-19 recovery plan.

At least, we have a fair idea of what is to come and what to expect, although the different phases of the exit plan might not take place as scheduled.

What is most important in the prime minister’s announcement yesterday is his word that Parliament will reconvene earliest by September.

A confidence and supply agreement between the government and the opposition bloc has also been suggested by certain quarters in the event the emergency ends and Parliament reconvenes.

Whatever terms might be drawn up in the agreement are only good if they are honoured but we only know too well that many politicians, from either side, are not known to be men of honour.

However, what I can speculate is that Muhyiddin will not likely be prime minister after the next general election. Surely, Malaysians are not fools to vote in a government that has been deemed a failure.

So who will be the next prime minister?

A few names have been mentioned, whether to succeed Muyhiddin as Malaysia’s ninth prime minister or as a future prime minister.

Picture from The Star

Names that keep cropping up are Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan, Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaacob, Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and even Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

I have noted that from the opposition Pakatan Harapan, Anwar is the only PM candidate. Of course, you will claim that the PKR president and opposition leader is the most suitable man for the post if you are an Anwarista or a PKR loyalist. Ordinary Harapan supporters may think otherwise.

What surprises me is that Harapan has never proposed a second candidate from the three-party coalition of PKR, DAP and Amanah, other than Anwar.

What if something were to happen to Anwar? What if he suddenly becomes indisposed? Who will replace Anwar? What is Harapan’s contingency plan?

I believe Mohamad Sabu, the ever cheerful and humble president of Amanah, is also a suitable candidate for prime minister. Yes, Mat Sabu for PM? Why not?

He is an unlikely candidate for PM, possibly because he has never eyed the coveted post. He is not a politician after position, power and fame. At least, he is not known to be an overly ambitious, self-serving politician, harbouring such a lofty goal.

Mat Sabu had even told family and friends that the biggest shock of his political career was when Mahathir appointed him defence minister following Harapan’s GE14 victory in 2018. He didn’t even expect to be a minister, let alone a prime minister.

To me, this is why Mat Sabu is a cut above many other leaders in Harapan today. He is also not one to betray allies and friends, for he values them.

Last week, I did a little survey among my contacts, the politically conscious ones, sending them this note about Mat Sabu:

“Suddenly, Mat Sabu has emerged as my first choice for prime minister among all the PM contenders in the opposition bloc today.

“I believe this man will not steal. He will not jump. He is a known die-hard oppositionist and a hardcore loyalist. He will not jostle for positions or make enemies from within.

“These are very important criteria in my list.

“There must also be good reasons why Mat Sabu is Amanah president.

“He also has great culinary skills. He plays the guitar, he sings, he dances. Additional plus points, which will make me overlook his ‘not-so-good English’.

“People say he is not suitable because he has no experience. Hello, people, did Barack Obama have any experience as US President when he became one in 2008?”

Picture from NST

Amanah members and supporters should be happy to know that all but one of my contacts who responded to my message have agreed that Mat Sabu will make a good prime minister.

The Amanah president might not be a regular visitor to Sarawak but he must be proud to learn that many Sarawakians hold him in high esteem for his perseverance as an oppositionist and humility as a politician.

And he is fun, too.

I read in a magazine what someone wrote why she thinks Mat Sabu is the cutest and most lovable defence minister ever and her answer was: “He is the most amazing host who makes killer kari kepala ikan”.

Actually, I also surprise myself that I have not paid much attention to Mat Sabu in my writing here. The last time he was my subject was two years ago, in June 2019 when I defended him on his command of English.

I will conclude here in the same fashion as I did then: “I think it is not right to hold Mat Sabu’s poor command of the language against him. His actions, moving on the straight path, staying away from the temptations of dirty dealings and making the right calls, are more important. I will judge Mat Sabu on that.

Today, let me say this too: Mat Sabu, at a suitable age of 66 and with 22 months as Malaysia’s Defence Minister under his belt, is more than qualified to be the prime minister.

He deserves to be on the list of PM candidates as well.

Francis Paul Siah is the author of Hijack in Malaysia: The Fall of Pakatan Harapan. This piece first appeared in Malaysiakini