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COMMENT | Is PM of caretaker govt confused about his role?

COMMENT | Is there any government at this juncture? Yes, there is. In law, it is called a caretaker or an interim government.

One thing for sure is that the roles or the functions of any caretaker government are not similar to the roles played by any mandated government which existed prior to the dissolution of Parliament.

In many jurisdictions, a caretaker government is not assuming a new identity as far as its outer appearance is concerned.

In other words, the caretaker government is still headed by the same prime minister with the same old cabinet ministers.

In some countries like Pakistan for instance, a caretaker government is totally assuming a different entity from the previous mandated government which existed prior to the dissolution of parliament.

Judging from its past precedents, the prime ministers of caretaker governments in Pakistan were appointed via special procedures duly enshrined in its constitution.

In practice, Pakistan normally appointed former senior judges to helm the cabinets of such caretaker governments.

Here, our nation does not follow Pakistan’s model. On the contrary, this country, like many other countries around the globe, preserves the old model.

Yes, the government prior to the dissolution of Parliament would assume the role of a caretaker government. The idea is to maintain continuity albeit via different duties and responsibilities.

Make no mistake! Yes, the mandated government may still assume the role of a caretaker government but its function is extremely circumscribed.

It cannot operate as if it is a government which receives the people’s mandate via election.

Its primary task is merely to ensure all the government’s businesses do not come to a standstill. It should not, however, indulge in any major policy-making decisions.

Apart from that, it has also an added function, namely to guarantee that a free and fair election would be effectively carried out.

Be that as it may, the prime minister of a caretaker government should not indulge in any activities in which the neutrality of his role as a caretaker prime minister may be highly questioned or seriously doubted.

In the circumstances, the following unbefitting conduct by Ismail Sabri Yaakob - the prime minister of a caretaker government - has raised the people’s eyebrows.

I am just sharing herein two occasions in which one may see how he openly abdicated his role as a caretaker prime minister.

On Oct 17, for instance, Ismail Sabri (above) publicly announced a one-off payment of RM 1,000 to each Tok Batin, who are the leaders of Orang Asli communities nationwide.

Secondly, on the same date, he also openly declared that the government - caretaker government? - had agreed to write off the debts of Felcra settlers and in turn to disburse to them the sum amounting to RM 181.5 million as an interim profit distribution.

It is submitted that on both occasions, the promises made by the caretaker prime minister involved major policy-making decisions which any caretaker government is not supposed to do in the first place.

Unfortunately, these serious electoral offences have been consistently perpetrated in Malaysia without any iota of guilt.

MOHAMED HANIPA MAIDIN is the incumbent Sepang MP and an Amanah supreme council member. He was a deputy minister in the prime minister’s department.

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