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THE prime minister’s resignation did not exactly come as a surprise. After months of criticism and uncertainty, Muhyiddin Yassin finally succumbed to pressure and announced his departure through a press conference laden with paternalistic undertones.
Muhyiddin’s fall – from being lauded for his fatherly approach in handling the pandemic to being ridiculed for that same persona in his resignation speech – might not have been so swift if not for the rapid escalation of Covid-19, some argue.
Whether this is true is now a moot point. Malaysians now wait anxiously as the candidates in line to fill the vacancy Muhyiddin left behind must surely be scrambling to obtain the support they need.
For some, the question of Muhyiddin’s successor is not important. The resignation of a prime minister and cabinet that have failed to institute the right measures to combat the pandemic is a necessity in and of itself, and should not be too much to ask in a functioning democracy.
There are also those who believe the opposition should have accepted the offers Muhyiddin made in his last-ditch attempt to salvage his position.
Regardless of his intentions, it must be acknowledged that the reforms Muhyiddin proposed have been central to civil society’s demands for decades, and some of them were also part of the Pakatan Harapan government’s manifesto, the Buku Harapan, a document the former prime minister played an important role in drafting.
During its short-lived administration, PH was criticised for dragging its feet in implementing those reforms, and many now see Muhyiddin’s offer as the golden opportunity for that door to open once again.
To give up this opportunity is not only foolish, but it might also mean that the chance for meaningful reforms have now been halted indefinitely.
To add insult to injury, the possibility now of Umno returning to government means that the likelihood these reforms will be taken up becomes even slimmer.
As a member of a civil society organisation that has carried out years of research and advocacy on many of the reforms Muhyiddin proposed, of course accepting his offer is tempting.
After the disappointment at the PH government’s slow progress (if any) at implementing these reforms it promised, it is natural to want to jump at this chance.
In contrast, as these reforms have been fought for and denied for so long, many in the non-profit community feel insulted that they have now been used as bargaining chips for the prime minister to gain the support he so desperately needed.
More than that, the serious trust deficit faced by the entire PN administration makes it difficult to believe that any of the proposed reforms will actually take place once he obtained that support.
This serious breakdown of trust between PN, the opposition and the people has been left to fester for months, and PH’s wholesale rejection is understandable.
The question that then arises is: how do we get these reforms back on the table? Some analysts argue that only a desperate government will have the incentive to cater to the people’s demands.