Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Federal-State Relations in Malaysia post-GE14

The current Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir, is clearly a centrist. In his previous 22 years as PM he had shown a clear preference for a very strong central government. 

What about his colleagues and new political allies?

The Pakatan Harapan coalition has had the recent 10 years of experience in Federal-State relations as the state government of Selangor and Penang. Will this experience temper their position when dealing with states now that PH is the central government?

Leaving aside the Semenanjung states for now, we turn our gaze to Sabah. The new Warisan Party and its new allies have formed the state government in Sabah. Warisan is an ally of the PH coalition. But, it is a Sabah-based party. That is a good thing because it provides a clear demarcation which works better in the fragile, fluid minds of politicians whose meandering dealings often resemble the Brownian movement of smoke particles.

The former Barisan Nasional coalitions member parties in Sarawak have wisely jettisoned their links with BN and UMNO in order to recoalesce as Gabungan Parti Sarawak. That is a good thing. 

Sarawak has the added complication, however, of a non-PH coalition state government with the strong presence of PKR and DAP in the Opposition benches of the Sarawak State Assembly.

To make things even more interesting, both PKR and DAP are part of Semenanjung-led political parties.

The real test of Federal-State relations will obviously be in the arena of the oil and gas sector where Sarawak has taken the lead in asserting its claim for a reversion of its rights of ownership over that natural resource.

Within the Sarawak State Assembly, will partisan party politics come into play or, will Federal-State loyalties come into play?

The Sarawak voters will be watching.

Who will champion Sarawak's state rights of ownership over oil and gas?

With Dr Mahathir as Prime Minister, the position of the new GPS coalition and, the position of the Sarawak members of PKR and DAP on this matter will be sorely tested for sure.