By H G Rahman

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia--As the dust from GE15 settles and no one political coalition or party has gained enough seats to form a government on its own, intense and novel negotiations are underway to form a new government.

While there is much talk that Barisan Nasional (BN), the county’s foremost party in defending the rights and interests of the country’s majority ethnic Malays, will form a unity government with Pakatan Harapan (PH) there are questions over how said interests of the community will be preserved.

This is likely an easier problem to solve than one might imagine and this is for PH to make way for BN members of parliament (MPs), to hold key positions in the new government that will allow the confidence of the Malays to be restored.

Among these key positions are naturally the Defense, Rural Development, Federal Territories, Economic and Home Ministries and of course the Finance Ministry as well. The deputies of these ministries could be filled with PH MPs to provide the necessary balance.

With the Finance Ministry in the hands of a capable individual such as UMNO’s Johari Abdul Ghani several issues can be handled and among these the interests of Malays cannot be said to be threatened when in fact a staunch Malay defender such as Johari Ghani holds the purse strings of the country.

In holding this portfolio, Johari must be allowed to do his job with oversight and without interference of any kind. This will allow Johari to move forward the Malay agenda while simultaneously preparing the country to face very tough global economic conditions.

Johari is no mere politician. He is in fact a well known name in Malaysia’s corporate world, a successful captain of industry who leads a number of high profile and successful companies. Having him hold the portfolio without interference will restore the confidence of markets and investors in Malaysia and this will better position Malaysia to weather the coming economic storm.

Not only does Johari have the much sought after clean image that young UMNO members want to see taking a more active role within the party, Johari also avoided any controversy in the run up to GE14 but was unfairly voted out. This time however he secured a comfortable win against PH's Khalid Samad, someone who definitely courted much hatred from the people of Kuala Lumpur over his numerous missteps during his time as Federal Territories Minister.

Johari has also demonstrated a level headed approach, having diligently done his duty masterfully during his time as deputy and then Finance Minister between 2015 and 2018. Even during the height of attacks against UMNO during GE15, no one found fault with him.

In short the man is suitable not only for his abilities but also as someone who can be accepted by all sides.

The need for a balance

While DAP may want to hold key portfolio’s for themselves , they must be compelled to remember that this tie up with BN-PH is the only way they will get into the government at all. Let's be realistic, during PH’s 22-month stint in power, then finance minister Lim Guan Eng proved to be a difficult and controversial individual.

The fallout from his time in office saw resentment with the various groups in Sarawak which holds even till today with GPS refusing to throw their support behind PH.

Should DAP want to play any kind of role and to maintain political stability in a BN-PH unity government, the party must accept that it must hold back for now - let BN take the lead to satisfy the Malay voters, many of whom have turned to extreme parties such as Bersatu and PAS, a short term burst of anger that will harm the country in the long run.

If DAP can learn to compromise and work quietly and effectively behind the scenes with the portfolios that they are entrusted to, the Malays will warm up to them over time and they would have earned their trust. For better or worse that is the way forward.

Holding back the wave of extremism

Surely by now both BN and PH understand that the main threat to the two is not each other but Perikatan Nasional (PN) led by PAS-Bersatu. Taking a hardline stand to win votes, the two parties are clearly a threat to the very fabric of a plural Malaysia.

Indeed the Malays themselves will find their voice and personal space shrinking more and more as those in Kelantan and Terengganu have seen but are unable to break away from. PAS does not bring progress and it works hard to keep areas under its control backwards, cementing its control through ignorance and fear.

If Malaysia wants to continue to be a destination for investments, for business and to preserve its moderate image both BN and PH must demonstrate the necessary political maturity and get together and do so in a sustainable way.