To be a statesman or to remain a politician?

by K Kabilan
Free Malaysia Today
September 20, 2011

Critics can be silenced only if Najib shows that he is genuine in making political reforms. For that, he has to start the ball rolling now, not next year, not after the general election.


It’s not surprising that there are so many sceptics to Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s proposed political reforms as announced by him on Malaysia Day.

It has been about a week now and we are yet to be shown any outlines or details of the mechanism under which Najib proposes to revoke the three Emergency proclamations, do away with the draconian Internal Security Act and on what form would the two replacement Acts be.

Neither have we seen any fine print on how the other Emergency Ordinance-related laws such as the Banishment Act and the Restricted Residence Act 1993 will be replaced.

More importantly, there has not been a timeline set for these proposed reforms to take effect, apart from de facto law minister Nazri Aziz stating that any move to repeal the ISA could only be done during a parliamentary seating next March. His reason is that the October seating would be busy with budget issues.

Najib meanwhile has been busy justifying his proposed reforms by saying that it was time to make Malaysia the best democracy in the world.

Hardly a stuff that would make Malaysians jump with joy simply because Malaysians had wanted such reforms to have taken place yesterday, not at an unknown date tomorrow.

The lack of any credible follow-up is why many are wondering if Najib is genuine in his decision to free up civil liberties or if it is just a political gimmick with an eye on the coming general election.

The BN crowd’s argument is that Najib would not have announced such ground-breaking proposals if he had no intention to implement them.

Fine, agreed. While it would not do Najib any good to backtrack or inordinately delay his reforms, his administration must also realise that promises of important reforms should be fulfilled quickly. He should strike while it’s hot.

Election goodies

The lack of any visible action from Najib’s administration brings about other important questions – were the proposed reforms a well-thought initiative, or were they made at the last minute, to shore up Najib’s popularity and to coincide with the Malaysia Day celebrations in an attempt to give an euphoric uplifting sensation to the rakyat?

Words were carefully leaked out about impending reforms some days before Najib’s Sept 16 speech but no major details have been released since then.

Maybe, work is being done behind the scene, but if it was a properly planned initiative, backed by a proper thought-process, Najib could have at least outlined the timeline for his proposals.

If he had no time to say much during his Sept 16 speech, he could have given media interviews to put out in the open his road map for a better democracy for Malaysia.

He could have said that he was calling for an emergency Parliament sitting immediately so that the ISA could be repealed.

If the government law drafters are not ready, Najib could have at least started discussions with the various stakeholders on how to move forward. He could have taken feedback on what other obsolete laws that should be repealed.

He didn’t do any of these, and that is why the sceptics and his critics are having a go at him now.

It is increasingly looking like these reforms were a personal venture undertaken by the prime minister without taking proper consultation from the people that matter. Even his ministers looked surprised when he made the announcements!

There is no doubt the general election is imminent, perhaps in the next six months. Perhaps, even before the March parliamentary sitting.

These political reforms are just part of goodies promised by Najib. His next set of goodies will come during his budget speech in October. And then there will be more pledges to help the rakyat to ease their financial burden.

Reveal the details

Najib seems to have a two-pronged strategy with his proposed reforms – in the long run, as he specifically said, it is to tell the world that Malaysia was opening up to become a better democracy.

In the short term, as he will never reveal publicly, the reforms look like targeted at keeping him and BN politically relevant, to lure the rakyat to back him in the coming general election.

Najib will definitely keep true to his words on the proposed reforms, of that I am sure, but whether it is in the exact form as he had said or a watered-down version will depend on the outcome of the general election.

Of course Najib can prove that his intentions are genuine – he only has to set out the fine print of his proposed reforms now, along with a timeline of their deliveries.

And if he wants to become a true statesman, he should immediately start talking to all stakeholders – the civil society movements, the opposition and even the man on the street – on other necessary reforms.

These reforms are long overdue. It is now up to Najib to show that he is not playing a political game and is only doing his duty as a responsible prime minister.

K Kabilan is FMT’s chief editor.

  1. #1 by k1980 on Tuesday, 20 September 2011 - 1:25 pm

    Jibby said in Pekan yesterday about making Malaysia the “best democracy in the world”

    A hobo heard about this and quickly set off for “the best democracy in the world”. Below is his story—(With 1,000 apologies to McClintock’s song “The Big Rock Candy Mountains”)

    One evening as the sun went down
    And the jungle fires were burning,
    Down the track came a hobo hiking,
    And he said, “Boys, I’m not turning
    I’m headed for a land that’s far away
    Besides the crystal fountains
    So come with me, we’ll go and see
    The “best democracy in the world”

    In the “best democracy in the world”,
    There’s a land that’s fair and bright,
    Where the handouts grow on bushes
    And you sleep out every night.
    Where the boxcars all are empty
    And the sun shines every day
    And the birds and the bees
    And the cigarette trees
    The lemonade springs
    Where the bluebird sings
    In the “best democracy in the world”.

    In the “best democracy in the world”
    you’re going on a holiday
    Your birthday comes around once a week
    and it’s Christmas every day
    You never have to clean your room
    or put your toys away
    There’s a little white horse
    you can ride of course
    You can jump so high
    you can touch the sky
    In the “best democracy in the world”.

    In the “best democracy in the world”
    All the cops have wooden legs
    And the bulldogs all have rubber teeth
    And the hens lay soft-boiled eggs
    The farmers’ trees are full of fruit
    And the barns are full of hay
    Oh I’m bound to go
    Where there ain’t no snow
    Where the rain don’t fall
    The winds don’t blow
    In the “best democracy in the world”.

    In the “best democracy in the world”
    You never change your socks
    And the little streams of alcohol
    Come trickling down the rocks
    The brakemen have to tip their hats
    And the railway bulls are blind
    There’s a lake of stew
    And of whiskey too
    You can paddle all around it
    In a big canoe
    In the “best democracy in the world”

    In the “best democracy in the world”,
    The jails are made of tin.
    And you can walk right out again,
    As soon as you are in.
    There ain’t no short-handled shovels,
    No axes, saws nor picks,
    I’m bound to stay
    Where you sleep all day,
    Where they hung the jerk
    That invented work
    In the “best democracy in the world”.

    The punk rolled up his big blue eyes
    And said to the jocker, “Sandy,
    I’ve hiked and hiked and wandered too,
    But I ain’t seen any candy.
    I’ve hiked and hiked till my feet are sore
    And I’ll be damned if I hike any more
    To the “best democracy in the world”

    • #2 by boh-liao on Tuesday, 20 September 2011 - 3:10 pm

      O yeah, d best democracy in d world, tell dat 2 Mat Sabu, who will b charged 2moro

  2. #3 by Bigjoe on Tuesday, 20 September 2011 - 3:33 pm

    The whole thing is already dead. And the reason is the people who opposes real change – Perkasa and Utusan don’t even have their argument right in the first place. They say the want ‘the spirit of ISA’ but the problem is they are wrong about it in the first place. The original ‘spirit of ISA’ was not to be used for political and ideological difference but THAT is not what Perkasa and Utusan understand it to be.

    So you have people who potentially oppose him already being wrong about their own thinking from the start. What hope is there to move them?

  3. #4 by monsterball on Tuesday, 20 September 2011 - 4:42 pm

    So many times we have seen Najib talk alot…no actions.
    No follow mean what he says and says what he mean.
    Only words and words are all he has…to try luck and win votes.
    Now…he said…Malaysia will be the best democratic in the world.
    More words…no action.
    He is so lost…confused and blowing hot air…never understand..never will…for there are seasons in his head…depending where the wind blows.

  4. #5 by dagen on Tuesday, 20 September 2011 - 6:55 pm

    Silly fools, perkasa and utusan.

    Better get the acts abolished now. Because after the next GE, who knows, those acts if they are still available for use could be applied to you fellas.

  5. #6 by tak tahan on Tuesday, 20 September 2011 - 10:34 pm

    Don’t be fool dagen as the two replacement laws somehow would still be applicable to Perkosa and Kutusan as well as so many idiots out there.

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