BY THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER
January 07, 2014
Today is January 7, 2014. A week has gone by and it still seems like 2013 in Malaysia. Same old arguments, same old issues and same old solutions. No endless possibilities here.
It would appear that there is a pressing need to either change or widen the point of view from Putrajaya.
So here are some pointers for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak as he takes on 2014, months after he won Election 2013 and the Umno presidency uncontested.
1. Stay at home.
For any politician, it is slippery slope time when you become a caricature. For Tun Abdullah Badawi, the end was in sight the minute he became known as Sleepy Head, Mr Sleepy, Slumberjack, etc.
Never mind that he was suffering from sleep apnea. In the mind of his critics, the defining feature of the Abdullah years was that he dropped the ball while on the job and had trouble keeping awake at the controls.
Within a short time, even the neutrals began using nicknames when referring to Abdullah. From then on, the then PM was on the defensive, spending more time warding off attacks than governing.
Najib is nearly there. His critics think that he is the ultimate Invisible PM, no where to be found when needed most. It is not a full scale revolt yet but even his supporters are wondering about the disappearing act every time there is a crisis in Malaysia.
The man likes to travel. Hong Kong, Las Vegas, Monaco, Sydney, London. Most of the time it is on official business but he also has a penchant for holidaying abroad or ushering the New Year outside Malaysia.
So when some issue blows up like the Selangor Islamic Department’s raid on the Bible Society of Malaysia (BCM), he is unreachable. And by the time he utters the first words on the issue, it is too late. By then, too many inflammatory words have been said.
Of course, critics argue that even when Najib is in Malaysia, he stays silent on combustible issues, not wanting for any of the muck flying around to stick on him. That is a sad but accurate observation.
But let’s not be too ambitious. As a starting point, how about travelling and holidaying less?
At least then, when you decide to speak on issues, you will not sound like a tourist.
2. Don’t speak like a tourist.
Najib finally found his voice on the raid by Jais on the Bible Society of Malaysia. He called for calm and dialogue. Nice. If only he could pick up the telephone and pass that message on to his deputy, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yasin, who was quite happy to encourage thuggish behaviour by Selangor Umno.
Calm and dialogue. Every call for dialogue has been shunned by Umno, Perkasa and religious authorities under the control of Umno.
The Prime Minister also noted that everyone should wait for the decision of the Federal Court on the Allah issue and then abide by it. Here is the problem with his latest statement.
Didn’t he say after the Court of Appeal ruled that the Catholic Herald could not use the word Allah, that it was only confined to the weekly publication?
Going by that reasoning, the Federal Court decision will have no impact on the action by Jais officers to seize 300 copies of the Malay-language bible.
But what is quite clear is this: by raiding and seizing the holy books, Jais officials trampled on the 10-point agreement between the Najib government and Christians. The main plank of the agreement was the decision by the government to allow the import and distribution of Malay-language bibles.
So either Najib is confused or has chosen to forget about the real issue before the Federal Court and the consequence of the Jais raid. Either way, the PM sounded like a visitor commenting on the latest flashpoint in Malaysia.
3. Barisan Nasional (BN) have lost touch with ordinary folk.
They don’t care. We are talking about the ministers and politicians who have been splashing out lavish parties. They cannot understand what is all this fuss about; about why news portals and Malaysians are shocked that few hundred thousand dollars are being spent on weddings, birthday parties, etc.
This is how they have lived for a long time. Thousand ringgit cigars. RM300,000 watches. RM1 million cars. RM10 million apartments in London.
There is no fear that more Malaysians are asking this basic question: how can a minister on a salary of RM20,000 a month live in the lap of luxury, like a Hollywood star or David Beckham?
They do not even find it offensive and distasteful spending loads of money at a time when the average Malaysian family is feeling the pinch of rising cost of living.
From the top to the bottom in Umno/BN, they feel untouchable because the general elections and party elections are over and they are ensconced in power for at least another three years.
Then they can start the courtship and the campaigning for another term in power. Until then, they are in Putrajaya and the rest of Malaysia is scrambling to cope with 2014. – January 7, 2014.