Living in the shadow of Najib’s 1 Malaysia

by Tunku Abdul Aziz
Malaysian Insider26th September 2009

I was in Seoul last Monday to participate in the World Forum for Democratisation in Asia (Third Biennial Conference) on “Sustaining Democratisation in Asia: Challenges of Economic and Social Justice” with some 200 delegates from Asia and the United States.

The conference brought together people from diverse backgrounds and of all ages, to seek ways of strengthening, and arresting the rapidly declining state of democracy in their countries. These men and women, all with impeccable credentials as human rights advocates, shared many of the same democratic values that have inspired human beings through the ages, all over the world, to make great personal sacrifices against humanly impossible odds in the name of justice and freedom from the tyranny of state-sanctioned human rights abuses, such as we are subjected to in Malaysia regularly.

I spoke on the panel on “Citizen Participation and Political Accountability.” In the audience were participants from Indonesia, the US, India, Cambodia, Nepal, Singapore, Malaysia and Mongolia, among others.

I thought I was doing well, having made some rather important points on the need for citizens to take charge of their own destiny as freedom was far too important to be left to the tender mercies of politicians, many of whom were charlatans at best and untrustworthy to boot. I mentioned as an example how citizens’ active participation in the March 2008 general election in my country had succeeded in changing, albeit ever so slightly, the 50-year corrupt political landscape, a feat that was nothing short of miraculous given the corrupt and repressive environment against which they were fighting to change.

I must confess that I was somewhat surprised that interest in Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s “baggage” had extended beyond the shores of Malaysia. Blame the borderless cyber technology for this unwelcome attention. Before I could finish my final remark, I was stopped dead in my tracks by the personable Yale- and Princeton-educated Ms. Oyungerel Tsedevdamba, advisor to the President of Mongolia. She wanted to know, in the nicest possible way, why Malaysian citizens had voted for a person of Najib’s known reputation to assume the highest political office, and, she continued, was it true that in the Altantuya Shaariibuu trial, the Malaysian judiciary was acting improperly to protect Najib?

We do not, of course, have direct prime ministerial elections in Malaysia. I explained that the prime minister was elected by his party; Umno. It says more about the integrity of the party than perhaps the person it elected to high office. Now, I am not unused to being asked all kinds of questions in my years of public speaking, both at home and abroad, but this, about the murder trial of Altantuya threw me off balance. Ms Tsedevdamba was putting the proverbial cat among the pigeons. It caused a real flutter in my dovecot, no pun intended. My character and integrity would be put under close scrutiny, effectively on trial, and as in any trial, telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth would, I thought, be the best policy.

I am fiercely patriotic, proud of our many achievements in a number of important areas, but like many of you I often hang my head in utter shame and humiliation when I see the cynical manipulation of democratic principles by a government that seems to have lost its moral capital by developing an unethical and immoral political behaviour into a fine art form. To them who govern this country, the end would seem to justify the means.

In this respect, it is useful to remind ourselves what Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, when he was Prime Minister, used to proclaim, without a tinge of embarrassment, that we were a democracy because we held regular elections. It was not important to the emasculator (or perhaps constrictor is a more appropriate word in his case) of human rights that they might not always have been free and fair. What Dr Mahathir and his Umno friends have never appreciated, or deliberately failed to acknowledge, is the fact that democracy is not just about elections. It is what happens between elections that really is the point at issue. I hope Najib will not allow this grotesquely vintage Mahathir blind spot to rub off on him. It could lead to further electoral nightmares he can do without.

The “Umno-led by the nose Barisan Nasional” government has always been preoccupied more with the form rather than the substance. To them democracy is a product you could pick and choose as and when you like, much like buying a kilo of sugar over a supermarket counter, in the same way they buy votes by the thousands at party election time.

Democracy is a process that requires active citizen participation and direct involvement because it belongs to the people irrespective of race. They should, therefore, be free from the shackles of corrupt political and bureaucratic practices that have become embedded in many of our once proud national institutions but, which today, have become nothing more than the sordid tools of an unprincipled government. The people should be liberated from the clutches of unjust and undemocratic laws such as the ISA.

Don’t these Umno leaders see any contradiction between sending their own fellow citizens to indefinite detention without trial and celebrating Merdeka religiously at great public expense each year to mark the nation’s freedom from the injustice and degradation of alien rule? You cannot have 1 Malaysia without first dismantling those policies and systems that have done untold damage to the development of democracy in our society. These must be replaced by those that are consistent with the dictates and aspirations of a Malaysian Malaysia with all that this implies.

The end of the year is the season for overseas conferences. I will be speaking at three in the next six weeks and I wonder if the likes of the delectable Ms Tsedevdamba will be in the audience to plague and ply me with questions as I was in Seoul about the Najib-Altantuya nexus, the submarine and other arms contracts. Najib should have realised by now that his every word, gesture and action will be scrutinised and analysed by the people of this country. It is their right to know what their prime minister is up to in the public domain. It is the price he must pay willingly under our democratic system.

I suppose if my listeners ask me awkward questions about Najib, I will have to tell them that I am not, thank heavens, Najib’s keeper. I suppose, also, that is the price I pay for living in the shadow of Najib’s 1 Malaysia

  1. #1 by Joshua on Saturday, 26 September 2009 - 7:22 pm

    In the minds of foreigners, how can Malaysians elect a 1Najib with that kind of socalled background?

    Although we did not elect the PM directly in the rotten system, I think someone should be able to say boldly that GE 2004 and GE 2008 had been rigged by none other than the ex EC Chairman, Tan sri Rashid. With the rotten system, the socalled leader of illegal UMNO automatically become the illegal PM as well.

    Blame RAHMAn.

    pw: Govrin carpi

  2. #2 by monsterball on Saturday, 26 September 2009 - 7:37 pm

    What happen in Malaysia concerns neighboring countries.
    It will be a chain reaction.
    Altantuya and ISA events maybe taken lightly by the past…….as they have their own problems too.
    Nice to note the world is getting smaller and participants came with good knowledge of what’s happening in Malaysia.
    The whole world knows UMNO do practice double standards.
    Yes…democracy is not only depended on free elections…every 4 years.
    We can see…how money…laws of men…are used by UMNO to create the false democratic atmosphere.
    Noted South East Asian countries have strong voices for rights over wrongs….in all things..this is good news.

  3. #3 by taiking on Saturday, 26 September 2009 - 7:47 pm

    Huh?!!? Altantunya? Err. Najib? Why elect? Oh Ah. Well you see. The point is Singapore should have agreed to the crooked bridge. That is the real problem.

  4. #4 by Loh on Saturday, 26 September 2009 - 7:55 pm

    ///…Ms. Oyungerel Tsedevdamba, advisor to the President of Mongolia. She wanted to know, in the nicest possible way, why Malaysian citizens had voted for a person of Najib’s known reputation to assume the highest political office, and, she continued, was it true that in the Altantuya Shaariibuu trial, the Malaysian judiciary was acting improperly to protect Najib?///– Tunku Abdul Aziz

    The first question is for UMNO members. It has to do with the quota system in party election introduced when UMNO Bahru was formed, though the word Bahru in the name has been dropped.

    The second question has to be based on the proceedings in court as well as inaction by Najib. The Attorney General declared that there were only three suspects and no more. Surely if new evidence surfaced during the trial the government might have to pursue them. The declaration gave the impression that the trial was a show when the public never got to view the face of the two accused persons who were found guilty. Would the government implement the sentence imposed on those found guilty; Malaysians wonder so do Mongolians. Najib was given the opportunity to sue RPK to clear his name. He failed to take up the challenge. He has to carry the baggage. With that publicity, there was no need for 1Malaysia F1 team! 1Najib Malaysia needs no advertisement!

  5. #5 by taiking on Saturday, 26 September 2009 - 10:09 pm

    He has an absolutely lousy reputation, nationally and internationally. One which is in serious need of repair. And putting that reputation on wheels and for that matter on the 4 wheels of a narrow body supercharged vehicle would not do his badly damaged reputation any good. The fact that his reputation would sit mere inches from the ground and would by that virtue enjoy fantastically low centre of gravity is no advantage really. As if he has one such vehicle now ready for mounting the still recognisable bits and pieces of his reputation. Whether proton is upto the task of moving beyond reliable power windows quite clearly is an issue which has evaded the shooting impulses within the depth of his grey matter. For this I wish him luck. It would be a brave albeit horrendously off-target attempt on his part. I wish I could point this out to him for I am his keeper. But that is only in name and he is my Lord in fact.

  6. #6 by Hugos on Saturday, 26 September 2009 - 11:10 pm

    who said?

  7. #7 by Bigjoe on Sunday, 27 September 2009 - 12:46 am

    Democracy is by definition not about election. The greek meant government through citizen voting not just on who the govt is but on the issues that comes up. Election is a modern invention of republic govt i.e., representative govt.. Its a subsitute of through citizen voting on issues of govt..

    Mahathir is a hack. Always cutting corners on everything which is why we are in a mess..

  8. #8 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Sunday, 27 September 2009 - 1:45 am

    Najib’s 1 Malaysia is nothing but sloganeering. Anybody who thinks or believes otherwise must have his head checked.

    Altantuya-Scorpene-Najib adventure must be a tale to be continued in the not-so-distant-future. So the current powers will go the extremities of hell to ensure that Altantuya never resurrects.

    Mahathir, as always, is a mixture of sense and nonsense. Beneath his veneer of sense is an iceberg of nonsense. I don’t think he is adding anything of value to the current national focus or debate. He is just a voice, a good parrot, picking up on sound bites that are already in the air and obvious enough to the man on the omnibus. I wud suggest Dr M clams up a little, not that we can deny him his freedom of speech.

  9. #9 by dawsheng on Sunday, 27 September 2009 - 1:54 am

    I must confess that I was somewhat surprised that interest in Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s “baggage” had extended beyond the shores of Malaysia. – Tunku Abdul Aziz

    We are famous for the wrong reasons. Mongolian obviously don’t understand what “boleh” means?

  10. #10 by albert308 on Sunday, 27 September 2009 - 3:10 am

    Altantuya murder at international level attention, Najib must clear this imagination that Malaysia Judiciary protecting him. Swear under Al Quran does not seem convincing. Malaysia image seriously affected by PM link to the brutal murder of Altantuya. Najib must face the truth as international community will continues raise it to any Malaysians as the topics of discussion. Tun Mahathir said Samy Vellu is a liability, how about Najib?

  11. #11 by ANDY OOI on Sunday, 27 September 2009 - 4:16 am


  12. #12 by pulau_sibu on Sunday, 27 September 2009 - 7:47 am

    Even Indonesia is among one of the members of G20, and why Malaysia and Singapore are not?

  13. #13 by boh-liao on Sunday, 27 September 2009 - 8:54 am

    Outsiders don’t know ‘wayang’
    They also don’t know that three branches of government, the executive, the legislative and the judicial, are not separate but ONE n the same
    That’s Y Malaysia boleh or rather Umno Baru n BN boleh
    Boleh buat apa apa seja, like doing the twist n salsa
    Nothing to defend the evil deeds in M’sia, just b frank n speak the truth
    Yes, M’sians are stupid, elected Umno Baru n BN to run the country
    Umno Baru decides PM, DPM, cabinet, AG, IGP, CJ, etc
    So Y surprised when black is white and white is black

  14. #14 by boh-liao on Sunday, 27 September 2009 - 9:18 am

    M’sia, wild wild west
    A snatch thief carried 9mm pistol to cari makan at Plaza Mount Kiara
    A snatch thief caused the death of a 17-year-old girl in Taman Ungku Tun Aminah, JB
    222 people died in road accidents in the ongoing 2-week op during the Aidilfitri celebrations
    Progress? Maju lah M’sia

  15. #15 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 27 September 2009 - 9:52 am

    The truth is Tunku Abdul Aziz is ever a gentleman, a prominent national icon of both transparency and propriety. To a pointed question by Ms Oyungerel Tsedevdamba, the “transparency” part of his character requires telling “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” of what he thinks and knows but he was obviously conflicted as the “propriety” part of him counsels him to hold his peace for he obviously could not be seen disparaging too openly and liberally his own country’s leader and political process in an international forum! So he struck a balance by pointing a fact that the question raised – that “we do not, of course, have direct prime ministerial elections in Malaysia”. Next round in another forum, he might not be that lucky, so he is thinking ahead how to deflect, the next occasion, as when he says “I suppose if my listeners ask me awkward questions about Najib, I will have to tell them that I am not, thank heavens, Najib’s keeper”.

    Then again who says, and when does it arise, that Najib needs Tunku or anyone as his “keeper”? This line is too obvious a deflection from answering embarrassing and unanswerable questions. The international forum is interested in probing his views not as keeper of Najib but based on his career and reputation credentials, the keeper of the nation’s image of transparency and democracy.

    Since Tun Dr Mahathir has been mentioned by some commentators here, it is noted that Tunku’s dilemma and predicament is because by personality he is not the ever-combative Tun who has a reputation of making quick aggressive and often sarcastic and non sequitur retorts in international forum by reflex regardless of international opinion!

    One may speculate that if Ms Oyungerel Tsedevdamba had directed her questions to Dr Mahathir instead of Tunku, what would TDM have said?

    Mahathir would likely hit back and answer a question by another question by pointing out that Mongolian justice and foreign affairs officials were invited as observers at the Altantuya murder trial…If there were any suspicion that Malaysian judiciary was acting improperly, then the Mongolian government should be the first to take up the matter on government-to-government level and in the UN International courts rather than keep quiet in these respects as it had done so far; that perhaps Ms Oyungerel Tsedevdamba should ask the more relevant a priori question why Mongolian citizens had voted and elected the current Mongolian prime minister Sanjaagiin Bayar, who has done nothing in these directions so far before she presumes the audacity to question the acting behaviour of Malaysian citizens!

    That’s vintage Mahathir’s style – ever combative, best defence is attack, never mind the international publicity, whether negative or positive, fame or infamy, for nothing could be worse than no publicity and no attention at all! For, to him, nothing in life is ever permanent, everything is transient, esp public perception. Whatever stupid things one says for now and for which one gets presently reviled – (for example his capital controls devbioating from IMF) – just wear a thick skin and indignify it by the vintage sneering smirk which will switch to a sardonic smile later on when people like Paul Krugman or even dfetractor George Soros forget and praise him for some element of smartness or truth in what he earlier said. The trick to him is not to be rigidly confined by one’s own need to preserve reputation. There will always be detractors and admirers, whatever one says and they sometimes change places like detractor George Soros (whom Mahahir called a moron) from critic to someone who subsequenly vindicated Mahathir as being right to prescribe capital controls under the limitations of the then circumstances.

  16. #16 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 27 September 2009 - 11:01 am

    “Living in the shadow of Najib’s 1 Malaysia”?

    Likelier, we ‘re living in the shadow of third premier, Tun Dr Mahathir ie ‘TDM Malaysia’.

    He is not to be underestimated – our short political history records no phenomenon like him, with a record of removing the first and fourth premiers and three deputy premiers, and forcing the present premier to walk a fine line in order not to make the same mistakes as his predecessors…..

    He even up the ante on Lee Kuan Yew for not accepting a post in government as “senior minister” after stepping down. For if he were part of government, how could he criticize it or the leader at the helm at the same time?

    He knows that in political and cultural (read feudal) milieu of the country, he, as former PM, occupies a hallowed and vantage place where he could literally scold anyone within power structure without being ISA-ed!

    To UMNO members/supporters they owe him a debt of gratitude for pushing, during his tenure aggressive Islamisation and expansion of NEP, enriching many UMNOputras, changing the constitution and even emasculating the judiciary in 1988, if needs be, for these purposes. He is viewed fearless – could hold his own against Mat Sallehs and tell them off. He had thus successfully captured and embodied in his person as well as political legacy the collective nostalgias, anxieties, insecurities, resentments underpinning the Ketuanan ideology embraced by many an UMNO member/supporter.

    He therefore is now given the tacit licence and privilege as elder statesman to scold, berate, correct the mistakes of top political leaders to whom he plays King Maker, and he does so consummately for one objective – to ensure that UMNO led Barisan Nasional survives, and Pakatan Rakyat (PR) never triumphs (at least in his and his immediate heirs life time). There is a subterranean motive why this is so. He wants to preserve his political legacy, as long as possible, and if PR wins, it not only means dismantling that legacy but his old nemesis being placed at the helm to settle old scores!

    How will history then adjudge him?

    To his supporters, he is identified with singlehandedly altering by sheer force of personality and will, the course of the nation’s history to entrench for generations to come the Ketuanan legacy – whilst to his detractors/critics, a legacy that, not reversed, will ultimately lead this multiracial country to ruins.

    In either case, and whichever way one looks at it, he is identified with the sheer quality of excess, his tenure as PM, an eruption of sheer energy imposing by raw political will his ways over all, including the warlords, and changing political landscape forever.

  17. #17 by boh-liao on Sunday, 27 September 2009 - 11:16 am

    Maybe the reply is NR Ain’t Heavy
    He’s My Brother

    Now lurking in the shadow of NR is MMK
    He whacked Isa as an unsuitable corruption tainted candidate for the buy-election in Bagan Pinang
    “If UmnoB cannot find enough candidates, just choose me,” MMK quipped
    This is another classical illogicial logic of MMK
    The evil father of all corruptions volunteered to replace a lesser corrupted chap
    How abt Semi Value as the BN candidate in BP

  18. #18 by monsterball on Sunday, 27 September 2009 - 1:26 pm

    Najib said….”Malaysia is window to rest of Asia. I would like Malaysia to be famous for many things”
    Yea….country with most false titles to crooks…so many white elephants monuments and buildings….the most stupid tunnel in the world…the first Japanese roti venture…the most hypocritical Islamic country in the world…many more.but the best is showing to the world….how to kill a foreigner with C4…supposedly…clean and simple… more evidences.
    Other countries are claiming to be windows to Asians too..and they meant tourists go there with comfort…happy and well.
    Put Singapore..Thailand..Australia and even Vietnam…..those are trully windows to the world.
    Malaysia is gangsters’ wonderland.
    UMNO is showing to the world….learn from them….a thing or two. to control citizens…loot rob…cheat con…all under the magic word….”COMMISSION”.

  19. #19 by son of perpaduan on Sunday, 27 September 2009 - 2:12 pm

    So sad to putting Malaysian in 52 years of blind over corrupted pactice by BN rule. Even country like Myanmar, Vietnam will emerge out of isolation are moving positively ahead, soon will become more popular destination than Malaysia.

  20. #20 by son of perpaduan on Sunday, 27 September 2009 - 2:14 pm

    Next GE is a day every Malaysian looking for, check mate BN !

  21. #21 by katdog on Sunday, 27 September 2009 - 2:27 pm

    Malaysia is a pariah nation in the eyes of many around the world. Only those arrogant Malaysians living in admiration of their wonderful wonderful Putrajaya, Petronas Twin Towers, Sepang F1 circuit etc are unable to admit to that.

    Observe our diplomatic relations. Indonesia, Brunei, Thailand and Singapore, Phillipines are not exactly what you call close allies. Further away, UK, Australia and US tends to do its best to avoid/ignore Malaysia. It is ironic but, Malaysia’s closest ‘friend’ today is probably China, a country notorious for befriending and supporting warlords and pariah leaders in various developing countries in exchange for precious resources.

    Frankly speaking. most of our South East Asian neighbors don’t really like Malaysia all that much as our leaders act like uneducated thugs and bullies. Hence we saw how quickly Indonesians attacked Malaysia over the pendet dance issue and how singaporeans were quickly annoyed at our Tourism minister’s claim to certain local dishes.

  22. #22 by Dap man on Sunday, 27 September 2009 - 4:22 pm

    “It says more about the integrity of the party than perhaps the person it elected to high office.” Tunku

    I think it says more about the integrity of all the other component parties in BN as well. In short, BN is a coalition without morals nor integrity. It has no soul.

    But the nation will pay for choosing this kind of a leader. Do you think God will shower his blessings on a nation that prefers a leader with blood on his hands?

    Will Providence smile on Malaysia.
    We will pay dearly for this folly. In fact we can see it coming.

  23. #23 by k1980 on Sunday, 27 September 2009 - 5:42 pm

    Najib claims that Malaysia is a window to the rest of Asia. Then why is Indonesia chosen to represent ASEAN in the G20 instead of Malaysia? Stop bragging, Jib. A c4 grenade might drop out the next time you open your big mouth.

  24. #24 by imranj78 on Sunday, 27 September 2009 - 9:43 pm

    Dear Tunku, you should have clearly indicated that these accusations (Altantuya and submarine deal) are just purely accusations without any shred of proof. If you are truly a man of integrity you should not jump the gun and should not have potrayed DS Najib as being guilty when there is nothing to proof him so! You should have instead be transparent on what facts are available and proof are available. You are free to make your own judgement of course but who are you to try to potray an innocent man as being guilty without any proof in an open forum?

    You are just another PR politician who views PR politicians as angels and spin to potray all BN politicians as the devil when this is far from the truth!! Pure hypocrites!

  25. #25 by Hugos on Sunday, 27 September 2009 - 10:52 pm

    looks like ungku was unsure which hat he wants to put on. he was wrong to put on his partisan hat as he’s there to speak on a non-partisan issue.

    he should have put the facts squarely. after some fifty years we are still a toddler when it comes to making democracy work for the people rather than a selected few. while some are made to face the full extent some seem to be immune. some have had their right to due process denied them while one could could not even be called as witness to a capital murder case. the truth will never be known.

    in a system like ours, everyone must be given the benefit of the presumption of innocence even if he is a known criminal. but this presumption is not above being tested.

  26. #26 by ALtPJK on Monday, 28 September 2009 - 12:06 am

    When the advisor to the President of Mongolia asked the 2 pointed questions ( 1. .why Malaysian citizens had voted for a person of Najib’s known reputation to assume the highest political office, and…was it true that in the Altantuya Shaariibuu trial, the Malaysian judiciary was acting improperly to protect Najib?) Ms. Oyungerel Tsedevdamba must have known that, Tunku, with all due respect, is not in a position nor the authority to provide the explanation.
    Tunku, being as affable as he is, deftly dealt with the “democracy” component of the questions. What should be more significant is her glaring intent in the latter part of the question in relation to the judiciary – a punchline, sort of.
    Given the wide media coverage during the farcical trial, it is a no-brainer to see that in the court of public opinion both domestic and international the stink has reached high heavens.
    Living in Najib’s 1Malaysia shadow?? Sorry, NO Sir!! It is the living Curse No.1 for Malaysia…thanks to public najis No.1

  27. #27 by Hugos on Monday, 28 September 2009 - 6:24 am

    but u guys can’t do anything about it?? that’s a shame. come next gen elections the malays will put bn back in power. just watch.

  28. #28 by badak on Wednesday, 30 September 2009 - 11:15 am

    1Malaysia is just a slogan without any substance.How can there be a 1Malaysia if UMNO is shouting about KETUANAN MELAYU.
    How can there be a 1Malaysia if UMNO is curbing the religion of others.
    How can there be a 1Malaysia, If there is still a QUOTA SYSTEM.

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