Najib’s getting off this tiger’s back

AB Sulaiman
Aug 12, 2013

COMMENT In the Malaysian public domain one issue seems to be taking a lot of attention; its source, of all things, is a book.

For a people not known to read much, this is bizarre. For it to be written purportedly by Abdullah Badawi, as some have assumed, more bizarre still.

Actually ‘Awakening: The Abdullah Badawi Years in Malaysia’ is not a book written by Abdullah Ahmad Badawi at all; it’s one about him but edited by Bridget Welsh and James Chin.

In it Abdullah makes comments about his tenure as prime minister, about how he dared go against the wishes of predecessor Dr Mahathir Mohamad who apparently was holding the reins of power in the background.

Abdullah was commenting on how he was hounded by Mahathir but stood his ground anyway, and even cancelled some Mahathir-conceived mega projects.

Abdullah claimed his action had helped save the country from bankruptcy.

Mahathir, the megalomaniac supremo, was so upset by this rebuff and as history has indicated, used all realpolitik tricks (as a past master he has a lot up his sleeves) to throw out Abdullah from his perch as prime minister.

The issue here is that at long last, Abdullah as a former political leader, has dared to make comments, to question, tarnish and demolish the record and performance, achievements and prestige of Mahathir his predecessor.

Also it revealed the sad truth that under Mahathir’s long tenure as president of Umno and prime minister, he has transformed the party from one of liberation and reform into one ferocious tiger.

So when Abdullah took over he was riding on the back of this tiger.

This tiger of course is the animated composite of Mahathir the institution, his cronies and party warlords, the religious bigots, the civil servants, all those people directly benefitting from the status quo.

Mainly it is the mentality that unites them together – the racist (like Ibrahim Ali) and the religious extremist (like Harussani Zakaria). Mahathir would be the tiger’s fangs.

Upon realising this, Abdullah wanted to tame this tiger. But the tiger did not take too kindly to his act of defiance and mauled Abdullah instead.

How indeed does anyone tame a tiger? He unceremoniously lost his job.

This defiance and recalcitrance has been a form of progress and development of sorts in this subservience and loyalty based Umno polity.

The previous norms have been for all and sundry (and this includes former prime ministers) to say only good things about Mahathir.

Indirect support

Underlining this groundbreaking development Abdullah’s comments has been that they were taken up by his successor Najib Razak, who appeared to concur with Abdullah’s views.

But perhaps upon noticing how Abdullah was mauled by the Umno tiger and being coy, Najib merely expressed his support indirectly, thus; that Umno members are now aware they need to change.

He cited the change in the party constitution as one solid example.

But he cautioned eager Malaysian beavers starved and clamouring for change that going into the entire Umno polity (and by extension the public policy changes this ruling coalition would bring), is a very slow process.

For Umno members this might take several generations he reportedly said.

Najib might have a point. Change is indeed a peculiar thing – it is there every second of the day, all the time, but it does not happen if there is no awareness of it happening.

There is no change if you are not aware of it taking place, there is only a happening.

To reiterate, change takes place if a person is aware it is indeed taking place. Without this awareness there is only a natural transformation, not change.

Right now the country is so ready for change. To say the least, it needs to get out of its many social, economic, political and intellectual ailing most of which were created by the outdated Umno mentality.

These are not to be repeated here in detail, their broad outlines would suffice: widening racial distrust, citizen distrust of the police and the AG’s office, corruption involving astronomical amounts and committed at the highest echelons, mountain high national debt, young talents fleeing abroad, Hollywood, nay, Mafia style gangland shootings.

Feeling jittery

Now, Najib is jittery. He is the incumbent prime minister and aware of the enormity of his task. He knows what he should do like putting the people together again under the 1Malaysia rallying call.

He wants the economy to move forward under the various transformation programmes.

But with the tiger under him Najib has not been able to do much. He sees Abdullah’s dumping as a clear and real possibility that this can also happen to him.

Now the Umno general assembly is about to take place in October. His post of party chief and thereby the premiership can be challenged with the real possibility of him losing his present job come October.

So what can he do to contain the tiger and maintain his job?

On this, the alternatives are wide open. Many things can be done. He could listen to the advice and comments made by concerned citizens, and reinstate the rule of law.

He could reintroduce checks and balances; rein in those who in public opinion, are the breakers of the rule of law.

He should allow the police do their job, silence Mahathir and his civic society cohorts like Perkasa and Jawi.

Rein in all other race-based civic societies and religious bigots like Harussani Zakaria.

Inculcate into them the fact and reality that the constitution is the supreme law of the country.

But he is not going to do any of these for the party elections are just around the corner.

He has to play safe and to the gallery. Indirectly agreeing and supporting Abdullah Badawi is about the only thing he is willing to do now. How sad.


AB SULAIMAN is an observer of human foibles, and has written and recently published a book ‘Sensitive Truths in Malaysia’.

  1. #1 by john on Tuesday, 13 August 2013 - 12:14 pm

    Go and review what Bodowi (in reality, just cunning) had done. Is a fact, he relied or left most to his S-I-L but now tried to come out with tales, actually trying to boost his S-I-L image in Bumno, now Bumno’s EGM round the corner.
    That’s the reason the ONE Mamak was so pissed off with him and S-I-L till now.
    What these ‘PM’s’ (ONE Mamak, cunning Bodowi and present ‘PM’- Altantuya’s ? ) have done,acted while in office were ALL for own SELF-INTEREST and to enrich themselves immensely that’s all – what leadership ? NO ! Zero !

  2. #2 by john on Tuesday, 13 August 2013 - 12:27 pm

    Bumno is just ONE falsehood party and the people (or ‘leaders’) from there are just same – all with LIES. Now, their election is round the corner expect more sandiwaras, tokok, ‘champions’, ,,,, from those wanabes eyeing top positions and hence ticket to immense wealth for taking.
    One Mamak will be back his old ‘mamak tricks’ (already started) to shore up support for his botak son and hence family’s interests, power,,,etc.
    Same, Bodowi had started also to boost his S-I-L image etc.,,,,, also.
    And, the rest of the clowns,,,,,, ALL in actual fact to plunder the Nation wealth further, that’s the aim actually.

  3. #3 by sheriff singh on Tuesday, 13 August 2013 - 12:36 pm

    ‘ … So what can he do to contain the tiger and maintain his job? .. ‘

    He can do nothing, really, nothing.

    When you are in the ring with the tiger, you behave and tread very, very carefully lest you frighten the tiger and it eats you up.

    The tiger needs to behave as well as who will feed it if it eats up its care-taker(s) ?

    So live and let live. They eyeball each other and live happily ever after.

  4. #4 by mauriyaII on Tuesday, 13 August 2013 - 5:56 pm

    “What can he do to contain and maintain his job?”

    First he must realize that he IS the PM though he is riding the tiger. If he has the guts and assert his authority as one, it is quite easy to get rid of the recalcitrant tiger and its feeders and vice versa by neutralizing it once and for all. He hasn’t much time – about a month – but which is more than enough for a man of action to undo and do whatever needs to be done.

    For starters, he should reshuffle and revamp his cabinet with men of integrity and caliber even if he does not have those traits. In fell sweep he can get rid of those warlords aligned to the mamak and his thuggish faction.

    He should replace the present AG with one who need not be scared of the DUMBNO warlords and who is given the freedom to institute action on them if necessary.

    He should get rid of the fetters of the MACC and appoint someone with the mandate to rid the country of corruption and answerable only to parliament and not the executive.

    He should make the PDRM a respectable force by implementing the IPCMC without any delay. This act alone would send shivers down the spine of all the corrupted and spineless police officers who abuse their positions.

    He should declare war on racist and religious NGOs and use the sedition act against them for trying to destabilize the harmony and goodwill among the citizens of the country.

    The above may not endear him to the DUMBNO warlords and their master, the evil mamak, but the very fact he has, would be more than enough to shut up his critics as a person without balls.

    He may go broke but if he uses his position as the president of UMNO and PM effectively, he may have the last laugh.

    He may not only wipe out Mahathirism and the mamak’s legacy forever but bring in a new era for nation building.

  5. #5 by Bigjoe on Tuesday, 13 August 2013 - 9:42 pm

    Here is the thing. When someone tells you that he is for change and then tell you BUT then tell you it will take generations, THE IMMEDIATE PROBLEM is the guy itself..

    This thing 51% of us want to do, its US against THEM.. Those in between are casualties of war..

  6. #6 by yhsiew on Tuesday, 13 August 2013 - 11:56 pm

    Malaysian leaders, after leaving office, usually become smarter, bolder and more daring to speak against their master(s) in Umno. Of course Najib is of no exception. We shall get to hear what Najib has to say about his master after he (Najib) leaves office.

  7. #7 by good coolie on Friday, 16 August 2013 - 9:22 pm

    The Maha Master is in the shadow in the shadow play in the One Malaysia.

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