Testing transition

By Jacqueline Ann Surin and Shanon Shah ( [email protected], [email protected] )

IT might be interesting to find out what Datuk Seri Najib Razak privately thinks of his impending succession as prime minister of Malaysia, which looks set to happen tomorrow, 3 April 2009.

Would he perhaps be comparing the responses towards him with those towards Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi when Abdullah succeeded Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in October 2003? When Abdullah took over as prime minister, Malaysians experienced a different kind of shock to the system. After more than two decades, the country was going to have a new leader and the country sighed with relief. Abdullah was seen as a combination of Mr Clean and Mr Nice Guy.

So high were Abdullah's approval ratings that he helped the Barisan Nasional (BN) win 198 out of 219 parliamentary seats in the 2004 general election. That translated into an unheard-of 90% seat majority in Parliament.

Contrast this with public perceptions of Najib right now. For one thing, Najib simply cannot make rumours alleging his involvement in the killing of Mongolian national Altantuya Shariibuu go away.

Unprecedented disapproval

Umno veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah notes that Najib is approaching the nation's highest office with allegations of corruption and involvement in a murder clinging on to him like radioactive material.

"None of our previous prime ministers came to that high position with any question at all of their integrity. Not Tunku Abdul Rahman, not Tun Abdul Razak, Tun Hussein Onn or Mahathir or Abdullah Badawi," Razaleigh tells The Nut Graph in an e-mail interview.

Razaleigh stresses that the allegations against Najib are unproven, but adds: "By the same token, they are also unanswered allegations.

"Until these questions are resolved, I don't see how Najib can have the credibility to carry out his large promises of reform. I also find it difficult to see how he will bring Malaysians closer to each other," Razaleigh says.

He adds that the political manoeuvres in Perak have also damaged Najib's reputation for respect for the rule of law.

Noting that his views may not be popular within some Umno quarters, Razaleigh argues that "I don't live in a bubble. I am only repeating obvious truths, known to all our citizens and to the rest of the world." 

Razaleigh is not the only one with anxieties about Najib, that's for certain. Former de facto Law Minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, who was expelled from Umno in 2008, also raised similar concerns in a public speech on 18 March. Zaid concluded: "If a referendum were to be conducted on the subject, or if the prime minister was to be elected directly by the rakyat, I do not think Najib Razak would succeed."


Read more at:  http://www.thenutgraph.com/testing-transition