WASTED : 100 days of opportunity

Rather than an objective assessment of Najib’s first 100 days, they reverted back to their old ways of kowtowing to UMNO and its President, without question.

By Gooi Hsiao Leung, Suara Keadilan

Following the worst electoral performance by BN last year, the country wanted to see how Najib, as the new Prime Minister, would respond to what was a clear and unmistakable message sent by the voters of 308, rejecting the last 52 years of nation-building as an abject failure.

As expected, the leaders of the BN component parties – particularly MCA, Gerakan and MIC – who shared the responsibility of the last 50 years of failure, were on Saturday mindlessly and unabashedly praising Najib Tun Razak. Rather than an objective assessment of Najib’s first 100 days, they reverted back to their old ways of kowtowing to UMNO and its President, without question.

What concerned Malaysians most after 308 was to see what domestic policy reforms would be undertaken by Najib; especially on issues of eradicating corruption, providing greater opportunities in education, the independence of the judiciary, allowing greater space for public dissent, and having greater religious tolerance and respect.

Above all, we wanted to see real structural changes introduced whereby the needs of all Malaysians would be attended to by the government, on the basis of the needs of each and every individual, and no longer on the needs of each community.

However, under Najib’s administration the Royal Malaysian Police has become, if anything, more repressive – echoing the Mahatir era when there was zero tolerance for public dissent. Indeed, reversing Abdullah Badawi’s more open approach in allowing peaceful demonstrations and rallies.

The use of strong-handed tactics and water cannons laced with chemicals in breaking up peaceful opposition ceramahs during the by-elections are now common practice. Wearing black t-shirts these days in Malaysia is considered a threat to public security and could land you in a police lock-up.

During Najib’s first address as Prime Minister, he had announced the release of 13 ISA detainees, including two Hindraf leaders, claiming that his government was not repressive and had the best interests of the people at heart. However, the conditions imposed on the detainees upon their release, clearly demonstrated that the move to release the detainees was not carried out with any sincerity.

If Najib truly wanted to convince us that he had our best interests at heart, he would have called for the immediate repeal of the Internal Security Act on the first parliament sitting as Prime Minister. Repressive laws such as the Internal Security Act, the Sedition Act, and Printing and Presses Act, to name but a few, continue to be used by BN as tools of oppression without any definitive proposals to abolish or amend them.

Najib has also failed in the first 100 days to show that he is serious about curbing abuses of power and corruption within the police force. Under his administration, the Royal Commission’s recommendation in the setting up of an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC), along the same model and high standards adopted in Hong Kong, has been abandoned. It has instead been replaced with a watered down version of the Enforcement Agency of Integrity Commission (EAIC).

Today, our parliamentary opposition leader, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, continues to be selectively and politically persecuted by the government with trumped up criminal charges despite strong evidence proving otherwise. By way of contrast, those implicated with wrongdoings in the mother of all scandals – the PKFZ fiasco – continue to enjoy their freedom and wealth with impunity.

Public confidence in the judiciary since the release of the Lingam tapes has not improved either. No action has been taken against those implicated by the Royal Commission for wrongdoing. The independence of our judiciary today has been further blemished by the highly questionable manner in which the judiciary has handled the various cases arising out of the BN power grab in Perak.

Najib’s 100 days as Prime Minister will no doubt be tied to his involvement in the Perak power grab. It was executed under his watch as the Perak BN Chief and has exposed his utter contempt and disrespect for the people of Perak to choose the government of their choice.

Any mature democratic government would have immediately held fresh state elections to allow the people to elect a government of their choice. The Perak issue will surely be remembered as one of the darkest hours in Malaysian politics and our so-called democracy.

The Prime Minister’s 1Malaysia slogan and ‘walkabouts’ in night markets and Petaling Street, drinking teh-O with the locals, may be Najib’s idea of improving his public image. If his image is his priority, he should clear his name in the Altantuya murder case and his involvement in the hundreds of millions paid out as commission for the submarine purchase contracts. Those issues cannot be wished away.

Indeed, a basic examination of Najib’s first 100 days hardly stands up to the measure he invented himself – People First, Performance Now. It remains, as he intended it, a mere slogan.

Gooi Hsiao Leung is a lawyer by training. He is also the PKR Kedah deputy youth chief and a member of the state committee]