Winners and losers in the latest law reforms

(The Malaysian Insider) – KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 17 — Two days later, Malaysia is still digesting Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s announcement that his government would repeal a raft of draconian laws including the Internal Security Act.

It is left to be seen whether the sweet words will be translated into action. But at this moment, here are the winners and the losers:


● Najib Razak: Let’s be honest, the prime minister was meandering recently and found himself in a political cul-de-sac after a series of flip-flops, snafu over the Bersih rally and concern that his policies are determined by which group shouts loudest.

But Najib has a real chance of getting out of this drift and gaining momentum for the general election if he makes good on the promise to abolish these laws. The reforms reflect his hopes to win over the chattering class and claw back the ground lost in the past few years.

● the Bersih 2.0 crew: What stunned Najib and his advisers and even some ministers was the strength of the Bersih turnout despite the lockdown by the police in the capital city.

They thought that after a few days all would be forgotten. How wrong they were. The PM was assailed overseas, an unprecedented event, and at home the middle class was stunned at his handling of the episode as he appeared the most savvy of politicians to grace the national stage.

And all along, Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan and Bersih 2.0 grew in stature. Without a doubt, if the Bersih organisers had buckled at the threats by the government and did not force the issue and sully Najib’s image, Thursday night’s historic announcement would not have happened.

● Civil society and anti-ISA campaigners: The support groups for ISA detainees and activists of civil society who have long fought against restrictive laws in the country. They have kept faith that their cause is right and the laws are bad.

But their fight doesn’t end now. There are more laws to be reviewed and repealed before Malaysia is truly a democratic nation respectful of basic human rights.

● People power: The promise to do away with these restrictive laws is an acknowledgement that the Umno/BN government no longer can run roughshod over the electorate, especially with its slim margin in Parliament.

If there is a lesson from this it is the fact that the government only listens when it does not have overwhelming strength in Parliament.


● Hishammuddin Hussein, Ibrahim Ali and right-wing elements in Umno: don’t be fooled by the smiles and nice quotes that have come out since Thursday night. It is still a long walk but a few are red-faced over Najib jump-starting his stalled reforms package.