Silence on major issues, non-supportive cabinet are why Najib’s weak, say analysts

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s tendency of keeping mum when the moment calls for it is why he is touted as weak and indecisive, say analysts. – The Malaysian Insider, January 16, 2013.

By Lee Shi-Ian and Eileen Ng, The Malaysian Insider

Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s deafening silence on major issues, coupled with a non-supportive cabinet, is among the main reasons why the prime minister is being perceived as weak and indecisive, said political analysts.

This was compounded by the lack of a forceful stand to address raging religious, racial and economic issues that are engulfing the country, said the analysts, adding they could not remember a time when a sitting prime minister was subjected to a lot of flak and ridicule from the public.

This was clearly illustrated when Najib spoke on an issue that his own ministers would later contradict him, said Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs chief executive Wan Saiful Wan Jan.

Worst, Najib would stay silent instead of coming out with a forceful statement, he said.

Citing the Internal Security Act (ISA) as an example, Wan Saiful said Najib promised to abolish and repeal the draconian law when he first took over as prime minister in 2009.

“The ISA was repealed in 2012. But there are now certain parties who are calling for it to be reintroduced, including the nation’s top cop.

“Instead of standing together collectively as one voice, Najib’s cabinet seem to be split to the four winds. Everyone has their own opinions.

“As such, the public perceives Najib as being weak, because whatever he says does not seem to be the final word. Everyone else is queuing up to have the last say,” Wan Saiful told The Malaysian Insider.

Noting that these are challenging times for Najib, Wan Saiful said the prime minister needed to be firm and take action against cabinet members who contradicted him or the government’s stand.

“The bottom line is that the entire cabinet should swim or sink together. It should not be a case of every man for himself.

“Both Najib and his deputy Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin must take responsibility for their weaknesses and rectify them.”

Professor James Chin, a political analyst with Monash University Malaysia, believed that Najib’s current position was part of a campaign within his party to get rid of him.

This was clearly illustrated in pro-Umno bloggers’ calls for him to step down and suggestions for Malaysia’s longest serving prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to return to Putrajaya and play a role to rein in the current raging issues.

“They know that Najib cannot ensure Umno’s win in the next general election, given the current unhappiness over his lifestyle and his wife’s expensive predilections, as well as the current religious dispute over the use of the word ‘Allah’,” he said.

Najib’s trait of keeping mum on pressing issues instead of engaging his critics intellectually is costing him dearly, said Universiti Malaysia Sarawak political analyst Dr Arnold Puyok.

“Being silent and defensive are not options which will portray Najib in a good light. Malaysians want credible explanations and not lame excuses.”

Referring to Najib’s ‘kangkung’ or water spinach analogy, which had been ridiculed and gone viral online, Arnold said while the prime minister might not want to offend the public, his unfortunate choice of words have made him the subject of derision.

Najib was widely lampooned after he hit back at the people for criticising the government following the increase in the price of goods, with sarcastic comments and jokes trending on social media.

“Najib should simply explain to the people that under the present circumstances, Putrajaya has no choice but to increase the prices of certain goods.

“More importantly, the price hikes should commensurate with reforms in Putrajaya’s economic system and the credibility of his administration,” said Arnold.

Wan Saiful said Najib’s actual statement on the water spinach (kangkung) was quite fair as Putrajaya did not get enough credit from the public.