Najib having the last laugh when it comes to critics


(Sia One) – Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is unruffled by accusations that he has acquired an autocratic style of political leadership.

“Just a year ago, they said I was too soft. Now they say I am autocratic. They can’t even make up their minds as to what I am,” he said.

Najib admitted that he could not help smiling when he read a report in The Star that said he was “taking from the playbook” of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The implication was that he is following in the footsteps of Dr Mahathir who was known for being uncompromising towards those who opposed or clashed with him.

More recently, former deputy prime minister Tun Musa Hitam described Najib as a “good student of Dr Mahathir” and stopped short of calling Najib a dictator.

The parallels being drawn between Najib and Dr Mahathir are all the more ironic given their epic fallout.

“My conscience is clear. I am quite an open person.

“That (autocratic style) is against my nature as a leader. I believe in a democratic and inclusive way of doing things, that is my style of leadership,” he said during an exclusive interview with The Star.

He pointed out that he had democratised the election system of Umno so that the leadership of the party would be elected by a larger grassroots base rather than by those who controlled the Umno divisions.

The interview was in conjunction with the Umno general assembly starting today and which will see Najib deliver his policy speech as Umno president.

The occasion has drawn immense interest because Dr Mahathir has confirmed his attendance.

Najib seemed amused that just a year ago, he was accused of being a “softie” but now his actions have been likened to that of Dr Mahathir who in his heyday was described as a “dictator” and firaun or “pharaoh”.

The change of label from “softie” to “autocratic” happened after a number of individuals were investigated under the Sedition Act and it intensified after Najib sacked Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal from his Cabinet.

Najib’s closed-door session with the Umno delegates on Tuesday night went very well despite the no-show by Muhyiddin.

“We prepared a seat for him. He was there earlier, shaking hands but he eventually left.

“I don’t know why he left, maybe he felt uncomfortable,” he said.

Asked if he thought that his estranged deputy had crossed the line by speaking at the Kampung Baru ceramah, Najib said every party had rules and ethics that must be observed and he would leave it to the party’s supreme council to decide.

He said Umno delegates felt insulted by Dr Mahathir’s claim that Malaysia had become a “beggar state” and he had countered that with statistics and data during his briefing for the delegates.

He said the vibes he got from the delegates were that they were tired of all the bickering and they wanted the party to move on.

Najib said his policy speech today would focus on the challenges ahead and the values that could make Umno a strong party.

He said he would address the issues relating to Dr Mahathir and Muhyiddin, but in a circumspect way because he had dealt at length on the matter in his session with the delegates.

“Umno is like a big family and what happened was a family affair, which is best addressed behind closed doors than in a public way,” he said.