When Umno goes over the top

Melaka CM’s bloated exco and Umno’s haste in pressing for a pardon for Najib Razak are examples of unseemly zeal.

Terence Netto, Free Malaysia Today

“Above all, not too much zeal,” was the advice given by Maurice Talleyrand, French diplomat of the Napoleonic era, to politicians.

Noted for his skills in the diplomatic arena, Talleyrand was admired and reviled in almost equal measure.

He knew when to put his feet on the pedal and when to take it off.

Newly-minted Melaka chief minister Ab Rauf Yusoh must wish he had these skills.

In a clumsy quest for popularity after the success of an equally slovenly push to become chief minister, Rauf created several posts of state deputy executive councillors.

That brought the size of the entire complement of state executive councillors to 21 members, a bloat that was scarcely justifiable at a time when the ruling federal unity government was intent on emphasising frugality and cost-saving.

In a Melaka state legislature that has only 28 members, this bloat in the executive class is ludicrous, even if Rauf’s intention is aimed at having “zero opposition” in the state.

Rauf even wanted the two Perikatan Nasional members of the legislature, who on the face of it constitute what opposition there is, to join his administration.

The two had no difficulty declining the invitation, preventing a ludicrous situation from becoming a farce.

Someone ought to remind Rauf of what happened when former Selangor menteri besar Khir Toyo, just before the 2008 general election (GE12), expressed an intention to see “pembangkang sifar” (zero opposition) emerge from GE12.

Another instance of disregard for Talleyrand’s caution against excess zeal in politics is the Umno Supreme Council’s push for a royal pardon for their former president Najib Razak.

Najib had just lost his bid to have the Federal Court review its affirmation of a 12-year jail term and a fine of RM210 million imposed by a lower court for malfeasance in the SRC case.

His lawyers held as grounds for the push for a pardon the sole dissenting opinion of the five-member judicial panel that sat in his appeal. The appeal was turned down 4-1.

A 4-1 decision by the apex court is not a narrow validation of the lower court’s decision; instead, it is a considerable vindication of the lower court’s finding and scarcely furnishes grounds for a resort to the pardon process for Najib.

An excess of zeal can have all sorts of distorting effects and Najib’s sympathisers are showing it, especially after one considers he has only served some eight months of his jail term.

Public sympathy for Najib is not as apparent now as perhaps at the start of the judicial process.

His sympathisers would better serve the cause of obtaining a pardon for him by cooling their heels than by raising a clamour.

Suffice, overzealousness in pursuit of their goals ill-serves both Rauf and Najib.