Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Taking Najib with a pinch of salt....for now

KUALA LUMPUR, April 3 — New prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak tonight freed 13 ISA detainees and lifted the suspension of two opposition papers — Harakah and Suara Keadilan. [The Malaysian Insider]

April 3 marks the appointment of Malaysia's 6th Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak - succeeding Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi at the nation's helm amidst much political and economic volatility. But going into office with the new premier are not hope and optimism for a better future but rather, skepticism and uncertainties surrounding the very man himself.

Najib, who is also the newly-elected party president of UMNO said on March 29 that he wants the people to judge him by his actions and on not preconceptions and rumours. But one may be forgiven to take this with a pinch of salt whilst keeping his/her fingers crossed.

My judgement for Najib to be a better Prime Minister remains undecided. But I am nonetheless skeptical of his recent actions that he hopes are able to strike a favourable rapport with the Malaysian people.

One of the first things Najib did in less than a week in office was to release 13 detainees held under the infamous Internal Security Act (ISA). Among them were members of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), Darul Islam and Jemaah Islamiah . Hindraf are considered a 'terrorist' group by the government while members of the Darul Islam and Jemaah Islamiah were detained for their connection to the Bali bombings of 2002. [source]

Granting 'freedom' to these men who were detained without trial are for public display, as the restrictions imposed on the freed Hindraf members suggest their new-found liberty are actually short-changed.

The two Hindraf lawyers V. Ganabatirao and R. Kengadharan revealed that they cannot leave the districts they live in, must be back home by 7pm, must acquire written permission from the district police to leave their districts and cannot give any press conference, take part in gatherings of more then five people or take part in organised political activities [source]. Is this what it means to be 'free'?

Najib also ordered the ban on two Opposition-backed newspapers - Harakkah and SuaraKeadilan to be lifted. They were first banned by the Home Ministry for three months on March 23 for repeatedly publishing stories that were “wrong, sensational and sensitive in nature”, according to Home Minister Datuk Syed Hamid Albar. But many Malaysians saw this as a move by the Barisan Nasional to handicap the Opposition's media coverage on the three by-elections scheduled for April 7.

Thus, I cannot help but to question the timing of this: Why only lift the ban now? Why did Najib fail to stop the ban from going through in the first place or to settle for something lesser like publicly voicing his disapproval of the ministry's decision when he was then the Deputy Prime Minister?

Another example that similarly demands the why-only-now? response is Najib's latest excursion to the streets to meet ordinary citizens. He took time to visit hawkers, shopkeepers and restaurant operators in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.

But how often does that happen when Najib was a mere minister and then, the Deputy Prime Minister? Why the sudden urge now to get his leather shoes dirty to meet ordinary citizens in the streets. Though I commend Najib's latest move to be the 'people's PM' all Prime Ministers ought to be but the skeptic in me refuses to back down from asking: why only now?

Najib kindly asks to be judged for his actions upon his appointment. As much as I would like to give the greenhorn Prime Minister the benefit of the doubt, I say actions with hypocritical public displays of being a dedicated leader deserves no judgement but of a poor one.

Forgive me, but it is not easy to be optimistic when a man with unresolved allegations of corruption and murder ascends to office and will ultimately lead this beloved nation of ours. I'd say judge Najib over the years as Prime Minister; not just a week of street excursions, ban lifts and detainee releases.


  1. vasantarao appalasamy said...

    Its a culture of some Malaysian PM that doing empty promises to the people when they start their duty as the government's head..

    people of Malaysia always with high hope with the new premierships but at the end all their dream destroyed by this selfish leaders!