August 31, 2014
National Debate on Najib’s Leadership?
by Khoo Kay Peng
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s criticism and his right to do so should be respected even if some of us may not agree entirely with his grouses against Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak. As a citizen and an ex-Premier of the country, Dr. Mahathir is entitled to his views on the leadership.
Mahathir has said that many policies, approaches and actions taken by the government under Najib have destroyed inter-racial ties, the economy and the country’s finances. As a result, he has withdrawn his support for the Prime Minister.
Mahathir claimed that the abolition of the Internal Security Act and the Restricted Residence Act has spiked crime activities because many gang leaders were released. It is ironic that Mahathir has targeted Najib but did not mention anything about our law enforcement officers.
The abolition of the two draconian and archaic laws is not the reason for the spike in criminal activities. The government’s reluctance to fully restructure and rejuvenate the Police Force has played a large part in the failure to curb growing criminal activities.
Suggestions made by the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on the Police Force were largely restricted to reporting purposes. Key recommendations contained in the report were largely left unimplemented. The RCI had comprehensively concluded that the Police Force needed to be reformed in order to recapture its past glory, to reclaim its credibility and to enhance its efficiency in keeping law and order.
Apart from the Police Force, other law enforcement agencies such as local councils and immigration department should be subjected to a thorough review too. In the Klang Valley and several key cities, illicit and illegal businesses such as clubs, massage parlours, gambling dens and others are mushrooming. This is the main financial lifeline to the gang leaders and a select few are raking in billions of ringgit a year.
Can the authorities safely say that they have been working very hard to cut the financial lifeline of these gangs by curbing these illegal and illicit businesses? Can they confirm that none of their enforcement officers are actively or passively “involved” in condoning these activities?
Why aren’t there any comprehensive actions taken against these organisations, for example the Police Force, the Immigration Department and the local councils? It is because it is difficult for the government to take action against any organisations or agencies that are dominated mainly by the race and the party “that had all this while supported and saved the government”.
Mahathir has criticised Najib for the failing inter-racial relations. Yet, it is not by accident that he is the patron of the right wing Malay Muslim pressure group PERKASA. The group has no qualms making some of the most absurd statements and demands to promote its right-wing agenda. To the leaders and supporters of this group, a particular racial denomination and religion shall be the basis that represents the right and wrong. There’s no moral compass or principle that the group’s viewpoint is subjected to for a fair justification.
But Najib should not be commended for his “achievements” (or a lack of it) in fostering better inter-racial relations through his 1Malaysia initiative. In fact, Najib was too afraid to go against organisations such as UMNO and PEKASA even if their actions may have contravened his administration’s own vision in inter-racial relations. In short, Najib is not willing to risk his position to do what is right for the country.
His inability to curb the racial sentiments from the organisations and to moderate the behaviour of their leaders has been his biggest failure in fostering better inter-racial relations. With a political figure such as Mahathir backing it, PERKASA is able to make all sorts of threats against the Najib administration to accept its wishes, demands and views.
If Najib has erred, he made a mistake for giving too much space and respect to leaders of the right-wing organisations. If Mahathir is so concerned about the people, and the society’s multi-cultural and multi-racial fabric, he should not appear to speak for just a particular race or party. Although Mahathir’s criticism of Najib may have its merits, he missed the point by a mile. He should help to answer the question, “what has contributed to the deterioration of inter-racial relations in the country?”
Mahathir is right about the 1Malaysia cash handouts. Cash handout is being used as a means to show that the government cares for the people, especially the low-income group. Both the Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pakatan Rakyat governments have used it. Sadly, supporters from both sides of the divide are eager to defend the programme, not based on its merits and effectiveness but blinded by their own political loyalty.
For this purpose, there is very little debate and serious scrutiny being conducted to study the impact of the policy. There’s very little interest from both coalitions to take up serious socio-economic policy research to seek the best solution and action plans to reverse the fortune of the faltering Malaysian economy.
Excessive politicking has been chronic and disastrous to the economy and nation. It is unfair to load the entire responsibility on just a man, the prime minister. However, Mahathir’s criticism should be measured carefully and its only contribution would be to trigger a national debate on various key issues such as inter-racial relations, deteriorating economic competitiveness, rising crime, worsening education quality and others. If this happens, it could yet be a huge contribution from Mahathir.
Khoo Kay Peng is a political analyst and a management consultant. He believes that this nation can only progress with the collective will of its people.