Congrats to Abdullah for getting the “ pass with flying colours” accolade from Mahathir although what should be most reassuring to him is the Prime Minister’s confirmation of leaving office by end of October
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Friday): Congratulations to Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi for getting the “pass with flying colours” accolade for his two-month stint as Acting Prime Minister from the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad yesterday.
However, what should be most reassuring to Abdullah is the Prime Minister’s confirmation of leaving office by the end of October, which will upset the plots being hatched by various people, including one involving a former Cabinet Minister, to derail Abdullah’s succession plan by getting Mahathir to stay beyond the October deadline.
It is not that the one other time in July 1997 when Mahathir ended his two-month leave, he had not praised the then Acting Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, for doing a “good job” – but such an accolade could not save Anwar from being subsequently sacked from government, expelled from UMNO and jailed at Sungei Buloh prison for 15 years.
In a democratic country, it is not just for Mahathir but even more important, for the people to grade Abdullah’s two-month stint as Acting Prime Minister.
Abdullah himself said that the SARS scare and the ban on the Iban Bible were two of the “most challenging” issues that he had to tackle in his two months as acting Prime Minister.
Abdullah deserves credit for the handling of both these issues - in the former, ending a three-week denial syndrome of the Health Minister, Datuk Chua Jui Meng, by ordering full transparency and no “cover up” of SARS outbreak at the Cabinet meeting of 2nd April and in the latter, lifting the insensitive and unconstitutional ban on the Iban Bible which had been widely used by churches in Sarawak for the past 15 years since its first edition in 1988.
But even in these two instances, Abdullah could have done more, as for instance, ending the Health Ministry “black out” of news about the worst dengue epidemic in the nation’s history which has killed more people than the SARS outbreak and revoking the ban of another 13 Christian publications in Bahasa Malaysia in line with the constitutional guarantee on freedom of religion.
There were both plus and minus in Abdullah’s two-month stint as Acting Prime Minister – an example of the former was Abdullah’s decisive and courageous apology to the Indian government for the police maltreatment of Indian IT professionals preventing a full-blown diplomatic row with the Indian government while his failure to ensure that the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) pay a more reasonable dividend for last year to the 10.3 million EPF contributors or be more transparent and accountable stands as an example of the latter.
Undoubtedly, Abdullah started on a very high
note when in his first public address as Acting Prime Minister in early
March, he made the brilliant diagnosis of the Ugly Malaysian, the “First
World Infrastructure, Third World Mentality” Malaysian malaise and “the
danger of possessing the hardware but little software”, which will obstruct
the achievement of the Vision 2020 objective of a fully developed nation.
There were at least four major areas where a solid start could have been made during Abdullah’s two-month stint as Acting Prime Minister to attack the “First World Infrastructure, Third World Mentality” Malaysian malaise, but the opportunities were missed, viz:
In less than five months, Abdullah would succeed Mahathir as the fifth Prime Minister of Malaysia. Abdullah should convene a roundtable conference of all political parties, NGOs and eminent Malaysians to formulate a strategy and a concrete plan of action which could be implemented immediately on his becoming Prime Minister to declare an all-out war against the “First World Infrastructure, Third World Mentality” Malaysian malaise.
There will undoubtedly be strong objections to such an idea of a roundtable conference involving all political parties, NGOs and the civil society – but this will only be a manifestation of the strength of the ‘First World Infrastructure, Third World Mentality” Malaysian malaise in the country.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman