With Abdullah passing his first 14 days as Prime Minister with flying colours in pledges but too premature for any marks for his actions, his challenge in the next 14 days is to create a new air of freedom in the Malaysian press where the people and the opposition could tell him the truth
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has passed with flying colours in his first 14 days as the new Prime Minister of Malaysia in his pledges but it is still too premature to give marks on his actions and the delivery of his promises.
Abdullah started off with a great maiden official speech in Parliament, committing himself to a “clean, incorruptible, modest and beyond suspicion” administration fully respecting parliamentary democracy and the separation of powers between the executive, legislature and the judiciary.
The beginning of Abdullah’s premiership is not very different from the ABC slogan at the launch of the 2M administration in 1981 (although Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad later said 2M meant “Mahathir Mohamad”and not “Mahathir and Musa”), pledging to be “clean, efficient and trustworthy” – “amanah, bersih, cekap” – open, accountable and tolerant of dissent.
While Malaysians want Abdullah to succeed in delivering his promises of a clean, incorruptible, efficient, accountable, transparent and democratic administration, they do not want to have another repeat of Malaysian history – a new Prime Minister starting with high and great promises which could not be honoured, but what is worse, bringing the country backwards in many of these important areas of national life at the end of his tenure.
Abdullah struck a deep chord among the people when he called on Barisan Nasional leaders to “tell the truth” and said he does not want “apple polishers”, for the simple reason that this was the national malaise for too long with the people and country suffering the iniquities of these ills.
Abdullah must be commended when he was quick to broaden his call to the people, and not just Barisan Nasional leaders, to tell him the truth. But one thing he has yet to do is to create the conditions for the people to tell him the truth.
When the opposition parties and NGOs are finding it more and more difficult to get their voices heard in the mainstream media, whether printed or electronic, how could the ordinary people tell the Prime Minister and the government unpleasant “truths” as distinct from servile praises?
With Abdullah passing his first 14 days as Prime Minister with flying colours in pledges with suspended marking on his actions, one of his greatest challenges in the next 14 days is to create a new atmosphere of freedom in the Malaysian press where the people and the opposition could tell him the truth. It is my hope that by the end of November, Malaysians can feel and sense an air of freedom in the Malaysian press, as in the first year of the 2M government in 1981 before a later clampdown, particularly after 1986.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman