Abdullah passed his “first hundred days” with flying colours and as impressively as his predecessor 22 years ago but not without some “dark clouds”, as he appears to be one man versus his own system and the lack of substantive beginnings of fundamental changes to ensure delivery of “political honeymoon” promises
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Saturday): Today is the 100th day of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as the fifth Prime Minister of Malaysia.
Abdullah has passed his “first hundred days” with flying colours and as impressively as his predecessor, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, 22 years ago but not without some “dark clouds” as he appears to be one man versus his own system in his pledge for a clean, incorruptible, efficient and people-oriented administration and the lack of substantive beginnings of fundamental changes to ensure delivery of “political honeymoon” promises.
This has raised the critical question whether there could be a repeat of his predecessor’s failure to deliver the promises of the first months in office of the new Prime Minister, as the previous slogan and pledge of an ABC – Bersih, Cekap and Amanah (Clean, Efficient and Trustworthy) – government was observed more in the breach, with corruption and financial scandals ballooning from millions of ringgit to billions and tens of billions of ringgit in the past two decades, and Malaysia plunging to 37th place in international ranking this year in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index 2003.
Abdullah has said that the policy initiatives he had announced had created a good feeling and greater confidence in the government. He is right and this will be a very powerful vote-getter for the Barisan Nasional in the forthcoming general election – except that it is more important that the people should also “feel good” after the general election with the translation of the “hundred day” promises into deeds.
Abdullah has chalked up an impressive list on the credit side in his first hundred days of promises, but there are also grave items on the debit side – the most serious and worrying of which must be the absence of any pledge or commitment to usher in press freedom and government respect for the right to information not only to ensure a healthy, vibrant and mature democracy but to enable Malaysia to meet the challenges of an information society and knowledge economy.
In his first fortnight as Prime Minister, Abdullah had called on the people to tell him the truth – but nothing had been done in his first hundred days to free the media from their fetters and controls to enable the truth to surface.
There was an air of press freedom in the first months of the new Prime Minister 22 years ago, which was only snuffed out six years later in the major human rights crackdown under Operation Lalang in 1987 with mass arrests under the Internal Security Act and the closure of three newspapers.
In contrast, there was conspicuously absent in the past hundred days any air of press freedom, with the mainstream media still lost in the culture of “self-censorship” from past decades of press control and censorship, habituating them to “report the favourable and avoid the unpleasant ” to the powers-that-be.
This is best illustrated by two recent incidents in the past few days – the blackout by the mainstream media, whether printed or electronic, of two DAP viewpoints, viz:
How can Abdullah hear the “truth” when the mainstream media cannot be weaned from its decades-old “self-censorship” and dare not publish these two DAP viewpoints for fear of being seen as giving space or currency to criticisms or even personal attacks on the new Prime Minister in the latter case.
The DAP proposal for an independent inquiry into the serious allegation of Malaysia’s role in the international nuclear black market involving SCOPE is not motivated by any attack on Abdullah’s personality, character or government, as it is in fact the most effective way both nationally and internationally to clear and exonerate the Abdullah premiership, SCOPE as well as Malaysia from the serious allegation of being an important centre of the global nuclear black market network, especially as the government had rejected CIA Director George Tenet’s assertion that SCOPE was one of the largest plants servicing the nuclear black market and the Inspector-General of Police, Datuk Seri Mohamed Bakri Omar has said that no company in Malaysia is “capable of the high technology and extensive expertise in the field of nuclear weapons” as alleged.
Will Abdullah not only promise, but act, to restore press freedom – the mother of all freedoms – as his first priority in his post-hundred days?
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman