Eleventh general election around the corner and likely to fall within Abdullah’s “Second Hundred Days” with the long-delayed appointment of Najib as Deputy Prime Minister
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Wednesday): The appointment of Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak as the Deputy Prime Minister is no surprise. The surprise is that the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has taken 67 days to make the announcement.
The delay cannot be because Abdullah did not have enough time to mull over the question, as unlike the third Prime Minister, Tun Hussein Onn who was suddenly confronted with the decision with the demise of his predecessor Tun Razak on 14th January 1976, Abdullah had 16 months to consider the issue – which was the timeline for Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to step down as Prime Minister after the UMNO General Assembly in June 2002.
New Straits Times today quoted “informed sources” that Abdullah had wanted to put his key policy initiatives in place before he appointed his deputy. May be, Abdullah wanted to avoid the distraction of the “2M Government” when in the early days of the Mahathir administration, it was regarded as a “Mahathir-Musa” instead of “Mahathir Mohamad” Government!
History will judge whether this long delay in the announcement of his No. 2 is a sign of political strength or weakness – when Abdullah does not really have much of a political choice as to who to name as Deputy Prime Minister.
The “informed sources” quoted by the New Straits Times front-page headline story “Najib to be Deputy PM” referred to the “policy initiatives” which Abdullah wanted first to put in place, which included “eradicating corruption at both the public and private sector levels, encourage a better public delivery system, promoting agriculture as a key component of his new economic thrust, reforms in the police force, education, and prudent public spending through such decisions as putting off the double-tracking railway project”.
Apart from the postponement of the RM14.5 billion double tracking rail project, on all other fronts of fighting corruption, people-oriented and efficient public service and police reforms, they are still at the stage of words than deeds – with more and more worrisome examples of a serious dichotomy in the Abdullah government, with the Prime Minister making high-sounding promises of change while the government continues to do the opposite in maintaining the status quo.
Abdullah is coming to the third and final leg of his “First Hundred Days” which should set the tone and policy direction of his premiership.
Although the fight against corruption and a people-oriented and efficient public service are most commendable objectives, the many important issues which Abdullah had so far avoided proper reference must be a matter of grave concern to all thinking Malaysians – such as the reaffirmation and upholding of the 46-year “social contract” as the foundation of national unity in plural Malaysia; quality, equity and efficiency in education; economic competitiveness; timely, affordable and quality healthcare to all; media freedom; information society; protection and promotion of human rights; Parliamentary reforms; an independent and impartial judiciary and full commitment to accountability, transparency and good governance.
With his appointment, will Najib be able to give unstinting support to Abdullah to effect a full change-over of 22 years of Mahathir policies which have left Malaysia with the malaise of “First World Infrastructure, Third World Mentality” with woeful international rankings on corruption, human rights and press freedom?
Najib’s black mark in his political career was his role in 1987 when he was UMNO Youth leader in precipitating the Operation Lalang mass arrests under the Internal Security Act. This made his recent statement that the government would continue using the ISA in "appropriate cases where circumstances do not allow the use of the Penal Code" most cynical, self-serving and an utter contempt of the human rights aspirations of Malaysians.
With the long-delayed announcement of Najib as Abdullah’s No.2, the eleventh general election is around the corner and is most likely to fall within Abdullah’s “Second Hundred Days” as Prime Minister.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman