February 8 an important date for two reasons – it marks the 100th day of Abdullah as Prime Minister as well as the 101st birthday anniversary of Bapa Malaysia Tunku Abdul Rahman with his famous 80th birthday injunction “not to turn Malaysia into an Islamic State”

at Penang DAP Chinese New Year 2004 celebration
by Lim Kit Siang

(PenangSunday): Penang has produced two Deputy Prime Ministers – one ended up with a “black eye” from  karate assault by the Inspector-General of Police when blindfolded and handcuffed in police detention and now a prisoner at the Sungei Buloh Prison while the other has gone on to occupy the highest political office in the land and is  in his 85th day as the fifth Prime Minister of Malaysia. 

The people of Penang and Malaysia are still in the thick of a “political honeymoon” with Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who have raised sky-high the hopes and yearnings of the people for change and betterment with his many promises of a clean, incorruptible, efficient, people-oriented government which is prepared to hear “the truth” from the people and uphold  the doctrine of separation of powers among the executive, legislature and the judiciary.


With the approach of his  “first hundred days” as Prime Minister, Abdullah would be judged increasingly not by his promises but his ability to deliver them.


It is time that Malaysians should ask whether Abdullah could deliver his many promises of a clean, incorruptible, efficient and people-oriented government prepared to hear the “truth” without a fundamental change in the entire system of political leadership and government which had brought the country to the present state of semi-democracy, corruption, abuses of power, lack of accountability and transparency,  denial of human rights and a free press.


Abdullah has the reputation of “Mr. Clean” and “Mr. Nice Guy”,  but his many calls for a clean, incorruptible, efficient, responsive and people-oriented government  continue as  a lone voice in government, with only perfunctory or lip-service support totally lacking in credibility from the rest of the Cabinet and the Government – creating the picture of “One Man vs The System”, although this “one man” is the Prime Minister of Malaysia.


How can a Cabinet and Government, whose addiction to “Malaysia Boleh” dared not extend to envisioning Malaysia as one of the world’s ten least corrupt nations and allowed Malaysia’s international ranking in the annual Transparency International Corruption Perception Index to plunge from 23rd to 37th placing in nine years from 1995 to 2003 spearhead the creation of a “clean, incorruptible” government?


The  reason why Abdullah’s maiden official speech in Parliament on Nov. 3, 2003 to uphold the doctrine of separation of powers between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary had such resonance was the unprecedented emasculation and usurpation of the powers of Parliament and the judiciary by the Executive in the past two decades.


But there have been no signs in the past three months  that there is the political will to restore the doctrine of separation of powers by ensuring that Parliament will be more than  a mere rubber-stamp of the Executive or that the system of justice  will regain public confidence with the restoration of a just rule of law and a truly independent judiciary.


The Court of Appeal’s double rejection on Chinese New Year Eve of Anwar Ibrahim’s applications for bail as well as  for a review of its decision to uphold his conviction and jail sentence for sodomy represented the first major failure of the new Abdullah premiership for change – attracting the condemnation of the United States Government which said that the treatment of Anwar “exposed deep flaws in the judicial process”.


Abdullah scored points when he said in mid-November that he did not want “apple polishers” but wanted the people to “tell the truth” – except that for the past two months, the media continues to be as  muzzled as ever. When Opposition leaders cannot speak up and have their voices heard whether in the printed or electronic media, how could Abdullah hear “the truth” from the people?


February 8 is an important date for it marks the 100th day of Abdullah as Prime Minister, a  cut-off point for just promise-making as the people will be entitled to start monitoring the progress of the delivery of the promises.


In fact, from February 8, Malaysians are entitled to a Report Card on Abdullah’s first hundred days as Prime Minister – which the DAP will prepare and present to Malaysians.


However, February 8 is also important for another reason – as it will be the 101st birthday anniversary of Bapa Malaysia Tunku Abdul Rahman with his famous 80th birthday injunction to the entire Cabinet and Barisan Nasional leadership on 8th February 1982 “not to turn Malaysia into an Islamic State”.


Gerakan has produced a special Chinese New Year publication defending UMNO’s unconstitutional “929 Declaration” that Malaysia is an Islamic State, which violates the 46-year Merdeka “social contract” that Malaysia is a secular and multi-religious nation with Islam as the official religion but not an Islamic State.  Gerakan leaders should explain why they had forgotten Tunku’s injunction of Feb. 8, 1982 and betrayed the Merdeka “social contract” as well as  founding principles of Gerakan in 1968 that Malaysia is a secular and not an  Islamic state. 


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman