Abdullah’s dismissal of Opposition criticism of his new Cabinet – the first sign of the peril  of the unprecedented nine-tenth BN parliamentary majority in 2004 general election to restoration of meaningful democracy and establishment of clean, incorruptible, accountable and trustworthy government prepared to hear the truth from people

Media Conference Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(IpohMonday): I had warned immediately after the tsunami-like Barisan Nasional  victory in the 2004 general election last Sunday caused by  the dual effects of  a  new Prime Minister and the “feel good” euphoria from his pledges of  a clean, efficient and trustworthy governance that the unprecedented nine-tenth parliamentary majority commandeered by Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is a time-bomb to democracy because of the classic truism coined by British historian, Lord Acton – “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely”. 

What I had never expected was that the disturbing signs of the unhealthy effects of such unprecedented nine-tenth parliamentary majority to democracy and good governance could be discerned  so soon within a week of the results of the  21st March 2004 general election.

Abdullah’s dismissal of Opposition criticism of his new Cabinet is  the first sign of the peril  of the unprecedented nine-tenth BN parliamentary majority in 2004 general election to the  restoration of meaningful democracy and the establishment of clean, incorruptible, accountable and trustworthy government prepared to hear the truth from people

Abdullah said in Kuala Terengganu yesterday that he was not the least bothered about what the opposition feels of his new Cabinet line-up announced on Saturday,  saying: “They will always be skeptical.  Since when have they ever said anything  good about what we have done? It is all right.  They will always talk.  I will run the Government and I will run it my way.  We want to make sure that the people will benefit from what we do.” (New Straits Times) 

I am very surprised by Abdullah’s reaction. Firstly, he is wrong if he implies that the DAP and I had not praised him for his pledges and actions on becoming the new Prime Minister, whether in 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 or for decisions like the establishment of a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Police or the  cancellation of the RM14.5 billion double-tracing rail project. 

The difference between DAP and Barisan Nasional leaders is that we are prepared to give both brickbats and bouquets to the Barisan National government, the former for the wrong and bad things it is doing and the latter for the good and rights things it has done. Barisan Nasional leaders however are only “apple-polishers”, a disease which has become so serious that Abdullah had to publicly declare that he wants to hear the truth and telling Barisan Nasional leaders not to spare him the pain of telling him the truth. But now, it would appear that Abdullah would also want DAP leaders to be mindless “apple-polishers” and to spare him from knowing the truth! 

Secondly, I  cannot imagine Abdullah being so dismissive of the Opposition before the general election, especially as he had created sky-high public hopes and expectations after his humble call to Malaysians to “work with me, not for me” and his pledge that  he is prepared to hear the truth from the people, including unpleasant and unpalatable truths! 

Abdullah’s dismissive attitude of  Opposition criticism of his new Cabinet for its  failure to honour his own criteria of integrity and perception of integrity  does not augur well for the future. is most unfortunate and even ominous, especially when the Opposition disappointment and criticism of his new Cabinet fully  reflected the feelings  of the majority of Malaysians. 

The national news agency Bernama is conducting an on-line poll on the question: ”What should be the main criterion when appointing cabinet ministers?”  From the responses totalling 915 votes when I checked at 9.45 a.m.  this morning, 40.7 per cent or 377 votes give “integrity” as the top criterion.  The  full results of the Bernama poll are as follows: 

Integrity        40.7%             375
Popularity        1.9%              18
Experience       6.4%              59
Diligence        12.1%             112
Vision            11.3%             105
Good Morals    27.6%             256

Abdullah’s dismissive contempt for the criticism of the Opposition, the civil society and the Malaysian people that  his Cabinet has failed the acid test of integrity and perception of integrity shows the intoxicating effect of the brew of power, particularly an unprecedented nine-tenth parliamentary majority which no other Prime Minister in Malaysia in the nation’s 46-year history had ever secured – and should set off alarm bells that things can go very wrong with the two goals of restoring meaningful democracy and establishing clean, incorruptible, trustworthy and good governance in the coming months and years without strong check-and-balance mechanisms, whether in Parliament, the State Assemblies or the civil society. 

DAP wishes to remind Abdullah of his pledge to hear the truth from the people, and to  ask how he could hear the truth from the people when he is not even prepared to hear the truth from the Opposition and its elected representatives? 

Instead of dismissing valid and legitimate criticism that his first Cabinet has failed the important criteria of integrity and perception of integrity, Abdullah should address these concerns involving everyone of the controversial Ministers, whether Rafidah Aziz, Samy Vellu, Ong Ka Ting or  Nazri Aziz, especially as he had made a government of integrity and a new political culture of political integrity with zero tolerance for corruption the centerpiece of the theme of his recent general election campaign, including taking out full-page advertisements in all the Chinese newspapers confessing that the government is ‘corrupt and rotten to the very core…with no aspect of life untainted by corruption” and that only Abdullah could clean up the system.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman & MP for Ipoh Timor