The verdict on Abdullah’s first two years as Prime Minister does not promise to be rosy unless he can work up a “second wind” with new energy and enthusiasm in the next seven months to deliver his pledges of a clean, incorruptible, efficient, accountable, trustworthy and people-oriented government
- on the Royal Address
by Lim Kit Siang
(Dewan Rakyat, Wednesday): Early this month, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi told Barisan Nasional backbenchers at a retreat in Sabah that the honeymoon period was over for him and members of the administration and that it was time to make good on all the election promises made 12 months ago.
In actual fact, the “political honeymoon” had ended quite some time ago, as “The First Hundred Days” is the normal period for a political honeymoon, and Abdullah is now in the 17th month of his premiership or on the eve of his “First 500 Days” and not just his “First Hundred Days”.
In an interview last May, Malaysiakini was surprised when I said that I would give Abdullah two years to deliver his pledges of a clean, incorruptible, efficient, accountable, trustworthy and people-oriented government on his becoming Prime Minister on October 31, 2003. There had earlier been people who had said that a judgment on the Abdullah administration should not be made until the March 2004 general election, and later, until the September 2004 UMNO party elections. I was prepared to give Abdullah the “very long” time of two years, as it’s the first time Malaysians had a change of Prime Minister after 22 years, and it is only fair and reasonable to give the new Prime Minister adequate time to deliver his pledges.
Although we are from different political parties, we are all Malaysians and we want Abdullah to succeed and bridge the present disconnect between the reality and rhetoric of political, socio-economic, educational and government reforms and deliver the government slogan of “Cemerlang, Gemilang, Terbilang”.
The verdict on Abdullah’s first two years as Prime Minister, however, does not promise to be rosy unless he can work up a “second wind” with new energy and enthusiasm in the next seven months to propel and sustain a momentum of reform to deliver his pledges of a clean, incorruptible, efficient, accountable, trustworthy and people-oriented government. I am giving this forewarning in the interests of all Malaysians, regardless of race, religion or political affiliation, not because we want Abdullah to fail but because we want him to succeed.
Let us make a preliminary assessment of the disconnect between the reality and rhetoric of Abdullah’s pledges as the Fifth Prime Minister of Malaysia.
Abdullah made his maiden official speech as Prime Minister in Parliament on Nov. 3, 2003, where he committed 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.
I had commented at the time that the beginning of Abdullah premiership was not very different from the ABC slogan at the launch of the 2M administration in 1981 (although 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 was not honoured, but what was worse, bringing the country backwards in many important areas of national life at the end of his tenure.
There is no better start for a preliminary assessment of the disconnect between the reality and rhetoric of government reforms than the upholding of the doctrine of the separation of powers to undo the decades of usurpation of powers of Parliament and the Judiciary by the executive and the campaign to rebuild a clean and incorruptible administration.
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman