IT WOULD NOT have been human if Datuk Seri Najib Razak had not hoped against hope that the voters in the Bukit Selambau and Bukit Gantang by-elections on April 8 would, in a manner of speaking, present him, on a gleaming silver salver, the two decapitated heads of the vanquished Pakatan Rakyat candidates. In the event, it was an unfulfilled dream because not only did they survive the relentless Barisan Nasional sniper fire, but also the heavy artillery in the shape of Tun Dr. Mahathir. Pakatan Rakyat candidates, as expected, emerged triumphant and completely unscathed. I will not dignify the Sarawak by-election with my comment except to say that in Sarawak anything goes, and the government cannot stand up to close scrutiny.
The new prime minister, who in another life, deftly diverted the course of “natural justice” by having the democratically elected menteri besar removed, and subsequently treated him so shabbily, was not forgotten by the public for this disgraceful action. He was punished by the voters in these constituencies who denied him the one trophy that would have legitimised his elevation to the nation’s highest political office.
As Najib was left to ponder on the implications for him of the electoral reverses that he so devoutly wished to avoid, he must have realised that he had not completely shed the many negative vibes emanating from his person. He surely must know that he will not be allowed to have a moment’s peace until he clears the allegations of impropriety against him. That unfortunately is in the nature of political life. Whatever clever spin his public relations professionals might put on the BN failure, the fact is that Malaysians have changed and UMNO in particular has not. “Father” in this day and age no longer knows best, and it is hard for leaders to come to terms with this.
I made the observation before the by-election were held that Tun Dr. Mahathir should have been left undisturbed to enjoy his rest and recreation in pastures green where he could do UMNO and the nation little damage. Parading him around the election paddock as part of the UMNO secret weapon, in the event, backfired seriously. The so-called Mahathir factor had nothing more than curiosity value at best. People in the rural areas know more than we care to admit. They are not unaware what 22 years of Mahathirism had done to the soul and spirit of Malaysia. Twin Towers, a great highway network criss-crossing the country and all the other manifestations of modernity are fine, but these assets have been acquired at what cost under Mahathir in ethical and moral terms?
Whoever suggested that the old war horse be deployed in the campaign for the hearts and minds of the people should be sacked. Najib had been badly advised, and is now paying a heavy price. What a way to start his first week in office. As a member of an opposition political party, I should be encouraging Najib to commit more strategic errors that will work to our advantage. We cannot change anything in our country unless and until we change the government. The BN government has forfeited its moral capital.
I hope the outcome of the Peninsular Malaysia by-elections will make a deep impression on Najib; it should be a salutary lesson in the importance of delivering the benefits of clean, open and accountable governance to the people who are no longer prepared to overlook excesses that border on the criminal. Imperfect as the democratic institutions are in our country, we must never forget that the voter is king when he exercises his rights to choose whom he wishes.
Najib must always remember and live by the dictum: Honesty is the Best Policy. He should understand that the power he exercises is but entrusted power to hold in trust, to be used solely for the purpose of benefiting those for whose legitimate welfare he, as head of government, is responsible. The days of Mahathirism are, we hope, well and truly over. Mahathirism with all that it represented should not be allowed to revisit this nation, and Najib must not allow obligations of a dubious nature to people who have done great harm to the reputation of the party he now leads to make a comeback in whatever capacity. As things stand today, with corruption remaining a serious national concern, there is no substitute for transparency and accountability in the affairs of state if the government is to last a full term.
Does Najib and his cabinet colleagues have the strength of character to live up to their oath of office? Or, God forbid, will it be a case of more of the same as far as UMNO leadership is concerned. This is a challenge that Najib cannot evade.
By Tunku Abdul Aziz
- Najib and high-powered team (Muhyiddin, Hishammuddin, Zahid, Mahathir) dealt a bruising rebuke in polls
- Najib and high-powered team (Mahathir, Zahid, Hishammuddin, Muhyiddin) lose referendum
Barisan Nasional government has lost all its moral capital