And the birth of the alternative media platform, the sheer disgust at the excesses of the ruling coalition and a more educated population unwilling to swallow officialspeak as the truth had more to do with free flow of ideas and open debate than the fifth PM.
If Abdullah was sincere about bringing meaningful change, he would not have dithered over abolishing or at least overhauling the Internal Security Act (ISA).
Opposition from Umno ministers in Cabinet saw him put the review on the backburner, a familiar position every time his party objected to change.
If Abdullah was sincere about bringing meaningful change, he would have done away with the archaic law that requires newspaper to obtain a publishing licence from the Home Ministry.
He did not. How can the man who is credited with opening democratic space leave in place the legislation that continues to manacle the ability of the media to report without fear?
If Abdullah was sincere about making the judiciary credible in the eyes of the public, he would not have selected loyal Umno servant Tan Sri Zaki Tun Azmi as the Chief Justice.
Malaysia must be one of the few countries where the top judge used to serve as the legal adviser and chairman of the disciplinary board of the ruling party. He could have gone for someone untainted with political affiliation but that would have been too much of a risk for a man whose first loyalty was to his party.
So he selected a safe choice – a safe choice by his party’s standards.
If Abdullah was sincere about improving the sullied image of Malaysia’s institutions, he would have opted for real change rather that the cosmetic variety.
Remember the Royal Commission of the Police Force and the Royal Commission on the V K Lingam video clip.
When his administration pushed for the setting up of the two commissions, he was feted as a leader who was unwilling to sweep dirt under the carpet, a man genuinely interested in holding accountable those who tarred the reputation of the police and judiciary.
Prominent members of Malaysian society were appointed to the two commissions, reports and recommendations were made.
But there has been little substantial change. The original independent police complaints tribunal proposal is in the KIV tray somewhere in the Home Ministry and the half-hearted attempt to take action against those named in the Lingam judge-fixing scam has all but petered out.
Barisan Nasional – same old, same rot