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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Remember the 2009 speech, Najib?

Sulaiman Kamal | 2:59 AM | | | Best Blogger Tips

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During a speech that year, the PM stressed on fair and responsible reporting. But the current controversy surrounding Utusan sends a different signal.

PETALING JAYA: Three days after taking office as the nation’s sixth prime minister on April 3, 2009, Najib Tun Razak attended the Malaysian Press Institute (MPI) awards night.
During his speech, Najib had stressed on the importance of the media’s role in nation-building, underscoring the need for responsible and fair reporting.
“We need world-class, fact-based reporting in Malaysia. The media must be fair and responsible in reporting. I believe we can move beyond those offering journalism of conspiracy theories and rumors,” he had said.
Najib had added that the media was powerful in lending credibility to stories and rumours that percolate up from the grassroots and the internet.
Two years on, the Umno president was now drawing flak for allowing his party-owned newspaper Utusan Malaysia to publish reports that critics claimed were not only seditious, but threatened national security.
The latest controversy involving the Malay daily was a front-page report on the alleged collusion between DAP and Christian leaders to undermine the position of Islam in Malaysia.
The report was based on the unsubstantiated claims of two pro-Umno bloggers on what had allegedly transpired during a closed-door meeting in the DAP-run state of Penang.
Commenting on how the situation had changed since Najib made that speech in 2009, analysts panned the premier for reneging on his words.
‘This shows he is double-faced’
Centre for Policy Initiatives(CPI) Asia director Lim Teck Ghee said Najib’s silence or a lack of a stand in the latest controversy would lead the public to believe that he was “double-faced”.
“Well, what can I say… Najib was either lying… or he has forgotten completely about what he said (in the 2009 speech),” Lim told FMT.
He said this example meant that Najib’s opinions and statements were not to be believed and should be taken with “an enormous quantity of salt.”
“I think this certainly affects his credibility not only nationally but internationally. He will go down in history as a weak and vacillating leader who is so consumed by wanting to stay in power that he is totally unscrupulous,” he added.
Lim said such contradictions showed that Najib “thinks he can get away with it” as he had the backing of the mainstream media.
“He has not only allowed Utusan to publish every kind of anti-national and very divisive reporting but seems to be condoning and encouraging it,” he added.
The academic said Najib’s “hypocrisy” applied to other issues as well, including religious freedom, tackling corruption and ensuring transparency.
“He appears to say something and do something entirely different,” he said, adding that politicians were supposed to adhere to a minimal standard of leadership and should be held accountable for what they say.
These examples, Lim said, showed that the government, which was claiming to be transforming, was “totally incapable of any kind of change.”
‘What else do you expect?’
Meanwhile, Monash University Malaysia’s political scientist James Chin said it was hard to expect anything else from Najib.
“All past prime ministers of this country have done this, every time Utusan does something naughty, they keep silent,” he told FMT.
Chin stressed that Utusan was the “cheerleader of Umno” and its role was to provide a direct link between Umno and the grassroots Malays.
“It is understood. All politicians contradict themselves everyday. They say one thing but tomorrow they say another thing. Everything Najib said about freedom of the press is just the opposite of what the government is doing,” he noted.
Chin said that Najib’s recent call for moderation was exactly what his predecessor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had said in a speech during his tenure as prime minister.
“Hyporisy is so common. It’s become part and parcel of Malaysian life,” he added.
Chin said that he would not take any minister, or Najib, seriously when it came to allowing free and fair reporting.
“There will always be tight control over the mainstream media, and I don’t see them giving up control of this anytime soon,” he added.
‘Najib waiting for probe report’
However, another political analyst, Universiti Sains Malaysia’ Sivamurugan Pandian was more accomodative of Najib’s stance, or lack thereof.
“I think in that case what he did was he allowed others to air their views first,” he said.
Sivamurugan said he strongly believed that Najib was waiting to see the outcome of the Home Ministry and police’s investigations into Utusan before coming up with a statement on the issue.
Sivamurugan, who writes the “Pena Dr Siva” column in Utusan, said the country was undergoing an unprecedented change in that the degree of sensitivity of certain issues had changed due to an increasing level of education.

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