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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Perth in August, Italy in July, Kazakh in June: Time for Umno to rein in Najib

Sulaiman Kamal | 3:45 PM | | | | | Best Blogger Tips

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There is nothing wrong if one wants to escape the rigors of everyday work and take a short vacation to unwind and relax. A period of rest and recreation is needed and in fact a healthy way of living. So what is fuss about when the Malaysian Prime Minister decided to go Down-Under for some down-time with his family and friends?
Firstly, it was on the 31st of August, a key day in the Malaysian calendar for this was the day Malaysia obtained independence from the British colonialists. Iin other words, it was National Day. Secondly, there was a huge questionmark over who was funding the trip and was it for public or private reasons?
No doubt this year, instead of holding nationwide celebrations including the annual parade on August 31, the Malaysian government had finally decided to have it on September 16, to commemorate the joining of Sabah and Sarawak to form the federation of Malaysia in 1963, it is still against protocol to quietly sneak out without informing the people where you are going, not when you are the PM.

There is now huge derision over the whole affair which has attracted the attention of the foreign diplomatic community. The way the PM’s aides have sidled and dished out half-truths rather than provide open and honest answers when asked about his whereabouts is rather alarming. Is not the PM of a country a public figure? Instead, a situation developed where one aide said he was away on vacation but declined to state where and why. Then another one - probably overzealous - said he was in Australia for physio-therapy or was it knee-operation, as some blogs reported it?
But Najib walked fine when he finally showed himself to the people on Monday. So what was the real reason behind the PM's decision to hop onto the Malaysian government's private jet and make his way to Australia?
The latest reason was that he had gone to spend Hari Raya, which was on August 30, with Malaysian students there. But was the whole ‘speaking to students’ session as reported by the national Bernama news agency a sufficient reason to justify such costly use of public funds?
Not that our children are not important, but there is justifiable grounds to suspect the PM was taking advantage of public funds to spend a mere two hours or so at a public function, while spending the rest of the week enjoying a spanking good holiday. To many Malaysians, Najib appears to have perfected the art of making use of official trips for personal pleasure.
Time for UMNO to take disciplinary action
But then, this is not surprising as previous Malaysian premiers have shared the same love for venturing out of the country on publicly-funded escapades. It is high time that UMNO, the country's largest political party, take note of this because so far all the PMs have been their party presidents. If UMNO doesn't clean up its own stables, how can it expect Malaysians to vote in its candidates when the next election arrives. If its Supreme Council sits back and does nothing, then expect the public to continuously have the impression that UMNO is the most corrupt party in the country, if not the region!
Consider this. In 2006, Najib's predecessor Abdullah Badawi enjoyed a publicly-funded trip to the Caribbean. Back then it was stated that the four-day trip was a “working visit”, but little appears to have come out from that excursion despite his having addressed the St Vincent Parliament. A reporter travelling with the entourage reported that the Jamaica portion of the trip dealt with possible Malaysian investment in energy exploration and construction projects, while the PM stopped in St Vincent ‘mostly for a vacation and to unwind from the pressures of work. This shocking news was revealed in a leaked US diplomatic note written by the missionary here and sent to Washington.
So another holiday disguised as a working trip and to think Malaysians used to call their 5th PM and UMNO president their Mr Clean!
Now with so many opposition lawmakers on the pounce for any financial shenanigans, it will no longer be easy for BN leaders to sneak away goodies as easily as they did in the past.  And this is a positive development for Malaysia. Citizens can expect that any trip the current PM makes overseas will be put through the clothes wringer. Reasons such as generating possible investment inflow will no longer be acceptable without proper detailing. After all, how many of these overseas trips have really generated any good for the nation?
Same thing goes for huge commercial or public-sector contracts without open tender? Costs will be scrutinised. Times have changed and really, UMNO needs to wise up and learn to handle the realities of a Malaysia in the 2010s. If they don't, this is why they are frequently accused of being trapped in their own time-warpo playing childish yet potentially lethal racial and religious games, look on with askance and ostracised by the civil society of the world at large.
Aussie in August, Europe in July, Kazakhstan in June
Speaking of the global civil society, another much-watched and glaring case was the hugely expensive trip to the Vatican in July. Najib's European tour began in England, with the Queen snubbing him for his mal-treatment of the Bersih ralliers for free and fair elections. Then he went on to the Vaticam to establish bilateral ties with the Holy See. But the moment he stepped foot back in Malaysia, he shot down any hopes for greater Islamic-Christianity goodwill by insulting the Christians.
Till now, the question remains, did he and wife Rosmah Mansor arrange the Vatican trip so that once done there,, they could continue with a personal Italian vacation on the Mediterranean. And this, they did begin and it lasted several days until Najib got wind that his Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin was planning a giant high-level meeting with the UMNO warlords to discuss how to rein in his misconduct and mitigate the huge damge inflicted on the country's image.
Quick as a flash, Najib cut short his Italian break, claiming he was homesick and even thanking Rosmah for being understanding. Yes, it was a tremendous show but it didn't end there. On the same day he touched down, a French lawyer William Bourdon due to expose the role of top Malaysian officials including Najib's in the Scorpenes purchase scandal was mysteriously deported from Kuala Lumpur before he could make it to a dinner-talk and press conference to bare all.
What good has the latest publicly-funded visit to Perth done for Malaysia now? Really, it is time for UMNO to be responsbile for all the shenanigans their party president has put the country through. He may be the party chief but what kind of a party is UMNO? Is it a dictatorship? Can Najib do what he wants, even if it means dragging UMNO's and Malaysia's name? Is it not time for the UMNO Supreme Council to evaluate if Najib has not already done this with his lavish spending, poor leadership and scandals galore?
Is it not time for UMNO to issue a disciplinary letter or ask him to show cause and explain his misconduct? If UMNO feels that this is merely negative politicking by the Pakatan Rakyat opposition, then do an internal investigation and call for whistleblowers to come forward. If UMNO is a responsible political party, then it should do all these. Otherwise, don't expect Malaysians or Malays to vote in your candidates when even those at the presidential level are not able to clear the basic levels of honesty and transparency, what more lead the country. What a huge joke!
It is also laughable that Malaysian sudents in Perth were so disgusted that they have put on Facebook and perhaps other international social media complaints that their words were twisted to depict the current UMNO president as an "awesome" and 'inspirational' leader, just so he could escape more flak at home. Really, if UMNO cannot rein in their president, what a shame it is for the party and country.

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