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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Selfish Najib eyes legacy, leaving Muhyiddin with ISA baby

Sulaiman Kamal | 2:05 AM | | | | | | Best Blogger Tips

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Prime Minister Najib Razak's surprise repeal of the ISA and Emergency laws has stirred unease within his UMNO party, especially in the camps supporting his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin, who is touted to succeed him as the Umno president soon - the earliest by the end of this year, and the latest, within 12 months after the next general election.
The 64-year-old Muhyiddin would have to contend with the backlash after Najib rushed to secure a final glory for himself. Initially, even his supporters and other BN parties were shell-shocked at the sudden move to dismantle the mechanism used by Umno to suppress political rivals for decades.Then they realised, Najib had actually retained an exit route in the form of new replacement laws to get them out of troube.

Confirmed, Umno-BN will never change their ways
Heaving a collective sigh of relief, Umno and BN leaders are now starting to come out to cheer the repeals plan despite a deafening silence from the public. And this is the sign that Malaysians have been waiting for - a confirmation of Umno and BN's lack of morality and sincerity. Sad to say, Malaysians found themselves proven right for suspecting that Umno-BN could try to trick their countrymen into beliieving that they had done something good, when in actual fact, things could actually become worse because of the repeal.
The new replacement laws, which are to kick in only after the 13th general election may empower the BN - if they win - with even greater discretionary powers. And this is why there has been little or no celebration. Groups and activists who have long fought the ISA, taking severe physical and mental beatings, even jail time, for protesting the law are now demanding compensation. But to thwart them, Najib is claiming he and BN made the decision on their own - with no thanks at all to the tens of thousands of anti-ISA activists or even the Pakatan Rakyat led by Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim.
Those who watched Najib's grand announcement on TV, and were disgusted with his overkill of self-glorification, aren't surprised at his uncharitable response to the anti-ISA activists. And they will be glad to see the back of him. As pundits say, Malaysians are no fools. The people intuitively suspected something amiss in Najib's rash of repeals, and have no wish to be used by him and his advisers led by media and oil operative Omar Mustapha, in their game against Umno rivals for political survival.
Custer's last stand
Indeed, it is prudent to be really sceptical about Najib's announcements given his lack of political will to carry through all other plans that he promised in April 2009, when he took over the hot-seat from a fumbling Abdullah Badawi. What then is Najib's real motive in making these proposals?
Apart from skullduggery aimed to undermine Umno rivals including Muhyiddin, it is also Najib’s bid - a Custer's last stand - to leave a legacy before he is dumped by the top Umno leadership, just like Badawi had been ousted by a group led by Najib himself. In fact, Najib alluded to it in his Malaysia Day speech, pointing out that he had promised to abolish the ISA when he first took office in 2009, promising greater democracy.
Yet during his term in office, Malaysia received the greatest condemnation worldwide. Over the July 9 Bersih rally for free and fair elections, Malaysia became the object of world ridicule when Najib jailed anyone and everyone for wearing yellow T-shirts. Malaysian diaspora too confirmed the view that the Umno-led government persecuted its people and cheated at elections, when they carried out sister rallies in solidarity with Bersih at more than 30 cities worldwide.
"Najib has failed in almost every aspect of the government. Just days ago, he was challenged to surrender the Finance minister's post after he gave himself away by saying he would only implement GST (goods and services tax) after the general elections. This showed his lack of professionalism in that after the people vote for him, he would repay them with price hikes all around. It shows the calibre of the man," PKR director for strategies Rafizi Ramli told Malaysia Chronicle.
Indeed, the World Human Rights Report 2011 had this to say about Malaysia: "Nearly two years after Malaysian Prime Minister Seri Najib Tun Razak assumed office pledging to "uphold civil liberties," there has been only limited progress. Promised amendments to the Internal Security Act (ISA) and other laws permitting preventive detention have not been enacted. Restrictions on freedom of expression continue to be used to limit the right of government critics to express their views. Local police chiefs continue to restrict public assemblies and processions, often on political grounds.”
Badawi's MACC and JAC in 2008, Najib's ISA and Emergency repeals in 2011
So perhaps, after weighing all options left, Najib and his advisers decided to go 'for broke' with this scheme of purported repeals. And to placate their Umno colleagues, they made sure to put in the caveat of the replacement laws.
But like Badawi, who also had to rush out a legacy for himself with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2008 and the establishment of the Judiciary Appointments Commission, Najib's ISA repeals are also likely to flop.
In Badawi's case, despite launching the JAC to weed out judge-fixing and corruption in the Malaysian judiciary, the court system is not more independent than before. The appoinment of Umno lawyer Zaki Azmi as the Chief Justice in 2008 made a mockery of the JAC, and Najib's appointment of Zaki's replacement, Ariffin Zakaria, two weeks ago reeks of the same hush-hush Umno-boys-club wheeling-and-dealing. The PM was sharply rebuked by the legal fraternity for ignoring decorum and having tea with the top judges, who were photograped rushing sycophantically to greet him as if he were King Midas.
As for Badawi's ill-fated MACC, which was styled after the Hong Kong's ICAC, the reputation of the Malaysian body is arguably several folds worser than the Anti-Corruption Agency it replaced. Two deathfalls in as as many years in MACC premises and after suspicious interrogations by MACC officials have left a scar so huge that its next revamp may necessitate a complete transformation and perhaps even a name-change.
Same goes for Najib's ISA repeals. As the saying goes, the market finds its own level. This is why the public has been largely silent since the Thursday announcements, forcing Umno and its BN components to come out and clap Najib on the back.
New replacement laws Muhyiddin's baby
Very interestingly, Muhyiddin has given Najib's repeals plan the thumbs-up in an apparent show of 'statesmanship'."Don't play-play, these are not sweeteners," he said. Pundits were not impressed saying that it was the only line available to Muhyiddin, as for him to outright thrash the plan would only show him up as a hardcore right-wing extremist.
To observers, Muhyiddin's most significant remark, given that he stands to directly inherit the fallout should the BN win GE-13, is that he welcomed Najib's caveat of new laws to replace the repeals. Muhyiddin justified such replacement laws as a 'non-compromising' move to 'protect' the nation.
Indeed, if BN wins GE-13, the new preventive detention and media freedom laws will come under Muhyiddin's charge. And the Johor leader can be expected to architect legislation in modern language but no less archaic in intent and spirit than the ISA and Emergency laws drafted more than 5 decades ago. 

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