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Monday, January 30, 2012

Even Dr M thinks Najib will lose but a debate with Anwar is still vital

Sulaiman Kamal | 4:44 AM | | | | | Best Blogger Tips

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THE RIGHT TO CHOOSE The polls are looming and Malaysia is gearing up for the most hotly-contested general election ever. Unlucky 13 may be the one that finally breaks the Barisan Nasional's 50-year dominance over Malaysian politics and welcomes the Pakatan Rakyat to Putrajaya.
With all things in the balance, it is only right that the people of Malaysia test the ability of its two prospective prime ministers on a public stage to discuss public policies. Yes, it’s high time we see a Najib Razak - Anwar Ibrahim debate.
For the record, the Republican Presidential candidates in the United States have already had 20 debates; which has helped narrow the field down to only 4 candidates. The debate floor is a great place to gauge each candidates stand on such things as immigration laws, English as the official language of America and setting up more jobs for unemployed Americans.
So why can’t Malaysia have a debate between Najib and Anwar?

Even Mahathir is worried Najib will lose
It is also telling that former premier Mahathir Mohamad has openly advised Najib not to debate Anwar. It immediately sparked talk that Mahathir was afraid the technically less competent Najib would disgrace himself in such a debate.
Indeed, the reason Mahathir trotted out defied logic, insisting that a 'debate' made sense only if Anwar shared the current the BN's views.
"What’s the point of debating when everyone knows his stand, and the debate won’t change this. It’s a different case if Anwar shares the government’s opinion on matters raised," the government media reported Mahathir as saying.
At the root of the BN's problems is that Najib Razak is merely caretaker prime minister, one who was appointed to the post by his party after an internal power struggle that ousted former premier Abdullah Badawi. Najib should have immediately called for snap general elections to win his own mandate from the people, but he chickened out, knowing that he was likely to perform worse than Badawi. Only one year remains of the BN's 5-year mandate now, with Parliament due to automatically dissolve in April 2013 regardless of whether Najib calls for polls.
On the other hand, Anwar has been prime minister in waiting for too long. Anwar Ibrahim is now the leader of the opposition pact Pakatan Rakyat, and if it wins more of the 222 seats in Parliament than BN, Anwar will finally become PM. Back in 90s, Anwar was already the hottest Malay leader in town. Then he was the Umno deputy president and even Mahathir feared him, so much so that sodomy charges were fabricated to bring down and jail Anwar.
At that time, Najib was nowhere in the radar, unable to command a following of his own. In fact, he claimed to be one of Anwar's biggest supporters then. And so did others like current Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and Defense minister Zahid Hamidi. With Anwar released only from jail in 2004, it is not surprising that these men switched their allegiance to Mahathir, and now, they are keeping an eye on premiership for themselves. As for Mahathir, sure he would rush for the chance to be PM again - if Malaysians would vote for him that is - but basically, his efforts are now focused on getting his son Mukhriz to take over Umno and the premiership in the round after GE-13.
Paranoia only confirms Anwar's legitimacy to be PM
This is why since 1998, the BN government has gone to incredible lengths to keep denying Anwar his shot at the premiership. In fact, the change in the Malaysian political scene can be traced back to his detention under the dreaded Internal Security Act in 1999. This was the event that galvanised the opposition movement in Malaysia. And every political move the Umno-led BN has made since has been designed to keep Anwar out of the race for prime minister.
So silly is this thinking that many pundits say it is because of this very paranoia of Anwar, that Mahathir and gang have actually trapped themselves now. Always worried that justice will finally come and they will be made to answer for their misdeeds, they have helped themselves to huge chunks of the national wealth resulting in RM888 billion in illicit outflows to overseas accounts. They have also neglected their duties, the economy and the weak governance of the country have chased away massive foreign investment. At the same time, by their sheer insistence to 'shoot at sight' Anwar and his Pakatan cohorts, they have unwittingly confirmed Anwar's legitimacy as challenger for the Malaysian premiership.
So, barring other candidates who feel that they can garner the confidence of the Parliament as prime minister, these two gentlemen are Malaysia’s heavy-weights for the main contest. And should there be other candidates, they too should be allowed their chance to debate so that Malaysians as a whole benefit and get to choose the leader they believe can best deliver the job.
What does the Constitution say
Article 43 (2) states - The Cabinet shall be appointed as follows, that is to say: (a) the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall first appoint as Perdana Menteri (Prime Minister) to preside over the Cabinet a member of the House of Representatives who in his judgment is likely to command the confidence of the majority of the members of that House;
The key to being prime minister in Malaysia is that a member of the House of Representatives command the confidence of the majority of the members of that house. Malaysians vote in fellow citizens as members of the House of Representative and 'pass on' the responsibility of choosing the Prime Minister to these elected representatives. Trust is passed onto these reps to make the wisest choice to benefit all. Whether these reps betray their countrymen and instead vote based on instructions from 'higher authority' in their party or in line with bribes taken will determine whether they are re-elected in the next round.
So the people must keep tabs and do not take for granted their reps will not betray their trust. But how can the people of Malaysia gauge the capabilities of whom will best fit the role of Prime Minister? A public debate would do fine.
But Malaysians still think MPs are their bosses!
A public debate is a medium by which the public can see and gauge for themselves the candidates with aspirations to lead the nation. Any reservations can then be voiced out to their respective Members of Parliament and the voice of the people must then be taken into account when choosing the person that would command the confidence of the House of Representatives to be PM. It is a process by which the people of Malaysia can be and should be part of. How difficult it this? Is this not a hall-mark of a progressive and mature democracy?
Sad to say, in many parts of the country, the people feel beholden to the reps. They feel their MPs are their bosses and not the other way around. But allocations given to the MP to distributes to the needy are actually money belonging to the nation - the Malaysian people as a whole. The elected rep is just a person chosen to undertake this task and the basis for choosing him or her should be trust.
The MP's constituents chose him because they trust him. So he has to do right by them and not behave as if they owe him and need to thank him and be grateful to him. This is the problem with Malaysia and only a government that will not take advantage of the rural people and instead educate them on their rights should be elected in GE-13.
This is 2012 and Malaysia is already very late in the people awareness and empowerment game.
Cannot function without a script written out for him
Yet in true BN government-knows-best form, Najib Razak will not take part in a public debate. And Mahathir supports this fully, although the older man's reasons may be less flattering to Najib than the younger man realizes!
But why won't Najib take on Anwar. At 58, Najib should possess greater fire and derring-do than the 64-year-old Anwar.
Perhaps, it is because in a public debate, Najib Razak’s most obvious flaw will be on show. He is a 'scripted' man - and in a volatile environment of a public debate where scripts are written on the spot by oneself as one speaks - he would simply be dumbfounded. Yes, the cat is out of the bag. Without scriptwriters, Najib will have nothing to say. Unaided, Najib would fail miserably against Anwar Ibrahim, a man who has been tried, tested and tempered through all temperatures on the most public of forums including the two Umno-instigated sodomy trials.
Bear in mind, Anwar has been defending himself in since 1999. He was not only the fastest-rising and most popular Finance minister of the Southeast Asian region, but he  has borne the brunt of all sorts of attacks against his sexuality, morality, character and personality. Both in the public sphere and in the courts of law.
Winner is obvious, and there may be sniggers but ...
In an immediate face-off the winner is obvious. But Najib should not be so vain and shallow as to refuse a debate because he knows, like the rest of the nation, he will surely lose. He must adopt a more gung-ho attitude and not just roll over and die. Style is not really that important, neither is articulation. Facts and substance are.
This is what Najib, at 58, should learn. He is no longer 18 and trying to show off to his girlfriend. He is Prime Minister of Malaysia and Malaysians want to hear what he has to say. How can he just drop his head and pretend it is not important. Not only will his critics in the Pakatan have a field day ridiculing his cowardice, even his own people in Umno will doubt him even more. Does Najib not think Mahathir would not in private sneer at him and perhaps tell common friends that 'Najib is so useless, I have to come out and help him to get out of it!' Isn't this a very likely reaction, even if not from Mahathir, others in Umno will surely say so.
Above all, Najib owes his countrymen. They already know him and they are entitled to know whether he has more to him than he has shown so far. Really, he should recognize their rights. Otherwise, he should talking about his dad, Abdul Razak who was the second premier, all the time as if being Razak's son means he would never do anything to harm Malaysia. But is not keeping Malaysia backwards and allowing ruthless opportunists like Mahathir to call the shots a slap in the face to the memory of his dad. One really wonders if Razak would approve of Mahathir or perhaps would have been even worse than Mahathir if he had ruled Malaysia longer.
Reclaim your rights
Malaysians should reclaim their rights and their nation. A public debate is the basic building block of a democracy. It is not an elocution or a beauty contest but a forum where the ideas and policies of two or more different quarters can be publicly evaluated, and the people can make up their minds. The prime minister's post is the highest executive job in the land. Malaysians have a right to gauge the potential of each candidate for themselves and not be curtailed by what the Umno-BN chooses because it is not to their disadvantage.
Finally, the prime minister can be anyone who is a member of the House of Representative and not limited to president of Umno. And to leave no room for doubt as to how the prime minister is chosen, all candidates must be made to lay out their plans and ideas and aspirations for Malaysians to vet through and to eventually approve of - whether at the ballot boxes on their own or through their reps in Parliament.
This is playing fair, this is playing fair according to the rules of democracy. This is the sign of a mature democratic country. If Najib or any other candidate in the future - whether from BN or Pakatan - refuses to debate in the run-up to any major election, he or she should not even be nominated to contest.

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