By Mariam Mokhtar | FMT
Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s flurry of reforms in the last couple of months, raises disturbing questions about his desire to make Malaysia the “best democracy in the world”.
Who stands to benefit most from his idea of the “best democracy” in the world? The rakyat or the Barisan Nasional (BN) political elite?
The naïve rakyat, who are lulled into a sense of security by Najib’s rash of reforms, may think it will be the main beneficiaries. On the other hand, BN’s political elite and their cronies hope to woo the electorate by appearing to accede to calls for political reforms and then undo the reforms, after they have secured a win.
Judging by the number of times BN has reneged on election promises in the last 54 years, it will be the latter group who will benefit.
Any reforms, which BN announces now, are purely cosmetic. They give the appearance that Najib is listening. It is like a roué wooing a schoolgirl with sweet talk, before he has his way with her. He walks away smiling, because she was fool enough to believe him. He outsmarted her.
That is the danger the rakyat faces now – to be lulled into thinking Najib will enact the reforms that he has promised. After the 13th general election (GE), he will sing a different tune, if BN wins.
BN’s promise of reforms is pointless when all other aspects of BN rule ignore human rights, the rule of law, endemic corruption and economic enhancement. The “best democracy in the world” is not one which elevates one race but ignores the others.
A government which allows family members and close associates to benefit in multimillion ringgit projects is not fit for purpose.
Launching personal attacks on members of the opposition and smearing their children’s reputations are morally wrong, distasteful and will backfire.
The prime minister’s reputation was trashed after his disastrous handling of the July 9 Bersih 2.0 “pro-democracy march”. This was a terrible blow for someone who values spin and image above all else.
So, Najib felt compelled to pull out all the stops to try to rebuild his image both within his own party and with the rakyat.
He started with the repeal of the Internal Security Act (ISA). Just like the magician doing his illusory show, who made the rabbit disappear, he then produced two more from a hat. Yes, Najib promised that there would be two new laws to replace the ISA.
Why did a sea change envelope Najib and make him repeal the ISA? For several decades, various groups which wanted the ISA abolished were ignored, but with the 13th general election around the corner, Najib acquiesced.
Najib’s deputy, Muhyiddin Yassin, who is also the education minister, was adamant that science and mathematics should be taught in Malay.
Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad joined in the chorus to maintain the teaching of these subjects in English. Parents vowed to vote for the opposition. The day after announcing his final decision, Muhyiddin was forced into an embarrassing U-turn.
In Najib’s “best democracy in the world”, a Muslim girl can get married and start a family as soon as she reaches puberty, without her parents’ consent. Some girls reach puberty at nine years old.
At 18 years old, teenagers can drive a car and buy cigarettes, but they can’t vote until they are 21.
Furthermore, the Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA) prohibits students from engaging in any political activity.
It isn’t just the students who are restricted. Any academic who does not toe the political line may find himself suspended and his academic career in jeopardy. Compare the two university lecturers, Professor Abdul Aziz Bari and Ridhuan Tee. Mind control is what Umno-BN is after and not freeing the mind for intellectual expression and advancement.
As we have only one chance to reform our government and vote for a party that will govern properly, the run-up to the 13th general election is of paramount importance. It matters to all of us.
Najib and BN are doing a magic trick. What has BN done to improve the lot of the rural population in the more economically deprived areas? Some kampungs and longhouses still lack water, electricity and proper roads. Schools and clinics are poorly funded.
And yet, the prime minister, his self-styled “First Lady”, their family and his political party have spent billions of ringgit on personal travel, luxury goods and bribes, all funded by the taxpayers.
One way is to deprive these people of their luxuries, so they can focus their efforts on solving the nation’s problems. For example, we should make them commute to work using public transport.
That means taking away their chauffeur-driven cars, their outriders and the police who restrict traffic on the roads when these VIPs travel. Once they suffer the traumas we go through, our public transport system might not be in such a deplorable condition.
When Najib made his maiden speech at the UN general assembly, he talked about rejecting extremism and being a moderate. So why does he don the cloak of racism at home? Does he have a split personality or is he just a scheming con-man who knows which side his electoral bread is buttered?
Former Umno minister Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir admitted that BN had bought votes in many elections, but the typical Umno reaction is shown by Umno Youth leader Khairy Jamaluddin who demanded proof of these accusations.
In the past months, electoral fraud on a grand scale has been uncovered and Umno-BN and the Election Commission have not provided plausible answers.
Instead of acting on these serious allegations, and in an attempt to divert the rakyat’s attention, Umno attacked the opposition with charges of supporting the communists and released more sex videos of the Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim.
The rakyat should support calls for the coming general election to be postponed until after ALL the recommendations (on electoral reforms) have been implemented. Promises of reforms are not good enough.
However, the other course of action is to register to vote.
Do not boycott 13th general election. All votes are critical because the amount of cheating is going to be massive. This will be the dirtiest election in the history of Malaysia.
Mariam Mokhtar is a FMT columnist.