Mahathir is the man who stopped Najib from giving greater democratic space to Malaysians

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Maria Begum

While political observers had mixed views about the Pakatan Rakyat’s readiness to rule Malaysia, they were sure that Umno was its ‘own worst enemy’ and that the country must move beyond race-based politics if the people were to prosper and wealth could be better distributed.
“Divisions within Umno itself are its own worst enemy when it comes to elections. Their fate is determined by their behaviours and decisions,” Bridget Welsh told a forum titled “New Political Activism and Realignment: Implications for Malaysia’s GE13” a day ago.

Lawyer Andrew Khoo also took to task Prime Minister Najib Razak for law reforms that he said appear introduced to score points as a public relations exercise, but were found lacking upon closer scrutiny.

“The problem with the prime minister’s reforms is that they are crafted in a way that makes it look very good… but when you look at details… lack of liberty in what he has promised,” said Andrew.

Credit to be given to Najib & Badawi? But what did they do except to line their own pockets?

Nonetheless, Welsh said that “credit” should be given to Najib, as both he and his predecessor Abdullah Badawi faced great challenges and “resistance to reforms” due to former premier Mahathir Mohamad’s still being an influential player in their party.

Indeed, Mahathir – regarded as a despot for his 22-year hard line rule – is now blamed as being the man who stopped Najib and Badawi from giving greater democratic space to Malaysians.

Welsh said corruption was “endemic” within the ruling party and had given Pakatan an edge over BN. However, she appeared defensive of Najib, saying that “this is what is so challenging for Najib… he is caught in a vicious cycle.”

Yet both Najib and Badawi have been accused of massive corruption and not just Mahathir alone. Umno critics have pointed out neither Najib nor Badawi have ever needed any prodding from Mahathir on that score. In fact, both men had their own team of advisers and sometimes even shared the same cronies.

“I don’t think Najib or Badawi for that matter needs anyone to put on pampers for them. Once you are PM in this country, you have almost unlimited power. It is up to Najib whether he wanted to be PM for all Malaysians or just for Umno,” PKR vice president Tian Chua told Malaysia Chronicle.

“This is not new and from day one, we have challenged him to choose and it is clear he has chosen Umno. For that he must take responsibility for worsening the situation in Malaysia and wasting 4 precious years that could have been spent stemming the slide in our society and economy.”

Shadow Cabinet

eanwhile, Andrew expressed disappointment at the Pakatan Rakyat’s delay in announcing a “shadow Cabinet” or a government-in-waiting, saying that this “restricts their credibility.”

“Although they have a common policy in Buku Jingga… the inability or reluctance of PR to form a shadow Cabinet has meant they are unable to articulate what their policy is going to be,” Khoo said.

“I have my concerns. To me, the great tragedy of Malaysia would be if PR won and then failed as a government. That would in some ways put paid to possibilities that there will be another opposition.”

Welsh however took a neutral stance on whether the Pakatan was ready to form the next federal government. She said she was more concerned about the opposition coalition’s ability to engage with the civil servants as these were the ones who really governed the country on a day-to-day basis.

“It is never the political parties that govern the country; it’s the bureaucracy that governs the country. These are the people who have to make their decisions as well,” said Welsh, a law professor at a Singapore university.

Optimistic about Pakatan rule

Lawyer Lim Heng Seng, the third panellist, appeared to be more optimistic about PR’s ability to rule if it won the elections, which could be held as early as November.

“It’s a risk we should take. I don’t think we should be overly anxious that Pakatan will not be able to rule,” said Lim, a former chairman of the Industrial Court. -hornbillunleashed