Najib Razak became Prime Minister of Malaysia on 3 April 2009. With the nation in tatters and his reputation suspect, Najib was destined to either become one of Malaysia’s ‘greatest’ or ‘worst’ Prime Ministers. Greatest if he could reverse the excesses of the Mahathir years – when Malaysia became Mahathir’s personal fief – and put Malaysia back on strong democratic and economic footing ; worst if he accelerates Malaysia’s already weak fundamentals. One year on, the record suggests that he is likely to be Malaysia’s worst ever Prime Minister.
Najib Razak or APCO (the controversial communications firm he hired) proposed an ambitious ‘slogan’ to distinguish his administration. The ‘slogan’, ‘1Malaysia, People First, Performance Now’ (1Malaysia) is explained as a concept to promote national unity and eventually achieve Vision 2020 based on specific values. The irony is, according to Najib, the 1Malaysia concept is integrated with Barisan Nasional’s past policies – the very policies that saw BN thrashed at the 12th general election; which has made the BN and UMNO in particular, the most despised political party in Malaysia; which has been identified as the cause of Malaysia’s long term decline; and which clearly needs to be reversed if Malaysia wants to move out of the quagmire.
There is no 1Malaysia
Malaysia is polarised – in the Peninsular, it is split right down the middle between the supporters of PR and BN, between West and East Malaysia, between Malay and Islamic supremacist against the rest of Malaysia, between an elite minority that is privy to governmental largesse and those who suffer its consequences, and between the BN-led federal government and state governments, especially those led by the opposition – exclusively due to UMNO’s insistence on driving the national agenda to meet its needs for political survival rather than forging a united Malaysia. Althoughhe has inherited this 52-year legacy, there is nothing that Najib has done in the past year to reverse the trends. Instead, fearing for his own position in the party, he has flip-flopped on his signature policy.
An abstract concept such as 1Malaysia, in order to be understood (especially to Malaysians used to institutionalised racism), must be clearly explained, implemented and defended. Furthermore, it must be seen to be implemented and be seen to be defended when challenged; so that Malaysians will understand the concept tangibly (most Malaysians do not understand the meaning of 1Malaysia). Najib has instead done the converse – the explanations are vague and contradictory, implementation have been more on form rather than substance and most critically when challenged – always by members of his party or race – he defers.
Najib’s tacit support for PERKASA – the Malay ultra right wing movement, his inability to reign in his own Deputy from spouting statements and acting contradictory to 1Malaysia (read here), to the simple fact that he allowed his special aide (Nasir Safar) to resign instead of sacking him for making derogatory remarks against non-Malays, all demonstrates clearly a fear of upsetting ultra right-wing Malays. Hence, Najib has failed to defend 1Malaysia when it mattered. On April Fool’s day, Deputy Prime Minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, stated that he is ‘…a Malay first and Malaysian second….’ contradicting Najib’s 1Malaysia which espouses Malaysians to think of themselves as Malaysians first before their ethnic, religious or geographical affiliations. Even more disappointing was the fact that he chose to defend his Deputy, and not reprimand him, lest he be seen as soft by UMNO (read here, here and here).
The most telling sign that Najib is set to become Malaysia’s worst ever Prime Minister is the increasing number of racial and religious hatreds perpetrated by Malay Muslims against other minorities. It is widely perceived that these acts are sanctioned at the highest levels of the UMNO echelon (read here, here, here and here). The fire-bombing of churches, the desecration of sacred symbols and the lackadaisical attitude and double standards demonstrated by government agencies in dealing with these serious matters only confirms suspicions that the 1Malaysia is nothing but spin.
Read Najib’s first year in office, Part II here
Read Najib’s first year in office, Conclusion
Update (1) 7 April 2010: Najib waffles on Al-Jazeera 101 East, noting that he is a Malay first, Muslim second and not uncomfortable being a Malaysian.