Najib is a pseudo-democrat

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COMMENT | It is interesting to note that Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak only speaks about democracy when he is in the United States.

The timing is both strange and selective; as it is his definition of democracy. In the mind of Najib, democracy is when an intellectual like economist Jomo Kwame Sundaram, who is parked in a government think-tank, cannot criticise his policy.

By his definition, Malaysian democracy is already vibrant. However, while not mentioned in name by Najib, Jomo, who has a PhD in Economics from Harvard University, has been a seasoned critic.

Indeed, well before Najib became prime minister, Jomo was assistant secretary-general for economic development in the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. At the UN, he was entrusted with the duty of conducting various research.

Indeed, together with professor Terence Gomez at Universiti Malaya, Jomo has had a long history of critiquing the political economy of Malaysia.

This started during the tenure of Dr Mahathir Mohamad between 1981-2003. Throughout his tenure, Mahathir has never subjected Terence and Jomo to any harassment.

Yet, their works formed the bulk of the academic criticism against Mahathir's privatisation, both in Malaysia and abroad. They still are. Mahathir welcomes any effort to work with them to strengthen Malaysia.

Najib, however, has pushed both Terence and Jomo (photo) aside completely. This indicator alone reflects the shallowness and deceiving nature of Najib.

Of course, what is good for the gander is good for the geese. If Mahathir did not sanction Malaysian academicians in the past, why should he now be seen as a dictator by Najib, while Najib himself has excused his own behaviour?

This is where Najib's ignorance is as clear as night and day. By using a foreigner like Paul Stadlen to be his leading speech writer, who in turn is helped by Sholta Byrnes at a government think-tank where Jomo is parked, Najib has shown his decrepit attitude.

Paid spinners of foreign agencies

First, Najib has used Stadlen and Byrnes to keep a check on Jomo - which reflects Najib's total absence of any ethical anchor.

Second, both Stadlen and Byrnes are British citizens who had once been paid spinners of foreign agencies.

[Editor's note: Shalto Byrnes has denied allegations that he is a "paid spinner". His clarification is published here.]

Neither one of them had understood the liberal attitude of Mahathir towards the Malaysian academia in the 1980s.

To be sure, those who live in the glass house should be careful with how they throw the rocks, period.

In fact, Jomo received his full professorship in 1991 at Universiti Malaya. 1991 was the height of Mahathir's power. It was three years after Operasi Lalang in 1988 that led to the temporary crackdown on dissent in order not to allow any racial and religious tensions to proliferate.

In 2017, Mahathir is working with the same intellectuals on an intellectual front, and opposition members to check the excesses of Najib.

Why? Precisely because Najib has been surrounded by a group of kleptocrats while himself spearheading, allegedly, a kleptocracy that has run the Malaysian economy to the ground.

Tens of billions of dollars have been borrowed, internationally and domestically.

They have been squandered, too, especially bad debts chalked up by 1MDB and Felda.

To the extent that Malaysia has suffered under the weight of such massive debt, which will one day go into trillions of ringgit, Najib has looked to China to become his saviour.

When Najib cannot milk China, he has imposed GST at six percent, coupled with tourism tax and possibly impeding taxes, to squeeze every tax dollars of the Malaysian people and foreigners too.

Thus, isn't it convenient, when Najib who is in the US has suddenly invoked the importance of democracy to reflect the closeness of Malaysia to the US?

More importantly, when Najib uses the likes of Stadlen and Byrnes, time and again to craft the press statements of the Malaysian Prime Minister's Office, it goes to show that the whole structure and edifice of the government has literally collapsed.

Najib failed the Malaysian people

How has it collapsed? Through nine years of inefficiency, ineptness and sheer corruption of course.

Indeed, since 2009, Najib has failed the Malaysian people. Not surprisingly, this has led Mahathir and the opposition, including the entire civil society, to rise up in unison.

Be it Pakatan Harapan, Bersih electoral movement or C4, or, even the Bar Council, the Malaysian electorate have seen through the artifice of Najib and Umno. The majority is now seeking change.

Yet, Najib has instituted the National Security Council Act 2017 that can suspend the entire electoral process.

Indeed, Najib has become a pseudo-democrat, and by dragging Malaysia through the grand larceny of 1MDB, Malaysia has become a fake democracy fed by the false news leaked and fed by Prime Minister’s Office itself.

Trump may suffer from a reputational deficit. But the US remains a strong democracy whose proverbial nose cannot be led by Najib.

Thus, this US trip by Najib must be exposed as nothing but a pre-election farce to save himself and his kleptocrats.

Invariably, Harapan, which is the opposition front, has agreed to launch an immediate inquiry into 1MDB within the first 100 days of defeating Najib in the upcoming 14th general election.

The US Department of Justice is in the process of commencing criminal proceedings. The wheels of justice in the US have begun. Najib cannot stop the inevitable, just as he cannot stop the will of the Malaysian people to unseat him, unless the US and the international community look the other way.

Najib is looking for the privilege to stay out of the long arm of the law. Thus his invocation of democracy is seething with vested interest.


RAIS HUSSIN is Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) supreme council member and head of policy and strategy.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.



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