KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 10 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak is fully capable of delivering on his reform promises, but the many “Robins and Catwomen” crowding his government could end up tripping the prime minister, Datuk A. Kadir Jasin said today.
Likening Najib to the fictional character Batman, the former New Straits Times (NST) group editor-in-chief said the prime minister’s good intentions often get “lost in translation”.
“I am sure, he wants to be a hero like the Batman saving Gotham,” Kadir said in a blog posting here.
“But the problem with the PM is he has too many Robins – males and females – who are competing with other for his love and affection, money and power.”
Najib, the country’s sixth prime minister whom many have dubbed a reformist, has often been warned that the greatest hurdle he would have to conquer would come from within his own party Umno.
His predecessor, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, spoke of this in a newly-released book where he warned Najib that he would face the same resistance that he faced during his time.
“Najib is trying to do many good things. He is trying to transform the economy, the government and make changes.
“But he faces the same problem that I did ― resistance,” Malaysia’s fifth prime minister said in an interview featured in the 620-page book titled “Awakenings: The Abdullah Badawi Years in Malaysia”.
Abdullah succeeded the nation’s longest-serving prime minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, in 2003.
A year later and riding on the promise of reforms, the man fondly referred to as Pak Lah led Barisan Nasional (BN) to its most dominant mandate in Election 2004.
But a scant five years after, he was hounded from office by the man who put him there, having led BN from the euphoria of 2004 to the despair of 2008 general election when it lost its customary stranglehold on Parliament.
“I was perhaps too idealistic and thought everyone would embrace the changes which could be the good of the country and people,” Abdullah said.
During his time, Abdullah had loosened the reins on the media and allowed seemingly open dissent on the Internet, the latter of which is often credited for the unprecedented gains made by the loose opposition pact Pakatan Rakyat during Election 2008.
When it was his turn, Najib embarked on similarly radical changes, even going as far as to repeal old preventive laws like the Internal Security Act (ISA) and the Emergency Ordinance,, promising to do away with Bumiputera quotas and promoting needs-based affirmative action.
The moves earned Najib much criticism from Malay right-wing groups like Perkasa, who lament that these changes would result in the loss of power for the Malays, the country’s largest ethnic group.
“Can the Prime Minister be made to change?” Kadir asked in his blog. “Some Umno dreamers and the pro-Umno Malay cendekiawan think it is possible.”
But, he continued, what if Najib, the “prime minister of all Malaysians”, does not want to change?
“Or he does not see why he should change since he does not think he has done anything wrong?” he asked again.
Kadir said these questions were raised after he received an event invite via text message this morning by the Prime Minister’s office.
The event, he explained, was a special announcement by Najib on “strengthening the Bumiputera economy”, to be held at Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) in Shah Alam.
Kadir said prior to the text message, several “Umno dreamers and pro-Umno Malay cendekiawan” had told him that since it was so difficult to change the prime minister, they would now move to change the way he runs the country.
But in response, Kadir said he told them that he had seen enough of Najib through his political career to know that this was unlikely to be possible.
“So I told them, if the PM promises me a glass of water, I would not believe in his ‘janji ditepati’ (promise fulfilled) until I drink the water and not be poisoned by it,” he said.
“It sounds harsh,” he added. “[But] I am not accusing the PM of trying to poison me. I am not worth wasting the rat’s poison on.”
“But what I am saying is, many thing that he says, promises and implements are lost in translation.”