To be a reformer, one must reform and not conform

APRIL 28, 2014

So now Malaysians know the sad tale about Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak. He cares about moderation, unity and what have you but is hindered by forces outside and inside Umno.

This according to his new friend Barack Obama. To be fair to the US president, the story about Najib (pic) having the DNA for reform but not the spine to match his rhetoric with action because of right-wing forces is not new. In fact, cabinet ministers, government officials and Bar Council officials who meet Najib in private settings come away with the view that he is a moderate.

But. There is always an excuse with Najib. He could have done this or that but for Umno warlords. He could have done this or that if not for poor advice of his advisors.

Here is news for Obama, Christopher Leong of the Bar Council and other apologists/sympathisers: Najib’s predecessor, Tun Abdullah Badawi, also had some credentials for reform. But he too was more interested in listening to Umno warlords and other right-wing forces. As a result, he pulled the hand brake on real reforms in Malaysia.

In 2008, the electorate gave him the boot. He resigned a year later, making way for Najib. There is nothing that suggests that Najib will do any better than Abdullah.

In fact, his track record is worse. Wasn’t it his administration that gave the go-ahead for the sledgehammer crackdown on the Bersih gathering?

Hasn’t Najib watched as a disinterested bystander as Perkasa, Isma and other officially-sponsored groups and individuals push the country down the path of intolerance and racism?

Hasn’t Najib watched idly as the constitutional freedom of non-Muslims to practise their own religions is trampled upon?

Hasn’t Najib enjoyed watching opposition politicians being charged with sedition for the most inane of statements?

The list can go on and on. And Malaysians are told that the prime minister is really a reformer at heart but is constrained by right-wing forces within and outside Umno.

A reformer behind closed doors is not a reformer at all. The true measure of a leader is whether he is willing to stand up for what he believes. Umno warlords, Perkasa, Isma, Utusan Malaysia and their ilk are not going anywhere. If anything, they seem to be emboldened by his inertia.

To Najib’s sympathisers, here are some questions to ponder: if he can’t even take on this motley crew, does he deserve to be the leader of Malaysia?

Isn’t it useless talking about someone having the instincts of a reformer but not having the gumption to do the job?

Perhaps Obama is impressed with talk; nearly 52% of Malaysians aren’t. – April 28, 2014.