Saturday, September 16, 2006

Malu Malaysia

Malaysia has not been getting fantastic press coverage either. The world press has had a field day reporting and dissecting the protracted bickering between PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and his predecessor, Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Badawi remains a beseiged leader although he's unlikely to be unseated by Dr M. And despite all the pledges to carry out reforms as part of his electoral promise, people are just not convinced that Badawi has the political will or clout to carry them out.

And the official and unofficial response to points raised by Dr M has been less than convincing, to say the least.

For example, Dr M has been harping on details of the bridge discussions between Badawi's administration and Singapore, urging Badawi to declassify documents to prove him wrong. Instead, the government 'declassified' documents of negotiations between Dr M and Singapore. The documents were released by Singapore in the first place -- long before Badawi became premier!

And although Dr Mahathir failed to get enough votes to speak as a delegate at the Umno convention in November, nobody is convinced that he lacks the grassroot support in his current crusade. Many suspect that the government mobilised its machinery to snuff out and humiliate Dr M in the division election in his own constituency, which he had led for more than three decades.

This abridged article is another example of rumblings in Umno.

The Straits Times
Sep 16, 2006
Umno MPs startle party by criticising Abdullah
Comments by two lawmakers suggest PM should beware of perceptions of his inaction

By Malaysia Correspondent, Carolyn Hong

IN KUALA LUMPUR - TWO Umno MPs went against the grain this week by openly criticising the Prime Minister for his lacklustre reform initiatives.

Speaking in Parliament earlier this week, the two MPs - one a respected veteran and the other somewhat of a maverick - said Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi's pledges have not been met with real action.

Former finance minister Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, the MP for Gua Musang in Kelantan, was quoted as saying that cronyism was still rampant and projects were still awarded based on who one knew rather than on one's merit.

'We are seen as producing rent-seekers in new forms,' he said.

He also criticised the government for not doing enough to kick-start the sluggish economy and described the Ninth Malaysia Plan as unexciting.

Tengku Razaleigh, who rarely makes comments on political controversies, is a veteran politician whose views are still much respected.

He was the only Umno leader to have posed a serious challenge to Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad when, in 1987, he took him on for the Umno presidency. He lost narrowly.

He was not the only one who startled fellow MPs. Another MP from Kelantan, Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, who represents Kota Baru, used even stronger words in Parliament.

Datuk Zaid, an outspoken politician, said there has yet to be any real reforms, perhaps 'due to Abdullah's lack of political support'.

He said there has been no political will to combat corruption, and the Abdullah administration had also failed to use the concept of Islam Hadhari, or progressive Islam, to create a clean political culture.

He warned that if PM Abdullah did not right the wrongs of the Mahathir era, there was no difference between the two men.

The two MPs are so far the only ones to have spoken out against the Prime Minister. It is not an indication of a breaking of ranks because they are regarded as slightly out of the mainstream of Umno.

But it is nevertheless a significant development in the light of Datuk Seri Abdullah's prolonged battle with Tun Dr Mahathir, as Umno leaders are expected to defend the Prime Minister.

The two MPs do not support Tun Dr Mahathir, but their critical views are a strong hint that Datuk Seri Abdullah may find himself on slippery ground if he continues to be perceived as lackadaisical in fulfilling his pledges.

Tun Dr Mahathir has already adroitly tapped into this seam of unhappiness over the lacklustre economy several times in his talks.