pic by RAZAK GHAZALI
A NUMBER of commenters and pundits seem to be of the opinion that the proposed debate between former Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak and Iskandar Puteri MP Lim Kit Siang will be a waste of time.
To them, it will not benefit anyone nor will it benefit the nation.
Such opinions stand to reason that Najib is already facing several dozens of charges in court, and a debate with him on matters relating to his integrity and kleptocratic nature would surely be redundant.
If Najib has anything intelligent or brilliant to explain, the court of justice will definitely be the best avenue, which in turn, will reach out to millions of Malaysians — given the extensive coverage that his cases are getting.
In turn, surely Malaysians — his supporters or otherwise — are not overly concerned over what he wants to say to Lim as it would amount to nothing, unlike what he has to tell the court.
However, some may find it surprising that Najib now seems to have developed the courage to debate when he chose to shy away from one, dubbed “Nothing2Hide”, with PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in June 2015, when the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) issue was heating up.
While Najib and his supporters tried to justify his refusal to participate in the debate on grounds of security as advised by the police, public opinion widely viewed that he had chickened out because he feared to face his former mentor and that he had so much to hide.
Of course it is a moot point, but surely many too would have wondered if the course of Malaysian and Najib’s history would change if he had attended the debate as it was organised at a very early stage of Dr Mahathir’s public dissatisfaction with the 1MDB issue.
Subsequent to Najib’s absence from the debate, Dr Mahathir went on to lead the Citizens’ Declaration movement, demanding Najib’s resignation, with 1MDB being the core issue.
When the Rulers’ failed to react to the over one million signatures collected, Dr Mahathir proceeded to form Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM), his final effort for recourse.
The rest, is of course, history.
But back to the eagerness of Najib to have the debate at this stage in time reveals more than just wanting to clear his name. As pointed earlier, if that is the intention, it is best done in the court.
It can, therefore, be concluded that it is an attempt to remain relevant in the Malaysian political scene, in particular Umno’s.
As it is, his cheerleaders are trying to convince their supporters that Najib is still the man to turn to in Umno whether he holds the top post or otherwise.
Others are of the opinion that once Dr Mahathir steps down as PM, even if Najib was already convicted for the 1MDB related crimes, the new PM will likely agree to Najib being pardoned.
While all these are conjectures, at best wishful thinking, such thoughts are widely shared among the supporters of the scandalised and embattled former PM.
These incredulous thoughts bordering on fantasy lead to the very point of why Umno lost and suffered the ignominy of being a party of rent-seekers, led by corrupt delinquents.
Even though their detractors kept on lumping the decay in Umno into all its six decades of rule, the rot actually started in the past two terms or so.
Otherwise, it is difficult to justify the continuous rule since independence, most of the terms were with two-thirds majority, until the fall under Najib’s watch.
Of course, it can be argued that the previous terms were secured because of the control over the media and the absence of the Internet and social media.
There is some truth to that, but at the same time, the Umnoled Barisan Nasional (BN) had over the years honed its administrative and ruling capability and were quite acceptable to the general populace.
Hence, it is not surprising that the current administration, though popularly elected, faces widespread criticisms over its administrative qualities and the glaring inexperience among its ministers.
Further to that, apart from Dr Mahathir who led Umno for 22 years, almost all his party members and leaders were former Umno as are some of the lead ing personalities in PKR.
That said, the hopes among Najib’s supporters that he may regain the leading role is the very reason that had led to the fall of Umno and BN.
If these supporters and leaders had heeded to the demands for Najib’s resignation prior to the 14th General Election, his detractors from Umno alongside Dr Mahathir might have had their wind taken out of their sails, and PPBM would not exist and the balance of power would not have shifted.
Of course, these are again conjectures not empirical, but in retrospect, it was obvious the hatred and anger towards Najib and to a large extent, his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, had heavily tilted the voting trend against Umno and BN.
But Umno and its supporters don’t seem to learn. To expect Najib and the other leaders, tainted and scandalised for not speaking up against Najib and 1MDB, to resign and allow the party to regenerate is not in its culture.
And they allow themselves to be dragged by their drowning leaders towards ethno-religious diatribes against their political opponents.
The best thing they can do is to work towards the removal of all the tainted leaders.
An Umno without Najib, and his ilk, gives Umno a chance to regain its credibility, and the nation to bury an embarrassing past.
- Shamsul Akmar is the editor at The Malaysian Reserve.