The deepening rot in Malaysia started a few years into the tenure of former PM Mahathir Mohamad, under whom Umno became known as â€˜Under Mahathir, No Oppositionâ€™.
For the best part of 60 years, Umno Baru, formerly Umno, was treated with reverence by politicians and the media. It could do no wrong, its actions were never scrutinised, it was not held accountable for any failures, nor were its politicians responsible for mismanagement, corruption or abuse of power.
The actions of both Mahathir and Najib Abdul Razak are guided by fear – fear of losing their power, fear of the unknown, fear of losing their freedom. Below are eight reasons why Najib is doing a Mahathir, and why Umno Baru, and not just Najib, should go.
First. The harassment.
The ordeal faced by the directors and officials of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) will revive memories for former Anti-Corruption-Agency (ACA) director-general Shafee Yahya, who felt Mahathir’s wrath,Â in 1998.
Summoned to Mahathirâ€™s office, a fuming Mahathir barked, â€œHow dare you raid my senior officerâ€™s office?â€, to be followed by, â€œDid Anwar Ibrahim ask you to raid the office?â€
An official complaint had been lodged about the director-general of the Economic Planning Unit (EPU), Ali Abul Hassan Sulaiman. Shafee was allegedly ordered by Mahathir to close the case. The EPU was directly under the PMâ€™s Department and its role was to oversee the privatisation of projects.
Today, history is repeated, and Najib also feels threatened by the actions of the MACC, which is trying to investigate the 1MDB scandal.
MACC communications director Rohaizad Yaakob, and special operations director, Bahri Mohamad Zin, were transferred immediately and ordered to report to the Prime Ministerâ€™s Department. Two other MACC officers allegedly remain in police custody and have been refused bail.
This can only mean one thing. Najib is afraid and he must act before he is toppled, not by the rakyat, but by others who seek his throne.
Second. The women.
In June 1998, a disillusioned Shafee returned home and told his wife Kalsom Taib, that after 33 years of service, he wished to resign. Kalsom coaxed him into staying and told him to hold his head up high, despite Mahathirâ€™s accusation that the ACA â€œfixed peopleâ€.
Shafee was interrogated several times at Bukit Aman, and the family braved several accusations, including one of breaching the Official Secrets Act. Kalsom (photo) later published a book called â€˜The Shafee Yahaya Storyâ€™ about her husbandâ€™s ordeal.
Today, another woman has come to the defence of Bahri. His daughter Eila posted on Facebook that her father, had served the MACC (formerly ACA) for 33 years.
She said, â€œFor decades, he carried out his duties to investigate and arrest those who were out to swindle funds illegally from the rakyat. He and his division succeeded in saving hundreds of millions, from going missing.â€
Third. The PMâ€™s response.
Police reports were lodged on 13 June 2000 about Mahathirâ€™s interference in the ACA investigations in June 1998. To date, there has been no further news of any police action. When asked, Mahathir told the press that he had no recollection of the incident. Mahathirâ€™s selective amnesia is a recurrent excuse.
Today, Najib is seething. He blames the opposition for spreading â€œfalseâ€ information about him. At the Pasir Gudang Umno divisional meeting, he said, â€œI was made a target for no reasonâ€, and said that the people were â€œflaring up for no reasonâ€. Perhaps, the matter of a RM2.6 billion donation, is of little consequence to him. Anwar could have been a useful scapegoat, except that Najib had had him imprisoned last January.
Fourth. The Pak Lah effect.
Former PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi incurred Mahathirâ€™s displeasure, and there were furious attempts, behind the scenes, to oust him. The impatient Mahathir had to protect his legacy, and ensure his progeny succeeded him. Eventually, an embattled and much criticised Pak Lah was forced from office, and replaced by Najib.
Unfortunately, Mahathir underestimated Najibâ€™s other half, the self-styled First Lady of Malaysia (Flom), and Najib could not be persuaded to keep his end of the bargain.
The â€˜Pak Lah effectâ€™, characterised by criticism and badmouthing, was launched on Najib. Mahathir was probably blindsided when Najib acted with speed and removed Muhyiddin from office.
Fifth. The IGP and the attorney-general.
Surrounding oneself with allies is a trick to ensure a few more days, or weeks of freedom. Mahathir had the inspector-general of police (IGP) and the Chief Justice on his side. Mahathir compromised the judiciary, in 1988, with the appointment of the allegedly scandalous Lord President Hamid Omar. This led Malaysia down the slippery slope. We now teeter perilously at the edge of the short drop to becoming a banana republic. Is it too late to save ourselves?
Today, the IGP, Khalid Abu Bakar, is alleged to be Najibâ€™s ally. To guarantee his freedom from prosecution, Najib has replaced Abdul Gani Patail with his mate, Apandi Ali. In Malaysia, it is not what you know, but who you know.
Sixth. The crackdown.
Both men silenced their critics with force. One used the Internal Security Act (ISA) in Operation Lallang. Najib is using the Sedition Act, Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) and the Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA) in the ongoing crackdown on dissenters.
Both Mahathir and Najib found Anwar to be a thorn in their side. Mahathir prosecuted Anwar with Sodomy I; Najib lacks imagination and continues the trend, with Sodomy II.
Eighth. The rakyat.
For decades, Malaysians allowed politicians to ride roughshod over them. The Malays, who were fed on a diet of insecurity, fear their own shadows. The self-reliant Chinese fear economic doom. The Indians fear being left out of the equation.
Malaysia is at a crossroad, and is facing its worst crisis since May 13, 1969. The rakyat must start to think as Malaysians, and follow the correct path, to help Malaysia regain its feet.
NB article was published in Malaysiakini on 10 August 2015.
Photo credits: Malaysiakini