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Zaid: Najib’s finest hour when he steps down

 | July 6, 2015

Najib must salvage something of his life as Prime Minister before he steps down despite all that has happened.


KUALA LUMPUR: Former Law Minister Zaid Ibrahim bluntly told Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, in his latest blog posting, to step down but only after he does something to redeem himself so that he will be remembered differently.

“You must step down as Prime Minister because there’s no way you can get out of this hole,” said Zaid in an obvious reference to allegations against him in The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) last Friday. “The country needs a new direction and a new team of leaders.”

“You can of course ignore what I have said and remain as Prime Minister for the next 10 years, but they will remember you for Altantuya, 1MDB and the AmBank private banking account.”

He conceded that Najib taking advice from him “at this hour of great turmoil in his life was furthest from his mind”, but he felt compelled as a former colleague (albeit a brief one) and so there was no harm in trying, “just in case there’s a one-in-a-million chance he will read this”.

Zaid suggests that Najib could transform the country in six months, before he steps down. “No one in his team today was willing to do so. He will be remembered as a man who redeemed himself. The choice is for Najib to make.”

If Najib leaves a legacy of tackling corruption, even if he just puts some initial measures in place, said Zaid, he will be remembered differently.

The former Law Minister thinks that Najib remaining in office will just exacerbate the country’s problems and the people’s suffering. “Nothing he does henceforth will make the people of this country trust him, and he will not be able to govern effectively in such a situation,” he said.

For once, he implored Najib, “do not believe what your star-gazers tell you. Your colleagues, friends and advisers will want you to stay, but not necessarily because they care about you”.

“I suggest you announce your resignation to take effect at the end of the year, and in the next six months you must do three things that will in some way atone for your sins and mitigate the errors committed under your watch.”

Again, Zaid was urging Najib to salvage something of his life as Prime Minister, as a must, despite all that has happened.

The greatest scourge the country faces, said Zaid, was corruption. “That dear Prime Minister is what you need to address as your lasting gift to the country.”

No changing of the guard will remove greed and abuse of power from the system, he agrees, but he feels that Najib can do three things before he leaves.

Firstly, Najib has to revisit the Official Secrets Act (OSA) and make substantial amendments to ensure it was used only to protect military secrets and the security interests of the country.

“The Act should not protect and hide government contracts and financial dealings,” said Zaid. “There must also be openness in all government affairs so that Najib’s successor, Ministers and elite civil servants will be more careful with public funds.”

Secondly, Najib must ensure that the Ministers and the Chairmen of Off-Budget agencies, their spouses and family members declare their assets for public scrutiny. “You know I tried to do this without success but perhaps after what has happened, Barisan Nasional (BN) Ministers will now have a change of heart,” he said. “Also, introduce a law under which the Prime Minister is prohibited from assuming other portfolios, especially Finance.”

Finally, Najib must legislate on political funding so that the taxpayers contribute a sufficient amount to major political parties to cover election expenses. “It was unrealistic to expect political parties not to be corrupt and abuse their powers when they need money for elections and other activities,” he pointed out. “We need at least to mitigate this need for money by providing some contributions to them.”

“Other democracies have done this and so should we.”

Zaid believes that if the Prime Minister does the three simple things that he has suggested, corruption will be greatly reduced. “We can start with good governance and the implementation of good policies from there.”


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