Indulging in corruption, cronyism and nepotism is not what a leader who "listens" to his people does.
Trusting a politician is the hardest thing to do; the risk is not just worth it. So when Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak says he will listen to the rakyat in choosing candidates for the 13th general election, it is too good an assurance to hang on to.
Is it not Najib who keeps “cautioning” the people that he wants “winnable” candidates to contest in the looming GE? How then does the rakyat’s choice make a difference to him?
In his March 22 interview with DJs Sam Mak and Tan Yi Hui in the one-hour 988 Street VIP programme of the 988 FM radio station, Najib said he would have to listen to the people when it comes to choosing candidates for the next general election.
“It is only right as a leader. I should listen to the people. So, therefore, I will make a decision that his or her time is up and should not stand as a candidate anymore,” were the premier’s words.
Najib is very right that he “must” listen to the rakyat, which he has not been doing. Indulging in corruption, cronyism and nepotism is not what a leader who “listens” to his people does.
What should the rakyat make of a leader like Najib who chooses a corrupt politician to helm the Federal Land Development Authority or Felda.
Everyone is aware of the money politics that Mohamed Isa Abdul Samad, the former Menteri Besar of Negeri Sembilan indulged in, which resulted in Mohamed Isa being stripped of his Umno vice-presidency by the Umno discplinary board in 2005. His six-year suspension however was commuted to three years upon appeal and ended on 23 June 2008.
Still, Najib found Isa a befitting candidate to contest in the Bagan Pinang by-electionin 2009. Was Najib then “listening” to the rakyat?
If that was not disastrous enough, Isa who won the Bagan Pinang by-election was “rewarded” and made the chairperson of Felda in 2011. So much so that National Economic Advisory Council (NEAC) member Datuk Dr Zainal Aznam Mohd Yusof remarked that Mohamed Isa’s appointment to head Felda was a sad episode that caused uncertainty in the market.
According to the late Dr Zainal Aznam, the former Negeri Sembilan Menteri Besar’s poor track record and involvement in money politics involving Umno back in 2005 were cause for concern.
Najib refuses to learn lessons
However, taking cognisance over his “misdemeanours” is not Najib’s forte. Otherwise, why would the premier dare give his “buddy” and former special officer Omar Mustapha Ong a free hand in the controversial move to list Felda Global Ventures Holdings (FGVH).
The proposal to list FGVH has not gone down well with the Felda settlers and stakeholders and Najib has made no effort to clear the fiasco.
As far as the settlers are concerned, they see the listing as Putrajaya’s way of forcing Kooperasi Permodalan Felda’s consent with regard to the move.
The highway scandal
Then there is the scandal surrounding the Kidex (Kinrara-Damansara Expressway) RM2.2 billion concession which was awarded to Umno-linked firms “as a reward for Perak’s fall”?
Why is Najib silent when asked by ousted Perak Menteri Besar Nizar Jamaluddin and his Pakatan Rakyat colleagues to clarify the BN government’s basis for awarding the highway deal to companies owned by Umno lawyer Hafarizam Harun and the wife of former Chief Justice Zaki Azmi.
The companies in question are Emrail Sdn Bhd and Zabima Engineering Sdn Bhd. Hafarizam is a director in both firms while Zaki’s wife, Nik Sazlina Mohd Zain is a director in Emrail.
“Why such a disproportionate sum? How can a highway of 50km cost RM2.2 billion and then the Banting-Taiping highway, which was initially supposed to be RM3 billion, costs RM7.07 billion for a much longer distance,” Nizar, who was formerly Perak Mentri Besar, told the media early this month.
“So where can they rationalise the award here… if you talk about per kilometre, there is a lot of difference between the two highways,” Nizar queried.
Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin however insisted that the Kidex contract was awarded to only the most “qualified” companies and rubbished claims that it was due to political reasons.
Nizar had rubbished Muhyiddin’s claim, saying: “But if DPM says the companies are qualified, have good track records and all that, then explain why the costing seems completely out of tune.”
“Explain if the highway was awarded as a reward for Perak’s fall.”
The Pakatan Rakyat lawmakers also dismissed Muhyiddin’s claim that the two firms were selected based on merit, pointing out that the deputy prime minister had still failed to disclose if the project had been awarded via open tender or direct negotiation.
Perak fell to Pakatan in the 2008 GE but was recaptured by BN during a year-long constitutional impasse that ensued when three Pakatan lawmakers left their parties to become BN-friendly independents.
Najib’s concern not for real
What the premier is doing is to balm the unhappiness Malaysians have over the many issues the Barisan Nasional government under Najib’s leadership refuses to show concern.
The BN government has no interest in arresting the problem of deaths taking place while in police custody. The call to put in place the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission has received no favourable attention from the federal government.
The issue of racial disharmony too has not been tackled by Najib. His leniency with Perkasa, an organisation set up with the sole agenda of safeguarding Malay rights and privileges and exterminating the non-Malays of this country is proof of the premier’s lack of sincerity in ensuring peace and tranquility between the rakyat is always at an all-time high.
To conveniently “use” the people in an attempt to boost his popularity is not going to place premier Najib in their “good books”.
Dismissing the rakyat’s concern over the nation’s manipulated elections and instead killing off entities like the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections or Bersih 2.0 which is demanding reforms to the electoral system fails to portray Najib as a “people’s” leader.
There are just one too many instances of the rakyat having had enough of the BN-government’s machiaevellian ways. When in July 2009 an opposition political aide, Teoh Beng Hock was found dead hours after a gruelling interrogation at the hands of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, all that was possibly possible was done to hush-up to prevent the truth from being revealed.
So afraid was Najib that he unwittingly “exposed” himself when he chose to ignore names suggested to him by Teoh’s family to sit on the Royal Commission of Inquiry panel.
One of the names was that of Ambiga Sreenevasan, the former Malaysian Bar president and who is also chairperson of Bersih 2.0 and an award winning lawyer, her activism lauded by Michelle Obama, the First Lady of America and by the French government which honoured Ambiga with the Legion of Honour in September last year, acknowledging her contributions to human rights defense.
But to the BN leadership, Ambiga’s fight for a clean and fair election is a threat, her resolute to stand up for the tenets of democracy lost on the party and its “top guns” Najib and deputy Muhyiddin Yassin.
With so much public resentment against BN and its leadership and the continuous politicking undertaken by the leaders, the rakyat has to seriously ponder where does the hidden-agenda behind Najib’s “People First, Performance Now” lie.
Jeswan Kaur is a freelance writer and a FMT columnist.