Press Statement by Charles Santiago in Klang on
Tuesday, 4th November 2008:
Najib: Leader of UMNO but not the
It is not a surprise that deputy Prime
Minister Najib Tun Razak has won the leadership of ruling UMNO
uncontested, setting him on track to hold the top job in the country.
UMNO leaders have said Najib's victory reflects the unity within the
party. In reality, it embodies the hope that a new President would
repair the image of UMNO and possibly regain the confidence of the
people, especially Malays.
Let's look at Najib's credentials - he is the son of Malaysia's second
Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak, his name features prominently in the
murder of a Mongolian woman and Najib has also been slammed for
allegedly receiving huge kickbacks involving submarine deals. His recent
claim to fame skirts around the irregularities in the suspended purchase
of 12 Eurocopter helicopters.
This man will become the country's next Prime Minister.
UMNO divisions, on the other hand, had unanimously voted for Najib
despite the controversies surrounding the Prime Minister in waiting.
This clearly reflects that party leaders are grappling to win back the
support of the people, who shunned UMNO and ruling component parties at
the March general election.
The strategy is clear - a new party President and a change of guards is
expected to work miracles. Najib is touted to bring Malays back to the
UMNO fold and regain the support of the electorate. In short he is
entrusted with the responsibility of saving UMNO.
But this is easier said than done. Najib might have the support of UMNO
division leaders but not the rest of the country. This includes the
Malays and non-Malays who are not in UMNO. Najib would have to carry out
reforms and make a concerted effort to wipe out corruption in the party
Whether or not Najib would be able to do this remains a question. The
recent events in the country show that Najib's focus is to become the
next premier at whatever cost and every effort had been made to thwart
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) had cleared the government of any
wrongdoing in the billion-ringgit Eurocopter deal. Najib was not
summoned for the PAC hearing and it is a long shot that Najib would be
called to testify at the Anti-Corruption Agency's investigation into the
A private investigator who alleged Najib's involvement in Altantuya
Shaariibuu's murder in a sworn affidavit had gone missing. Raja Petra
Kamaruddin, the prominent blogger, who unveiled dirt on Najib faces
indefinite detention without trial.
As opposed to initiating serious changes within UMNO, Najib is widely
expected to curb dissent to his rule using various preventive laws. He
certainly would not rock the boat. There are concerns that the country
might witness a return of Mahathirsm.
So we would have a Prime Minister who enjoys the support of UMNO leaders
and is rejected by the people. Is this the new disparity we would see in
the country or would Najib lead UMNO and Barisan Nasional to its demise?
* Charles Santiago, MP for Klang