Press Statement by Charles Santiago in Klang on Thursday, 9th October 2008: 

What reform? Lame duck PM and tainted DPM

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had announced his decision to relinquish power next March as the besieged ruling Barisan Nasional coalition struggles to face an emboldened opposition.

It is clear the premier had been pressurized to step down despite a planned transition of power to his deputy, Najib Tun Razak in 2010. It also takes very little to sum up that Abdullah was aware he would not get the mandatory 58 divisional nominations to contest his presidency at the party's internal election next March.

UMNO leaders have evidently tightened the noose on Abdullah in a desperate bid to restore the party's marred image. It is as if Abdullah is shown the exit and a new prime minister would magically regain the confidence of the people.

A changing of guards would not help UMNO win support from people. Its leaders must be committed to reforms within the government, wiping out corruption and putting in place an accountable and transparent government including ending cronyism in the party.

In short a reversal of shoddy policies is a must. Mere rhetoric, like the video message on Najib's website, pledging to restore confidence in public institutions and "to work for the change'" that the public demanded at this year's election falls short of peoples expectations.

But nabbing people under the draconian Internal Security Act to silence criticisms against the government and keep a lid on dissent completely contradicts the deputy premier's promise to allow for greater rights and alternative views.

Najib's commitment to work for change must begin with an end to ISA and release of all detainees - including Raja Petra Kamaruddin, Hindraf five and detainees who have been in Kamunting for more than six years.

Raja Petra Kamaruddin's website postings implicated Najib to the murder of a Mongolian woman.

Najib's name is also synonymous with corruption involving submarine deals - certainly not the kind of credentials Malaysians would hope for the country's future Prime Minister.

Abdullah, to be fair, inherited a corrupt government from his former boss Dr Mahathir Mohamad who had single-handedly ruined the judiciary, domesticated the media, introduced money politics in UMNO and had his eyes wide shut to rampant corruption.

But Abdullah's vows to reform government institutions, the judiciary and clean up corruption before he leaves government is all but mouth service. In effect Abdullah is a lame duck Prime Minister who would not be able to effect any changes to the country's administrative system.

* Charles Santiago, MP for Klang