Media Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya on Thursday, 9th October 2008: 

Abdullah - a decent human being but can he redeem his premiership by instituting three fundamental reforms in last five months in office?

Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is a decent human being.

He was always personable and very approachable until he was cut off from the public by his gatekeepers whether fourth-storey or otherwise – and the common complaint after his first two years as Prime Minister was that he was more difficult to see than Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in the latter’s 22 years as Prime Minister!

I had two meetings with Abdullah in his first two years as Prime Minister which led to the establishment of parliamentary select committees but since then I had stopped trying to meet him for it was just impossible to get through his handlers.

I do not know whether it is possible to see Abdullah again in has last five months as Prime Minister.

In his press statement yesterday, Abdullah said that he would complete three reforms he had pledged when he became prime minister before stepping down by tabling three bills in Parliament to establish the Judicial Appointments Commission, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption and a Special Complaints Commission.

The question is whether Abdullah can redeem and salvage his five years of ineffective premiership by instituting three fundamental reforms in last five months in office?

I am surprised to read a very objective and level-headed political commentary in today’s New Straits Times, “In the end,he made a sensible decision” by Zubaidah Abu Bakar, with the very telling opening:

“THE pressure must have been enormous on Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in the 48 hours leading to yesterday's announcement.

“But in the end, wisdom trumped emotion.”

Stating that Abdullah’s quit decision was to prevent implosion in Umno which would result in the Barisan Nasional ending up in opposition after the 13th general election, Zubaidah wrote:

“His ‘Work with Me, Not For Me’ campaign and commitment to fight corruption charmed the voters at the March 2004 general election, granting BN the largest election victory in the coalition's history. But his reform agenda ran counter to the patronage-driven party culture in Umno.

“Now that the baton has been passed to Najib, will there be stability in Umno?”

With Umno and BN patronage-driven party culture, can Abdullah successfully and meaningfully carry out three fundamental institutional reforms, in the next five months – with two months spent on leave?

His mention of a Special Complaints Commission (SCC) Bill is like a pail of cold water on Malaysians who harbour hopes that Abdullah might still end his premiership with uncharacteristically reformist fervour and success.

This is because the SCC Bill, first presented to the previous Parliament last December just before dissolution, had already been rejected by the civil society as a parody of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC), the most important recommendation of the Royal Police Commission to transform the Malaysian Police into an efficient, incorruptible, accountable, professional world-class police service with the three core objectives to keep crime low, eradicate corruption and uphold human rights.

Instead of an IPCMC “lion” with teeth and claws, a toothless and clawless SCC mouse has been produced wasting five years of the Abdullah premiership and making a total mockery of Abdullah’s pledge to reform the police and the Royal Police Commission Report with its 125 recommendations.

In the past 10 months since the SCC Bill was withdrawn last December, there had been indications particularly after the March 8 “political tsunami”, that the IPCMC would be established.

If all that Abdullah can table when Parliament reconvenes next week is the same toothless and clawless SCC Bill, then let it be said clearly and definitively that it is completely unacceptable and a travesty of his reform commitment in his last five months in office.

With this SCC Bill backdrop, there is great scepticism that the two other bills on judicial reform and anti-corruption would not be mere paper reforms without any meaningful institutional changes – especially with Malaysia’s ranking on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index plunging from No. 37 to No. 47 in the five years of Abdullah premiership from 2003 to 2008 and the likely appointment of the first Umno Chief Justice in the 51-year history of the nation, plunging the country into a new era of judicial darkness and scandal.

As in the past, I am ever ready to meet Abdullah about these institutional reforms but has he got such liberty to make his last five months of premiership completely different from his past five years?

* Lim Kit Siang,  DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor