Abdullah’s defence of his 18-month premiership suffers from the malaise of his stewardship – good intentions not backed up by  deeds  - which has caused the  evaporation of the nation-wide “feel good” euphoria responsible for the unprecedented Barisan Nasional victory in  March 2004 general election

Media Conference Statement (2)
by Lim Kit Siang

(Ipoh, Friday): Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi gave what has been described by New Straits Times as “arguably one of his most important speeches since becoming Prime Minister in Malaysia in November 2003” when addressing Harvard Club gala dinner last night,  defending his 18-month premiership.

Abdullah should take serious note that his speech, which should have a powerful and electrifying effect on the nation, has not captured the imagination of the people unlike his  earlier speeches, in particular his famous  address when as Acting Prime Minister to the   Oxbridge Society in March 2003 on "the Malaysian malaise" of having "First World infrastructure and Third World mentality", condemning  the Ugly Malaysian and his call to Malaysians to fight corruption and abuse of trust, and his calls in his early days as Prime Minister to “work with me, not work for me” and to government leaders to listen to the truth from the people.

This is a sad barometer of the depth and severity of popular  disappointment with Abdullah’s failure to deliver his pledges of a clean, incorruptible, accountable, trustworthy, people-oriented,   efficient  and democratic administration.

Abdullah’s defence of his 18-month premiership last night suffers from the malaise of his stewardship – good intentions not backed up by  deeds  - which has caused the  evaporation of the nation-wide “feel good” euphoria responsible for the unprecedented Barisan Nasional victory in  March 2004 general election

Malaysians unreservedly accept the first half of his declaration last night,  “I am not only a man of intentions, I am also a man of deeds”, that Abdullah is a man of good intentions, but more and more despair that he is capable of the second half of the statement, as he appears to be a mere prisoner of the present political system incapable of effecting radical and  far-reaching changes.

It is to Abdullah’s credit that he  has acknowledged and not dismissed  the dissatisfaction and exasperations about his 18-month premiership, that he “treat them as important”, although he is wrong when he tried to minimize the problem by suggesting that these “dissatisfaction” only come from “parts of society as well as foreign commentators”, when such dissatisfaction is so widespread and is increasingly becoming a new national consensus in the country.

What is most disturbing is that while Abdullah talks bravely about  “First World” mentality and  mindset, he is prepared to acquiesce in the “realities of the day” and tolerate and accept  “Third, World” and even “Fourth World” standards, vividly illustrated by the RM85 million “leaking” Parliament House scandal, allowing the Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu to dismiss it as “small problem and should not have been sensationalized”. 

Abdullah talks about “greater space for expression in the Press and in civil society”, ignoring that there had been very little change in improvement in press freedom under his administration or the adverse international press freedom rankings for Malaysia under his watch, viz:

The Third Annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index  2004 of Reporters sans Frontier (RSF), ranking Malaysia 122nd out of 167 countries, a fall of 18 places from 104th ranking the previous year and five places behind Indonesia (ranked No. 117) when in 2003, Malaysia was positioned six places ahead as having greater press freedom than Indonesia.

Last week, the New York City-based think-tank Freedom House, which has been ranking countries according to their degree of press freedom since 1980, released its Global Press Freedom Ranking 2005, with Malaysia placed No. 152 out of 194 countries, lower than Taiwan (No. 44) , South Korea (No. 66), Philippines (No. 77), Thailand (No. 95), Sri Lanka (No. 116), Indonesia (No. 119), Pakistan (No. 126), Cambodia (No. 128), Singapore (No. 139),   Afghanistan and Bangladesh (No. 145).

Abdullah referred to the Police Royal Commission of Inquiry which he set up to improve police operations and management, but why has the government failed to release in toto the full and complete report of the Police Royal Commission after a week after its submission to the Yang di Pertuan Agong and the Prime Minister?

Abdullah’s citing of increasing number of corruption-related arrests in 2004 as compared to 2003 does not impress, when Malaysia’s ranking under the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index had slipped further to No. 39 last year, without any evidence that there is the  political will to wipe out corruption particularly among the high, powerful and mighty.

I have stated publicly that although I am in the Opposition, in the national interest,  I want Abdullah to succeed in delivering his pledges as Prime Minister, and I am prepared to render him full  co-operation and support so that he  can graduate from words to deeds – but I will not hesitate to speak  up on  any shortfall or gap between his  rhetoric and reality.


*  Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman