Press Statement by Charles Santiago in Klang on Wednesday, 8th April 2009:
Pakatan wins 2 bukits – A rejection of Najib’s leadership and Perak coup
The opposition's victory in two out of the three crucial by-elections is a severe blow to newly-minted Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak. Although the win does not gravely shift the balance of power, it was an unofficial referendum on Najib's popularity.
It is clear that the people have shunned Najib's leadership. The results also show that the shift in political sentiments towards the opposition at the March 8 general election is very much grounded.
There are many factors that contributed to the ruling National Front coalition government's defeat. Topping the list is Najib's alleged links to the sensational murder of Mongolian model, Altantuya Shaariibuu. While Najib has shrugged off these accusations as mere slander, there was never an independent inquiry commission to clear the premier's name.
Najib and his cronies have also been implicated in corruption scandals involving huge kickbacks amounting to billions of dollars from purchases of submarines when he was the Defense Minister.
But most importantly the victory in Bukit Gantang is a direct rejection of Najib's devious scheming tactics which resulted in the fall of a democratically-elected Pakatan Rakyat government in Perak.
The voters have not been fooled by Najib's promises to carry out wide-ranging government and social reforms. His hasty decisions to release 13 ISA detainees and list the ban on two opposition newspapers did not hold sway as the rakyat saw through Najib's political gimmicks.
Although Najib strategised and struggled to portray himself as a democratic and progressive leader, he committed a big blunder in the form of inviting former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to campaign for Barisan Nasional.
While Malaysians see Najib as an integral part of former premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's government and therefore incapable of initiating reforms, aligning himself with Mahathir further eroded his administration's capability to be democratic.
The poll results also clearly reflect that Barisan Nasional's hardline racial language has not worked. Neither has their last-minute efforts to dish out goodies and cash to the electorate.
The large swing in non-Malay votes to the opposition candidly demonstrates ruling UMNO's inability to effectively engage the coalition's component parties in consensual decision-making.
This has been made even more apparent by MCA's emergency meeting Wednesday to urge Najib to retain the second largest party's quota of cabinet representation.
Although Najib is expected to announce a sleeker, sophisticated cabinet to make good his reform promises, much more needs to be done by the premier whose credibility is sinking fast.
His reform agenda must be spelt out clearly as the people are fed-up of being hoodwinked under the administration of the present regime. Najib must also set a time frame to carry out his reform plans, which must begin with a massive clean-up within UMNO.
The opposition coalition, on the other hand, cannot rest on its laurels. Neither can we afford to be complacent after the by-election victories. The people want to see concrete changes under Pakatan Rakyat or we could also face declining support before the next general election.
* Charles Santiago, Selangor Vice Chairman & MP for Klang