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Media Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya on Thursday, 26th March 2009: 

Abdullah’s warning against return of Mahathirism – Is Najib prepared to scotch talk of imminent arrest of Anwar under ISA as well as possibility of another Operation Lalang mass arrests?

In his farewell Umno Presidential speech today, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi confirms his image as a basically decent and humble person who unfortunately could not translate his good instincts into government policy, measures and actions resulting in his being prematurely and ignominiously forced out by his own party and becoming the shortest-serving Prime Minister of the country.

Why is this so?

The fault cannot be borne by Abdullah alone, but must be on the shoulders of the rest of Umno and Barisan Nasional leaderships, for failing to give Abdullah the necessary support, and in many cases, for actively sabotaging him in the past five years to frustrate Abdullah from walking the talk of long overdue national reforms.

As a result, Abdullah could not even salvage and accomplish the minimalist legacy of reform he had hoped to leave behind before stepping down as Prime Minister – when the last of the trio of his final reform legislative programme, the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) Bill, had to be again deferred although it was meant to be the “crown jewel” of Abdullah’s last parliamentary meeting lasting 22 days from Feb. 16 which ended yesterday.

Even the first two of the trio of his minimalist reform legislation – the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency (MACC) Act and the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) Act – have proved to be great disappointments and letdowns, but Abdullah seemed to have abandoned whatever is left of his reformist zeal in his last three months in office.

There is no more eloquent testimony that Abdullah has given up the ghost in the fight to introduce reforms when he was not prepared to put his foot down to salvage the last of his trio of reform legislative programme, especially when it is meant to honour one of his earlier and most important pledges to implement the Royal Police Commission’s key recommendation to establish the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) so that Malaysia has a world-class police service to keep crime low, eradicate corruption and protect/promote human rights.

One of the most important parts of Abdullah’s farewell speech is his views about Umno “at the crossroads”, saying:

“The path that we choose will determine whether we continue to remain relevant or whether we are reduced to a forgotten footnote in the pages of history.

“Sadly, there are still those who feel that we do not need to pursue reforms. They believe that Umno will regain its glory if we revert to the old ways — the old order, by restricting the freedom of our citizens and by silencing their criticism.

“They are of the view that Umno can continue to be in power if they safeguard the interests of certain individuals and give in to the demands of certain groups. There are those among us who gain comfort from these thoughts and are still lulled into a false sense of security.

“If we revert to the old path I believe we are choosing the wrong path; one that will take us to regression and decay. It is a path that I fear will hasten our demise. If we do not take courageous steps to reform in the face of this dynamic transformation of society and the radical global changes taking place, then we shall live to witness the end of our beloved Umno.”

This is a very subtle but unmistakable warning by Abdullah against the return of Mahathirism when Datuk Seri Najib Razak takes over as the sixth Prime Minister – although Najib has begun to talk the language of reform.

In Najib’s pre-100 days as Prime Minister, the country is already seeing increasing signs of the powers-that-be reverting to the “old ways” of restricting freedom and silencing criticism as illustrated by the sedition charge against DAP National Chairman and MP for Bukit Gelugor, Karpal Singh; police sedition investigation against Johore State Assembly Opposition Leader and Johore DAP Chairman, Dr. Boo Cheng Hau; one-year suspension of DAP MP for Puchong, Gobind Singh Deo without parliamentary pay and privileges; three-month suspension of Harakah and Suara Keadilan; prosecution of bloggers; indiscriminate and high-handed police action against Pakatan Rakyat gatherings and ceramahs; etc.

Najib should take a clear-cut stand in his acceptance speech as the new Umno president on Saturday, to set his face clearly and strongly against any return of Mahathirism in his premiership.

I will go even further and ask Najib to scotch growing talk of the imminent arrest of Parliamentary Opposition Leader and Parti Keadilan Rakyat leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim under the Internal Security Act as well as the possibility of another Operation Lalang mass arrests.

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



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