10 July, 2009

Najib Razak's first 100 days in office dogged by indifference !

When Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was appointed as the country's sixth premier 100 days ago, he ascended to power in the most unwelcoming circumstances.

Najib took over the reins of leadership on April 3 at a time when his ruling National Front coalition was suffering its worst-ever level of public support, as the country spiraled into a recession.

The son of Malaysia's second prime minister was also suffering badly from rumours surrounding his alleged links with a murdered Mongolian beauty, Altantuya Shaariibuu, whose body was found blown up by military-grade explosives in 2006.

Around the time of his appointment, Najib's popularity rating stood at just 41 per cent, an embarrassing figure considering his predecessor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi enjoyed a figure of 46 per cent despite being criticized as largely ineffective.

Najib's low public approval was so obvious that the premier himself, in an interview given just before his appointment, implored voters to give him a 'chance to prove' himself, adding that he was determined to bring about change within the country's economy and corruption-riddled government.

Barely a month into his new role, Najib's new government released 13 people who were held without trial under a draconian security law, and removed a 30-per-cent requirement for ethnic Malay ownership in 27 public service sectors.
Earlier this month, Najib announced even bolder economic measures, scrapping a decades-long policy requiring listed businesses to allocate at least 30 per cent of their shares to Malays.

As a result of his efforts, a recent survey conducted by the Merdeka Centre for Opinion Research, an independent pollster, found that support for the premier had risen to 65 per cent.

However, the rating was by far the lowest of the 100-day approval ratings for all of Malaysia's former prime ministers.

Former PM Mahathir Mohamad gave a thumbs down to Prime Minister Najib Razak's first 100 days in office, saying there has been "more negatives than positives" under the new administration.

"I'm sorry to say this, there are more negatives than positives," he told reporters when asked to assess Najib's first 100 days. "It doesn't mean that I don't support the government but I think the government is doing the wrong things."

He slammed Najib's move to roll back an affirmative action program for ethnic Malay Muslims, including scrapping a requirement for Malays to own 30 percent equity in some sectors in the financial services industry.

Companies seeking to list on the stock exchange also no longer need to allot 30 percent shares for Malays.

Mahathir further criticized Najib for plans to scrap the use of English to teach math and science by 2012 in favor of the national Malay language, warning it would hurt the country's competitiveness. It reversed a policy started by Mahathir in 2003 amid concerns that poor English skills were hindering students' job opportunities.

Najib says the government remains committed to raise the level of English in schools by employing more English teachers and increasing the hours of teaching.

Mahathir also objected Najib's plans to build a third bridge to neighboring Singapore and said he hasn't taken concrete steps to fight corruption.

And, just a day before Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak marks his first 100 days as premier, 40 non-governmental-organisations (NGOs) have come out with 10 "new" key performance indicators (KPIs) for him to achieve in his next 100 days.

In a joint statement, the group said the next 100 days after tomorrow are just as critical and that the civil society organisations want to throw the gauntlet down to Najib to extend his programme of reform to all aspects of life in the country, especially in the critical sphere of good governance.

"We laud the various measures of economic reform announced lately by the government...(but) the structural roots of economic stagnation - namely ethno-nationalism, cronyism, corruption and power abuse, are the major constraints and must be addressed if the country is to make any headway.

"If the government insists on maintaining the current authoritarian system of political control, the economic liberalisation and other reforms will be seen for what it is, a thinly-veiled attempt aimed at ensuring that the present political elite stays in power," the group said in a statement.

The 10 KPIs are:

> Call for fresh elections in Perak, which is facing a constitutional crisis;
> Form a royal commission on electoral reform before the next constituency redelineation exercise;
> Form a parliamentary select committee on judiciary and prosecution reform;
> Form a royal commission on parliamentary reform as as there is no sharing of legislative leadership at both the house and committee levels as well as provision for the role of shadow cabinet;
> Repeal the Internal Security Act, with no new laws allowing detention without trial;
> Implement the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC);
> Form a parliamentary select committee on media law reform;
> Have freedom of information laws at the federal and state levels;
> Have local government elections nationwide; and
> Amend the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act to increase the commission's autonomy under optimum parliamentary oversight.

The groups had called on Najib to meet the 10 "new" KPIs that can deepen the process of democratisation and also "KPI" Minister in the Prime Minister Department Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon as well as Malaysians to join in endorsing and monitoring the attainment of these KPIs.

"We hope that Najib will implement the proposed KPIs and in this way leave the right legacy for the country. Only through his commitment to a genuine and holistic reform programme that includes democratisation will our prime minister be able to earn the full respect and support of the people and leave his mark on Malaysian history," the statement said.

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