By Tunku Abdul Aziz
The last three months have seen a flurry of activity on the Perak political front.
All of this was without any doubt occasioned by Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s blatantly cynical, barefaced manipulation of human greed.
Najib is no novice when it comes to money matters. He succeeded spectacularly in seducing the three most unremarkable and positively unpleasant Pakatan Rakyat characters to declare themselves independent supporters of the Barisan Nasional.
They have, as to be expected, denied most vehemently that they had succumbed to any such unworthy and degrading temptation as money. Conventional wisdom, on the other hand, says that Malaysian politicians will only transfer their party allegiance for cash, and not principle. I leave you to draw your own conclusion in this particular case.
Najib’s single act of subterfuge has been remarkable for the damage, and repercussions, to the Malaysian body politic, quite apart from damaging further his own already seriously bruised reputation.If he thought what he had done was an example of cutting edge political sophistication, I suggest he should think again.
He has by his reckless adventure only succeeded in portraying himself as nothing more than a common garden variety, and not the statesman that we thought he would become given his father’s honoured place in our history and his family credentials.
In the event, he seems to me to be no better than Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the roughneck street fighter. What a bad start for someone who begins his premiership on a discordant note, encumbered with enormous baggage to boot: any chance of redeeming himself has gone down the Sungai Perak, baggage and all.
However, all is not lost. If he has any sense of self-worth, justice and integrity, he should take immediate steps to untangle the political mess he created. My father’s injunction to me as a very playful boy was, “Don’t start something you can’t finish.”
Refusing to recognise what the people want
It is still relevant and appropriate advice, in my view, to give particularly to Najib who desires so devoutly to be loved and embraced as a people’s prime minister. He should practise what he is preaching so fervently about the importance of “feeling the pulse” of the people.
If his close advisers are not telling him what really is going on in the towns and cities, big and small, as well as in the poor and neglected villages and hamlets up and down the country, then let me tell him some inconvenient truths about Perak that he might not particularly want to hear.
The people of Perak and, by extension, the overwhelming majority of the people of this country want to see an immediate end to the unseemly and totally disgraceful and disgusting display of political opportunism by the Umno-BN axis that has dragged the much-loved Sultan of Perak into political controversy that could have been avoided in the first place.
His Royal Highness could have been spared the indignity of being reviled and ridiculed if Najib had thought more carefully about the fallout from his politically immature act.
As a responsible “people’s prime minister”, he has a duty to the people and the Sultan of Perak to return some semblance of order to their state which has since become the butt of some very unkind jokes.
Najib does, of course, recognise that what the people want is for the state assembly to be dissolved so that fresh elections may be held. He is on record as admitting this as a way out of the current impasse, but claims that it is really up to the Sultan to decide.
We naturally respect his concern not to be seen to interfere with royal prerogatives. However, we wish he would stop playing poker and drop the hypocrisy because the reality is that he exercises considerable influence in matters of state, and he jolly well knows it.
The Perak crisis is pregnant with potential for mischief making, and you do not have to be the director of the Special Branch to know that unless something was put right quickly, the seething public anger could be exploited by enemies of the state to the detriment of our nascent democracy, peace and security.
Najib must finish the dirty job he started by going back to the people. His Royal Highness the Sultan will not stand in the way of a just and popular solution. This is the only way to stop the rot that has already paralysed the government of Perak. Another day’s delay to dissolve the state assembly is another opportunity lost to return Perak to political sanity. Najib cannot just sit tight and look the other way hoping the crisis he fomented would just blow away.
The choice for the prime minister is a simple one: either elect to conduct himself like a common, opportunistic politician and face the dire consequences of his perfidious behaviour or a statesman who is concerned more with nation building on a lasting basis than opting for short-term political gains that may well turn out to be illusory.
His 1 Malaysia, already riddled with contradictions and inconsistencies, will not amount to anything if the Perak crisis remains stuck in limbo. The ball is in his court.
[Tunku Abdul Aziz is a founding past president of Transparency International Malaysia and vice-chairman of DAP leader. The article can also be read on his blog and was first published by Malaysian Insider]