With Pakatan rejection, Najib has to turn to market reforms
By Wong Choon Mei
Scandal-hit and underperforming Prime Minister Najib Razak has tried to shrug off a rejection from the Pakatan Rakyat to unity talks, a decision that also scuppers his proposal to form a Malay power-pact with PAS.
According to him the idea had initiated from PAS, so his Umno party was merely reacting to it.
The 55-year old however omitted to mention that it was him who revived interest in the matter by inviting the Islamist party to talks and likening it to a courtship.
The proposed marriage, which if consummated, would have sidelined non-Malay BN components like MCA, MIC and Gerakan, although they have been to docile to protest.
Nevertheless, Najib told reporters after receiving news of the rejection that the Umno-BN would do fine on its own, denying reports that his grip on power was weakening, hence the push for unity talks.
The Pakatan coalition of PAS, PKR and DAP had earlier in the day voted against forming a unity government with Najib. Instead, they pledged loyalty towards each other, reiterating their resolve to form the next federal government together.
Said Najib: “We are consistent in our stand. Anything for the good of the country must be worked on together, even if the proposal comes from an opposition party.”
A return to the left with more market liberalisation
The PM also tried to reassure that he had the economy under control by promising further market liberalisation measures.
After the Pakatan rejection, followed by a similar one from PAS later in the night, Najib may have no choice but to return to a left and more liberal stance after failing to knock together a Malay power pact.
This would actually augur well for the country as financial experts have long pointed out that Malaysia needs long-term structural reforms and not political short-cuts that only masked the underlying problems dragging down the real economy rather than solving them.
Although Najib did not furnish details, there is speculation that it involves dismantling protective barriers to foreign ownership in assets currently regulated by the Foreign Investment Committee, which includes equity and property.
“I will be making a number of other significant announcements with respect to our liberalisation agenda in the coming weeks,” Najib said.
“Our objective is clear: to ensure that Malaysians – our people and our companies – benefit from the competitive dynamics that are shaping the global marketplace for ideas, talents and funds, so that Malaysian companies and Malaysians can emerge stronger, become more globalised and ultimately thrive in this new world order.”
The announcement is expected to come on June 30, ahead of the completion of his third month in office, for which he is expected to get a bad report card from all round.
Did not ‘kow-tow’ to Kuan Yew
Najib also denied accusations, which came from even his own mentor ex-PM Mahathir Mohamad, that he had ‘kow-towed’ to Singapore’s Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew when the latter arrived for an eight-day official visit earlier this month.
“His visit was a fact finding tour of the situation in Malaysia, so we allowed it. We don’t think we have, in other words, given him more than he deserves,” Najib said.
He defended Kuan Yew, who has attracted negative reaction for trying to endorse the Umno-BN at the expense of the Pakatan with wide-ranging comments including scathing remarks on the Pakatan-led Penang government.
“I don’t think he wants to interfere. I think he knows that any suggestions that he tries to interfere would be counter productive,” said Najib.
Kuan Yew also stirred up a storm, particularly amongst the Malays, by saying in no uncertain terms that Singapore would only go ahead with a third bridge project mooted by Najib, if a 12-year ban on sand sales was lifted.
Horrified at the prospect that Najib might agree in order to get his first mega-project off the ground, Malay leaders even from within his own Umno party, came out strongly to condemn Kuan Yew’s suggestion.
The Sultan of Johor has already declared that he is against the project, which will link a point in Johor Bahru, probably nearby Pasir Gudang to the eastern part of Singapore near to Changi.