Where is the commitment to 1Malaysia?
APRIL 17 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak has a real talent in delivering speeches, and sounds every part the statesman, especially on his travels around the world.
Closer to home, half of his countrymen are disgusted with the actions and words of some of his Umno party colleagues and Perkasa — the right-wing Malay group that is not quite Umno but whose members are mostly drawn from Malaysia’s biggest political party.
Speaking in New York yesterday, Najib said a multi-ethnic Malaysia must work towards forging a genuine national identity and that he stands ready to make difficult decisions needed by the country.
In one of his strongest speeches on his 1 Malaysia agenda, delivered at the Asia Society in New York, the prime minister acknowledged that there would be entrenched opposition but he was determined to deliver the reforms to bring the people together and place the country on the path of a high-income economy.
To his detractors, he had this to say:
“To those who harbour doubts about whether as prime minister and the government including my other colleagues have the will to bring about these difficult changes, I have this to say: When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
“I am ready to make the difficult decisions that Malaysia needs.”
Are you Mr Prime Minister?
Perhaps Najib should speak with the same kind of candour to his partymen and follow up with some action.
A good starting point would be to show that he is not cowed by Perkasa and right-wing politicians in Umno.
Most people who know Najib will defend him and point out that he is not a hypocrite, that he genuinely believes in his 1 Malaysia message.
But so far, aside from making the right noise, Najib has lacked the courage to actually even once tell off some of his Umno colleagues for putting his administration at risk of becoming an all-talk, no-action government.
Malaysians could see that Najib was willing to throw out his own 1 Malaysia philosophy to defend Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, his deputy prime minister and Umno deputy president, for saying he was Malay first before he was Malaysian first.
Muhyiddin was perhaps reaching out to the conservative front of Umno and to the rural heartland personified by jingoistic and often downright scary editorials in Utusan Malaysia.
Perhaps the party No. 2, who according to his friends is also a great believer in multi-racialism and a true moderate at heart, is reaching out directly to the members of Umno who are keeping him in power.
But to ordinary Malaysians, this is a government that has not yet paid more than lip service to 1 Malaysia.
Democracy is about more than rule by majority.
It is also about the majority ensuring there is a place in the sun for all, particularly those in the minority.
The government’s proposed inter-faith panel is a case in point.
Before it has even started, it has now been torn to shreds by the religious conservatives and the right-wing in Umno.
Malaysians are being told almost on a daily basis that the majority will not accept it.
It is unclear if that is really true — that the majority of Malaysians will not accept the inter-faith panel unless its name is changed.
But what seems clear is that no one seemed to be bothered with asking how some minorities felt about the whole thing.