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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

> Locking out Najib!

Several Umno members are expected to set in motion today moves to obtain a court injunction to block this months’s Umno general assembly.

Their ultimate aim: to block the ruling party endorsing Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak as the Umno president and pave the way for Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to stay on as prime minister.

This gambit will only add more confusion and uncertainty to an already fractured political landscape and crank up speculation over the country’s leadership transition plan. Abdullah has had to reiterate on several occasions that he will hand over power to Najib at the end of the month.

But faced with the prospect of a tougher and more ruthless Najib administration, there appears to be a surge in nostalgia among some Umno members, and even the opposition, for Abdullah to stay on.

They argue that, despite his indecisiveness and weak leadership, Abdullah is a man who respects the rule of law, who believes in opening up democratic space and someone who would not allow foul methods to be used for political purposes.

But is this true? Is Abdullah’s reputation as a believer in the fair and just way deserved? The events that have unfolded in Perak suggest otherwise.

He is still the PM of Malaysia and has to be held responsible for the political crisis in Perak. If we are witnessing the breakdown of institutions as claimed by the Bar Council, then Abdullah has to be held responsible.

After all, when he became prime minister in October 2003, he promised to nurse back to health the police, the judiciary and the civil service. If our respect and confidence in the court system and the police to act fairly in resolving the Perak crisis is low, surely he has to shoulder some blame. At the very least, he is guilty of raising the expectations of Malaysians. No?

If we are witnessing the blurring of the doctrine of separation of powers and a revival of the “might is right” approach by Umno/Barisan Nasional, then Abdullah has to carry the can.

After all, in his first speech to Parliament as prime minister, Abdullah pledged to respect the separation of powers between the legislature, the executive and the judiciary, saying that this doctrine was pivotal in checking abuse of power.

The events in Perak over the past 24 hours and still unfolding today shows that he has been unable to convince Umno/BN members, the civil service and the police on the sanctity of this doctrine in a democracy.

Abdullah was puzzled why State Speaker V. Sivakumar decided to call for an emergency state assembly sitting instead of waiting for the courts to decide on the matter.

The official answer is that he, as the head of the legislature, has the power to do so. Left unsaid is the fact that Sivakumar took this course of action because he and other members of Pakatan Rakyat do not have confidence that the judiciary will give them the hearing they deserve.

All said and done, the approach employed by Umno/BN in Perak, the resulting skepticism among some Malaysians on the ability of the country’s institutions to be honest brokers shows and the ridiculous sight of a state assembly taking place under a tree all have to land on Abdullah’s lap.

Yes, he has yielded much power to Najib in the past few weeks. But he cannot and should not be allowed to take refuge behind this excuse.

If we are witnessing a return to Mahathirism, the ends-justifying-the-means style of governance, then he has to hold up his hands and take responsibility. He is still the PM and he promised to deliver a better Malaysia on October 31, 2003.

With such a patchy track record, are the Umno members who are trying to stop the Umno assembly doing Malaysia a disservice? - The Malaysian Insider.