In the first part, we analysed Najib’s 1Malaysia concept in practice. We now analyse the other components of Najib’s slogan ‘…People First, Performance Now…’: this component is meant to signal that Najib’s administration will prioritise the needs of the people first and enhance government delivery systems.
How has Najib put the people first?
From the perspective of democratic practices, Najib has shown utter contempt for Malaysians who voted for the opposition. He is credited with overthrowing the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) led Perak state government and has taken a strategy to encourage defections of PR legislators to gain BN’s super majority in Parliament. His administration’s treatment of PR led states and legislators as enemies of the state and not the peoples democratically elected representatives demonstrates total disrespect for democratic practices.
The state of Kelantan — almost all Malay-Muslim — has seen its share of payments for oil revenues withheld by the government for more than a decade. Najib’s administration has continued this policy depriving some of the poorest people in Malaysia of their rightful share. Najib’s decision to withhold cash payments — in spite of the Petroleum Development Agreement (PDA) which clearly stipulates the cash payments — not only makes a mockery of his claim to put people first, but further erodes the federal – state relationship and diminishes the stature of Malaysia’s state oil agency, PETRONAS, in the international community for its inability to honour a legal contract.
In another unprecedented demonstration, the Orang Asli or Asal — the real and undisputed indigenous people of Peninsular Malaysia — demonstrated at Putrajaya demanding the government review amendment to the National Land Act (NLA). The amendments to the NLA would have effectively limited the rights of Orang Asli to a nominal acreage of their ancestral land and condemned them to a life of poverty. More importantly, Najib did not see it fit to receive the memorandum from the Orang Asli personally. So much for putting people first.
In yet another unprecedented move, several prominent politicians and social activists from Sabah and Sarawak are contemplating pulling out from Malaysia citing the systematic plunder and looting of these resource rich states, leaving the natives with the highest rates of poverty in the whole of Malaysia. Interestingly, they are working closely with HINDRAF chair, P. Waytha Moorthy and held a historic joint briefing at the UK Parliament on abuses against minorities and natives in Malaysia. HINDRAF itself has now reconstituted as the Human Rights Party. Their annual reports on the conditions of Malaysians of Indian heritage also demonstrate that Najib’s ‘…People first…’ mantra remains only a mantra.
The height of Najib’s contempt or ignorance for the Rakyat is the attempt to introduce the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Despite the consensus against the GST from Malaysians, Najib insisted — mainly to fill dwindling government coffers — as Malaysia suffers from the worst fiscal deficit in 27 years. Najib eventually crumbled to popular pressure and has postponed the second and final reading of the proposed GST bill. While the flip-flop in policy was received badly in the investment circles, Najib’s inability to assess the ‘Rakyat’s’ demands indicate the ‘…People First…’ concept is but a concept.
The Government Transformation Plan (GTP) is supposed to improve government delivery with performance targets and deadlines in six National Key Result Areas (NKRAs): Reducing crime, fighting corruption, improving student outcomes, raising living standards of low-income households, improving rural basic infrastructure and improving urban public transport. Each Minister responsible for the respective NKRAS is to present the ‘report card’ of their achievements. These are long term challenges and Malaysians await the results. However, already there are concerns on how the relevant Minister’s are going to meet their targets. Some have resorted to taking unsustainable measures to meet their objectives. The biggest issue still is transparency as there is no public oversight of the GTP.
Finally, the biggest demonstration that the Rakyat does not come first, is the conceptualisation and development of the New Economic Model (NEM). The NEM is supposed to be Najib’s crowning glory. It was developed without getting inputs from Malaysians – except for the powerbrokers: the business and professional groups, ruling coalition members and the ultra Malay rights groups. The Rakyat and the opposition were totally sidelined. Najib even went to the extent of announcing the policy at an investor conference (watch here), instead of Parliament – demonstrating clearly, who was important to Najib. Najib noted that the ‘rakyat’ can now give their feedback – after his announcement of the policy on March 30, 2010. The NEM were heavy on pronouncements but light on details and not clear on how the Rakyat would benefit (read here, here and here).
Malaysians cannot clearly see how Najib puts the ‘‘…People first…’ and have trouble actually identifying how efficiency has increased in the public sector.
Read the conclusion here.