Najib’s ‘Great Transformation’, unplugged

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GOING BACK on his word to scrap the Sedition Act, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is showing that for all his talk of transformation and moderation, he lacks the courage to stand up to his partymen and right-wing Malay groups in the country.

His promises are meaningless and his rhetoric just lip-service for the occasion. That when push comes to shove, he will just stand by and not address issues threatening Malaysia.

That far from the reformer and moderate he professes to be, the Umno president  is nothing but another politician who goes with the flow of party and nationalistic mores. Beyond ethics, beyond principles and beyond hope.

The dictates of a floundering party, which has lost it moral compass and lacks the will to reform, take priority over the needs of the nation. The prime minister is clearly pandering to the more than three million members of his party and right-wing elements rather than the needs of all Malaysians.

His carefully crafted self-styled transformer campaign, peppered with claims of opening up the democratic space in the country, has come to naught. Again.

His, and Umno's, survival, demand that he does. Wielding the Sedition Act clearly is their weapon of choice to silence dissent and the opposition.

There was universal applause and Najib was hailed as a reformer when he moved to scrap the Internal Security Act and the Restricted Residents Act, both which provided for detention without trial, much to the consternation of his party right-wingers.

But barely had the applause died, the pledge to do away with detention without trial morphed into another repressive law, the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma).

The excuse for the return of this legislation was the spike in crime. The police, apparently, totally helpless without any security or preventive laws.

In Parliament earlier this week, a proposal has been made to detain suspected terrorists without trial and there is talk of blocking YouTube and controlling comments on social media.

Speaking at the party assembly today Najib said the Sedition Act will not be scrapped but rather it will be strengthened.

"This Act will not only be maintained, but strengthened. At least two items: there will be a special clause to protect the sanctity of Islam, while other religions also cannot be insulted.

"Secondly, we will insert a clause so that action is taken against anyone who calls for the secession of Sabah and Sarawak," Najib told the rapturous Umno delegates.

The prime minister has ignored critics of the Sedition Act, who had time and again pointed out that there are sections within Penal Code to deal with sedition.

And similarly, threatening to lock away those who talk about secession by Sabah and Sarawak is not the right reason to retain the colonial-era act. This too can be dealt with existing laws.

Najib has also chosen to ignore the bigger picture – It is not the law per se that critics are angry about; but it being used to silence critics, which include students, reporters, politicians and lawyers.

But then again, why would anyone be surprised by Najib's announcement today?

The momentum had been building up for some time now, with Umno Youth, Wanita Umno and Malay rights group clamouring for the Sedition Act to be retained.

They had ratcheted up tensions with their incessant racist and religious fear mongering to ensure that Najib would bow to their demands.

And Najib did, never mind that the perceived alleged threats to race and religion were figments of the imagination. That nobody was questioning the rights of the Malays or the Constitution, as claimed.

So what about the other Malaysians who have been shouting for that particular law to be repealed? Where do they stand? Oh, but they are not Umno members. They are just among the 27 million or so voiceless Malaysians.

What about the cross-section of society who over the last few months have been huddled to come up with the National Harmony Act. That is clearly, like so many other proposals, not going to see the light of day.

It was only in April when Najib basked in the praise of United States President Barack Obama who hailed him as a reformer and transformer. But that is for the rest of the world to see, not the 30 million

For Malaysians, Najib has, once again, shown to more waffler than reformer. Just another politician who reneges on promises for political expediency and survival.

Umno's survival takes precedence over national interest and the Sedition Act will serve that purpose. Being critical of Umno, the government, their politicians and even their spouses is now tantamount to sedition, or so it would seem.

Today, all Malaysians get to see Najib's great transformation get unplugged by his own party. This is not his success to trumpet, but a failure to lament for all time. - The Malaysian Insider