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  Media Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya on Tuesday, 8th April 2008: 

Belated Abdullah reforms – will PM go full-steam to make up for lost four years or will he be just be “reform sloganeering” in his open war with Mahathir?

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said in Kota Kinabalu yesterday that the reforms promised by Barisan Nasional in its election manifesto will be aggressively pursued.

He said it should be noted that the reforms in the judiciary and police began when he was appointed prime minister and there had been no let up since.

Abdullah said he would not run away from his responsibility of continuing with the reforms despite BN not securing a two-thirds majority in the recent general election and that the effort to fight corruption would also be continued.

He said: “I have implemented many things since I became prime minister but I recognize that people are still not happy.”

Malaysians react with mixed feelings to Abdullah’s promise that there will be no let-up on reforms.

The question Malaysians are asking is whether the Prime Minister will go full steam in reforms to make up for the lost four years or he will he be just “reform sloganeering” in his open war with his nemesis, Tun Dr. Mahathir.

From Abdullah’s statement, the Prime Minister has not fully emerged from the cocoon of denial – casting doubts that he has at last found the political will to carry out the promised reforms.

Abdullah’s claim that he had instituted reforms in the judiciary, the police and to fight corruption does not bear scrutiny.

Two days ago, in opening fire on Mahathir, Abdullah blamed his predecessor for “many things that were not right”, citing the 1987 Operasi Lalang crackdown, the erosion of confidence in the judiciary and lack of freedom in the media as examples.

Abdullah is right on all three counts – Operasi Lalang, the judiciary crisis and clampdown on media freedom.

But it is precisely because Abdullah has nothing to show on all these and other fronts as Prime Minister for more than four years that it precipitated the March 8 political tsunami which caused the end of the two-thirds parliamentary majority of the Barisan Nasional and its loss of five state governments.

Abdullah is right that the problems on the judiciary did not start during his era. Abdullah had lamented two days ago:

“Many countries do not have confidence in our judiciary. And when there are differences between our countries, they do not want to refer the matter to a Malaysian court.

“They would rather take it to a court in Singapore, Hong Kong or Australia so I thought I had to do something about it to restore confidence because the people are hoping for reforms in the judiciary.”

But what did Abdullah do in the past four years to initiate judicial reforms to restore national and international confidence in the judiciary? He did nothing. In fact, public confidence in the independence, integrity and quality of the judiciary suffered new blows during the first term of the Abdullah premiership with judicial scandals like the fast-track appointment of a long-standing UMNO activist, Tan Sri Zaki Tun Azmi to the bench - the triple jump to become Federal Court judge in September without ever being High Court or Court of Appeal judge and the quadruple jump three months later up the judicial hierarchy to become the Court of Appeal President. Will Zaki make quintuple jump to be appointed Chief Justice of Malaysia in October when Datuk Abdul Hamid Mohamad steps down from the topmost judicial post?

Seven years ago in January 2001, Tan Sri Mohamed Dzaiddin started his tenure as Chief Justice of Malaysia publicly admitting the "unpalatable fact” that “public confidence in the judiciary has eroded in the last few years" and that this negative perception had held back the country’s development as multinational corporations and foreign investors were reluctant to invest because they perceived there was no level playing field, causing them to prefer arbitration outside Malaysia in the event of dispute.

Seven years later, after being a Prime Minister for more than four years, Abdullah is making exactly the same complaint about the woes of the judiciary as that made by Tun Dzaiddin in 2001! Is Abdullah prepared to accept the responsibility not only for the failure to institute judicial reforms but also for the further slides in public confidence in the independence, integrity and quality of the judiciary in the past four years?

As for police reforms, is Abdullah now prepared to acknowledge the message of the March 8 “political tsunami” that Malaysians want an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) to create an efficient, incorruptible, professional world-class police service to reduce crime and restore to Malaysians their fundamental rights to be free from crime and the fear of crime?

On the fronts of anti-corruption and media freedom, what reforms could Abdullah boast about in the past four years?

* Lim Kit Siang, MP for Ipoh Timor & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman


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