Media Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya on Friday, 17th April 2009:
Mahathir playing for very high stakes – his attack on “unsavoury characters” in Najib Cabinet among at least 20 setbacks suffered by Najib in the first two weeks of premiership
Former Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has opened fire on the Najib premiership, expressing his disappointment that Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s Cabinet appointments include several “unsavoury characters”.
In his blog, Mahathir said the inclusion of these “unsavoury characters who had been accused of being corrupt while in the previous government:” had negated any desire to rid Umno of blatantly corrupt politicians.
Mahathir said the Najib administration should be aware it has less than three years to regain the support of the public and that it had missed a good opportunity for regaining public backing for BN by “excluding dubious characters.”
Mahathir’s disapproval of the Najib Cabinet has intensified in a matter of days.
Only last week, Mahathir was prepared to give grudging approval for the Najib Cabinet, describing it as “more or less graft free” and praise for Najib – that he “did very well by dropping most of the people who have been accused of corruption, although one or two slipped in”.
By yesterday however, the “one or two” has ballooned to “several unsavoury characters who had been accused of being corrupt while in the previous government” – although it is not clear whether he meant only the Abdullah premiership or included his own premiership as well!
Be that as it may, as 25 of the 29 Ministers in the Najib Cabinet had been in a previous government, which is a high percentage of over 86 per cent of such a small group of people, the integrity of every Minister is impugned and everyone of these 25 Ministers must clear their reputations, whether by challenging Mahathir to publicly name the “unsavoury characters” in the Najib Cabinet or collectively taking the former Prime Minister to court for defamation.
Mahathir attack on “unsavoury characters” and “dubious” personalities in the Najib Cabinet in the latest in a lengthening list of at least 20 setbacks suffered by Najib in the first two weeks of his premiership. I will enumerate these setbacks at a DAP dinner in Kulai tomorrow.
In just two weeks, the momentum of euphoria and “feel good” factor of a new Prime Minister has fast dissipated.
It has enabled Mahathir to adopt a “holier than thou” stance, writing in his blog: “From the complaints I hear today, corruption especially in the government party has reached record levels during the tenure of the last PM.”
This is supreme irony. When Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi succeeded Mahathir as Prime Minister in October 2003, he came in as “Mr. Clean” and was given an unprecedented mandate in the March 2004 general election to be a modern-day Justice Bao “to clean up the Augean stables”.
But Abdullah not only failed to “walk the talk” to wage an all-out war against graft, corruption became even worse to allow his predecessor to now turn the table against “Mr. Clean” and declare with a straight face that “corruption especially in the government party has reached record levels during the tenure of the last PM”.
Mahathir’s indictment cannot be denied as this is also borne out by Malaysia’s worsening ranking in the Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index with its precipitous fall from No. 37 in 2003 to No. 47 in 2008.
However, Mahathir is the last person with the moral right and integrity to pass judgment on the rampant corruption in Malaysian public life today, as it was during his 22-year premiership that the rot in Malaysian public life and national institutions set in to reach the present-day dimension and magnitude.
But Mahathir is playing very high stakes.
Mahathir is playing for very high stakes – not only in determining the men and women in the Najib Cabinet but also as the eminence grise in the Najib government for the full-throttled return of Mahathirism, including the restoration of the multi-billion ringgit “crooked scenic half-bridge” to replace Malaysia’s half of the Johore-Singapore causeway.
*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor