Damn near fell for it, Pak Lah!

Posted on October 9, 2008

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Even as I’ve been ever so critical of Pak Lah in this blog for his failure to deliver on his pre-2004 election promises, still I’ve always felt that he made those promises sincerely.

Seemed to me that what went wrong was Pak Lah got caught between a desire to bring about those reforms, on the one hand, and the  advise of those around him that he would have to consolidate his position first if he intended to pursue those reforms, on the other.

You can’t be seriously planning a second term in office if you’re going to kick off your first by undertaking reforms that will not go down well with the UMNO warlords, antagonise business cronies and agitate extremists within and outside the party.

Can you imagine if Pak Lah was content with the one term that he had supposedly agreed to with Dr M, and was determined in that one term to carry out his reform agenda?

He could have first detained all the extremists in the party under the ISA (including Dr. M) and proceeded on his reforms without interruption from any quarter. After the judiciary was set right, the IPCMC in place, the ACA cleaned up, the Election Commission cleaned up, together with the electoral roll, he could then do the final reform by repealing the ISA and releasing all ISA detainees, including those he had incarcerated himself.

Instead, he put the reforms on hold and set about to entrench his position, both in the party and in government.

That, it seems to me, was how Pak Lah lost the plot from March 2004 when he got that resounding mandate until the trouncing in March, 2008.

So when he announced today that he would not be seeking re-election as UMNO president in March, 2009 and would hand over the reins of government to his successor after the party election but would, in the interrim, see several reforms through before the end of his term, I confess I missed a heartbeat.

Pak Lah speaking of implementing reforms on his way out? No longer looking to entrench his position?

Dare we hope?

He spoke of reforming and strengthening institutions.

For the Judicial Appointments Commission, he would table the requisite bill in Parliament before the end of his term.

Before the end of this year, he would table a bill to establish the Anti-Corruption Commission.

And then, without stating when and how, he said he intended to ‘complete the establisment of a Special Complaints Commission’ ( this proposed Commission is what’s left of the intended IPCMC ) to deal with complaints with regards the police force.

There was more.

He spoke of equitably distributing the fruits of national growth, ‘to help poor and disadvantaged Malaysians, regardless of background, race or religion’ and ‘to see the government and BN renew their commitment towards building a united and harmonious nation’.

Finally, he spoke of his intention to convene a BN convention early next year to tackle head-on, and through dialogue, the various issues that ‘have cropped up which threaten to tear the very fabric of Malaysian life’.

Damn! His new promises of reform sound so much like the Pakatan reforms, re-packaged!

I sat back, looked at all he said in this his prepared press release and found myself asking, ‘Is this man serious about doing all this? Is he looking to go out with a bang?’.

Then this one liner in that prepared text caught my eye and left me feeling wary.

Malaysiakini quotes him :

‘I ask all Malaysians to unite and join me in working towards making Malaysia a better place’.

This sounded so much like that now infamous ‘dont’ work for me; work with me’ from Pak Lah that got me all excited in his early days.

I sat back, looked hard at the prepared text again, and then it hit me.

Sad!

A lot of promises again, but unlike 2004, this time he does not mean to see a single one through.

So what’s the game?

Well, for starters, Najib had best hold off uncorking the champagne.

Nat Tan reckons that there may be a loophole in the transition plan given that, as reported by Malaysiakini, what Pak Lah said was :

“I hope it is Najib. Why do I say hope? Najib has to stand for Umno elections first. Once he wins the elections and becomes party president then we will discuss it (the transition),”

See that, Najib?

Win the presidency and then, no, the PMship is not yours, but Pak Lah will discuss it with you.

When you then take account of the following question and answer, reported in Malaysiakini, you might, as I have, begin to wonder if there is more to it than meets the eye.

Malaysiakini : If there are those who still want to nominate you (to defend the party post) despite your decision not to defend your post, would you accept it?

Pak Lah : ‘What can I do? If people want to do that I can’t stop them but I already informed them earlier on’ (about my decision).

Notice he did not say ‘No, I will decline the nomination’.

The Obnoxious 5xmom seems to share similar views.

Looks like the transition is not as yet well and truly settled, as some may think.

And if this is so, what is to be made of Pak Lah’s latest promises of reforms?

In my view, those promises, flashed in what will be percieved by many as the time-frame for the transition of power finally settled, are for one purpose and one purpose only.

To scuttle Pakatan’s move to seize power by way of the crossovers.

Those MPs involved in the crossover might begin to re-think the wisdom of making the jump.

After all, if Pakatan’s allurement is the promise of reforms, here now are the promises of reforms by a man who, ostensibly, is on his way out and hence will not be distracted by anything that might deprive him of his last chance at glory.

And this, so the thinking might be, may just be enough to thwart a no-confidence motion against Pak Lah when Parliament reconvenes next week.

After all, why embarrass Pak Lah when he’s already on his way out, and has promised to put in place those reforms before his last day?

Well to those MPs who were going to crossover but might be wavering today, chew on this.

There’s one all-important pledge given to the rakyat by Pakatan that Pak Lah has implicitly conceded he cannot match.

Freeing all ISA detainees and repealing that dreaded law.

Malaysiakini : You have just announced your reform agenda, will you consider abolishing the Internal Security Act and form the Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission before you step down?

Pak Lah : There are certain things that I can do right away and there are certain things that requires a lot of time and maybe I don’t have the time to do that.

One curiosity I noted in the institutional reforms Pak Lah spoke of today.

The ACA bill, Pak Lah says, will be tabled before the end of this year.

The bill to establish the Judicial Appointments Commission, though, will be tabled ‘before I end my term’, Pak Lah said.

Its open ended.

Ambiguous.

Why?

Why the uncertainty in the time-frame in the setting up of the JAC, delayed until the end of his term, whenever that might be?

Note what Zaid said in an interview by Malaysianinsider after he resigned.

MI : When did you first think about resigning?

Zaid : I first thought of resigning from the Cabinet after my first month in office. My idea of reform has been construed by some influential members of Cabinet and the party as undesirable and against party interests.

MI : When was the tipping point?

Zaid : When I was not able to do all these (reforms) and having heard the arguments against them, it then dawned on me that… my party was not ready.

Not ready for a process-driven system, not ready for meritocracy, not ready for greater levels of accountability and a truly independent judiciary. They would like to cling on to the leverages of power based on discretion and privileges.

On 28th June, Malaysianinsider reported that ‘Several Cabinet ministers, including those close to Abdullah, are believed to be opposed to the composition of the proposed appointments commission. In addition, the dominant Umno party feels it would dilute the Prime Minister’s discretion in appointing judges. Reports surfaced that the party also feared that non-Malays may eventually outnumber Malays on the Bench and possibly even one may be appointed as the nation’s top judge. At present, the judiciary is largely made up of Malays as their ranks are mostly drawn from government service’.

So, if the transition is not necessarily settled by the election of Najib come March, 2009 it might follow that it might not necessarily be the end for Pak Lah

And when one recalls that the top judicial position needs to be filled next week, one may begin to understand why Zaid’s proposed reforms had to be derailed.

And why Pak Lah’s new promised reforms leaves the judiciary uncertain and tentative.

No, I don’t think Sleepy Head is done yet, if you ask me.

And if my hunch is right, look out for more dirt on Najib to hit the mills real soon!

Posted in: Bye bye Pak Lah