Sunday, August 29, 2010

Could Najib Be So Bold?

I must admit, reading the recent news stories about Mahathir having his feathers ruffled by talk about the NEP may actually be a healthy sign – one that suggests perhaps Najib may well be trying to bring about some real and constructive change after all.

Having been one who has never found myself ever in agreement with anything Mahathir has espoused, I must confess that seeing him practically seething and unsettled by the mere signals emanating from Najib’s quarters regarding potential reforms to some aspects of the NEP is refreshing and a welcomed development.

To be sure, much of the news from the past several days has not played out too well for Najib’s image. In particular, the invidious hand of the mysterious censors in removing Jamaluddin Ibrahim from the air along with the persistence in the news of the political albatross that is Taib Mahmud has brought more unwelcomed publicity for Najib’s camp. Deservedly or not, a fair amount of the fallout from these events in particular have taken more wind out of Najib’s sails.
But it has to be said that the prime minster has at least seen some recent hopeful signs. Not insignificant has been his bold proclamation of ‘zero tolerance for racism’. Whilst these words may ring hollow for many a skeptics of the prime minister, surely it is worth noting that in this climate of heightened political consciousness and close scrutiny of his words and actions, Najib can ill afford to merely grandstand with slogans without some form of concrete action to go along with such words.

So at least on the surface, there is hope that perhaps he has intentions to sail in a somewhat different direction than say his predecessors have. Which of course brings us back to the continued saber rattling by Perkasa and their defacto inspiration, Mahathir Mohamad.

Everything about Mahathir’s rumbling and grumbling about the impending NEM suggests that at the very least, certain preemptive pressure is already being applied to ensure Najib doesn’t sail into some unchartered waters, at least not when it comes to the NEP. But more likely, it suggests that there is genuine cause for Mahathir and his ilk, and here I mean - in no uncertain terms - especially those hell bent on defending racist policies, that some genuine change is possibly imminent.

That perhaps Najib is indeed poised to change the direction of the sails and steer the boat into some new waters.

As I mentioned, it would be understandable if skeptics appear to take all the talk by Najib with a grain of salt – as mere political posturing. After all, we’ve yet to see substantive change delivered from all the lofty words we’ve heard.

But one thing is certain: it is always a healthy sign – at least for those looking for credible and forward-oriented change – when Mahathir seems to be genuinely unsettled and irked by something. For me, Mahathir’s (and for that matter Ibrahim Ali’s) bizarre outbursts about the government – much like these about the NEM – is akin to a lost ship seeing a bright star in the distant sky: something from which to take hope that indeed there is a chance the ship may yet get on the right course.      

But could Najib actually be so bold as to take the ship where, to date, no captain of UMNO has dared venture?

G. Krishnan

* This article first appeared in