Parliament Must Replace Najib with Tengku Razaleigh
M. Bakri Musa
Malaysia cannot afford Najib Razak’s continued inept leadership. As UMNO has failed to terminate his leadership, and the next election is too far away, it is now up to Parliament to do the necessary. Najib, who is also Finance Minister, will table his budget on October 25, an opportune time for Parliament to pass a no-confidence vote on the budget – and hence his leadership – thus forcing the son of Tun Razak (TR-1) to resign. MPs have a far greater duty beyond loyalty to their leader, and that is loyalty to their country.
With the Will and Guidance of Allah, SWT, Najib can spare himself this unprecedented disgrace and simultaneously relieve his fellow parliamentarians of this distasteful chore by ceding the Prime Ministership to Tengku Razeleigh (TR-2). By gracefully withdrawing now, Najib could return later to lead his party for the 14th national election, and would be a better leader for this voluntary hiatus.
Should Najib contemplate being stubborn, he should remind himself of similar parliamentary practices resulting in the ejection of his contemporaries. In August, British MPs denied Prime Minister Cameron his motion to intervene in Syria. This defying the leader is also not alien to UMNO. TR-1 did it to Tunku Abdul Rahman, albeit in a soft, subtle way. The wise and sensitive Tunku readily saw the signals.
A parliamentary no-confidence vote would not affect Najib’s UMNO presidency. The constitution does not mandate the leader of a ruling party should also be prime minister. That is only tradition, tenable only as long as he has Parliament’s confidence.
As UMNO has the largest parliamentary representation, it is appropriate that one of its members should be the Prime Minister. There is no better choice than TR-2. He is a glittering gem to the sparkle of pebbles that is the current UMNO leadership. He also has the exquisite synthesis of talent and experience.
Rest assured that TR-2 would not be preoccupied with reelections and the consequent pandering to various constituencies, Najib’s destructive obsession. He would focus exclusively on running the country. With no children, TR-2 would have no grandiose pretensions of starting a political dynasty, yet another preoccupation of current leaders.
Malaysians can be assured that TR-2, like TR-1, would pick only the competent and untainted to be his ministers and advisors. They would reflect the man; his team would be the antithesis of Najib’s. TR-2 has no need for courtiers or cheerleaders.
Unlike Najib, TR-2’s executive and leadership abilities have been tested inside and outside of government. Malaysians can be assured that there would be no freelancers or lone rangers in TR-2’s team spouting out offensive racial taunts. Najib on the other hand could not restrain the extremist ulamas on his payroll who think that the marriage of a Muslim to a non-Muslim is invalid.
Najib is not up to par even when compared to his lackluster predecessor, Abdullah Badawi. With Abdullah, Malaysians within and beyond his party clearly expressed their disapproval; some politely, others less so. The man recognized this and wisely withdrew.
Dissatisfaction with Najib is palpable even or especially within his party. However, he is a stubborn mule, and with as much insight. He must be told in no uncertain terms by Parliament that his leadership is wanting. As a dumb mule responds only to a big stick, anything less would not do it.
Relieved from running the country, Najib could focus on ridding UMNO of its fortune seekers. They mock the party’s aspiration of Agama, Bangsa, Negara (Faith, Race, and Country). There is nothing Islamic or Malay about corruption, cheating and the plundering of our nation’s wealth. There is no reflected glory for Malays to see UMNO leaders grow glutton on hogging the public trough. Malaysia would be far better without these scoundrels.
Leadership Crisis Akin to Post-May 1969
Parliament has the right – indeed obligation – to terminate Najib’s tenure. Malaysia today has a critical leadership crisis comparable to the post-1969 period. That too was triggered by an electoral setback suffered by the ruling coalition. We are fortunate so far to be spared the associated tragedies and destruction, despite the incendiary taunting by many.
We cannot allow this dangerous situation to fester lest a mere spark would trigger an explosion. Already our current racial poison will take generations to detoxify, assuming it stops right now. Najib however, shows no inclination or competence to do so. Inter-racial as well as intra-racial – specifically intra-Malay – relationships are deteriorating rapidly.
As with a fish, this rot begins at the head. The solution must therefore begin with getting rid of Najib.
As with post-1969, citizens today yearn for a more representative or “unity” government to de-escalate the dangerously heightened social and racial polarizations. The unprecedented failure of the ruling coalition to gain the majority popular votes adds to this demand. Granted, in our “first past the post” system, the number of seats won would not necessarily correlate with the popular votes, nonetheless the stunning size of the discrepancy triggered the angst.
Such a wide discrepancy could still be accepted if the institutions and personnel conducting the elections were truly non-partisan and have unchallenged integrity. The Malaysian Election Commission is far from either.
That 1969 tragedy led to the resignation of Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman. His successor, TR-1, set up a unity government through enlarging the old Alliance coalition to the current expanded Barisan Nasional. Such strategy would not be the best route today. The objective of a representative and reconciliative government would best be served by having the new Prime Minister invite a few talented opposition members into his administration. Consider that US President Obama, who secured a far stronger mandate than Najib, has an opposition Republican Chuck Hagel as his Defense Secretary.
TR-2 is TR-1’s protégé. No one else, least of all Najib, could claim that. The late TR-1 was a sharp spotter of talent. He put TR-2 to set up and lead Pernas when he (TR-2) was only 32 years old, and four years later, Petronas. At Petronas, TR-2 took on the powerful global oil companies and pioneered unique and highly profitable production-sharing contracts with the oil majors that later became the model for other state oil companies. Malaysia continues to reap the bounty from that brilliant and courageous initiative.
Unique among UMNO leaders, TR-2 has cordial relationships with the opposition; he has the credibility to execute a “unity government”. TR-2 could spot talented MPs from the opposition to be in his cabinet in the manner of TR-1.
Those ministers from the opposition would serve as individuals and not as representatives of their parties. They would continue to serve until such time they could no longer support the government’s policy pertaining to their respective portfolios. The opposition is blessed with many bright members. It would be a great shame not to tap their talent.
Such an initiative would break the current incestuous coupling of party positions with governmental appointments, and go a long way towards “cleansing” UMNO of its “fortune seekers.”
Decoupling would also relieve ministers of their party’s chores. The duties of a minister are onerous enough. American cabinet secretaries for example, are freed of these extraneous burdens. Consider this UMNO election season. For months now, those UMNO ministers and government appointees have effectively abandoned their official duties; they are busy campaigning.
UMNO is the single greatest contributor to public corruption because of the close nexus between party and government. Decoupling would sever this sinister link.
Those party positions now held by ministers would become vacant, allowing greater upward mobility for the members. At another level, those senior party leaders would provide a much-needed system of checks and balances on their party’s governmental appointees. Currently there are no such checks and balances.
TR-1’s unity government was instrumental in quickly restoring normalcy post-1969. Today we need Parliament to strip TR-1’s son, Najib, of his leadership to pave way for TR-2 to lead a new, invigorated unity government. We may contemplate the irony, but the action is an absolute necessity.
Najib Razak could spare his fellow parliamentarians this distasteful chore by resigning and paving the way for TR-2. Such an action would portray Najib as someone thinking of the country ahead of himself, the very definition of a patriot. It would also be a great tribute to the memory of his father, Tun Razak.