In less than a week, Abdullah has implemented two core recommendations on the judiciary and the ACA from KeADILan’s 2008 Manifesto. I quote recommendations number 6 and 7 from the section “Part I – A Constitutional State for All: Upholding Unity, Integrity & Human Rights” below -
KeADILan’s vision for a Constitutional State will:
6. Institute more checks and balances into the process of judicial appointments by establishing a Judicial Commission and subjecting the appointment of major appointments in the judiciary to parliamentary confirmation.
7. Make the Anti-Corruption Agency accountable to Parliament, and not the Prime Minister’s Office.
It doesn’t stop there. Syed Hamid Albar:
“I have told my officers that I want to have a re-look at the Printing Presses and Publications Act so that we can move with the times.
“I have asked them to look for other ways of managing the media other than issuing the annual licences,” he added, stating that he would consider an one-off printing licence for the newspapers.
“My argument is why should we let ourselves become unpopular by having such regulations when we had exercised the law sparingly over the years but I need to convince more (people).”
Granted, this is quite non-committal, but look at the very next recommendation in the same section of KeADILan’s 2008 Manifesto:
8. Encourage a free and fair media that reports without fear or favour by amending restrictive laws that regulate the press including the Printing, Presses and Publication Act.
As I’ve always said, if you really want reforms in Malaysia, vote Pakatan. Regardless of who ‘wins’ the elections, that vote will help push through changes the country very badly needs.
Well, I have no problems with BN literally taking a leaf from our book. But what does this all mean?
Let’s systematically (if certainly not exhaustively) try to posit motivations and outcomes from Abdullah’s perspective. Some of these coincide with thoughts in Oon and Kian Ming’s Malaysiakini piece.
1. The most generous interpretation is that reformasi has finally reached Abdullah, repentant as a ‘religious’ man such as himself should be.
2. He is trying to beat Anwar to the reformist image, effectively stealing the rug from under Pakatan.
3. He knows that BN will not survive without some kind of reform, and is thus forced into making some gestures.
4. He plans to use an ‘independent’ judiciary and ACA to go after his rivals. (How would a truly independent court and prosecution investigate the Altantuya murder, one must wonder).
5. This is all a ploy to lull conscientious Malaysians into a false sense of security.
1. Again, most generous = Malaysia is reformed, to great cheers.
2. Abdullah is basically lying once again, and all these promises will be as empty as his 2004 ones (remember the IPCMC?)
3. Abdullah faces revolt from within BN, who see this as the nail in their coffins.
4. In opening investigations, Abdullah has thrown the first stone in a very fragile glass house. His enemies throw back, and soon all skeletons in the cupboard are partying out in the open.
This is not an exhaustive list, just some thoughts I might even add/subtract to/from later.
Back to Oon and Kian Ming’s piece, which had some interesting points. Perhaps my favourite part:
Given this reality, it might be in Abdullah’s interest to leave a strong political legacy by exercising a ‘nuclear’ option. Imagine if he were to institute a series of far-ranging legislative reforms by co-opting the opposition MPs and using the strength of public opinion.
Why not abolish the ISA (Internal Security Act), reform the UUCA (Universities and Universiti Colleges Act), give the Election Commission actual independence, get rid of the PPPA (Printing Presses and Publications Act), and so on?
Surely there will be strong resistance from within his cabinet and Umno and probably within BN as well. But it would be hard for them to block such moves if Abdullah really goes all out for it and positions these actions as a response to the GE 2008 results.
No doubt this is political suicide for him but if his days as PM are already numbered, why not go out in a blaze of glory? In one fell swoop, he would be seen as a greater PM than even Mahathir and he would have the satisfaction of denying his nemesis Anwar Ibrahim the chance to be the man turn Malaysia into a true democracy.
Interesting proposal, to be sure. I share their cynicism of course, in feeling that Abdullah’s not the kinda guy to go for this sorta thing. And of course, I think the threat of him burning himself ala Possible Outcome No. 4 is very real.
A so-called ‘nuclear’ option, and Motivation and Outcome 1, may or may not evaporate some of Pakatan’s momentum and capital. I suppose it would not harm the country however, and questions of racist ideology aside, may be a more concrete step towards a two-party system (although the crucial question remains: divided along what lines?)
(Warning, spoilers ahead)
In The Godfather, Michael Corleone – a former goody two shoes who somewhat by default has inherited the reins of a major crime family – appears to be leading the family business to demise by a series of weak decisions and gestures to go ‘legitimate.’
In the story’s climax, as his many enemies think he is about to be assassinated in peace negotiations they have arranged, Michael arranges to have all the heads of the other crime families brutally killed simultaneously.
Under the guise of weakness and lack of resolve, the opposition is completely wiped out in one swift sweep.
ISA crackdown anyone? Yeah, Abdullah may not have the balls for that sort of thing and perhaps this is giving too much credit, but remember, Michael represents the younger, second generation in this tale.