FOR the week of 30 March to 5 April 2009, the Chinese media continued to highlight the election campaigns of the three by-elections slated for 7 April. In the same week, Malaysia also witnessed history when Datuk Seri Najib Razak was made Malaysia’s sixth prime minister.
In Oriental Daily on 2 April, writer Lin Feng examined the implications of the outcome of the by-elections in his article Three by-elections, three trials.
Lin wrote: “If Barisan Nasional wins all three or two out of the three by-elections, the results can be seen as a memorandum of public support. This would mean that the people, especially the Malay [Malaysian] community have accepted the changes proposed by BN head honcho Umno.”
“On the contrary, if the same happens to Pakatan Rakyat, we can assume that the embers of 8 March are still burning. The trend is particularly apparent in the Bukit Gantang parliamentary seat.
“The decision to field Pakatan Rakyat Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin as a candidate is evidently meant to test the support of Perakians, or at least Bukit Gantang voters, towards the Pakatan state government,” said Lin.
Nizar speaking to a small crowd on his campaign trail in Bukit Gantang
If the BN were to make a clean sweep, it may pave the way for new prime minister Najib to have an early general election, Lin said. Or, he added, this may encourage Najib to visit China, just as his late father Tun Abdul Razak Hussein did, to foster better ties in facing the global economic crisis. The visit will be seen as strategic in consolidating Chinese Malaysian support and subsequently winning back the seats and states lost in the 8 March 2008 general election.
The traditional print media and the new media expressed different reactions towards Najib as the new prime minister.
A day before he was appointed by the Agong, Sin Chew Daily in its 2 April editorial wrote about Najib’s “One Malaysia” concept.
“The concept of One Malaysia introduced by Najib stresses on equality in formulating plans and policies to take care of the people’s interest. One Malaysia shows that Najib is prepared to treat all races fairly. It will be a daunting task for Najib to realise this concept when he faces pressure from racially-inclined factions within his own party.”
Sin Chew concluded: “The idea of One Malaysia cannot be achieved solely through government efforts. Only fair policies are able to unite the people and make us feel proud as one nation. As long as the government is able to practise fairness and discard racially discriminatory policies, we believe Najib will be a prime minister who will be well respected by the people.”
Merdekareview.com was more critical in its editorial on 2 April. In the editorial titled Najib lacks legitimacy to become PM, the online news portal pointed out that Najib was the most controversial candidate to be made prime minister in Malaysia’s history.
The controversy had not much to do with his political career but with scandals including the deaths of National Service trainees, the purchasing of supplies for the Defense Ministry, and the murder of Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu.
“Although time and again, he has denied having any connections to Altantuya’s death, the fact remains that the two accused who have been charged with killing the Mongolian were his bodyguards, and the one accused of being the mastermind was his aide.
“As the saying goes, the commander-in-chief must not only be clean but must also appear to be clean. In order to cut off ties with the three accused, the one thing he needs to do, and this was recommended by Umno veteran Tengku Razaleigh (Hamzah), is to willingly testify in court. However, he has yet to do so.”
Legality vs legitimacy
Merdekareview.com noted that in becoming the leader of the government, a politician not only has to have legality but also legitimacy.
“In politics, sometimes having legitimacy is more important than legality. Legality only proves that the process of succession was made according to legal procedures. Legitimacy is the key to public acceptance.
“A legal leader who lacks legitimacy will not be able to win the respect of the people. Such a leader can only rely on abusing national machineries to oppress dissent and opposing views in order to safeguard his [or her] position.”
What to expect
On another note, therocknews.com interviewed political scholar Wong Chin Huat to seek his views on what Chinese Malaysians can expect from Najib’s leadership.
Wong said the BN itself has a set of rules on how things work, and he believed Najib would operate within these rules.
Wong Chin Huat “After becoming the premier, Najib will reach out to non-Malay [Malaysians] and urban Malay [Malaysians]. The concept of One Malaysia is an initiative to inform the targeted groups that Malaysia will return to its moderate path.
“Therefore, there is a possibility that Najib will loosen up the economic sector, and the NEP (New Economic Policy) may end in a year or two to give way to a new approach of wealth distribution to all races,” said Wong, who is also a columnist with The Nut Graph.
In order to improve the MCA’s representation in government, Wong reckoned that Najib would assign more important ministerial posts to MCA representatives, including having an MCA deputy prime minister.
“Nonetheless, Najib will definitely oppress Malay [Malaysian]-based opposition parties such as PAS and PKR (Parti Keadilan Rakyat) to polarise the cooperation between Malay and non-Malay [Malaysians],” cautioned Wong.