Thursday 28 June 2012

'Najib's administration plagued by corruption'

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's administration is still seen as plagued by corruption in Umno's leadership ranks, in direct contrast with that of his father's, the late Abdul Razak Hussein in the 1970s.

Controversial author Kassim Ahmad charged that lack of strong action caused the culture of corruption among Umno leaders to flourish after its birth during the time of fourth premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

NONE"Maybe there are too many people involved. So if firm action is taken, all the leaders will go down at once. And so he (Najib) dare not do so . This is the big problem," said the former leftist leader, who was with Umno from 1986 to 1995.

While Najib's strength is in going to the ground frequently, his administration suffers from a lack of effectiveness from being "top heavy" and a product of wastage, he said in an interview with Malaysiakini at his Kulim house recently.

"The public service has 1.4 million staff, I don't think we need that many," he said, suggesting that around 25 percent of that work force should be channelled to critical areas such as agriculture.

Public service top heavy

"Government offices are bloated at the top. There is the director, the deputy director, the pengarah kanan (senior director), pengarah kiri also sometimes, it is top heavy. We can cut part of it and reduce wastage."

Asked about the attacks on the perception of Najib and his family, Kassim sees the repeated assaults by the opposition on them as unsuccessful because they are based on "defamation" by Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim.

azlan"If we look at the Altantuya issue, it is based on Anwar's own accusations. If we follow Najib himself, he already took an oath in a mosque a long time ago," he added.

According to Kassim, this is balanced by Najib's strength in introducing various transformation programmes, including the aim to turn Malaysia into a high-income nation by 2020, coordinating rural development and spearheading moderate movements.

Asked if these weaknesses could result in Umno and BN' losing Putrajaya in the coming general election, Kassim saw it as unlikely as the opposition itself is not strong.

"BN has been defeated in several states. In Kelantan it has been very long. But what does PAS have? There is no reason for Malays to be fanatics for religious scholars. Feudalism and scholars are the same," he said.

However, if the opposition still had a great leader like Ahmad Boestamam, then their goals may not be out of reach, he said.

Touching on Abdul Razak's (left) administration, Kassim cast the "father of development" as the best prime minister for his legacy of initiating many policy reforms, in addition to preventing corruption.

"The coup d'etat of (first premier) Tunku Abdul Rahman, and many policy changes," he said when asked what other services Abdul Razak had provided the country.

On Razak's cooling effect
In Kassim's political journey, the Tunku factor played a big role in prompting his return from teaching at the University of London to taking over the Parti Sosialis Rakyat Malaysia (PSRM) from freedom fighter Ahmad Boestamam.

"Anger towards Tunku made me return to PSRM, and take over from Boestamam," he said.

NONEDespite this, his anger waned when Abdul Razak openly tried to bring PSRM into the BN fold.
However, his efforts were unsuccessful when his invitation did not make it to Kassim.

"Tragically, Tun Abdul Razak passed away early in London from leukemia. When I heard the news, the tears just began flowing!" he wrote in his memoir Mencari Jalan Pulang (The Road Home).

Meanwhile, speaking about two other former prime ministers, Kassim sees Dr Mahathir's leadership as doing more good than harm, despite the heavy criticisms he has faced.

"Don't tell me we should blame Mahathir when there was only 30 percent harm compared to 70 percent good," said the man who personally handed his Umno registration form to Dr Mahathir, in the year where his controversial book Hadis: Satu Penilaian (Hadith: A Re-evaluation) was published.

He also singled out the longest-serving prime minister's strength as being "pragmatic", as he had an open mind and was open to discussion, even with his enemies.

mahathir ebook launching 091211 04"Look at his book, Doctor in the House, when they were discussing (Anwar's sacking), Anwar was sitting right beside them. That is what you call being democratic ," he said, referring to Mahathir's (right) firing of Anwar in 1998.

Whereas Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, or Pak Lah as he is known, is considered the weakest premier for his lack of character and firm ideas.

"This Pak Lah, when people take pictures of him most of them show him sleeping during meetings," he said.

However, notwithstanding the weaknesses of these Umno leaders, Kassim sees hope in newer leaders who may save the party from sinking.

Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin and Deputy Higher Education Minister Saifuddin Abdullah were two he singled out.

"But they must keep learning. They are still young. They will need at least ten years to reach that stage," he said.

This comes with the condition that all Umno members be schooled in Malay patriotism in the context of Malaysian patriotism, the nation's history and philosophy based on the al-Quran.

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