S Thayaparan, Even Najib may not be able to save Harapan (comment, Malaysiakini)…

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Even Najib may not be able to save Harapan

S THAYAPARANPublished: Jan 25th, 2020  |  Modified: Jan 25th, 2020

COMMENT | What do I mean when I write even former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak may not be able to save Pakatan Harapan?

Well by this I mean that Harapan’s failure to carry out most of its reforms, its fractional politics played out in the press, the machinations of the old guard to retain power, its racial and religious politics which is the same as BN’s and the never-ending blame game trumps whatever value Najib has as the “destroyer” of Malaysia.

Remember the Rantau by-election? This is what Mohamad Hasan said of his comfortable win in that by-election, “There was non-stop attack against Najib as though he was the candidate.” He also said this, “In other constituencies, people can say Umno won because there are a lot of Malay votes, (but that is not the case here).”

Honestly, the way how I see some Harapan partisans suffer from the “Najib Derangement Syndrome”, part of this is ignoring the reality that the current prime minister was accused by the then opposition of the very same things Najib is accused off.

While I have no idea if corruption perception means anything, I know that for many folks who support BN – all political support is a deal with the devil, if you ask me – the perception is that Harapan is going after its political rivals and this, in turn, gets sympathy from people who for years were not exposed to the kind of educational opportunities available to the urban populace and instead fed a diet of racial and religious claptrap.

Wait a minute, what exactly is Harapan doing to remedy this?

Lim Kit Siang and a host of other political operatives reminding people of the sins of Najib is not going to cut it anymore. As I said, people know what Najib did. The question is what is Harapan doing now? 

Politics, unfortunately, will always be a “what have you done for us lately” game. The bread and circus of a former corrupt leader only takes you so far and, apparently, not far enough.

Why is Najib walking around? Because he still has the power and privilege extended to the old guard. Most of it is racial of course but you won’t see Najib walking around with a black eye or balaclava-clad state operators dragging him out of his home in the wee hours of the morning. 

I guess the old maverick is losing his touch or maybe the state security apparatus has mellowed since Anwar Ibrahim was ejected from the Umno paradise.

Najib, of course, deserves due process but this does not apply to the vast majority of Malaysians. Before the election, Harapan ginned up its base saying that the system was Najib and removing him and replacing him with something better would save Malaysia.

Whenever a Harapan supporter tells me that they can’t take any criticisms even objective ones lobbed by the current BN opposition because they did “nothing” when Najib was in power, I want to convulse – internally – with laughter because the man in charge now is the same one we chose to elect and engineered the system that Harapan shows very little interest in dismantling.

While the prime minister, the prime minister-in-waiting and numerous Harapan officials continue the strategy of attacking Najib, what they miss is that the allegations against Najib did not remove him from Umno, it did not result in a populist revolt in the Umno base, and it has not resulted in disavowal from the Umno establishment.

This misguided strategy that vilifying Najib translates to electoral gains is slowly chipping away at Harapan. Najib’s victory in Cameron Highland’s was also a victory for PAS. 

The scandal surrounding Najib has also left a stink on PAS. Najib walking around and being embraced by the rural Orang Asal community is a powerful symbol to the more conservative PAS-inclined communities. It demonstrates some form of redemption, which is a narrative that PAS has been pushing ever since it hooked up with Umno.

Is it any wonder that Najib was brought into the recent Kimanis by-election and from reports from my sources – who are Najib sceptics – he did a good job in ensuring that the foibles of Harapan trumped his corruption charges. Folks always want a redemption story more so, when the ruling establishment talks down to them.

Think about how the old maverick talks about Malays. Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s last salvo against the Malay community was a blog post decrying their culture of tak bekerja. This is the kind of post-colonial gobbledygook which was fashionable at one time and passed off as hard truths that some thought the Malay community needed to hear.

The Malay dignity forum was pathetic not because it riled up the non-Malays but because it told the Umno base and those sympathetic to the kind of “Malay” politics of fear and disenfranchisement, that the old maverick was in a weak position. 

The Malay dignity congress was a clear message to Malay uber alles crowd that Bersatu was the weak link in the coalition and what was really troubling was that the party which is the weakest link is the party that is supposed to defend their rights.

There is this dumb argument floating around that we should give Harapan more time since BN had six decades (or thereabouts) to “destroy” this country. This argument is not only ignorant, but it is also ahistorical. 

BN had functional policies at various times (just ask the current prime minister) and the opposition had a decade (or thereabouts) in control of certain states to differentiate itself from the federal government.

You know what the funny thing is, Najib is going on his redemption tour and doing a good job. What Harapan fails to understand, that winning the general election was supposed to be a kind of redemption for Harapan, especially when it had the old maverick leading the charge.

Gong Xi Fa Cai Malaysia, whoever you are.


S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy. A retired barrister-at-law, he is one of the founding members of Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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