The Rise of Najib and 1 Malaysia

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  • Topic: 2009, Malaysia, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
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Southeast Asian Affairs 2010

MALAYSIA The Rise of Najib and 1 Malaysia
James Chin
The year 2009 will be remembered for Malaysia's first political dynasty coming to fruition. Najib Tun Razak, the son of Abdul Razak who was Malaysia's second Prime Minister, became Malaysia's sixth PM. His predecessor paid the price for losing the March 2008 General Elections and was forced to resign. At the start of the year, the People's Pact (PR or Pakatan Rakyat) under Anwar Ibrahim appeared to still have the political momentum generated by the general elections. However, as the year progressed, it was cle'ar that Najib managed to get the upper hand over Anwar and the opposition.

Perak Falls and Najib Takes Over
On 3 April, Najib took over as PM from Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, whose term as PM was widely seen as a colossal failure — in the 2008 General Elections (GE) the Barisan Nasional (BN) lost its two-thirds majority. Two months earlier, Najib showed his political skills when he engineered the fall of the PR-led Perak State Govemment. Three PR state assemblymen — Democratic Action Party (DAP)'s Hee Yit Foong (Jelapang), Parti Keadilan Rayak (PKR)'s Jamaluddin Mohd Radzi (Behrang), and Mohd Osman Jailu (Changkat Jering) — defected to the BN and it was enough for the PR to lose its majority. The PR Menteri-Besar (MB or Chief Minister) Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin asked the constitutional monarch of Perak, Sultan Azlan Shah, to dissolve the State Assembly, but he refused. Under normal circumstances, the state ruler must follow the wishes of the MB, but in this case the Sultan refused and took the position that the BN had the majority now.' In an unprecedented episode, the PR Speaker of the Assembly was physically dragged out of the Assembly with the connivance of the Clerk of the Assembly, the police.

JAMES CHIN

is Head, School of Arts and Social Sciences, Monash University, Malaysian

campus.

166

James Chin

and the State Secretary.. It was clear that key institutions such as the civil service and the police were still loyal to the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and actively helped tO' undermine and remove the PR administration. A new BN state was duly installed along with a new speaker from the BN.^ Najib's ability to remove the PR government sent a clear signal to the PR alliance that unlike his predecessor he was no pushover and was willing to play hardball. This action destabilised the PR as there were rumours that Najib was close to overthrowing thé,PR-led Selangor State Government through defections as well.

1 Malaysia's Triumph lacnid Economic Decline
Najib had plenty of timecto;>plan for his ascension and he used the time well. He brought in a new team; ;of ^public relations experts to help him create a new image.' The new image was?the slogan and tagline "lMalaysia. People First, Performance Now". Althoughnit was never defined properly, it was i brilliant in that it appealed to the nonrMalay population which had abandoned the BN in the 2008 GE. lMalaysia sounded to them like political equality, inclusiveness, and an end to institutional racism since the introduction of the New Economic Policy (NEP) in 1971.'* As part of the charm offensive, Najib told UMNO's General Assembly to be "champions of the rakyat" and toned down the rhetoric of Ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy). He also announced a liberalization of NEP rules and followed it up by announcing that the long-standing 30 per cent compulsory bumiputera shareholding would be reduced to 12.5 per cent for companies listed on the stock exchange, and the abolition of the Foreign Investment Committee (FIC) which had forced foreign investors to take bumiputera shareholders. Najib also announced that, a new category of government scholarships would be given out purely on merit.^ All these announcements were very well received by the Chinese community as they were effectively shut out of the public service scholarships by official and unofficial...
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