Najib's conviction – another day of infamy for Malaysia - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Thursday, July 30, 2020
Malaysiakini: “If you want a government where you can sleep easy at
night, if you want a government that can ensure certainty for the
future, then support Barisan Nasional.” - Former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak to Chinese businesspeople in 2013.
"Corruption is widespread in this country and must not be tolerated, or Malaysia will not emerge as a first world country." - V Sithambaram
COMMENT | Najib Abdul Razak's conviction
is no doubt some sort of catharsis for Harapan supporters. The long and
twisty road to Najib’s conviction has been littered with the kind of
astonishing political shenanigans that characterise the “immaturity” of
the polity that some folks use as an excuse to not push forward
fundamental reforms. Keep in mind that when Najib made the
statement, which serves as the opening quote of this piece, in 2013, his
regime was voted back into power.
For instance, when DAP veteran
Lim Kit Siang said that he would even work with Najib to “save Malaysia…
if the prime minister is prepared to admit that he had led the country
on a wrong tangent and that Malaysia must be saved with far-reaching
democratic and institutional reforms”, all this seems like a bad dream
For many of us old-timers, we never thought we would see the
day when a former prime minister of this country, someone who has – let
us be honest – unfettered power, would be sentenced to jail by a court
of law for essentially stealing money from the rakyat.
just another day of infamy for Malaysia, which counts towards the
various scandals that were overlooked during the long Umno watch, such
as the imprisonment and assault of PKR president Anwar Ibrahim, the mass
graves of Wang Kelian, the enforced disappearance of Pastor Raymond Koh
and Amri Che Mat, the murder of Teoh Beng Hock and numerous other
“days” which Malaysians have grown accustomed to. Mind you, we
always knew that politicians were stealing money from the rakyat.
always knew that the institution of political power was corrupt, that
the machinery of the state was moulded to fit the state’s narrative when
it came to the judicial process. Indeed, certain politicians, who would
later become “saviours”, were assumed untouchable when it came to the
malfeasances that occurred during their reign. While I am relieved
that the court came to the decision that it did, it would be foolish
for anyone to think that Malaysia is on the road to reform, especially
when it comes to corruption.
As some have pointed out, Najib has
“two other chances” to prove his innocence, which is inaccurate because
he has two other chances to reverse his legal fortunes, but this is the
land of endless possibilities and happy endings.
July 28 is not a
“great” day for Malaysia. It should serve as a reminder that for decades
we voted in corrupt governments because we deluded ourselves into
thinking that the “power-sharing” formula in a multi-racial country was
all that we had. Indeed July 28, if Najib is allowed to carry on with
his business as usual, may prove to be an omen for the shape of things
Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (above)
is right that Umno needs to make a “political decision” since its
leaders in the upper echelon are all facing corruption charges. To not
make a political decision now would be political suicide. Najib’s
appeals buy his loyalists some time but unless Najib can reverse his
political and financial fortunes, current Prime Minister Muhyiddin
Yassin may have accelerated an end game that Malaysia has not seen in
This will be an election where the results are
unpredictable, not because Harapan is strong, but because the motley
political parties that embody Perikatan Nasional are in a life and death
struggle for their political survival.
Najib's corruption case is
just the tip of the iceberg or the pustulent head of the boil when it
comes to the political and criminal nexus in this country. I think most
Malaysians know this. They know that corruption is systemic and not
Now, thanks to Abdul Hadi Awang, it is also a religious
issue, with the PAS president tweeting “that a bad Muslim can repent,
while those who do good but have no faith, will be rejected on judgment
day”. This, of course, is why the former prime minister again took an
oath that he had done nothing wrong.
But so what if he had?
According to the likes of Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, it is better to
be led by corrupt Muslim leaders than honest non-Muslims, which is
probably why some Harapan supporters are scratching their heads,
wondering why folks still support Najib and Umno.
I too do wonder,
now that Muhyiddin has started the culling process of “corrupt” Umno
leaders, will the old maverick (Dr Mahathir Mohamad) not feel so uneasy
about the optics of embracing Umno again? After all, the old maverick
was extremely vocal that he could not work with Umno leaders who were
facing criminal charges in court.
that a big fish has been netted, what will be the political
permutations of Malay power structures? Bridget Welsh made an extremely important point
here: “The party election after GE14, which ended up with Najib-aligned
Ahmad Zahid Hamidi winning only 42.2 percent of the delegate votes (the
remainder of the votes were split among his two competitors, Khairy
Jamaluddin and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah) was one of those moments. It was
an election not as driven by money and an attempt to break out of the
Make no mistake about this. While this
verdict pushes the spotlight away from the internal squabbles of
Harapan, whenever Umno squabbles, they never squabble alone. All parties
will be dragged into this fight, and no doubt, the proxies of Malay
power brokers will go to town wanting scalps, now that the gloves have
Umno Youth information chief Shahril Hamdan’s comment
that this is a turning point for Umno, coupled with Khariy’s rejoinder
for Umno to rejuvenate itself, is rational political rhetoric. It will
not gain any traction with the grassroots and the potentates within
This is a life and death struggle, not only for political
life but also for personal freedom. Harapan should not breathe a sigh of
relief. It should be preparing for the most vicious election that will
determine if Malaysia continues down its dark path.