Sunday, March 29, 2009

DEWAN DISPATCHES: Anwar and Kit wield the Wall Street Journal Asia as their hatchet job on Najib

DEWAN DISPATCHES: Anwar and Kit wield the Wall Street Journal Asia as their hatchet job on Najib

by: Azmi Anshar
DEWAN RAKYAT March 11, 2009

IT WOULD TAKE some doing and able convincing too to prod the RM60 billion stimulus package tabled by the Deputy Prime Minister to move to a more secure position - in the hands of people, as many of them and as fast as possible, capable of disbursing, allocating and, most crucially, spending the money in a manner that vigorously stirs and percolates the Malaysian economy in getting its groove back to a humming higher percentage that the dismal figure quoted at 4.15pm yesterday.
But as the colossal figure sinks into the sceptical opportunism of naysayers and by Jove there are innumerable, Malaysia’s economic revival, maintenance and continuous health is set to define his administration once he officially takes over as Prime Minister next month, at least until the next general election slated for 2013 at the latest.

While Najib’s super-challenging position will focus intently on the economy, just as Barack Obama is doing over the other side of the globe for the American economy, the long knives are already out of their cleavers and already slashing away at the numbers, distribution and prospects, especially from antagonistic competitors who fear that he may just pull it off. And how does one engage in this endgame probability? If you’re Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim (PKR-Permatang Pauh) and former Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang (DAP-Ipoh Timor), you expend the Wall Street Journal Asia to do your initial hatchet job.

Both leaders have linked to their respective blogs, Harapan Baru Untuk Malaysia and Lim Kit Siang for Malaysia, the five-paragraphed WSJ opinion piece published in the business organ’s website that bashes the stimulus package Najib presented under the condescending headline “Najib knows best” plus the sub-heading “With the announcement of a huge stimulus package, Malaysia’s next leader shows that he’s no economic reformer”. The hatchet job carried no byline of the writer.

Maybe it was a co-incidence and maybe it was concerted, but the fact that Najib’s chief adversaries chose their blogs to start the slashfest in sync on the stimulus package is just too uncanny. But it is likely that Najib and his financial wonks had anticipated the backlash. What he is also likely to work on is the winding up to the points raised in the House as backbenchers and the opposition bloc square off on the pros and cons of the package.

The WSJ moaned that the package was a “effectively a restatement of Malaysia’s old, government-knows-best policies” besides lobbing a speculative bomb that the package too was a “political risk” for Najib and his ruling coalition, alluding to a possibility that Malaysian voters may reprise the March 8 general election debacle for Barisan Nasional should the package fail.

While Kit has not sounded off yet his trademark hyperbolic rhetoric into chomping the mini-budget to shreds, Anwar has, with the glee of a menacing wolf in a chick’s coop, especially after hearing in disgust that the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission cleared the then Attorney-General and then Inspector-General of Police of being complicit in his 1998 black-eye affliction complaint. The MACC complaint was a gambit that Anwar, while he won’t concede it anytime soon, would have come out just as he expected it, only that it injected more atomic fuel into his hyperdrive political ambitions to grab Federal power.

The MACC’s decision was all the incentive Anwar needed to jump into the debate into the stimulus package with fangs sharpened and claws extended ala Wolverine of X-Men. And he lived up to this slash and burn rhetoric: swathing surgical-like strokes on the olive branch extended by Najib that rival political parties work together to rebuild the economy. And it was uncanny too that he prescribed another sharp object, a durian this time, to characterise Najib’s olive branch.

"It is not that we don't want to work together but at the same time we do not forget easily,” Anwar blasted away. “If he (Najib) is sincere, why were the views of the members of Parliament not heard? Why was there no discussion prior to the unveiling of the stimulus package? Unless he is consistent, a durian should be thrown at the person holding out the olive branch.”

That “durian throwing” characterisation didn’t go down well with Dr Puad Zarkashi (BN-Batu Pahat) who interjected pointedly Anwar’s flow of thought before he demanded suggestions on how Anwar can help revive the economy. But Anwar wasn’t unfazed by the distraction, refocusing on damning provisos in the stimulus package that appeared to put money into the hands of giant corporations instead of the working class.

But there was one stimulus package truism that Anwar granted: the RM60 billion sum itself, which he agreed was “necessary but too late in the giving. “It is a necessity but we should have done it earlier. The issue now is not a question of whether or not we need the stimulus package. It is how it is managed. Under the Barisan Nasional, I do not think the stimulus package will achieve what it was intended for," he told a news conference at the Parliament lobby.

In perspective, the aspersion of the WSJ’s piece was clear: it leapt into the “Bash Najib-at-all-cost” juggernaut long before he assumes the Premiership and has an even chance to invoke his authority to make the necessary but radical changes to rebuild confidence. They just won’t let him, it would seem. Like Anwar, Kit and Pas president Hadi Awang before it, the WSJ, whether unwittingly or not, has swallowed the vicious agenda to destabilise, demonise and criminalise the Prime Minister-in-waiting, so that as soon as he takes the PM’s oath, he is smeared, deconstructed, criminalised and indicted for alleged political and perceived crimes. That‘s how much they really fear him. That’s how much they also fear the immense possibility that he can reconcile Umno members with the party they abandoned by the stadium-loads on March 8.

In doing so by the time the Umno general assembly and elections on March 24-29 concludes, Najib would be in a more tenable position to regroup the fractious factions in Umno and reorganise them into a lean and mean fighting machine in time to launch an assault into the “two peaks and a river” by-elections.

The Opposition had dubbed these by-elections as a referendum of sorts to denounce the BN’s intrepid takeover of the Perak government. Najib will see it as an endorsement of the takeover, that the people are already bored with the Pakatan Rakyat scrappy administration. That and the stimulus package that he is fine-tuning on the go as soon as a bad word escapes from Anwar’s, or Kit’s mouths.

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