The presidential PM ends his term

By Gobind Rudra

Najib Razak has kept to his chosen self-image of a presidential prime minister by calling for a general election only after completing a full four years in office.

In fairness, he might even be allowed a measure of self-congratulation, for having stayed the course and completing his “term”, even if it is only in his imagination that his four years as PM can be compared to the fixed four-year term of the US president, and only in his own imagination could he be compared to Barack Obama.

With his image handlers he has worked hard at projecting himself in the Obama mould — even down to the solecisms of his swearing-in and the King’s proclamation of dissolution and his frenetic adoption of new media savviness and online cool.

His projection of himself in the image as Obama, as absurd as it may seem, could be seen as early as June 2009 when the US president made the semi-obligatory phone call, engineered by the State Department, to the newly-appointed prime minister. Najib recorded it thus in his blog:

It was our first conversation with each other as Heads of State and we exchanged congratulatory wishes on our respective appointments. » PM’s blog

The King is the supreme head of the federation

Only one head of state: the Yang di-Pertuan Agong

Well, to start with, there’s only one head of state in Malaysia, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. For Najib to usurp the King’s position is an act of lese majeste if not possibly treasonous, and I’m surprised that the Keeper of the Ruler’s Seal, the Grand Chamberlain, or other official at Istana Negara did not send an official letter of reprimand to crack the PM on his knuckles.

And again, in trying desperately to put himself at par with the president of the United States, he chose to talk about “our respective appointments”. Wrong. Barack Obama was not appointed to his job, he was elected president of the United States. Najib Razak was appointed prime minister by his head of state. As prime minister he is head of government — but not head of state, even though Najib chose to call himself that. Barack Obama, however, is both head of state as well as head of the US government.

Najib is well aware of this, having spent his entire working life in politics and government, besides being a titular Pahang chieftain. That he chose to use the words “head of state” and recorded them in his official blog is a reflection of his own needs to project himself as being one of the big boys.

Unfortunately, he effused them with the cheap reek of the social climber’s over-reaching need for recognition, to be considered among his betters. It bore the pungent ordour of the image-builder, more conscious of how he seems and less bothered about what he is.

More grotesque was Najib’s desperate striving for the image of a reformer, of a Barack Obama-like barrier-crashing leap to the top. But the contrasts could not be more obvious.

Barack Obama, the half-breed son of a Kenyan immigrant, the outsider from Hawaii and Illinois, achieved the US presidency in a culmination of decades of efforts by a coloured minority class to cut through centuries of majority-class repression and oppression.

Najib Razak, the English-educated member of the political aristocracy, the consummate insider, sauntered into his father’s constituency, and strolled into the prime minister’s office after a lifetime cruising through the corridors of Malaysian power, always an insider, always a member of the majority, always in the inner circles of the ruling class.

As grotesque as it was, Najib sought desperately to adopt the Obama image of a change agent. He tried, or seemed to try, to shatter the obstacles of social and ethnic privilege that his own majority ruling class had placed in the path of the coloured minorities of Malaysia, while also trying to placate the lumbering fat cats of his class.

His personal efforts, projecting a presidential demeanour and style, were very much at odds with the rest of his party well-ensconced in decades of privilege. His appearances of reaching out — at coffee-shops and stalls, meeting with Chinese educationists, attending minority religious festivals — were personal, thus presidential, seeking to overwhelm a party image of self-serving and self-satisfied indifference with that of a personal image of responsibility and of making an effort.

Ultimately, these efforts are likely to be seen as misplaced.

It is not Malaysian society that needs to change, it is Umno. It is not the leader of Umno who needs to seen as relevant to Malaysian society, it is Umno itself that must tear away the scab of domineering top-down father-knows-best condescension and reveal the pus in its flesh.

Najib Razak may have meant well, but personal efforts, and being personable, are not enough. He took the easy path, the presidential path, to project himself.

But he is not the president of Malaysia, merely the president of Umno. It is not Malaysia that will elect him as president, merely Umno delegates.

And in his presidential four years, he failed to cause the only meaningful type of changes that would realistically be a catalyst to institutional and systemic change.

The real test of change, the one that Najib has failed, was to change Umno itself.

For change without is nothing without change within.



5 thoughts on “The presidential PM ends his term

  1. Most Profound Insight Yet.

    But Blind as Najib is, he may yet find out What It’s All About Come Voting Day and having to face the Wrath of UMNO and the dead and living Ghost of its Past Presidents.

    However, like all the Spoiled Brats, the current North Korean President included, Najib, the self Acclaimed Aristocrat will never accept that he was on the wrong path all along. Thinking that he is better than UMNO and hence deserves the Accolade more than UMNO, not realising that it was UMNO that puts him where he is.

  2. I do not view Najib as a radicle and he has been seen to begin to understand that the people of malaysia are asking questions and he is somewhat responding. It is not him but the radicle ideology of the larger organization UMNO that is an issue. Their radicle policies have divided people and are not going to do any good to the nation of Malaysia. They as an organization have lost the trust of a large part of the population to govern and seem not shaken up. Radicle ideologies that are oppressive have to be mended to meet the changing needs of the public at large. Some parties follow a certain ideology very closely, while others may take broad inspiration from a group of related ideologies without specifically embracing any one of them. The popularity of an ideology is in part due to the influence of moral entrepreneurs, who sometimes act in their own interests and that are where UMNO probably is at.

  3. As it is Malaysia got the PM which is not worth to most of the people of Malaysia. Compare to his father during his time has done something good to malaysia. As what has been seen he has nothing to be proud of of his achivement compare to other PM before him. Malaysia has already been developed and is still developing due to its rich natural resources and assets. Whoever is the Government still Malaysia is developing as other countries is developing unless the country is in turmoil or at war which exhausted its natural resources. God bless to all Malaysian. Hoping for a better future. Thank you.

  4. You forgot to mention that he, in his sauntering to the top of the heap, also graced the launching of public toilets in Bkt Bintang.

    Perhaps that was prescient of how he would then run the country as a self-appointed head of state, and those thrones would be good substitutes for the ones in the istana.

    Well, he is still around (hopefully not for long) but I’ve always wondered where the potties went.

  5. “It is not Malaysia that will elect him as president, merely Umno delegates.”

    And that too did not happen. SInce assuming the posr of UMNO president, Najib had postponed party polls. Until now, he is the unelected president of UMNO.

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