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“I am no sleeping PM” – Abdullah must “walk the talk” and  deliver his 2004 election pledge to fight corruption, launch new public service delivery system and enhance international competitiveness

Media Statement          
by Lim Kit Siang  

(Parliament, Saturday): “I am no sleeping PM” -  this is the newspaper headline of Nanyang Siang Pau reporting on the speech by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, when opening the  Perak Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s trade exposition in conjunction with its centennial anniversary in Ipoh yesterday. This is also the headline used by China Press. 

I am glad that Abdullah has brought this issue out into the open from the closet as neither the Prime Minister’s public image nor the national interest is being served or furthered by pretending that such increasing talk does not exist. 

In fact, Abdullah should seriously find out why more and more people, including in government, the ruling coalition and the public, are talking in this vein about “a sleeping PM” when it was never said against the four previous Prime Ministers, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak, Tun Hussein Onn and Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in the first 46 years of Malaysian nationhood. 

One could disagree with the first four Prime Ministers, whether on government policies, measures or specific issues, but no one would attribute it to lack of focus, attention or interest by the Prime Minister. 

Unfortunately, under Abdullah’s premiership, more and more people are putting the blame for many of the ills in government and country on “a sleeping PM”, which has not been helped by several factors, including: 

  • Abdullah’s trebling up as Minister for Internal Security and Minister for Finance when it is clear that he does not have the time nor temperament to be a full-time hands-on head for either Ministry;

  • His 83 overseas trips in 44 months as Prime Minister;

  • His “gate-keepers” at the “fourth-storey” in Putrajaya who have made the very personable Abdullah even more inaccessible to those who want to meet him when compared to his predecessor Tun Dr. Mahathir, who had the public image of being arrogant and haughty.

I have for instance stopped asking for an appointment with the Prime Minister after meeting him twice after the 2004 general election where he would invariably end each meeting with the polite standing offer to call on him whenever necessary. This was after my several requests to meet up with him were blocked by his “gatekeepers”. 

I do not think Abdullah is aware as to who are asking to see him. In fact, I do not think Abdullah even reads or is informed of the gist of official letters written to him, for instance, my letter registering “strongest protest possible” to him on Tuesday at the most unsatisfactory reply to a parliamentary question in Malaysian parliamentary history which totally evaded the specific query posed – and the reply was in the name of the Prime Minister. 

The second part of my question asking for a status report on the implementation of the Royal Police Commission’s 125 recommendations to reform the police into a world-class professional service, and in particular on the key proposal for the establishment of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) was totally ignored. 

I do not think Abdullah has seen my “strongest possible protest” letter which had also asked for the missing answer to be furnished. 

In contrast, I never had doubts that when I wrote a letter to Tun Dr. Mahathir when he was Prime Minister, it would be seen by him.  There was one occasion when I wrote to Mahathir  protesting against his  public criticism of the DAP for not speaking up against the atrocities and genocide committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, telling him why it was baseless and untrue as he was victim of the media blackout of DAP. I immediately received a terse one-paragraph apology from Mahathir! 

Although I am Parliamentary Opposition Leader, I do not want talk that the country has a “sleeping PM” to continue, as this is not good whether for the people or the country internationally.   

This is why I had proposed that Abdullah should take a leaf from the new British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and should relinquish the ministries of Internal Security and Finance and appoint Ministers who can provide full-time hands-on leadership to these two important portfolios. 

Secondly, he must re-assert authority as Prime Minister and ensure that he is in control of the “gate-keepers” in the “fourth storey of Putrajaya” and not being controlled by his gatekeepers. 

Abdullah must not just say that he is not “a sleeping PM” but  must “walk the talk” that he is no “sleeping PM”.  For a start, he must  “walk the talk” to deliver his 2004 general election reform pledge and agenda to fight corruption, launch a new efficient public service delivery system and enhance international competitiveness by giving the highest premium to the best talents in Malaysia and meritocracy, especially in education.


* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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