Ever since George Bush Senior won himself a place in the falsehood Hall of Shame back in 1988 by winning the US presidency then betraying his pre-election promise “read my lips: no new taxes,” I’ve been perusing politicians’ lips very, very closely.
And of all the politicians whose lingual labia have proven most rewarding of close and attentive reading in recent times, one of the most prominent has been Najib Razak.
In the year since Umno handed him the prime ministership, his constant mouthing of platitudinous promises and fraudulent slogans like “1Malaysia. People First. Performance Now” and “Umno Juara Rakyat” has proven a lip-readers’ dream.
So I always look forward to seeing clips and reports of his speeches, like the one he made at the recent Press Club Awards to the lickspittles of the ‘mainstream’ media to justify their professional spinning of his own and his government’s lies into some semblance of plausibility.
But his efforts at the Press Awards, as fanciful and outright fictional as they were, proved just a warm-up for his latest virtuoso performance, his address to the Invest Malaysia business summit.
As I’ve had occasion to mention before, the most delicious enjoyment for us readers of Najib’s lips lies in his utterance of so many Freudian slips, like the one that appeared in the very name of his “New Economic Model”.
Surely Najib and speech-writers and spin-doctors realise by now that, as I pointed-out back when he claimed a US delegation had deemed Malaysia a “model” nation, that the word “model” reminds a great many of us of still-unresolved questions surrounding the murder of Mongolian “model” Altantuya Shaaariibuu.
But apparently not, as this massive blooper evidently didn’t register so much as a blip on Najib’s consciousness or conscience as he slipped into a typically mealy-mouthed spiel for his latest Model.
“We can’t afford to duck the issues any longer,” he claimed, “if we are to truly tackle inequality and become a beacon of progress in the region, we must create a sense of urgency to reform.”
He then proceeded to duck everything from reality to credibility with a wish-list of ‘reforms’ composed of little but fantasy and falsehood.
His claim that he would make Malaysia a developed nation by former Prime Minister Mahathir’s famous deadline of 2020, for example, had absolutely no substance whatever, based as it was on a lame intention to “remodel (!) Malaysia’s commodity and export-dependent economy to attract high-value service and technology investments.”
How he proposed to achieve this airy-fairy ambition following a net investment outflow of US$61 billion since the March 2008 general election is anybody’s guess.
As is how he intends to realise his dream of lifting Malaysians’ average income to US$15,000 to $20,000 per capita by 2020. It is the BN government that he now heads, after all, that has overseen the shocking stagnation of Malaysians’ incomes for the past few decades.
And there was no hint in Najib’s model speech that factors designed to keep incomes depressed, like the lack of a minimum wage and the importation of millions of foreign workers prepared to work in Malaysian jobs for a comparative pittance.
These are jobs that would surely improve the lot of the lowest-income 40% of Malaysian households whose welfare Najib pretends to have at heart. As he himself conceded, 70% of this group are Malays, so the NEP doesn’t seem to have worked too well for them.
Najib blamed this failure of the NEP on “rent-seeking and market-distorting features that have blemished the effectiveness of the programme.” Which is putting the situation mildly, to say the least, given that such “features” are variously estimated to have cost the nation somewhere between RM100 billion and US$100 billion in the past thirty years.
And how does he propose to “revamp” this appalling situation? Simple: “An Equal Opportunities Commission will be established to ensure fairness and address undue discrimination when occasional abuses by dominant groups are encountered.”
You might have noticed, as I did, those two weasel words in there, and be wondering, as I am, how much discrimination this commission will consider “undue”, and how abuses by dominant groups, namely Umno/BN and their cronies, could possibly be characterised as “occasional”.
Which brings us to the most breathtaking statement in Najib’s address: “Zero tolerance for corruption.” What can I or anyone else possibly think of by way of response to such an obscene and outrageous fiction? Umno/BN, from its party-politicking to every aspect of its running of the country is, as clearly as the nose on Najib’s face, corrupt to the absolute core.
Zero tolerance of corruption would mean zero tolerance of the Umno/BN regime from top to bottom, and Najib knows it even better than we do. So clearly all he’s saying is that he has zero respect for Malaysians’ intelligence and awareness.
A fact further demonstrated by his other attempts at selling reforms that he clearly has no intention of so much as attempting, let alone enacting, like “reduce wastage and avoid cost overrun by better controlling expenditure, establish (an) open, efficient and transparent government procurement process, and adopt international best practices on fiscal transparency.”
What a pathetic load of rubbish for a prime minster to let fall from his lips into the ears of his people, let alone into the auditory organs of an audience of national and international business leaders and existing and potential investors.
But no worries, apparently. Just a day or two after this model performance on the fiscal and financial scene, Najib was out there flying in the face of his own Electoral Commission’s ban on campaigning in the Hulu Selangor by-election before April 17.
He was also flying in the face of the lying “zero tolerance of corruption” clause in his New Economic Model too, of course, as he slipped into town bearing ‘gifts’ of hampers for the voters, ‘pocket money’ for the children and a RM32 million housing scheme for Felda settlers. And he hinted that there might be more goodies to come.
“If BN wins with the support of the people,” Malaysiakini quoted him as saying, “it will give the government added impetus to bring about bigger changes.”
Making the highly-debatable point that the federal government had “never failed to safeguard the welfare of the people, especially those in Felda settlements,” he said that no matter who the candidate was, the people should be focused on the BN symbol.
That so many bumiputras – especially rural bumiputras – can stand being treated like dirt this way, as a bunch of bumis to be patronised by the very putras who have grown so rich and powerful at their expense, is a complete mystery to me.
But these people are the very salt of the earth, and I hope they soon wise-up to the fact that they, even more than many other Malaysians, deserve good, honest, equitable, efficient and above all BN-free government, not more Najib Razak-style lip-service.