Wrong move in the game of perception, Najib?
By Zan Azlee
In 1998, I was in my third year of university pursuing my bachelors degree. I was a normal student, more interested in girls, watching movies and listening to music than I was in national politics.
I had sent my then-girlfriend to Puduraya bus station so she could go back to her hometown in Ipoh when I encountered a deadlock traffic jam on Jalan Tun Perak towards Dataran Merdeka.
All of a sudden, I saw many masked young men running around my car and the others on the street. Some of them even started setting rubbish bins on fire in the middle of the road. I got pissed off because I was stuck.
I managed to weave my way home and later that evening did I realise that I had witnessed the start of the Reformasi street protests because the then-Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had been sacked.
Seventeen years later, I am a working journalist and have much more interest in national politics, a sense of deja vu has occurred. Of course, there has been no street protests, but a Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, has been removed from office.
As most Malaysians would know, along with the DPM, Rural and Regional Development Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal has also been dropped and the Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail has been removed from his post.
What do all these three people have in common? They have all been very vocal and critical about the 1MDB scandal that the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has been implicated with.
The reason for the reshuffle of the Cabinet by Najib (or more specifically, the dropping of Muhyiddin) is so that his “administration remains committed and focused towards nation-building as promised by the Barisan Nasional government”.
They say that politics and public administration is a game of perception. Leaders and politicians are supposed to be perceived as honest, credible and responsible. They are supposed to be perceived as sincere and transparent.
From the Cabinet reshuffle, I guess that rule of perception doesn’t apply to politics and public administration in Malaysia. Public perception is the least of the administration’s priorities. Having the strength to remain in power is number one.
Najib already took a bad step by not being clear and upfront in addressing all the allegations regarding 1MDB. And now, with the removal of all the individuals who have been critical, it just plays to a negative perception of his role in the scandal.
I wonder if this is obvious to him, or his team of advisors? Do they realise how this move makes him look in the eyes of the public? The people are not dumb and they can formulate their own deductions based on what they see.
Of course, legally and technically, the prime minister has the prerogative to determine his Cabinet, at least until the next general election. But whether his decision is in the interest of the nation or a personal agenda, we can only assume based on how we see things.