Has Najib played all his trump cards?
Has Najib played all his trump cards?
QUESTION TIME | Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak faces a number of major problems with respect to the forthcoming general elections which have to be held by August next year at the latest, less than one year from now.
His biggest headache is how to counter negative public perception effectively through means such as announcements, deals and meetings and then choosing the best time to call the elections. As election approaches, he has played a number of trump cards, which beg the question as to whether he has any more left to play, and whether the ones he has played so far have resolutely helped his chances.
Letâs look at some of the serious pr oblems he faces, and what have been his trump cards and how they have played out. Some of the crucial problems as far as the public is concerned and the prospects for the general election include the alleged theft of billions at 1MDB, rising prices from the imposition of the goods and services tax (GST) and the declining ringgit, getting solid Malay support without alienating others, regaining Chinese support, increasing Indian support and taking care of the interests of Sabah and Sarawak.
Here is a list of some of the trump cards he played with a brief analysis of how they turned out:
1. Trump that wasnât a trump. The obvious reason for meeting US President Donald Trump was to downplay the seriousness of the alleged theft at 1MDB which the US Department of Justice (DOJ) puts at US$4.5 billion (RM19 billion), while reports quoting the Malaysian auditor-generalâs report puts the amount unaccounted for at US$7 billion (RM30 billion).
However, Najib was ridiculed widely in social media for offering to help strengthen the US economy and for not getting anything in return for the money he pledged to buy US goods and investments.
Still, perhaps a section of the general public would buy the erroneous view that the DOJ is not likely to pursue criminal proceedings involving the stolen money at 1MDB because the US president is meeting him. With all the bad press over Trump these days and Najibâs own gaffe, that trump bombed.
2. Setting up the Forex Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) after 25 years. This is to clearly tarnish the image of former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who is now in opposition and at the forefront of efforts to unseat Najib.
Also, the hope was probably to taint jailed Pakatan Harapan leader Anwar Ibrahim, Mahathirâs current ally united only by their common aim to get rid of Najib, as well with the same brush. Anwar was finance minister when the scandal was firs t revealed in 1994.
But proceedings at the RCI indicate that it wonât be possible to pin the blame on Mahathir or Anwar although it was established that the losses were huge, at RM31.5 billion. The results of the trump card are mixed at best, highlighting that losses were large under Mahathirâs leadership but still raising questions as to why the RCI was set up only now.
3. Moving closer to China through projects such as the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL). Najib has pitched this project as a major piece of cooperation between China and Malaysia in addition to others such as the Forest City project in Johor Bahru.
But it is not clear whether this is really all that beneficial given that the price for ECRL is rather high, it is being built mainly with Chinese input and it is extremely unlikely to be feasible.
Some sections of the Chinese community may be moved, but not a lot, especially since Najib was later quoted as having said that the Chinese may be the first casualty of any unrest in the country, a rather...
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