FOR 27 April to 3 May, the Chinese media’s spotlight was on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s new reform policies, the A (H1N1) flu threat, and the Penanti by-election.
From the liberalisation of the 27 services sub-sectors and financial sectors to the cabinet’s policy on conversion disputes, Najib’s new policies have become a topic of discussion among the Chinese vernacular press.
More reform expected from Najib
On 27 April, Sin Chew Daily‘s columnist Lin Rui Yuan applauded Najib’s attempt to revive the country’s economy, but noted that more needed to be done.
“Since Najib become the prime minister on 3 April, he has announced a string of new policies … his efficiency has far surpassed (former prime minister Tun) Abdullah (Ahmad Badawi),” Lin wrote in his article Najib’s result slip.
However, Lin urged the sixth prime minister to liberalise more sectors, abolish the New Economic Policy (NEP), and amend the relevant laws and even the Federal Constitution to settle long-standing disputes, for instance in the matter of conversion.
“Najib also needs to stop the politicking within the country and focus on nation-building. The judiciary has to be independent again to reclaim the people’s confidence; allowing more press freedom is essential … Interethnic and religious relations would become the country’s time-bomb if not handled immediately,” Lin said.
Another columnist, Lin You Shun, in his piece Heading towards larger reform on 2 May in Sin Chew Daily, also welcomed Najib’s new moves. However, he called on the PM to abolish the Biro Tatanegara (BTN) to demonstrate its political will in reforming.
Lin claimed that the Chinese Malaysian community, including the Chinese ruling political party, viewed the BTN as the largest obstacle to national unity.
He said this is because the BTN has been “indoctrinating narrow-minded thoughts and twisting the nation’s history in the eyes of the younger generation” Malay Malaysians, thus paralysing the people’s ability to live together harmoniously and deal with issues with the correct attitude.
In a news analysis, The rise of Malay conservationists, Najib’s reform conviction threatened on 2 May, Oriental Daily‘s Lan Zhi Feng said Najib may find his will to ensure the cabinet policy on children’s conversion is seen through tested, what with the increasing opposition from conservative Muslim non-governmental organisations.
“The conservative rightists will not give up; [they will] continue to use various channels and ways to brew dissent. Najib’s political tactics will be tested in an effort to ease these forces. He will miss the chance to reform if he hesitates … and the electorate will be disappointed in the end,” Lan said.
A(H1N1) Flu: No threat?
The global threat of the A (H1N1) swine flu virus dominated the headlines of the media throughout the week. Most urged the Health Ministry to step up its preventive measures, and called on the public to remain calm but watchful.
On 2 May, Guang Ming Daily‘s columnist CK Tay took the Health Ministry to task in his piece, What the Singaporean Health Minister said. Tay compared Singaporean Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan’s frank response to the global threat with the Malaysian Health Ministry’s.
Tay said Khaw had openly admitted that the A (H1N1) flu is highly likely to spread to Singapore regardless of the preventive steps taken because of the large number of people travelling in and out of the country daily. However, Khaw urged Singaporeans not to panic because the key is to discover and isolate the people who are infected with the virus as soon as possible.
“Luckily Khaw isn’t Malaysia’s health minister, or else he would have been fired for being too honest, because he would be ‘creating panic’. If he were a Malaysian opposition leader, he would have been arrested under the Sedition Act,” Tay wrote.
He questioned Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai’s statement that Malaysia remained safe from swine flu, which the World Health Organisation recently warned could reach pandemic status.
Tay noted that when his colleagues visited several clinics on 1 May, he was shocked to discover that none of the doctors and nurses were on high alert or wearing surgical masks.
“I don’t mean to blame them, but as the frontline warriors fighting off the influenza, they’re not on alert at all; how can they educate the public? They’re supposed to know better. Could it be that they really believe what the health minister said, that everywhere in Malaysia, including clinics, is safe?”
Whether the Barisan Nasional would contest in the Penanti by-election remained a hotly debated issue during the past week.
Sin Chew Daily‘s columnist Zheng Ding Xian commented on 30 April that Najib should forsake the by-election and focus on his reform efforts to gain public trust instead.
“Penanti is not really a by-election, It’s just that PKR (Parti Keadilan Rakyat) and the Penang government need to change their candidate, a formality. (Mohammad) Fairus (Khairuddin) has failed, so let’s change to Dr Mansor (Othman),” Zheng wrote.
Oriental Daily‘s Lee Guo Xing said on 29 April that the BN need not contest at all.
“This is a losing battle to begin with … The BN could just wish the independent candidate good luck and let him or her fight the battle. If he or she somehow won, then the BN could ‘arrange’ for the candidate to join the BN … That would be a solid slap to the PR (Pakatan Rakyat)’s face,” quipped Lee in his article, BN’s shrewd calculations.
He noted that the PR’s previous candidate for the state seat had been appointed to the Penang deputy chief minister 1 post, but resigned under controversial circumstances. Without the BN as their usual target, even if the PR won the by-election, the coalition would lose the public’s hearts, Lee wrote.