Prime minister needs to steer clear of Najib, say analysts
PRIME Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob is trying to quell resistance from different factions to shore up support, political observers said as rumours that former prime minister Najib Razak has become his economic adviser gain momentum.
Analysts said Ismail was working towards securing widespread backing from all quarters at least until the next general election.
However, they said that it would not be a good idea for him to offer tainted Najib a position.
Ismail, the Umno vice-president, recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Pakatan Harapan and also named Bersatu president and former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin as the chairman of the country’s national recovery council.
“Ismail got PH to sign the MOU, he chose Muhyiddin to chair the council, now he wants Najib as his economic adviser.
“Clearly, he wants everyone with influence to support him,” Singapore Institute of International Affairs senior fellow Oh Ei Sun said.
“Yet how will he handle them? Muhyiddin and Najib are not on good terms but (if Najib is appointed) they will have to work hand in hand to resolve the country’s economic issues.
“Will they be able to co-operate, especially after Muhyiddin’s previous remarks about not giving in to the kleptocrats in Umno?
“On the other hand, can PH work with Muhyiddin? Ismail will have to look at this as a possibility,” he added.
Last week, Ismail and PH signed an MOU for political stability and transformation.
As part of the MOU, Ismail offered the opposition seven parliamentary and governance reforms, which included limiting the tenure of the prime minister to 10 years and tabling an anti-party-hopping bill.
He also offered to give ministerial status to the opposition leader, as well as equal representation between opposition MPs and government backbenchers in parliamentary special select committees.
A week before the historic document was signed, the government announced Muhyiddin’s appointment of as the chairman of the national recovery council, complete with ministerial status.
Meanwhile, Ilham Centre executive director Hisomuddin Bakar said Ismail was also trying to realise his Keluarga Malaysia (Malaysian family) concept by appointing Najib.
“He has got PAS, MCA, MIC, Bersatu and PH, and now wants to appoint Najib to make his Keluarga Malaysia concept a reality.
“On another note, this means that he will not be facing real threats from any of these groups.
“It is a brave move to get Najib on board because surely there will be objections from the masses, given Najib’s image.
“He needs to justify the appointment but he wants Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s faction to tone down (the rhetoric) a little bit,” Hisomuddin said.
Najib’s appointment as Ismail’s economic adviser is still a rumour, with no comment yet from Ismail or Najib.
The Straits Times, quoting sources, reported that Ismail offered Najib a role advising the government on the economy.
Najib met Ismail on September 7 and it was reported that Najib was offered an advisory role with ministerial status.
Poor image for government
Mazlan Ali of Univerisiti Teknologi Malaysia said, despite Najib’s good track record of managing the country’s economy when he was the prime minister, his graft charges in court would not sit well with the public.
“He has the capability to advise on economic matters, he has done it before, but his graft charges will taint the integrity of Ismail’s government,” he said.
“There are many candidates out there that can advise Ismail. Dr Mahathir Mohamad is one of them,” he added.
Sociologist Prof Dr Sharifah Munirah Alatas did not mince her words on this matter, calling Ismail’s move a farce.
The daughter of renowned academic Syed Hussein Alatas said Najib should not be given any post due to his multiple corruption charges.
“Corrupt and unethical people should never lead our country, or any country. It is farcical to appoint convicted criminals to key government positions, as advisers with or without ministerial status.
“It is bad for the country. In Najib’s case, he put Malaysia on the international stage, for the wrong reasons. The world knows a lot more about kleptocracy because of Malaysia. So, how will this bode for Malaysia’s long-term recovery, economically or otherwise?
“As usual, this is another case of short-term memory, political expediency and a complete disregard for the long-term ramifications. We are a society that has no vision, despite the rhetoric,” the academic at the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia said.
On July 28, 2020, Najib was convicted of abuse of power, money laundering and criminal breach of trust, and sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined RM210 million.
The sentences are suspended pending appeal.
He is still facing multiple corruption cases relating to missing funds from 1Malaysia Development Bhd.
THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT