Editorial Notes

Time for Najib to go?: The Jakarta Post

Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak waves a Malaysian national flag during National Day celebrations in Kuala Lumpur on Aug 31, 2015.
Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak waves a Malaysian national flag during National Day celebrations in Kuala Lumpur on Aug 31, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

In its editorial on Sept 1, 2015, The Jakarta Post calls on Malaysians to prepare a new direction for their nation.

For many Indonesians, the massive Bersih street rallies in Kuala Lumpur against Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak are reminiscent of the nationwide protests to demand then president's Suharto's resignation in 1998.

And it is not impossible that Najib, like Suharto, will have to bow to the will of "People Power" given the magnitude of allegations and opposition from his own allies that he is now facing.

The corruption and abuse of power allegations against the prime minister have gained strength and he has apparently failed to convince the people of his innocence.

Like Suharto, Najib has tried to play down the impact of the public protests by saying that he will not listen to the protesters whom he has described as showing a "shallow mind and poor national spirit".

"What is 20,000?" Najib asked, ignoring even the police estimate of the size of the demonstration.

"We can gather hundreds of thousands," he said on Sunday. "The rest of the Malaysian population is with the government," he said as quoted by the local media.

There is actually no intention to compare Najib with Suharto.

But it is hard to deny some similarities between Malaysia today and what Indonesia experienced in 1998.

The prime minister has in the past used his political machine with ease to silence opposition such as that of former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim.

But now Najib faces much tougher opposition from within; from the Umno ruling coalition, his own political allies and former political mentor and prime minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Najib has been battling for political survival since leaked documents in July showed some US$700 million (S$988.4 million) had been deposited in his private accounts from entities linked to indebted state fund 1MDB.

He later said the money came from Middle Eastern donors and dismissed his dissenting deputy, four other Cabinet members and the attorney general who was investigating him.

The departure of Najib appears simply to be a matter of time and a matter of how to find a "face-saving" formula.

This is the perfect time for Malaysians to prepare a new direction for their nation. Like it or not, they have to embrace fully fledged democracy.

Malaysia can only adopt a true democracy if its constitution guarantees equal rights and responsibilities for all citizens, regardless of their ethnicity or religion.

As long as the nation resists this revolutionary mindset it will remain a segregated nation.

Najib's departure is merely one step in Malaysia's bid to achieve this far-reaching vision.

The Jakarta Post is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, a grouping of 22 newspapers.