It is very curious, if not outright disturbing, when a disgraced politician, who treated Malaysia like a banana republic and became the first ever prime minister to become a convicted felon over literally the worst financial corruption scandal in the country’s history, is bold enough to criticise how the administration of former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin managed the economy during his brief tenure.
Let’s remember, shall we, that by the time Najib Razak was finally dislodged from office in the 14th general election, 1MDB had lost RM42 billion, some RM19 billion GST funds had gone missing and RM16 billion tax refunds also were missing. The prices of goods and services had been rising steadily even while Najib slashed subsidies and welfare budgets. The ringgit was virtually in freefall. The Barisan Nasional government Najib led cared little for the poor and primarily sought to ingratiate itself to international ratings agencies.
There was never a vision for broad-based economic or industrial reform or innovation. The list goes on. Malaysia was on the brink of bankruptcy, ordinary Malaysians were struggling to survive financially while Najib and his cronies were pilfering the nation’s coffers for personal profit. And now, this man is accusing Muhyiddin of mismanaging the economy during the Covid-19 pandemic – a crisis the likes of which the world has never seen.
Let’s compare. When Muhyiddin left office after just over a year, his government had delivered over RM300 billion to Malaysian businesses, institutions, and the rakyat in stimulus and relief packages without incurring a single ringgit in debt to foreign lenders.
He had instituted a road map to recovery that has continued to guide the nation out of the consequences of the pandemic even following his resignation. This has enabled the country to achieve one of the fastest and highest rates of adult vaccination in the world.
His economic plan for revitalising key sectors and boosting those industries hardest hit by the crisis has put Malaysia on track to not only overcome the damage, but to achieve new rates of economic growth in both the short and long term, and the ringgit has been on a stable upwards trajectory throughout 2021.
By any fair and objective analysis, Muhyiddin’s stewardship of the economy during his 17-month tenure and his handling of the Covid-19 crisis has achieved greater good for the Malaysian people than Najib accomplished over the entire course of his nine years in office. Muhyiddin’s contribution as prime minister and now as chairman of the National Recovery Council (MPN) has created benefits for the country that will likely outlast this generation.
On the other hand, the infamy of Najib’s many scandals will likely live on after him. Yet, here he is, feeling himself entitled to speak out and advise the government on how to manage the nation’s affairs – the man voted out of office and then convicted in court, literally, for his corrupt management of Malaysia.
Who has emboldened him? Sadly, it is widely understood that Najib has become the informal top economic adviser to Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob and that he continues to enjoy support from within the upper echelons of Umno.
The party, for whatever reason, has failed to recognise that Najib is a monstrous liability, not just because he has an abysmal reputation but because he embodies everything that has been despised in Malaysian politics for at least the last decade.
As long as Najib remains in the embrace of Umno, he will, of course, feel that he still has a place in the political landscape but by keeping him in its embrace, Umno will bear the stench of his wrongdoings in public mind.
Muhyiddin made his position on Najib known years ago, and he suffered within the party for that. Umno needs to recognise what they have in Muhyiddin – perhaps he is the only man who can rehabilitate the party’s reputation and salvage their image among voters.
When Muhyiddin stood down as PM, he made it clear that he would not conspire with kleptocratic groups, that he would never interfere in the running of the judiciary just to save politicians who are facing multiple corruption charges.
Muhyiddin’s record is unblemished. He singlehandedly guided Malaysia through the most challenging moment in our history and that guidance is still being utilised today through his chairmanship of the MPN. There is no one else within Umno, nor indeed, on the political horizon, better qualified or more deserving of leadership than Muhyiddin, and no one better qualified or more deserving of banishment than Najib.
Everyone seems to know this except Umno themselves, and you can easily predict that this will be reflected in the polls.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.