Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi is moving at the speed of light to save himself by introducing radical reforms never seen before under the UMNO led coalition.With radical changes he hopes to endear the people and the oppositions to him.This sudden change of heart although may be seen as flippant by some people could actually restore Abdullah's lost credibility.
Within a span of one week he has announced three glistering changes.
At the end of last week he feted former Lord President Tun Salleh Abas and the other sacked judges at a dinner hosted by the Bar Council where he, short of an apology, announced ex-gratia payment to Tun Salleh Abas and all the judges who had been wrongfully dismissed by the previous administration. He also promised the setting up of a judicial appointment commission but with him still having the last say if he finds the recommedation unacceptable. He was given a standing ovation for the speech he delivered that evening.
Another small surprise announced through his Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar was the granting of permit for PKR's own party's paper.Although not a permit for main stream and full-fledged newspaper it is a good start towards more freedom of expression.Whether his government would give a permit for a full-pledged newspaper to the oppositions is any body's guess. The oppositions should give it a try and see whether his giving more freedom of expression is sincere and extend to a full-blown media for the oppositions.
The most welcome announcement this week is the proposal, which he has accepted in principle, to make the ACA fully independent and report directly to Parliament.It also proposed remodelling of the ACA in ways similar to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) in Hong Kong, which is seen as the best in this region.
A Select Committee should be formed in Parliament to oversee and monitor the functions of the ACA. It should also be the watchdog to ensure it is administered judiciously and with the highest integrity. There had been cases of corruption in the ACA before and a vicious watchdog committee is imperative to keep the place squeaky clean. Members of the committee should come from both the ruling party and the oppositions.
Giving away the Anti-Corruption Agency to Parliament is a big sacrifice for the prime minister.Former prime ministers have used this agency to keep party members in line or those who opposed them.As there are not many clean politicians in this country the ACA is a good weapon for the prime minister to keep.As an independent body it can also investigate the prime minister. Well done Pak Lah !
Abdullah is fighting back to show his detractors that he is now beyond the diffidence that they have made of him. He has now re-emerged to show those in his party who had been calling for his exit that he would not be belittled and will not take their ignominious and insolent remarks anymore.If more reforms amiable to the people are coming their way Abdullah may be able to save himself from going into oblivion and carry on as prime minister and business as usual.
The diehards in UMNO will continue to cry foul of Abdullah's reformation and would do every thing possible to hinder or sabotage policies that are likely to curtail their tight grip on power and their access to the gravy train.Those who had burned the bridges are most ardent and will continue with their war cry for him to step down. Hot and hard to handle former Prime Minister Tun Mahathir, a perennial pain in the neck, will intensify his campaign to demolish him. Najib, the prime minister in waiting, may have to wait a little longer if Abdullah succeded in re-establishing himself.
It will be a long and winding road with dangers lurking every where before Abdullah can hope to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Abdullah biggest problem is still dissatisfaction among BN parliamentarians who can, to show their displeasure, cross over to the oppositions and which can either weaken or bring total collapse of his government.
Although his frog-legged protagonist Jefferey Kitingan denied it is going to be a fishing trip, Anwar Ibrahim is going to Sabah and Sarawak next week hoping to cast his net and catch a few frogs.
The next few months would be crucial for Abdullah to find a formula or the help of a bomoh to keep him in office.