When Najib Razak first became the prime minister, he introduced us to his transformation programs in 2010. It was the Government and the Economic Transformation Programs, easier called the GTP and the ETP if anybody cares to remember anymore. On the eve of the 2011 Malaysia Day, the prime minister announced another one and called it the Political Transformation Program, the PTP, though it really appeared as an afterthought, probably included only because the speechwriter thought it sounded grand.

On that September night, the prime minister proposed to remove all emergency declarations made during the fight against the communist insurgents, relax laws against public assemblies and repeal the much-abused Internal Security Act. There were several other promises too. Notwithstanding the ominous caveats, he fulfilled his promise. Later in July 2012 and probably encouraged by the progress he made, Najib proposed to replace the Sedition Act with something else, giving the idea that more liberalization was on the way.

Enter 2013. As the general election approached, Barisan Nasional ran on the slogan ”Janji Ditepati”, meaning promises fulfilled. It was not long before the counter-slogan ”Janji Dicapati”, a humorous wordplay meaning broken promises, made its way to popular usage.

The 2013 BN under Najib did worse than Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in 2008. Stung by the electoral results, the conservatives within his party questioned whether Najib’s liberalization was working for UMNO. Their opinion was firmly in the negative.

Najib, losing his resolve and political capital while fretful of losing power the way his predecessor did, gave way and made multiple about faces. Among those U-turns was the direction of the political transformation program. And so, instead of liberalization, there was a noticeable reversal and a steady increase in political persecution.

The promise to repeal the Sedition Act remains a promise and in fact, it is being used more religiously now it seems with the latest case involving the arrest of several journalists from The Malaysian Insider.

New harsh laws are being introduced at Parliament that made the earlier repeal of the ISA a farce. Meanwhile, government critics are sent to lock-up as the police mete out some kind of extra-judiciary punishment while at the same time, UMNO politicians get special treatment and are free from the same ill-treatment others have received. The double standard says a lot about the ongoing political persecution however much the government denies it while hiding behind race, religion and the monarchy.

Regardless whether we agree on its efficacy, all the transformation programs have one intention in mind or at least they promised to do one thing: To push Malaysia into the wondrous modern First World from the tired old middle income grouping.

Unfortunately, the political part is subverting it. The so-called Political Transformation Program is transforming Malaysia from the verge of First World to the Third World.

We have to remember that being developed — First World, high-income nation and whatever the preferred jargons are — should be more than merely about income. Development has to be holistic and includes the sociopolitical front. Else, what we have is another old forgotten: First World infrastructure, Third World mentality.

Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved
First published in The Malay Mail on April 2 2015.

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