Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011 is confirmation that Najib's administration is headed nowhere, and evident bankruptcy of Umno-BN after 54 years of rule

Najib's Orwellian doublespeak on reforms

Orwellian doublespeak is alive and well.

Its present-day nabob is Najib Razak, Malaysia’s reform seeking but repression augmenting prime minister.

He said in mid-September he wanted that abomination - the Internal Security Act 1960 - pared down to nothing so that the country becomes the “best” democracy.

It was hard to fathom what the contours of that superlative democracy would be when some members of his praetorian guard were saying things that were at odds with the seemingly liberal spirit of the PM’s Malaysia Day serenade.

NONEThe public had fair reason to wonder over what to expect because ministers - the wacky Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz and the gauche Hishammuddin Hussein - had let on that detention without trial will ever be part of the warp and woof of Malaysia’s security laws.

Detention without trial is the resort of countries which face adversaries who wage asymmetrical warfare.

Planes commandeered by sharp object-wielding passengers who then crash them into skyscrapers, and detonating bombs in underground trains, are some of the dangers.
Malaysia does not face such existential dangers.

Just about the only threats to national tranquility emanate from slightly comic fire breathing types who threaten selected ethnic groups to stay indoors when major demonstrations are being planned, or warn of mass conversions from the country’s official religion.

Even so the police do not take these types too seriously.

Mimicking Singapore

When not focusing their energies on beating up suspects - some even unto death - or chasing and shooting to death underage drivers out on a lark, they prefer to tackle epigones of an ideology that has all but disappeared in the world after the collapse of a wall in Europe more than two decades ago - and that, too, seeing to it if the pitiable lot could be charged for rebellion against the king!

Now, the Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011 proposes that discontented types among the population apply to give the same force 30 days’ notice of intent to engage in symbolic expression of their disgruntlement in public places barring a slew of venues - notably, places of worship - where people tend to congregate.

NONEIn eerie imitation of measures used south of the Causeway to stifle dissent, this Act allows of fines for up to RM20,000 for offenders against the 30-day requirement notice to the police. Hit offenders in the pocket a la Lee Kuan Yew may be the idea here.

The PM describes the proposed legislation as “revolutionary” and a “giant leap” for the betterment of Malaysian democracy.

If Kim Jong-il of North Korea were to allow his son to succeed him and then describe his country’s succession system as the perfection of a democratic people’s choice - that would be par for the course, given hallowed practice in nations of that ilk.

But approximations of this sort of dictatorial behaviour from scions of former prime ministers of ostensibly democratic countries are quite beyond the pale.

To say one thing intently, but mean the opposite delusively - that was George Orwell’s warning in the late 1940s on where political discourse was heading in places where leaders are more interested in gaining and holding power than in the proper ordering of public affairs.

Pak Lah, too, wanted to reform

Najib’s careen into Orwellian doublespeak territory comes after two-and-a-half years of dropped hints that he intends to do things differently from predecessor Abdullah Badawi.

Well, Abdullah, too, wanted to reform - the police force, especially - when he took over from Dr Mahathir Mohamad, but then got cold feet and backed off.

But at least he did not cover his retreat in the jargon of doublespeak: he just kept quiet.

Najib, however, professes to reform, announces to fanfare areas he intends reforming and then unveils a farce and calls it “revolutionary.”

The Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011 is confirmation, if that be needed, the administration of Najib Razak is headed nowhere, perhaps the final confirmation of the evident bankruptcy of Umno-BN after 54 years of rule, its balances overdrawn and its credibility cashiered.

It only awaits the electorate’s recognition of this reality at the 13th general election.

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