Kit Siang: Azhar ‘dead wrong’ for describing Muhyiddin as ‘overlooked reformist’

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Bersih says democracy in this country had never been more threatened than when it was under Muhyiddin.

Muhyiddin’s failures:

  • Sheraton Move conspiracy
  • Six-month emergency
  • ‘Malay first’ instead of ‘Malaysian first’ political leader
  • Largest most bloated Cabinet
  • Failed education minister
  • Failed home minister
  • Failed in battle against corruption

DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang today took Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Azhar Azizan Harun to task for reportedly calling former prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin an “overlooked reformist”.

He said Muhyiddin had made many mistakes and does not deserve to be described as an “overlooked reformist” citing mistakes the former prime minister had allegedly made.

In a statement this morning, the Iskandar Puteri MP said that Azhar had made the remark at the launch of the book, Muhyiddin Yassin: Leading a Nation in Unprecedented Crisis by Abdul Mutalib Razak, during which Lim said Azhar described Muhyiddin as an overlooked reformist which “many choose to overlook, for whatever reason they may have.”

“Azhar is dead wrong when he said that Muhyiddin “never asked for the job” of prime minister. I should know because Muhyiddin had asked me for DAP’s support to be prime minister way back in July 2016…but I declined to do so as the DAP was committed to Anwar Ibrahim as the prime minister candidate,” Lim said.

He listed five incidents as the Pagoh MP’s failures, among which include the infamous Sheraton Move conspiracy which toppled the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government and the six-month emergency proclamation.

Lim also faulted Muhyiddin for the beginning of more than two years of Covid-19 pandemic: “Malaysia had the worst Health Minister in the world and Malaysia plunged from a country with a good record to a country with one of the worst records in the world in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.”

“His failure to Malaysianise his political thinking to graduate from a ‘Malay first’ to ‘Malaysian first’ political leader and the largest most bloated Cabinet of 32 ministers, 38 deputy ministers and four special envoys with ministerial rank.

Bernama

“But Muhyiddin’s political life which culminated in his becoming the seventh prime minister but with the shortest term of 17 months had one saving factor — his uncompromising position against the 1MDB scandal, for which he was dismissed as deputy prime minister in July 2015 and later sacked from Umno in June 2016 by (Datuk Seri) Najib Razak,” Lim said.

Lim also labelled Muhyiddin as a failed education minister when he held the portfolio, over his Education Blueprint 2013-2025 for Malaysia to be above the global average and be in the top one-third of countries in international education standards by 2025, adding that Malaysia is below the global average and not even in the top one-third of countries in the Programme for International Student Assessment and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study international assessments.

He lamented that the battle against corruption was also a flop, as when Muhyiddin was prime minister, Transparency International (TI) in its Corruption Perception Index for 2020, released in January 2021, reported a drop in score from 53 points to 51 points, which resulted in a six-point fall in ranking from 51 to 57.

“In January 2022, the TI CPI 2021 was announced under a new prime minister, Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri, and the score fell five points to 48 and the ranking fell another 11 points in ranking to 61. Malaysia is likely to fall to the lowest score and rank since 1995 when the TI CPI 2022 is announced in January 2023. Malaysia was doing quite well in the fight against Covid-19 pandemic in the first six months of the Covid-19 pandemic, but the situation deteriorated badly after that period.

“Myth makers claim that the Muhyiddin government had passed its greatest test in the Covid-19 pandemic. This is not the truth. The reverse is the case. The Covid-19 pandemic had in fact provided the Muhyiddin government an opportunity to hide its weaknesses and internal contradictions,” he added.

Lim said that it was the frontliners and Malaysians who rallied behind the government because of the enormity of the Covid-19 disaster.

Meanwhile, Klang MP Charles Santiago and the head of the Bersih electoral reform group have ridiculed the labelling of Muhyiddin as an “overlooked reformist”.

In disputing the description, they cited the “Sheraton Move” of 2020 which led to the downfall of the Pakatan Harapan government and the formation of a new government led by Muhyiddin.

Charles said that Muhyiddin was among the two “big architects” – the other being Azmin Ali – who had brought down a democratically elected government by engineering defections.

“So how can people who spat on the people’s mandate be considered a reformer?” Charles was quoted as saying, referring to the 2018 general election.

Charles also said that Muhyiddin never brought any substantial changes to the law when he was the home minister during PH’s brief reign.

This included ones on citizenship and the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma).

Charles said that “there isn’t much that he (Muhyiddin) can speak of” during his tenure as home minister, or even as prime minister for that matter.

He said Muhyiddin only proposed reforms on the eve of his removal as prime minister, when he made overtures for opposition support to keep the Perikatan Nasional-led government intact.

This included a framework for bipartisan political cooperation, including equal annual allocations for all MPs regardless of their political party.

“I’m not clear what does Azhar mean? What is he smoking,” Charles said, referring to the term “overlooked reformist” that Azhar was quoted as having used of Muhyiddin.

Malaysiakini said Azhar hailed Muhyiddin achievements such as making a political comeback, after being removed as deputy prime minister under Najib Razak, and becoming Bersatu president as part of a coalition that ended Umno’s 61-year-old reign.

Chan Tak Kong/The Star

Azhar also cited Muhyiddin’s reform agenda as home minister and his efforts to steer the nation in the opening months of the Covid-19 pandemic, Malaysiakini reported.

Bersih chairman Thomas Fann said while Muhyiddin certainly had the opportunity to be a reformist when he was part of PH he was ineffective, especially when it came to changing agencies like the police which came under the home ministry’s preview.

“Instead, he led his party out of PH and overthrew a democratically elected government” and Muhyiddin pushed for an emergency to suspend Parliament and elections in order to stay in power, Fann said.

“Democracy in this country had never been more threatened than when it was under Muhyiddin, Fann added. “I am bewildered that he could even be labelled a reformist.”