I was shocked, pleasantly though, for several reasons. The act of repealing these acts is a courageous act for any president of UMNO, the largest and the ruling dominant party. It is simple political logic that any ruling party will want to retain any laws that would give it greater power to control the people, especially those that oppose the party. Hence, for Najib to announce that these laws will be repealed makes it a radical move.
I can expect that there will be resistance from UMNO rightwingers itself and some right wing NGOs. I am sure that quite a few of former UMNO leaders may be in opposition to the move, though not directly. These are to be expected and I am sure, if Najib is serious, he expects this as well. Therefore, in this sense, he is taking a big political risk for his position and support within the party.
I have often argued for fundamental reforms (as opposed to cosmetic changes) in the democratic space and the political arena on this blog and in my talks. Removing these laws is another fundamental step forward towards restoring our country as a constitutional democracy. We should applaud and support Prime Minister Datuk Sri Najib Tun Razak in this reformist step.
If Najib is serious about the repeal of these oppressive and archaic laws, he stands as a reformist who has gone beyond partisan thinking and has the people's mental and democratic development at heart. I find it extremely tiring that politicians simply refuse to think beyond partisan lines. Najib's act here is an example for politicians to think about national interests instead of purely party interests.
Surely, the removal of these laws will liberalize further civil society and hence greater criticism of any government wrongdoing or policies will surely ensue. This is not necessary a bad thing as this is how society can mature in a democracy - healthy factual debates rather than squashing rational dissent with the law. This is a risk that Najib is willing to take politically in the interest of democratic reforms. The ability and willingness to take this political risk also shows Najib's confidence in his efforts and policies in winning over the hearts of the people. He is prepared to be judged on his merits rather than rhetoric.
For me this is not the first time that Najib has acted radically in announcing reform orientated policies. It is no secret that I am among the earliest supporter of his 1Malaysia policy. I thought that was radical and absolutely necessary for the country. 1Malaysia policy has the potential to be a long-term all-encompassing policy for the Nation which all citizens can identify with and participate. However, I also foresaw opposition and confusion within UMNO and opposition from certain NGOs and I was right. Many may not understand but his announcement of 1Malaysia was indeed a major political risk for him within UMNO and among some Malay NGOs.
However, the majority of UMNO members have accepted this policy now. Many UMNO members are reminded that though UMNO is a Malay based party, it had since since independence worked for Malaysia irrespective of religion or race. Sure, there had been deviations somewhere along the line with UMNOputras and some UMNO warlords becoming arrogant and 'lupakan diri dan Tuhan' but things are changing back to the original position. 1Malaysia in this sense is a good tool to realign and remind members that UMNO's struggle is not just for the Malays but for all Malaysians as the UMNO song itself testifies.
1Malaysia also serves to remind UMNO members that they are largely Muslims and hence racist tendencies are unIslamic. This, hopefully will weed out some UMNO leaders who are bent on pretending to be champions of the 'Malay race' simply for self glory and enrichment. I have been sick and tired for years with the approach of these primitive UMNO leaders trying to scare the Malays that they are not hard-working, not clever and that they are a social grouping that is going extinct and hence have to be protected in all spheres of their lives ! What a cruel thing to do !!!
So, 1Malaysia policy did shake UMNO out of its comfort zone and true reforms should do just that. The president of UMNO, Najib Tun Razak was brave enough to do that. Of course 1Malaysia policy can still be 'tweaked' to make it work better but all reforms come with one brave step. Najib took that step.
Due to that one step, it was well received by most Malaysians, if not all. Of course everyone, including me, wants greater translation of 1Malaysia into reality and practice. It will take time. I have always written on this blog that though 1Malaysia is Najib's 'baby', to me, it is bigger than him. It represents the hope for the future for Malaysians and people do not easily allow their hopes to be dashed. Nor do they easily forgive those who dash their hopes.
Najib is also going to do the sane thing by reviewing the annual publishing permits under the Printing Presses and ations Act (PPPA). Too much discretionary powers in hands of enforcers without check and balance by the courts is a bad thing.
I do hope that these are but steps taken to further reform Malaysia so that we can become a great Nation someday.