A final bit of business for the PM

by St Low


OCT 8 - Several months ago, when it became obvious that Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's drive to push through the Judicial Appointments Commission was flagging, a government official cautioned him that his window of salvaging his legacy was closing.

The Prime Minister assured the officer than once the party elections were over, he would be less distracted by the party's dogma, and would press ahead and carry out all the reforms which he promised Malaysians.

The officer remarked that if the PM did not keep his word, he would be remembered for all the wrong reasons. Those words sounded prophetic today when Abdullah addressed the press and confirmed that he would not defend his position as the party president.

"I know I have not been doing well. It is time for someone else to take over, '' he said, adding that between now and March, he would devote himself to ensuring that legislation covering the Anti-Corruption Commission; the Judicial Appointments Commission and the Special Complaints Commission on the police force is tabled before Parliament.

He did not see it ending this way. When the government official spoke to him several months ago, the plan was for him to win the president's position unopposed, then stay on until 2010 and complete the reforms.

He figured that once he was elected as president, he could disregard opposition from Umno ministers and party warlords to judicial reforms.

In short, he would not be burdened by the party, and could do what was right for the country.

Ironically, he finds himself in that position today. Instead of a two-year countdown, he only has five months left in the job. But he does not have to worry about what his party thinks anymore.

Government officials told the Malaysian Insider today that legislation on the Anti-Corruption Commission should be tabled in the next sitting of Parliament, once the Budget debate is completed.

The Special Complaints Commission Bill is in the final stages of preparation and should be tabled by the year end. His biggest challenge will come in pushing through the Judicial Appointments Commission.

Umno ministers and MPs objected to the first draft of the commission on two grounds: 1) they believed that the commission would usurp the executive powers of the PM in appointments to the Bench. 2) they disagreed with the proposed composition of the commission, wanting to exclude representatives from the Bar Council.

Officials in the PM's Office are confident that the language of the legislation can make it clear that the commission's role is advisory.

"The composition of the commission is not an insurmountable problem. With some give and take, this should not be a problem, '' said an official, who has worked on the legislation.

Still, the nagging question being asked in Kuala Lumpur today is this: If Abdullah could not push through the reforms when he had all the powers, how is he going to do so now that the countdown to retirement has started?

One of his aides said: "The PM knows that this is not going to be easy but he is determined to see through these reforms which he started. If his party or the Opposition obstructs him and blocks the legislation, they will have to answer to the Malaysian public, not the PM.''

- The Malaysian Insider

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