KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s incoming Prime Minister Najib Razak and his new UMNO team swung into action yesterday (31 March) to repair the ruling coalition’s dented image with the minority communities.
In a significant first move since he was confirmed as UMNO president last Thursday, Datuk Seri Najib made it a point to visit the country’s largest Chinese newspaper Sin Chew Daily yesterday. The visit was at the initiative of his office.
“The Malaysian Chinese community has, is now and will forever play a vital role in the fabric of our nation. I would like to thank the Chinese community for its many contributions to our nation’s development,” he said in a statement released by his office.
His deputy, International Trade Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, meanwhile pledged to promote equality among the races, and to ensure the economic pie was shared fairly.
“We want to implement more effective social programmes. We begin by having a new leadership,” he was quoted by the New Straits Times as telling reporters in Kedah on Sunday.
The opposition is sure to dismiss the government’s charm offensive as a ploy to woo voters in the three simultaneous by-elections to be held next Tuesday.
Although the election outcome will not shift the power balance in any of the states, the polls are being painted as a referendum on the new UMNO leadership.
UMNO has become increasingly shrill in talking about Malay rights in its effort to unite the majority community, but this in turn has alienated the minorities.
Mr Najib, who uses ‘One Malaysia’ as his slogan, had earlier pledged that government help to poor Malaysians should be based on merit.
Yesterday, he said the Chinese version of his blog (www.1malaysia.com.my) will be launched soon.
Saying he had an agenda for change, he again asked Malaysians to judge him by his action, and not by rumours, preconceived ideas or stereotyping.
He pointed out that under the mini budget announced last month, RM270 million (S$113 million) had been allocated to Chinese schools under the two stimulus packages.
Mr Najib is expected to be sworn in as prime minister on Friday, and will deliver a major address on Monday. Officials say his focus will be racial unity and the economyâ€”two of the biggest issues facing Malaysia.
Mr Najib told Sin Chew Daily yesterday that he was hoping to make an official visit to China in conjunction with the 35th anniversary of his late father Tun Abdul Razak’s visit to the country. The latter, the nation’s second prime minister, visited China in 1974 to establish diplomatic ties.
Sin Chew Daily has an independent editorial stance. The Chinese papers have been fairly critical of the establishment.
Sin Chew’s executive director Rita Sim said Mr Najib was clearly making an effort to reach out. “The newspaper is the direct route to reach the Chinese community,” she said.
It was noteworthy that Mr Najib did not go through the major Barisan Nasional Chinese political parties which are also battling a crisis of confidence.
The Straits Times understands that he recently met prominent personalities from the minority communities to listen to their views. (By Carolyn Hong, The Straits Times/ANN)
Source : Straits Times