It was the same strategy that was adopted almost ten years ago in 2006. Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was said to be literally sleeping on the job. Pak Lah was also accused of not delivering his promises.
Hence Pak Lah needs to go, said the opposition, and in 2006 Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad joined this opposition chorus and started saying the same thing.
To discredit Pak Lah, they said he was not running the country himself and instead the country was being run by the ‘4K-government’: Kak Endon (Pak Lah’s wife), Khairy (his son-in-law), Kamal (his son) and Kalimullah (said to be Pak Lah’s spin-doctor).
Dr Mahathir then went all over the country to campaign against Pak Lah by discrediting the ‘4K’ team and by accusing Pak Lah of not delivering what he promised.
And this promise that Pak Lah did not deliver is the Crooked Bridge to Singapore to replace the Causeway and the double-tracking railway to Singapore.
Hence, bring down Pak Lah by accusing those around him -- his wife, his son, his son-in-law and his alleged ‘spin-doctor’.
Now it is Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s turn and the same strategy is being applied. Bring down Najib by discrediting those around him -- his wife, his stepson, and all those others.
If this strategy worked in the effort to bring down Pak Lah then you might as well use this same strategy to bring down Najib. Hence Najib’s family and friends is now the target of character assassination.
Most of the allegations against the Prime Minister are in the form of questions rather than tangible evidence of wrongdoing. They raise questions and demand that the Prime Minister replies, and until he does then he is presumed guilty.
The Prime Minister’s wife is supposed to play a role in government. And this has been the practice since the time of Dr Mahathir when the Prime Minister’s wife began to be called ‘The First Lady’.
That term was actually coined during Dr Mahathir’s tenure as Prime Minister. So this is not a trend started by the current Prime Minister but has been so since Dr Mahathir’s era.
In the US, the First Lady is given an office and her own staff, including a security team. In Malaysia, of course, the role of First Lady is more informal and not institutionalised as in the US.
The main issue here, however, is that after six years in office Najib has still not implemented Dr Mahathir’s Crooked Bridge and double-tracking railway to Singapore. And this is what irks Dr Mahathir.
So now Najib is being accused of the same wrongdoings that Pak Lah was accused of and the same smear tactics are being used against Najib as were used against Pak Lah. And Rosmah is being painted as a monster to raise anger against Najib and to justify his ouster, just like what they did to Pak Lah.
Whoever is Dr Mahathir’s choice as the successor to Najib will have to be the man who can implement the Crooked Bridge and double-tracking railway to Singapore within the first year of taking office. If not then this person would also face the risk of getting criticised just like the current Prime Minister and the one before him were.
Dr Mahathir had already made it clear in a public forum back in 2008 that the person who replaces Pak Lah would have to listen to the advice of the ‘President’s Council’ that would be formed to ‘guide’ the new Prime Minister. That means the new Prime Minister must listen to what this ‘Council’ wants. It is not clear who else other than Dr Mahathir is in this ‘Council’ as no further details have been offered.
In short, there would be a de facto Prime Minister above the Prime Minister who will dictate what should be done. And this is what Pak Lah refused to do and what Najib is not doing as well. Hence, just as Pak Lah had to go, so does Najib.
This is the real issue, which Dr Mahathir himself admits. But to deflect this issue, Rosmah is being portrayed as the real issue. This makes the move to get rid of Najib appear noble and principled. Hence where Khairy was once the issue against Pak Lah, Rosmah is now the issue against Najib. It is as simple as that.