On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Weaving in the wow factor


IT’S a stunning start for Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on his first day as the country’s sixth Prime Minister.

He wasted no time after he was sworn in to create an immediate impact to reach out to Malaysians.

It was the “wow factor” that the Barisan Nasional administration had waited for a long time to bring about a more upbeat momentum.

Najib, who has been painted by his detractors as a leader who would clamp down on dissents, proved them wrong.

“Today, I ask you to join me in this task of renewing Malaysia. I urge you to rise to the challenge of building a 1Malaysia. People first, Performance now,” he said in a nationwide televised address on Friday evening.

He freed 13 Internal Security Act detainees, ordered a comprehensive review of the law that allows detention without trial and lifted the suspension of Harakah and Suara Keadilan.

Just 24 hours earlier, the media had expected only five persons to be released but newsmen were surprised when they were informed that 13 detainees would be freed.

His decision to remove the suspension of the two publications is certainly welcomed. While some may dismiss the decision as a political ploy, the earlier decision had certainly not helped the Barisan Nasional in the by-election campaign.

The Printing Presses and Publication Act is another piece of archaic law that needs to be reviewed.

A good start would be to relax the conditions to allow a one-off permit issuance instead of an annual renewal. This could be the first step towards abolishing the Act altogether as it would be obsolete eventually in the Internet age.

The two publications were banned but there was nothing to stop the two parties from publishing their news online and sending SMS news alerts to their subscribers.

It did not stop the two parties from distri­buting leaflets and booklets that do not require a printing permit either.

Running a newspaper or party newsletter is a costly affair and few want to venture into this business, preferring to reach their audience via multimedia tools.

Najib himself has realised its importance, reminding Malaysians that exclusive news would be available only on his blog, www. 1malaysia.com.my.

Now that Najib has asked for a review of the ISA, he could take another step by setting up a committee comprising eminent personalities of retired judges, lawyers, police, ex-ISA detainees, journalists, academicians and community leaders to give their recommendations.

Najib realises that there is no honeymoon period for him. Time is running against him.

He has taken over a hot seat, which none of his predecessors had to face. Perhaps not even his late father Tun Abdul Razak, who took over after the 1969 racial riots.

Najib, as we are all aware, has to grapple with the massive losses of the Barisan in the March polls, the tainted image of Umno, a stronger Opposition and, more importantly, fending off the effects of the global financial crisis. It’s all on his plate.

The stakes are high. His father founded Barisan Nasional in 1973, renewing the Alliance which suffered electoral losses in the 1969 polls.

Now, he has to ensure the survival of the Barisan and, more importantly, win back the states lost to the Opposition.

He understands the changing political landscape and the new electoral who are exposed to the new medium.

The Old School method, which some still want to advocate, is no longer feasible because the circumstances have changed. One cannot turn back the clock because of political nostalgia.

A strong leadership is what the nation wants. They expect Najib to put things in order in his own way.

Najib has brought in the “wow factor” but now he needs to sustain it and to bring badly needed reforms.