KUALA LUMPUR: Since taking office as prime minister a year ago, Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak has made various direct approaches to win back the Chinese support for the federal government.
Besides attending traditional events such as the Chinese New Year open house, his “walkabout” approach of going directly to the people has found a lot of favour.
Najib’s style is seen to be more appealing to the Chinese community, where a sizeable number had ditched the Barisan Nasional in the last general election in favour of the Opposition.
For example, Najib was the first prime minister to attend the assembly of the Federation of Chinese Associations Malaysia or popularly known as Hua Zhong, the influential and prestigious umbrella body for Chinese associations, guilds and clans in the country.
“The prime minister’s visits to Chinese independent schools, temples, Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown in Petaling Street and officiating Hua Zhong’s cultural festival have portrayed him as a leader close to the Chinese community, close to the people,” said Hua Zhong president Tan Sri Pheng Yin Huah.
Pheng said Hua Zhong, whose members include some of the biggest movers and shakers in the Chinese community, felt that Najib’s 1Malaysia concept has wide acceptance among the Chinese community and it had so far impressed the general public.
“I strongly believe that as long as it (1Malaysia concept) is fully implemented by all, it would bear ‘big fruits’ (for Malaysia),” he said.
In line with his 1Malaysia rallying cry and spirit, Najib also made another unprecedented but heart-warming gesture when he arrived at Pandamaran, a former Chinese new village, for the national Chinese New Year celebrations in February.
These actions are seen as “giving face” or according respect or consideration to the Chinese community, and they augur very well because “giving face” is regarded as a key tradition in the Chinese culture, and more particularly so during an auspicious period such as the lunar new year.
“The Chinese community has a very positive image of Najib. Two factors have contributed to this: first is that he appears to be pro-active on day-to-day issues like health and transport. The Chinese like that very much,” said political analyst Prof James Chin.
Secondly, he said, a lot of Chinese people had completely lost confidence in the Barisan Chinese-based parties but Najib has been seen as a saviour in reaching out to them.
Chin said the only long-standing issue perceived by the Chinese community that Najib needed to tackle vigorously is the New Economic Policy (NEP), which is sometimes seen as a stumbling block in terms of fairer distribution of wealth and opportunities.
But he said the initial response from the Chinese community for the New Economic Model has been very positive.
“On the surface, they are quite happy as they are eagerly waiting for more details,” he said.
As Najib marks his first anniversary as prime minister Saturday, many political analysts believe that he will continue to be in touch with the people, including the Chinese community; feeling their pulse, listening to their problems and aspirations to drive home the point that he is an inclusive leader.
Najib is seen to be genuinely working almost tirelessly to accomplish a lot of things for the rakyat. But some analysts say that Najib still has to face the reality that there has been a generational shift in the Chinese political thinking as the community is more influenced by issues rather than loyalty to any particular party.
“The Chinese nowadays no more just interested in business. They are already looking at things from a wider perspective, especially the younger and middle age generation as their prime concerns are not only jobs and income but also their children’s education and future,” said another political analyst.
This explains why some Chinese voters even voted for a party which had been promoting its aspiration of an Islamic state in the last general election as well as several by-elections after that as they had adopted a different political thinking from that of their parents, he said.
“They have more options and these make them more independent in their political choices.
“Therefore, if Barisan wants to win big, it needs to win back Chinese support. The Chinese are very, very much issues-based. If you can deliver on issues, they will give you their support. If you don’t, then they won’t to give you the vote,” said another political analyst Datuk Cheah See Kian.
Some believe that after a year under Najib’s leadership where he introduced some radical changes and transformation plans like the 1Malaysia concept, National Key Result Areas (NKRA), Government Transformation Programme (GTP) and New Economic Model (NEM), there is an urgent need for him to produce results.
“People are hungry for implementation and end results. He has to provide quick results. Therefore, in his second year in office, he has to produce results out of the various strategies he has introduced,” said another political analyst Dr Sivamurugan Pandian.
Producing end results aside, there is also other similarly important challenge that Najib has to address -- to put the house in order with regard to Barisan component parties in order to face the next general election.
“He needs the (full) team, not only from UMNO, but also all in Barisan. Najib has been seen as a popular leader as a result of his approachable outlook,” he said, adding that this had also been reaffirmed by the latest survey by the Merdeka Centre for Opinion Research.
The survey showed that “Najib is in a stronger position today than he was 12 months ago when he took office as proportion of Malaysians satisfied with his performance stands at 68%, the highest ever.” -- Bernama