New prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak tonight freed 13 ISA detainees and lifted the suspension of two opposition papers — Harakah and Suara Keadilan.
He also told Malaysians in his maiden address that the Barisan Nasional will comprehensively review the Internal Security Act.
“These decisions are timely as we move to enhance the confidence of our citizens in those entrusted with maintaining peace, law and order, while recognizing the need to remain vigilant of the very real security threats we continue to face as a young nation,” Najib said.
Najib had come into office under intense speculation that he would be more authoritarian than his predecessor and would crack down on the democratic space in the country.
In response, the then deputy prime minister appealed at the close of the Umno general assembly last Saturday to be judged by his actions.
His first announcements as prime minister tonight have defied earlier expectations. It may even take the wind out of several opposition sails as the abolishment or comprehensive review of the ISA is one of the main thrusts of the opposition and the suspension of the two party newspapers was also one of their main grouses against the government.
Najib had promised a lot of reforms but only in the days ahead will the nation get to see the full extent of changes under the son of Malaysia’s second prime minister.
But for tonight, his speech hit the right notes, as he stressed that nobody in the country, regardless of ethnic background, should feel marginalised or left behind.
“We must draw on talented people across our nation, regardless of their position or background, to re-energize a passion for public service. We must sow the seeds of goodwill and understanding in every corner of this land, so that we continue to harvest the fruits of progress and prosperity for all Malaysians,” he said.
He also said he will be seeking to engage people from around the country in formulating the priorities of the government. The nation’s youth, who have long felt disaffected by the veterans in the government, were given a special mention.
Najib, who takes office in the midst of one of the worst economic slowdowns the world has seen, promised to work hard to steer the country through the current crisis.
The new prime minister did take one swipe at the opposition: “We must reach out to the many who may have been disaffected and left confused by political games, deceit and showmanship,” he said.
But overall, the tone of the speech was hopeful as he stressed that he will work hard to realise the full potential of the country and committed himself to meet the needs, aspirations and concerns of all Malaysians.
He ended on a high note as he invited Malaysians to join him in renewing the country and build a “One Malaysia. People First. Performance Now.”
“Let us begin this great journey together.”
In a separate telephone interview with RTM, Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said that Hindraf leaders, V.S. Ganapathy Rao and R. Kengadhedharan were among the 13 ISA detainees that would be released.
Others detainees to be released included Jemaah Islamiah members and foreigners.
Hamid said that the foreigners will be deported.