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Sudah lah ‘Jib! You Are Just Another Pak Lah!?
M. Bakri Musa
Sudah lah ‘Jib! (You are finished, Najib!) You are just another Pak Lah! Malaysia cannot afford two consecutive incompetent leaders as it enters the 21st Century. The precious and critical first decade is already lost.
Najib’s latest “Pak Lah moment” came when his Chief of Police, Khalid Abu Bakar, threatened to arrest Mariam Mokhtar for sedition over her article, “One Ideology, Two Reactions,” posted on Freemalaysiatoday.com on November 29, 2013. Mariam dared to highlight the highly favorable treatment Aishah Wahab, the woman allegedly held as a slave by her Marxist master in London, received from the Najib Administration versus the visceral contempt it heaped upon Chin Peng, leader of the defunct Malayan Communist Party.
Mariam suggested that the Najib Administration’s generous gesture to Aishah was more on exploiting the favorable publicity surrounding that London slavery case.
“She had better watch out,” the Chief warned, “or we will go after her!” The “her” is of course Mariam.
Jantan kampung betul! (a real village bull!), as we say in the village when referring to such petty bullies. The Chief of Police should display his manhood where it would really count, as with confronting the Singaporeans spying on Malaysia, those intruders at Lahad Datu, or the alleged treachery with the loss of Pulau Batu Puteh. Those are the real and menacing threats to the nation’s security and stability, not the eloquent writing of a young woman!
Clearly Najib and his officials are threatened by Mariam’s ideas. Najib is stuck in the time warp of the old feudal ways, unable to grasp the new reality of a porous digital age. He and Khalid should be complimenting Mariam for her ability to write well, and in English, as well as her courage to express her views.
If Najib and Khalid have a better grasp of English, they would have discovered that Mariam’s earlier essay in Malaysiakini.com, “Three Slaves and the Rakyat,” on the same case had more punch. In that piece she noted that while the three London women were imprisoned for three decades, Malaysians have been “metaphorically imprisoned for the most part of 56 years,” adding that the three women were shackled by “invisible handcuffs,” just like Malaysians.
“It is doubtful,” Mariam continues, “if many Malaysians realize the similarities between themselves and those three women.” Now that’s powerful stuff, but Najib and Khalid missed Mariam’s well-chosen metaphor and imagery!
Congratulations Mariam! Your voice is being heard at the highest level, and widely too as judged by the outpouring of comments both articles elicited. Keep writing! I hope the police chief and Najib’s other top officials would continue widening their reading repertoire beyond the UMNO newsletters The New Straits Times and Utusan Melayu.
Mariam is not the first writer to be intimidated by the authorities. She does not need to be reminded of the horrible experiences of Kassim Ahmad, Syed Hussein, and Raja Petra, among others.
I have nothing to offer Mariam except my best wishes, and I wish her that, and much more, as with her continued success in writing. I can however, pass on the advice from that great Indonesian writer, the late Ananta Prameodya Toer, a man who had endured much from his government.
“Orang boleh pandai setinggi langit,” Pramoedya wrote in Rumah Kaca (The Glasshouse), “tapi selama ia tidak menulis, ia akan hilang di dalam masyarakat dan dari sejarah.” (Your intellect may soar to the sky but if you do not write, you will be lost from society and to history.”
Rest assured that when the collective “invisible handcuff” gets unshackled, as ultimately it will, Malaysians owe a huge debt of gratitude to brave individuals like Mariam Mokhtar. As for that police chief, only his family would remember him, or if remembered by others, he would prefer not to be. Look at his many ‘illustrious’ predecessors; one jailed for punching Anwar Ibrahim, another a defendant in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit, and a third rewarded by being chairman of a casino. That character apparently gambled right!
Najib’s Ultimate Pak Lah Moment
Back to Najib’s other Pak Lah moments, the supposedly pious and humble Pak Lah squandered millions of taxpayers’ funds to renovate Sri Perdana before he deemed it livable. This from a man who only a decade earlier did not even own a house! Najib however, bested Pak Lah on this front. Najib burned over two million ringgit a year just on electricity. When citizens complained, he haughtily defended his wasteful ways by suggesting that his official guests should not have to dine by candle light! He must have the whole United Nations delegates as his guests, and every day too!
More likely Najib must have really turned down the thermostat and then had the fireplace roaring to simulate the English ambience of his student days so he could cuddle up to Rosmah.
Najib should remember the advice he received from his prime minister father when he (Najib) and his brothers were clamoring for a swimming pool at the old Sri Perdana. “What will people say,” Najib quoted his old man as saying in turning down their request.
Then there is the ultra-luxury, custom-fitted Airbus jet. Even Queen Elizabeth and Prime Minister Cameron do not have one. Pak Lah was severely criticized for his excessive use of that expensive toy. At least his wife (the first or second) did not get to use it in her personal capacity. Today we have Mrs. Najib (the second) jaunting off in it, oblivious of the cost to taxpayers. I do not know which is more reprehensible; Najib requesting the approval from his cabinet for his wife’s use of the jet or the cabinet approving it. This at a time when he warned the country is on the brink of bankruptcy!
Abdullah Badawi burdened Malaysia for over five years; the nation is still paying for his many follies and general incompetence. Many claim that Najib is worse than Pak Lah; that is being petty. When you score is already a miserable F, it does not really matter whether it is also F-minus.
Expect at this week’s (December 2, 2013) UMNO General Assembly for Najib to execute yet another Pak Lah moment – reading his “own” pompous self-congratulatory pantun (poem). Do not expect however, for the delegates to even mention let alone review this critical issue of his glaring incompetence and profligate ways.
Thus it behooves Malaysians to ensure that this burden of Najib inept leadership comes to an end soon. Malaysians must force Najib to perform his ultimate Pak Lah moment – resign!
Sudah lah ‘Jib! You Haven’t Got it!
M. Bakri Musa
Sudah lah ‘Jib! You haven’t got what it takes to lead modern Malaysia.
Humiliated by the recent national election and overwhelmed by mounting problems, Najib resorts to the typical tricks of third-rate Third World leaders. He travels abroad frequently to distract himself and Malaysians, and when at home he bribes his way through problems.
Barisan’s loss in the popular votes during the last election was only the latest expression of this lack of confidence in Najib’s leadership. The man has been coasting on the memory of his illustrious father, Tun Razak. For that reason Malaysians have been too generous in giving Najib a pass for so long.
The show cannot go on; the nation can ill afford it. There will be a splendid opportunity for the nation to be rid of his leadership without having to wait till the next national election, and that will be the upcoming parliamentary budget debate. All we need is for a handful of Barisan MPs (12 to be exact) to see through this character so he can be ejected from the Prime Minister’s seat. He does not belong there.
Back to Najib’s third-rate Third World leadership tricks, his most recent – and most expensive – was the junket that took him through San Francisco on his way to New York. That was literally around the world. Rest assured there will be many more such trips in his ultra-luxurious, custom-fitted full-sized Airbus jet, burning the rakyat’s precious ringgit.
The only saving grace this time was his uncharacteristic prudence financially in landing his jet at Oakland instead of at the exorbitantly expensive SFO. Najib however, more than made that up by staying at the Fairmont Hotel in a suite that would have pleased the likes of King Saud.
In the 1960s, traveling extensively abroad was also the favorite refuge for Indonesia’s Sukarno. It was left to his ministers back home to tell the rakyat to eat rats and thereby simultaneously solve two problems – widespread starvation and rat infestation.
More recently there was the example of Tunisian leader Zine el Abidene, now languishing somewhere in the Saudi desert with only his ill-gotten wealth to sustain him. Meanwhile he faces a death sentence at home and the Interpol has a search warrant for him. As for his wildly extravagant and obscenely ostentatious wife, a former hairdresser, she too has long ago abandoned him. She is also on the Interpol list for money laundering. Take a glimpse of her during her heyday; she has the uncanny resemblance of someone familiar to Malaysians, and not just in facial features.
Sukarnos’s fate in contrast was less severe. At least he died and was buried in his native land. Something for Najib to ponder!
Malaysia is far from being Sukarno’s Indonesia. That however, is setting a very low bar. It tells us how far we have fallen that the two countries are now often mentioned in the same sentence. While Malaysia is also infested with rats, Malaysians are thankfully not starving. Instead what we have are even more rapacious rats continually raiding the people’s Treasury. The biggest of all is Najib.
Bribing His Way Through Problems
With his unrestrained access to the Treasury, Najib’s mode of problem solving is to bribe his way. He bribed Malaysians with his multitude of expensive 1-Malaysia giveaways. Just before the election his largesse became more targeted, as with his instant generous grants to Chinese schools and special allocations to East Malaysia. Those bore his trademark of lu tolong gua, gua tolong lu (You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours).
Like bribees everywhere, the Chinese eagerly took the money and ran. Come election time however, they readily saw through what was going on and unhesitatingly dumped Najib. Najib the briber was reduced to lamenting loudly of the Chinese tsunami. Najib mistook the Chinese to be like UMNO Malays, readily bought with only a few million devalued ringgit. In the end Najib was left scratching himself.
East Malaysians were sufficiently grateful for the bribe to vote for Najib, only to be rewarded post-election with a court order banning them from using the word “Allah!” I hope that their Barisan representatives in parliament will now stage their own mini tsunami and flush away Najib.
Now post-election, Malays too are complaining. Again Najib resorted to his favorite trick of bribing, a few billion here and there under the bombastic package of Memperkasakan Ekonomi Bumiputra (MEB – Strengthening Bumiputra Economy). Malays this time have shrewdly anted-up their price, learning from the Chinese. Thus Malays this time are less than enthusiastic with the only few billion thrown their way, even though that is real money.
I thought that the whole purpose of the New Economic Policy and all its iterations for the last four decades had been to enhance the economic status of Malays. Obviously had the NEP been successful, we would have little need for this MEB.
Unfortunately for Najib, even the dumbest ass learns eventually. Malays have smartened up and realized that this MEB will just be another massive and lucrative bribery scheme for UMNO cronies. Their beneficiaries may be Malays, the pseudo as well as wannabe, but they do not represent our values.
Indications are, MEB notwithstanding, this time Malays are no longer mudah lupa. Like the Chinese, Malays (at least the lucky ones) are becoming shrewder and will readily take the money and then run. Rest assured that come the next election, there will also be a Malay tsunami.
Or perhaps sooner! The recent UMNO election produced more malcontent losers who will be skipped by the gravy train. They will be grouchy enough to take their frustrations out on Najib.
Commentators of various persuasions have already pronounced Mahathir a loser in this UMNO election. One sure way to make a grouchy loser more so, and thus likely to strike back, would be for the winners to gloat. Abdullah Badawi too gloated after his spectacular 2004 national victory.
Back to Najib the briber, he is finally learning a painful lesson. That is, bribees, be they national or party voters, continue to escalate their price tag, especially if they know their targets are soft and lucrative. Najib is one such target.
What is despicable with Najib is that he is using our money to bribe us, after he takes his usual generous cut of course! When you bribe a cop, you are using your own hard-earned cash, not anyone else’s.
It is not just Malaysians that Najib is bribing. He thinks the rest of the world too is easily bribable. Soon after becoming Prime Minister, Najib was all over the global media giving high-profile interviews. Alas those “interviews” were nothing more than “informecials,” paid crass commercials masquerading as legitimate news items.
Far from being embarrassed, Najib still revels in the “glory.” That was his mode of operation. Malaysians were of course embarrassed, as were such media giants as CNN and BBC once they realized they were being duped. The “journalist” involved was duly fired, after earning his millions from Najib. Back in Malaysia, the consultants who thought of the idiotic scheme were rewarded with even more lucrative public relations contracts. For them, it was truly “endless possibilities” as well as endless profits with their desperate-for-praise client, Najib.
On his recent trip to America, Najib was back in his old form. He addressed the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco and Harvard Club of New York, among others. Bribing is illegal in America, except where it is nicely wrapped as “lobbying.”
All this bribe money has to come from somewhere. Even the Saudi Treasury is finite. Watch this upcoming budget; Najib will once again squeeze the rakyat, this time with his Goods and Services Tax together with his scheme for “rationalizing” subsidies. He will again bribe his way by offering in return, a puny reduction in the income tax rates.
GST is the most regressive, meaning it imposes a disproportionately heavy burden on those least able to afford it. What Najib gives away in sens (pennies) as with his income tax reduction, he will haul back hundred-fold more through GST.
I hope that our parliamentarians especially in Barisan will finally see through this man’s façade and terminate his tenure once and for all, for the good of Malaysia. Muslims have just celebrated the Eid Qurbani (Celebration of Sacrifice). It is time to qurban Najib for the good of Malaysia. Then the nation can celebrate!
Nothing happens unless Allah wills it, that is, guide Najib to see the light, if not him, then those parliamentarians.
Parliament Must Replace Najib with Tengku Razaleigh
M. Bakri Musa
Malaysia cannot afford Najib Razak’s continued inept leadership. As UMNO has failed to terminate his leadership, and the next election is too far away, it is now up to Parliament to do the necessary. Najib, who is also Finance Minister, will table his budget on October 25, an opportune time for Parliament to pass a no-confidence vote on the budget – and hence his leadership – thus forcing the son of Tun Razak (TR-1) to resign. MPs have a far greater duty beyond loyalty to their leader, and that is loyalty to their country.
With the Will and Guidance of Allah, SWT, Najib can spare himself this unprecedented disgrace and simultaneously relieve his fellow parliamentarians of this distasteful chore by ceding the Prime Ministership to Tengku Razeleigh (TR-2). By gracefully withdrawing now, Najib could return later to lead his party for the 14th national election, and would be a better leader for this voluntary hiatus.
Should Najib contemplate being stubborn, he should remind himself of similar parliamentary practices resulting in the ejection of his contemporaries. In August, British MPs denied Prime Minister Cameron his motion to intervene in Syria. This defying the leader is also not alien to UMNO. TR-1 did it to Tunku Abdul Rahman, albeit in a soft, subtle way. The wise and sensitive Tunku readily saw the signals.
A parliamentary no-confidence vote would not affect Najib’s UMNO presidency. The constitution does not mandate the leader of a ruling party should also be prime minister. That is only tradition, tenable only as long as he has Parliament’s confidence.
As UMNO has the largest parliamentary representation, it is appropriate that one of its members should be the Prime Minister. There is no better choice than TR-2. He is a glittering gem to the sparkle of pebbles that is the current UMNO leadership. He also has the exquisite synthesis of talent and experience.
Rest assured that TR-2 would not be preoccupied with reelections and the consequent pandering to various constituencies, Najib’s destructive obsession. He would focus exclusively on running the country. With no children, TR-2 would have no grandiose pretensions of starting a political dynasty, yet another preoccupation of current leaders.
Malaysians can be assured that TR-2, like TR-1, would pick only the competent and untainted to be his ministers and advisors. They would reflect the man; his team would be the antithesis of Najib’s. TR-2 has no need for courtiers or cheerleaders.
Unlike Najib, TR-2’s executive and leadership abilities have been tested inside and outside of government. Malaysians can be assured that there would be no freelancers or lone rangers in TR-2’s team spouting out offensive racial taunts. Najib on the other hand could not restrain the extremist ulamas on his payroll who think that the marriage of a Muslim to a non-Muslim is invalid.
Najib is not up to par even when compared to his lackluster predecessor, Abdullah Badawi. With Abdullah, Malaysians within and beyond his party clearly expressed their disapproval; some politely, others less so. The man recognized this and wisely withdrew.
Dissatisfaction with Najib is palpable even or especially within his party. However, he is a stubborn mule, and with as much insight. He must be told in no uncertain terms by Parliament that his leadership is wanting. As a dumb mule responds only to a big stick, anything less would not do it.
Relieved from running the country, Najib could focus on ridding UMNO of its fortune seekers. They mock the party’s aspiration of Agama, Bangsa, Negara (Faith, Race, and Country). There is nothing Islamic or Malay about corruption, cheating and the plundering of our nation’s wealth. There is no reflected glory for Malays to see UMNO leaders grow glutton on hogging the public trough. Malaysia would be far better without these scoundrels.
Leadership Crisis Akin to Post-May 1969
Parliament has the right – indeed obligation – to terminate Najib’s tenure. Malaysia today has a critical leadership crisis comparable to the post-1969 period. That too was triggered by an electoral setback suffered by the ruling coalition. We are fortunate so far to be spared the associated tragedies and destruction, despite the incendiary taunting by many.
We cannot allow this dangerous situation to fester lest a mere spark would trigger an explosion. Already our current racial poison will take generations to detoxify, assuming it stops right now. Najib however, shows no inclination or competence to do so. Inter-racial as well as intra-racial – specifically intra-Malay – relationships are deteriorating rapidly.
As with a fish, this rot begins at the head. The solution must therefore begin with getting rid of Najib.
As with post-1969, citizens today yearn for a more representative or “unity” government to de-escalate the dangerously heightened social and racial polarizations. The unprecedented failure of the ruling coalition to gain the majority popular votes adds to this demand. Granted, in our “first past the post” system, the number of seats won would not necessarily correlate with the popular votes, nonetheless the stunning size of the discrepancy triggered the angst.
Such a wide discrepancy could still be accepted if the institutions and personnel conducting the elections were truly non-partisan and have unchallenged integrity. The Malaysian Election Commission is far from either.
That 1969 tragedy led to the resignation of Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman. His successor, TR-1, set up a unity government through enlarging the old Alliance coalition to the current expanded Barisan Nasional. Such strategy would not be the best route today. The objective of a representative and reconciliative government would best be served by having the new Prime Minister invite a few talented opposition members into his administration. Consider that US President Obama, who secured a far stronger mandate than Najib, has an opposition Republican Chuck Hagel as his Defense Secretary.
TR-2 is TR-1’s protégé. No one else, least of all Najib, could claim that. The late TR-1 was a sharp spotter of talent. He put TR-2 to set up and lead Pernas when he (TR-2) was only 32 years old, and four years later, Petronas. At Petronas, TR-2 took on the powerful global oil companies and pioneered unique and highly profitable production-sharing contracts with the oil majors that later became the model for other state oil companies. Malaysia continues to reap the bounty from that brilliant and courageous initiative.
Unique among UMNO leaders, TR-2 has cordial relationships with the opposition; he has the credibility to execute a “unity government”. TR-2 could spot talented MPs from the opposition to be in his cabinet in the manner of TR-1.
Those ministers from the opposition would serve as individuals and not as representatives of their parties. They would continue to serve until such time they could no longer support the government’s policy pertaining to their respective portfolios. The opposition is blessed with many bright members. It would be a great shame not to tap their talent.
Such an initiative would break the current incestuous coupling of party positions with governmental appointments, and go a long way towards “cleansing” UMNO of its “fortune seekers.”
Decoupling would also relieve ministers of their party’s chores. The duties of a minister are onerous enough. American cabinet secretaries for example, are freed of these extraneous burdens. Consider this UMNO election season. For months now, those UMNO ministers and government appointees have effectively abandoned their official duties; they are busy campaigning.
UMNO is the single greatest contributor to public corruption because of the close nexus between party and government. Decoupling would sever this sinister link.
Those party positions now held by ministers would become vacant, allowing greater upward mobility for the members. At another level, those senior party leaders would provide a much-needed system of checks and balances on their party’s governmental appointees. Currently there are no such checks and balances.
TR-1’s unity government was instrumental in quickly restoring normalcy post-1969. Today we need Parliament to strip TR-1’s son, Najib, of his leadership to pave way for TR-2 to lead a new, invigorated unity government. We may contemplate the irony, but the action is an absolute necessity.
Najib Razak could spare his fellow parliamentarians this distasteful chore by resigning and paving the way for TR-2. Such an action would portray Najib as someone thinking of the country ahead of himself, the very definition of a patriot. It would also be a great tribute to the memory of his father, Tun Razak.
Making Corruption History – Cakap Kosong Je ‘Jib!
M. Bakri Musa
In San Francisco recently, Prime Minister Najib confidently declared “to make corruption part of Malaysia’s past, not its future.” The man’s delusion never ceases to amaze me. The reality is of course far different; corruption defines the Najib Administration.
Nonetheless if Najib is serious, then he should heed Tengku Razaleigh’s call for Najib to declare his assets. Otherwise it would be, to put it bluntly in the vernacular, “Cakap kosong je ‘Jib!” (Empty talk only!)
Tengku Razaleigh’s suggestion, if implemented, would do far more good than all of Najib’s lofty declarations of “changing organizational as well as business cultures” or creating “a new governance and integrity minister” and “elevating the anti-corruption agency.” Malaysians have heard all those ad nauseum, not only from Najib but also his predecessors.
If after doing what Tengku Razaleigh had suggested Najib still aspires higher, he could begin by getting rid of those tainted individuals in his administration. Then if he is really committed to clean and effective governance, he should select only those with unquestioned integrity and solid accomplishments to be his new ministers and advisors.
As Najib is slow to grasp concepts, let me elaborate on those three simple suggestions.
Consider asset declaration. Najib does not need yet another highly-paid consultant advising him how to do it. There are plenty of effective models out there, including one recommended by the OECD. The simplest is the one used by American officials including the president, cabinet secretaries, and Supreme Court judges. It covers their spouses and all dependent children.
Here is President Obama’s, available publicly at: docstoc.com/docs/156786412/Obama-Financial-Disclosure. The simple eight-page report lists his assets and income, transactions during the year, gifts received (he had none), liabilities (his home mortgage), and contracts he is a party to (his old faculty appointment).
Simple yet effective! As the declaration is filed annually, citizens could tract any sudden ballooning of assets, income, or extra-generous gifts that could prompt further enquiry, as well as monitor contracts and activities that could pose as potential conflict of interest.
Obama and his senior officials go further; they release their full income tax returns annually.
If Najib were to do likewise, rumors of his wife buying million-ringgit rings and getting extravagant gifts would not have arisen, indeed they were baseless.
If Najib’s ministers were also to declare their assets, then we would not have the silly specter of a cabinet minister feigning ignorance of her husband’s quarter-billion ringgit government-funded business, as Shahrizat tried to do recently. The pathetic part was that she truly believed that the public would buy her swiftly-concocted story.
Beyond publicly declaring his assets, if Najib aspires for a clean administration, then he should remove those tainted individuals in his administration. Since Najib is blind to reality, I will help him identify such proven shady characters.
The most glaring is Isa Samad, former Negri Sembilan Chief Minister. Dispensing with his lackluster tenure as the chief executive of that state, the man was found guilty of “money politics,” UMNO’s euphemism for plain ugly corruption. Meaning, he is corrupt even by UMNO’s lax standards, assuming the party has any!
In any system with even a semblance of integrity, slimy characters like Isa Samad would have been jailed. In China, they would be executed. Yet Najib appointed Isa to helm the billion- ringgit Felda Global Holdings, a GLC. One wonders why Najib is so enamored with this character. The more intriguing question is why the powerful hold Isa has on Najib?
Then there is Ali Rustam, also a former Chief Minister (Malacca). Like Isa, Ali too was found guilty of money politics. At least voters in his state were wise enough to boot him out. Now Ali is eyeing for the UMNO Vice-Presidency, as is Isa. Watch it, Najib will also do an Isa on Ali, that is, appoint him to a senior lucrative position, making a mockery of Najib’s aim of making corruption history.
Then after getting rid of the Isa Samads and Ali Rustams Najib still harbors even higher aspirations, like wanting a crisp and efficient administration, then he could entice capable Malaysians to join his team.
I suggest co-opting Keadilan’s Rafizi Ramli. This bright young man has done more than anyone else to heighten public consciousness of corruption at high places. Rafizi shamed the anti-corruption agency. Appointing Rafizi would also go a long way towards a “unity” government. Only the likes of Shahrizat would not welcome his appointment.
At the very least Rafizi’s appointment would significantly lower the average age of Najib’s cabinet as well as drastically elevate its collective IQ!
At the other end of the experience spectrum is Tengku Razaleigh. He is from Najib’s own party too. If Najib is deeply serious about and truly committed to memperkasakan ekonomi Melayu (enhancing Malay economy) as he asserted recently, well, the Tengku has been there and done that, and remarkably well too! Look at Petronas and Pernas. Malaysia’s finances were robust during his tenure as Finance Minister.
Yes, at one time he helmed the once powerful Bank Bumiputra, now long gone. If Tengku’s detractors want to taint him with that scandal, remember this. Tengku Razaleigh is one of the few if not only public figures to have successfully sued for libel the venerable Financial Times when it tried to implicate him.
Co-opting Tengku Razaleigh would give the Najib Administration some adult supervision. Better yet, Najib should seize the opportunity and take a sabbatical, just like what Lee Kuan Yew once did. Take a temporary leave from UMNO and Malaysia; learn about the real world beyond government. Najib would learn that there is a vast other universe out there not dependent on public paychecks or political patronages.
At another speech during his recent San Francisco trip, Najib chided his critics especially those residing abroad who “criticize the country but they do not have any idea on how to contribute to the country.”
Najib is not only slow in grasping concepts but he is also not a careful reader. We do not criticize Malaysia, only his inept leadership. Nonetheless since Najib has asked for specific ideas, here is one.
Take an extended sabbatical. Let someone like Tengku Razaleigh take over. Three or four years hence, in time for the next election, resume your prime ministership. Meanwhile learn as much as possible about the much bigger and considerably more wonderful world beyond UMNO. You will be a more effective leader for that, and Malaysia would be a much better country, both while you were gone and after you return.
Najib’s Leadership Deficiencies Undermine Malaysia’s Future
M. Bakri Musa
Najib’s glaring leadership deficiencies have now been glaringly exposed. Malaysia deserves better. His performance has not been up to par even when compared to his lackluster predecessor. If under Abdullah Badawi Malaysia had the modernity of Manhattan but the mentality of Mogadishu, under Najib, Malaysia risks degenerating, period.
Najib is not terribly bright or introspective. Like a little child, he always hunger for approval. He is also severely “charimastically-challenged.” A leader could survive or even thrive despite having one or two of these flaws, but to be cursed with all three is fatal.
All his adult years Najib has depended entirely on government paychecks. No surprise then that his worldview is narrowly circumscribed. His solution to every problem is to distribute government checks, well exemplified by his many “1-Malaysia” handouts. His recent Majlis Ekonomi Bumiputra was no exception; likewise its hefty price tag.
Not being introspective, Najib does not and never will recognize his shortcomings. Consequently unlike his immediate predecessor, Najib will never resign voluntarily; he would rather destroy his party and country first. If UMNO does not recognize this, it too will go down with him; likewise the country.
A good leader, to paraphrase a hadith, is one who protects his followers from his hands and tongue. Najib does neither. Functionally, he slipped his hands into the pockets of Malaysians when he raised the price of petrol. He wants to do it again with his Goods and Services Tax (GST). Meanwhile his smooth tongue bribes us with his ever-generous “1Malaysia” gifts, using the rakyat’s money of course.
While being smart is an obvious asset in a leader, not being one would not necessarily be a handicap. Reagan, one of the most successful American presidents, was far from being brainy. He however, knew his limitations and duly compensated for that; his cabinet was full of intellectual heavyweights and individuals of proven achievements.
Incidentally my comparing him to Reagan, no matter how unfavorably, only feeds Najib’s delusion.
Najib thinks he is super smart; he frequently parrots the latest buzz words. It is not just an increase but a quantum leap! It is not just any strategy but a blue ocean one! Meanwhile the ship of state is headed straight to the bottom. He does not appreciate his fundamental problem. You cannot scour the ocean on a leaky sampan with a crew familiar only with the rakit (bamboo raft), and hope to survive.
The embarrassing caliber of Najib’s cabinet and advisors reflects his blissful ignorance of his deficiencies. He had over four years to scout for fresh talent, only to end up with the same mediocre core ministers he inherited from his equally dull predecessor. I cringe whenever I hear any pronouncement from them. They are all “half-past six.”
Even on the rare occasion when Naijb picked a bright star like Idris Jala, the former chief executive of Shell, the sparkle is gone. It is hard to soar like an eagle when surrounded by turkeys. Idris is reduced to and consumed with making elegant Powerpoint presentations to any willing audience.
Tasked with “transforming” the government (note the bombastic buzz word!), Idris Jala either severely underestimated the enormity of the task or generously overestimated his talent in executing it. He forgot the evident reality that the government of Malaysia is not Shell with respect to size, scope of activities, availability of talent, or any other matrix. The bureaucratic inertia of the civil service pales the physical one of a loaded supertanker.
If Idris had appreciated the enormity of the challenge, or had a wee bit of humility, he would have focused on only one or two areas, and learned from the experience. Once successful, he would have minimal difficulty selling his ideas and initiatives.
If Najib had been introspective, he would have assigned Idris a specific portfolio and then let him do his own “transforming.” Idris would then be able to show instead of just merely tell us his managerial capabilities.
Like a skillful carpenter, a good leader knows when and where to deploy his finest tools. Implicit in that observation is that a good leader must first recognize which tools are sharp and which ones are dull, to be discarded. It is precisely this critical insight that Najib is severely lacking.
Najib’s second weakness, his hunger for approval, is equally crippling. He tried to ingratiate himself to extremist Malay nationalists by brandishing his kris dipped in tomato sauce, but to no avail. During the last election he had his son utter a few words of Mandarin and gave generous on-the-spot grants to Chinese schools. Likewise, he visited Rome for an audience with the Pope. At home he garlanded himself in that outlandish floral arrangement around his neck while visiting Batu Caves. Voters readily saw through those silly overtures.
Like a spoilt brat who had grown accustomed to being indulged upon, Najib could not accept the harsh rebuke that was the last election. He reacted like the over-pampered kampong kid by sulking; hence his shameful silence during the many recent crises.
Lacking self-awareness, Najib has pretensions of great charisma. If contrast is the essence of art, then his on-stage performance with the South Korean Gangnam Group, Psy, during the last election campaign was truly, well, artistic. If that were his only gig, that would be harmless enough. It was however, mildly funny, even if it was at his expense.
A charismatic leader could at least attract talent to his cause despite lacking competence or not being generously-endowed intellectually. Najib does not attract the best. He confuses endless slogans for substantive efforts, frenetic activities as decisive actions, and sulking withdrawal as deep contemplation.
Take his endless sloganeering. First there was glokal Malay (contraction for global and lokal, Malay bastardization for local). Lacking traction, he shifted to “One Malaysia.” Streams of slogans later, it is now “Endless Possibilities!” What’s next? Najib is the leader caricatured by Shahnon Ahmad’s lead character in his novella, Unggappan.
We must change the nation’s sorry trajectory by dispensing with the current leadership. The excuse that there is no one else capable may be solace to Najib but an insult to all Malaysians. Allah would not be so unkind and unjust as to deprive us of our share of leadership talent. To get our rightful due however, we must first stop indulging our present incompetent leaders, beginning with Najib. Only then could we diligently search for better ones.
Malaysia deserves better than to be saddled with Najib Razak.
Mahathir’s Continuing Burden Upon The Nation
M. Bakri Musa
Mahathir is the only prime minister who devalued the ringgit, the very symbol of the nation’s sovereignty. If that were to be his only negative legacy, Malaysia could easily bear it.
Unfortunately the man has burdened (and continues to burden) Malaysia with many more ugly legacies. He has also devalued our culture and institutions. Most of all he has devalued the trust we have in each other, a vital but scarce asset in a plural society.
On a much lesser scale, and to serve more as a concrete example, the upcoming UMNO leadership convention will be another. With its “no contest” rule now the norm, the convention mocks the very meaning of a leadership election, reducing it to the same level as the old Soviet “elections.” This coming event will again expose the party’s corruptness and how pathetically bereft it is of talent. The same old tired and tainted candidates will be recycled. It is an exercise less of renewal and rejuvenation, more of an old and leaking sewer treatment plant, with nothing to hide the stench.
As for the candidates, they would be like desperate monkeys elbowing and clawing each other for the top braches, their howling effectively drowning out the sound of the tree crashing down.
Legally speaking, this party is of course not the original UMNO, rather “UMNO Baru,” Mahathir’s own creation after he maneuvered a less-than-honest squeaky victory over his challenger, Tengku Razaleigh, back in 1987. The party was subsequently deregistered. UMNO Baru is but a pretender to that glorious old party, the spirit of 1946, the one that bravely fought against the Malayan Union and ultimately brought the country to independence. No surprise then that this UMNO Baru has all of Mahathir’s ugly trademarks.
I am privileged not to have met the man; thus my analysis is strictly based on his policies and performances as a leader. It is not colored by personal feelings or show of gratitude. I am spared the “mudah lupa” (ingrate) epithet.
Again thanks to Mahathir, this mudah lupa is a special burden in our culture where one’s personal kindness and familiarity could hide and indeed excuse many a sin. Mahathir himself is not spared this burden; hence his being easily hoodwinked by the put-on piety and humility of his chosen successor, Abdullah Badawi. Even Mahathir’s subsequent enthusiasm for Najib to replace Abdullah was based less on Najib’s talent, more an expression of Mahathir’s gratitude to Najib’s late father for having “rehabilitated” Mahathir into UMNO.
Yes, Mahathir was once kicked out of that grand old party back in 1970 in the aftermath of the deadly 1969 race riots. Those early leaders of the original UMNO were wise and prescient.
Rehabilitated he was, and with his subsequent ascent to the top post, the country now bears the burden of his follies. We will continue to do so long after he is gone, such was the damage he inflicted upon the country.
The currency devaluation was painful enough, especially to the poor. We still bear it today. Judging by past performances, this upcoming leadership contest would again assault our sensibilities, especially of Malay culture. Forget about our budi bahasa (gracious) and halus (soft) ways.
Those previously found guilty of “money politics” (that’s corruption, to the rest of us) like Isa Samad and Khairy Jamaludin would again be elected to top positions. So too would former Selangor Chief Minister Khir Toyo, except that he is now serving time for corruption. Incidentally Khir Toyo is regarded as “clean” by his fellow UMNO members. As for Isa and Khairy, the former is now put in charge of the multi-billion ringgit FELDA, the latter, a cabinet minister. That too, is part of Mahathir’s legacy.
One might quibble about Khairy for he once bragged about being Mahathir’s vocal critic. However, Mahathir’s legacy is the overall negative culture he fostered in UMNO Baru. In any other culture or jurisdiction, that young man would not even be nominated for dog catcher. That speaks volumes to the degradation of UMNO Baru.
That is Mahathir’s legacy, its destructiveness is pervasive and permanent precisely because it is less obvious.
Mahathir’s scathing and relentless criticism of his successor, Abdullah Badawi, cannot hide the obvious fact that he (Mahathir) was responsible for the mess. He appointed Abdullah. Similarly, Mahathir was highly instrumental in Najib replacing Abdullah. Mahathir’s excuse of there being no one else is just that – an excuse. Two successive dud appointments to the highest office of the land, another of Mahathir’s ugly legacies!
Mahathir never tires of reminding us about Petronas Twin Towers, the gleaming highways, and the KLIA, all built during his administration. He also used to brag about Putrajaya, the multibillion-dollar new capital city. Not anymore. Yes, Putrajaya sports some futuristic bridges but it must be the only capital in the world that does not have any foreign embassies. As for those bridges, they must be the only ones to be erected where first they had to dig a lake so they could be water underneath those bridges!
It is pathetic that after having served as the nation’s longest serving chief executive, Mahathir could point only to those physical monuments as his legacy. We have to constantly remind ourselves that the deterioration of our institutions (especially our schools and universities), the pervasiveness of corruption, the soiling of our culture (especially Malay culture), and the erosion of the trust we have in each other are very core of his legacy.
It took the Soviets generations to free themselves of the grip of Stalin’s ghost. It took the Chinese decades to recognize and then overcome Mao’s malignant feng shui. How long will Malaysians, Malays specifically, take to escape the hantu of Mahathirism? Will we ever?
Reflections on Ramadan: Beyond The Fast
M. Bakri Musa
[Presented at the South Valley Islamic Community’s Iftar, Morgan Hill, Ca, July 13, 2013.]
When giving talks on religious topics especially during Ramadan, it is customary to quote generously the Koran and hadith. In deference to those who are far more knowledgeable on matters hadith and those whose tajweed are exquisite when reciting the Holy Book, I will depart from tradition. I do not wish to strain their patience!
Instead I will share my perspective on Ramadan drawing on three insights: one, my earlier experience as a surgeon in an Oregon lumber town; two, the findings from a landmark experiment in social psychology; and three, comparing Ramadan in Malaysia to America.
Surgeon in Oregon
As a young surgeon in Oregon, I treated many workers with severe injuries from the huge local sawmill. To better understand their injuries, the manager kindly took me on a tour of his factory.
Those massive logs were effortlessly thrown by giant cranes onto steel conveyors with the ease of your tossing away used chopsticks. Then the logs were spun around by rollers with stubby studs to be de-barked, much like a housewife peeling carrots. Then high-speed circular saws would slice through the logs back and forth, reducing them to pieces of lumber. If not for the bone-shaking floor vibrations, the high-pitched sound reminded me of a plugged-up vacuum cleaner.
Those pieces were then mechanically sorted and then forced through yet more spinning saws to be cut into specified lengths. Finally they were subjected to human touch and scrutiny as they rolled towards the finishing line, pieces with splits, nodes and uneven cuts having been shunted aside. Then they were stacked and carried into a special room to be “cured.”
This curing room was quiet and cool, its humidity, temperature and airflow strictly controlled. The lack of noise and vibrations was instantly felt; it was a tranquil oasis in marked contrast to the rest of the mill. On the factory floor we shouted and hand-gestured; in the curing room we whispered and cupped our mouths. Even the rhythm of our walk changed, from brisk noisy strides to soft silent steps, as in a mosque. We feared disturbing the sanctity of the room.
The manager told me that after the stresses of being cut, pushed, spun and thrown around, the lumber needed “rest time” so they could withstand the inevitable subsequent stresses at the construction sites or furniture factories. Without this curing, the lumber would readily bend, splinter or even break, soiling the factory’s brand.
If an inanimate object – wood – has to be “cured” before it faces its next phase of stresses, imagine how much more humans would need this time and space. This is what Ramadan means; a “time out” so we could pause and reflect. After all we too have been through the mill in our regular daily lives!
Plants and trees too need this change of pace. The forced dormancy of the long cold weather ensures a full bloom come spring, and with that a bountiful harvest. Winter is the plants’ Ramadan.
Children and their Marshmallows
My second insight comes from the Stanford marshmallow study on preschool children. They were each given a marshmallow, with instructions that should they refrain from eating it for 15 minutes, they would be rewarded with an extra one. As expected, some devoured theirs right away, others took longer. Nonetheless there were those who successfully restrained themselves and were thus duly rewarded. The study shows that individual differences towards instant gratification could be discerned very early.
If that was the only conclusion, the study would not be regarded as “one of the most successful behavioral experiments.”
Years later when those kids were of college age, the lead experimenter, prompted by anecdotal accounts, decided to do a follow up study. It turned out those “impulse controlled” children (those who successfully deferred devouring their treats) did better academically as well as disciplinary-wise in school. Indeed, the ability to delay eating marshmallows was a better predictor of scholastic achievement than IQ tests or parent’s educational level!
This insight is fully leveraged by enlightened educators. The largest operator of charter schools in America, KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program), emphasized character building as well as a rigorous curriculum. It is remarkably successful despite its students coming from disadvantaged backgrounds.
This marshmallow study has other vast implications. If a culture is predisposed to immediate gratification, its members would not likely save. Low capital formation (from lack of savings because of this propensity for immediate gratification) leads to economic stagnation. Malays would do well to ponder this.
The marshmallow study also helps explain why those who acquire wealth through inheritance, lottery, or preferential treatment rarely keep it while those who acquire it through hard work do. The latter have self-discipline – key to their success – and more importantly, to maintaining that success. Again, a point for Malays to ponder!
If the ability to delay devouring marshmallows for fifteen minutes among preschoolers is strongly associated with later academic and other successes, imagine the good if we could delay it for the entire daylight hours! That is the value and significance of Ramadan; to instill self-discipline and acquire the habit of delayed gratification.
That this trait could be detected as early as the preschool age suggests that it is more “nature” than “nurture,” or stated differently, more genetic than environmental. This is reinforced by an earlier study by the same psychologist (using candies instead of marshmallows) comparing Black and Indian (subcontinent) children in Jamaica. As a group, the Black children had difficulty restraining themselves. Another significant variable was the absence of a father in the house. Surprisingly, socio-economic status was not a factor.
In Jamaica there are significant differences in the economic, educational and other achievements between those two ethnic groups. I wonder what the results would be if the Marshmallow study were to be done on Malaysian children! Of course one would have to substitute pisang goreng instead! But then the UMNO folks would insist that Malay children be given two bananas right away, and be rewarded after successfully restraining themselves for only five instead of the full fifteen minutes!
In a recent twist to this classic study, the children were first “primed” before participating in the marshmallow experiment. They were randomly assigned into a “reliable” or “unreliable” group. In both, the children were each given a bag of crayons with instructions that if they were not to open it until the supervisor returned, they would be given, in addition, a bigger and newer set.
For the “reliable” group, the supervisor would duly return, and as promised the successful children were rewarded. For the “unreliable” group however, the adult would return but apologize profusely for not being able to bring the promised bigger and newer bag to those who had been successful.
This crayon experiment was again repeated, this time using stickers. This done, the two groups were tested as per the original marshmallow study.
Nine of the 14 children in the “reliable” group successfully delayed eating their marshmallows, as compared to only one in the “unreliable” group. Children in the “reliable” group also waited longer (four times more) than those in the “unreliable” group before eating their treats.
This suggests that we can train our young to delay their gratification; meaning, we can effectively instill self-discipline at a very young age. This tilts the balance towards “nurture” over “nature,” contrary to the Jamaican data. For this training to be effective however, you must first establish an atmosphere of trust. The children must first have faith in their adults.
Relating to Ramadan, when we encourage our young to fast, we are training them to delay their gratification; we are instilling self-discipline.
There is yet another valuable insight to the marshmallow study, and it comes not from the quantitative data rather from directly observing those children. The “impulse controlled” kids were busy actively distracting themselves as with singing, sitting on their hands (lest they be tempted to grab the marshmallow), closing their eyes, or kneading their skirts, analogous to mythical Greek sailors stuffing their ears with bee’s wax or Ulysses tying himself to the mast to restrain themselves from the call of the Siren song.
Relating this to Ramadan, it is easier to fast if we are working or otherwise occupied. Indeed, the Koran and hadith exhort us not to sleep or idle ourselves when fasting. That would be makhruh (non-meritorious).
Fasting in a Muslim Versus Secular Society
Last, I draw from my experience of Ramadan in a religiously- obsessed Asian society, Malaysia, versus in an essentially secular Western one, America.
In Malaysia, the moral squads are out in full force during Ramadan. If you are caught not fasting, you will be paraded around town in a hearse (to remind you of death), quite apart from being fined, jailed or even whipped. Never mind that you may be a diabetic or had just stepped off a trans-Pacific flight. This cruel punitive streak, alas far too common, is the antithesis of the Ramadan spirit.
Malaysians must fast; it is the law and not as it should be a matter of faith and personal conviction. Consequently the spiritual value is often missed, or worse, corrupted as manifested by culinary extravaganzas and ostentatious piety. Malaysians simply rearranged their gluttony from daytime to nighttime. Where is Ramadan’s spirit of restraint?
Fasting in America poses its own challenges. Your co-workers having their usual lunches and the ubiquitous tantalizing food commercials aside, there is the matter of the seasons. When in Canada and Ramadan was in midsummer, I wrote my father of my theological dilemma. He gently reminded me that fasting is not Allah’s torture test and that I should therefore follow Malaysian time. My late father grasped intuitively the essence of Ramadan. May Allah bless his soul for that wise and practical counsel!
Obsessed with the rituals, Malaysians have reduced fasting to a series of acts to accumulate religious Brownie points. Fasting is more than a ritual; it is a process. As important as fasting is, the greater import is where it would take us. It should take us to heightened faith and greater compassion. It should take us deeper into the revelation of the Koran, for it was during this holy month that our Prophet Mohammad, s.a.w., first received his revelation from Allah.
Fasting is good not because the Koran says so, rather fasting is good and that is why the Koran exhorts us to observe Ramadan.
Deciding Who To Vote For In the Next Election
M. Bakri Musa
Downstream Analysis: A Hung Parliament Is Not Necessarily Bad
(Last of Four Parts)
Many fear a hung parliament as they think that would lead to chaos and uncertainty. Yes, there may be both but neither is inevitable. On the contrary I see many potentially redeeming aspects that could benefit citizens, the permanent establishment, and yes, even those politicians.
For citizens, seeing these freshly-victorious politicians brazenly jockeying for positions would be both instructive and revealing. It would be quite a sight to watch them behave worse than hookers. At least hookers are consumed with satisfying their present customers first, and would solicit new ones only after they have done that. More importantly, they do both discreetly. Those politicians on the other hand would be openly and lustily auctioning themselves to the highest bidder without even a promise of satisfactory performance to their current customers – citizens who had only recently voted for them. Those politicians would whore themselves brazenly. What matters to them would only be the price their new customers would be willing to pay, regardless how filthy and disease-ridden they are. Damn the consequences, for them or the nation.
The jockeying would be intense, shameless and endlessly shifting, threatening both Barisan and Pakatan. It would not be below MCA for example, to align itself with DAP and throw their weight behind Pakatan, demanding an outrageous price in return. Or MCA could demand a stiff price for remaining in Barisan. Not to be outdone, as alluded earlier, PAS could bolt Pakatan and align itself with UMNO in an ugly chauvinistic attempt at reviving Ketuanan Melayu. UMNO would sell its soul to get PAS support, and PAS in turn would readily sign a pact with the devil given the right price. There would be only one certainty; our politicians would finally be exposed for all their corruptness and hideousness. In the end unfortunately, citizens and Malaysia would be paying the terrible price.
Perhaps the nation needs such a sordid spectacle to jolt it into realizing that elections have consequences, and that the politicians and leaders we have today are far different from the earlier generation that brought us merdeka.
On the other hand, our politicians may well surprise us. Without being unnecessarily Pollyannaish, a few might discover that politics is after all a noble profession, and at its best and essence, a fine exercise in the art of compromise in order to get things done for the good of all.
At the very least a hung parliament would prompt us to be more prudent on our voting and not be so casual with this important exercise of democracy. If that would also encourage otherwise thoughtful Malaysians to offer themselves as candidates, then the whole exercise would not have been futile.
A hung parliament would also have a salutary effect on the permanent establishment. The last time there was a similar debacle, in Perak following the 2008 elections, the permanent establishment including the sultan, did not acquit themselves well. Who could forget the spectacle of the Speaker being hauled out of the Assembly desperately clinging on to his chair, or the Raja Muda, the Sultan’s representative, being forced to cool his heels in an adjacent room while waiting out the mayhem? It was not pretty. The stench stained all, and stayed to this day.
You can be certain that this time, with the real possibility of Barisan being toppled, members of the permanent establishment would be more circumspect for their own selfish reasons. Thus I do not expect blatant displays of partisanship as we saw in Perak. To add flavor to that, the King today, Sultan Halim, was the Sultan of Kedah when PAS took over from UMNO. Thus working with a non-UMNO chief executive would not be a novelty for him.
Once we have established this fact at the federal level, all the other sultans at the state level would follow suit. They would, out of concern for their own survival, no longer be so blatantly partisan. That can only be good for them and the country.
A hung parliament is nothing to fear; it is just another though less clear-cut expression of a Barisan defeat. Stated differently, a hung parliament is a not-so-pretty Pakatan victory.
Deciding Who To Vote For In the Next Election
M. Bakri Musa
Downstream Analysis: Pakatan Victory Best Outcome
(Third of Four Parts)
The best outcome would be a decisive Pakatan victory. This is the only way to effect much-needed change, specifically to end the current culture of corruption, cronyism and rent-seeking that is enmeshed and fast becoming the fabric of our – specifically Malay – society. Again addressing those under the sway of Perkasa and Ketuanan Melayu, Malays will never advance until we get rid of this destructive culture, of which UMNO is the prime enabler.
I am heartened that more than half of PKR’s candidates are new, with a substantial number of young faces. We can only bring about change with new personnel. Najib considers recycled and rethreads as fresh. How can he ever hope to transform the country with the same tired, tainted, and tattered team? It is significant that he has resurrected Isa Samad, the character suspended from UMNO a few years ago for “money politics!” Truly scraping the very bottom of the barrel! Rest assured that tainted characters like him will be in Najib’s cabinet.
Malaysia’s myriad problems would not miraculously vanish with a Pakatan victory; they may well get worse, at least in the short term. After the long drought years, it would only be human to expect Pakatan leaders and their patrons to treat their victory as durian runtoh (bountiful harvest) and get carried away with their excesses. It is to be noted that there are more family squabbles during the good times than during the lean.
Expect them to behave like the long-deprived family that had won a big lottery just before Christmas, Hari Raya, or Chinese New Year. Expect greedy squabbles on who would get the more expensive presents, the bigger duit raya, or more generous ang pows. Likewise, expect predictable fights over who would be Deputy Prime Minister, specifically whether he (or she, though unlikely) should be a Malay, and fights over critical portfolios like Finance, Education, and Home Affairs.
I am confident that under Anwar Ibrahim’s leadership, Pakatan would overcome these expected teething problems. Many still harbor doubts about him. However, I have tremendous faith in the human capacity to change. Anwar today is a much better person and an immensely wiser leader then he was 15 years ago. He has been through a dramatic reversal of fate, been literally battered, and survived nearly six years in jail until his conviction was overturned. Lesser mortals would have been crushed but Anwar emerged stronger with his reputation enhanced.
Anwar is not dumb. His years in solitary confinement have taught him a thing or two about fate and human nature. He is now well-tempered steel, not easily corroded, and able to withstand the tempest, exactly the kind of leader the country needs.
The chief of police who battered Anwar was finally convicted and jailed. It is significant that Mahathir and others in UMNO have yet to express regret much less condemn the despicable performance of this chief of police. That reflects the ethos of Najib, Mahathir and UMNO. That will never change; hence the need to get rid of them.
The religiously inclined, more pious or less worldly-driven PAS leaders would be a positive influence. They would impress upon their Pakatan colleagues to regard their victory not as a cause for celebration as with a Hari Raya, but the beginning of a long difficult stretch, as with the start of Ramadan. Their victory should call for restraint, patience, and generosity; a time for shared sacrifices, not a fight over the spoils of victory. There will be plenty of time to celebrate later, when they have successfully completed their fast (their programs bearing results).
There would also be the inevitable temptation to reward old stalwarts for their loyalty and past efforts. Yes, by all means thank and honor them but the nation now needs a new beginning. We need new leaders. It would be a tough sell but that has to be done, and done gently, firmly, and with class as well as magnanimity. The torch has passed on to a new generation. It is time for the elders to step aside, tough though that may be for some.
The more human and thus likely response from them would be, “Finally it is our turn!” Those seniors would then look upon the younger leaders not as the next generation of torch bearers but usurpers. “We have struggled for decades and now these upstarts are grabbing the rewards from us!”
Were the older leaders to react that way, it would be a tragedy for them as well as the party and country.
“The old order changeth, yielding place to new, / And God fulfills himself in many ways” (48,49) wrote Tennyson in “The Passing of Arthur,” “Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.” (50) That newness after the election refers not just to a new party but also a new generation.
Those seniors should instead heed this Tennysonian wisdom: “When every morning brought a noble chance, / And every chance brought out a noble knight.” (38,39) The 2013 election will be a new morning for Malaysia, and with that our chance for a new noble knight. We should seize upon that.
There are other potential dangers, of course. If perchance PAS were to win big relative to the other members of Pakatan, then expect its leaders to overreach. They would want to immediately implement hudud and declare an Islamic state. That would fatally split the coalition and be a tragedy for the country.
With its sizeable victory PAS could be the de facto ruling party. Its members could threaten or be bribed by UMNO to “return to the fold.” Historically PAS was an UMNO splinter group. UMNO would not hesitate to throw its non-Malay partners MCA and MIC under the bus, if that be the condition imposed by PAS. UMNO would do anything to hold on to power.
If that were to happen, non-Malays have every reason to be worried. I do not expect another race riot. Malaysians are now too smart and too far developed socio-economically to fall for such chauvinism. Instead what would happen would be a massive brain drain and capital flight out of the country. This time those highly educated non-Malays would be joined by Malays, at least those who have qualifications recognized outside of Malaysia. Those Malays have seen Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan; they have no wish for Malaysia to be like those countries.
An UMNO-PAS coalition would survive; the demographic supports that. The nation however, would not, at least not in its current form.
Lastly, a Pakatan victory will have a salutary effect on UMNO. Presently it is burdened with corrupt, incompetent and sclerotic leadership. Despite Najib’s much-ballyhooed and increasingly futile “transformation” and “change or be changed” exhortations, the party is incapable of reform and self-renewal. Deprived of the loot from having lost political power, a defeated UMNO would quickly implode. That would be the bad news for the party.
The good news is that only the honest, competent, and committed would be left. They would rebuild UMNO slowly and painfully, inspired by its past glories. The example of Mexico’s PRI cited earlier is instructive.
There are fear mongers out there intimating that we risk another horrific May 13 with a Barisan loss. The irresponsibility factor aside, such fears are misplaced. If Malays are easily swayed by frothy mouths like Ibrahim Katak, then we have a far greater problem. Non-Malays are smart enough not to be bothered by characters like him. The Ibrahim Kataks could easily be bought out and effectively silenced by a few cheap directorships.
What I fear more is not a Malay versus non-Malay riot, rather a vicious and protracted intra-Malay conflict. Intra-communal conflicts have always been underestimated. Syrians now suffer much worse then when their country was at war with Israel. Further back, the communists in China killed more Chinese than they did the invading Japanese. Malays now are more deeply polarized along social, political, and religious lines. The fact that our leaders across the spectrum are blissfully unaware of these simmering fault lines makes them all the more dangerous.
The recent Lahad Datuk incursion in Sabah was widely viewed as an “invasion.” Stripped of the nationalistic jingoism and militaristic bravado, it was nothing more than an intra-ethnic fight. What startled and frightened me most about the incident was that the most virulent and violent sentiments were expressed not by non-Malays but Malays. Not a single person, least of all a Malay, had suggested any peaceful solution. It took a foreigner in the person of the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon to urge an end to the violence and to encourage dialogue for a peaceful resolution.
I view the current racial taunting and fear mongering as nothing more than Barisan’s crude and ineffective tactic into scaring Malaysians from voting for the opposition.
Next: (Fourth of Four Parts) Downstream Analysis: A Hung Parliament Would Not Be Bad