Longing For Enlightened Leaders

Longing For Enlightened Leaders

M. Bakri Musa



Before Malaysians grant Prime Minister Najib’s request for a mandate in the coming election, we should examine his performance during the past four years.  It has been mediocre, satiated with slogans, and drifting amidst an abundance of acronyms.  If Malaysians are satisfied with KPI and PEMANDU, or One Malaysia This and Two Malaysia That, then expect more of the same, this time with ever incredulous inanity and flatulent fatuousness.


Najib has not demonstrated any ability or inclination to clean up his administrative house.  An early indication of his second term performance is this.  Thus far no cabinet minister has voluntarily withdrawn from being an electoral candidate.  As Najib will not drop them, if they win they will end up in his cabinet again.  Nothing would have changed.


A wisecrack definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result.  That is true only if you let the same cast of incompetent characters carry out the task after they have clearly and repeatedly demonstrated their inability to do so.  Pick others more competent and diligent, and the result may well surprise you.  It would be far from insanity.


The best advice a science teacher could give a student who repeatedly fails to perform an experiment is to suggest that he pursues music instead, where “practice, practice, practice!” (doing the same thing over and over) may take him to Carnegie Hall.  Likewise, the kindest gesture to Najib after he has clearly demonstrated his inability to lead would be for Malaysians to force him into another line of work, by not voting him and his party in.


After over half of century in power, what has UMNO, a party that claims to champion Malays, achieved?  Malays today are even more morally corrupt, deeply polarized, and economically disadvantaged than ever before.  Those are not my observations.  I am merely summarizing what Mahathir, a man who led the country and UMNO for over two decades, said.


Take any social indicator – rate of incarceration, drug abuse, families headed by single mothers – and our community is over represented.  Our educational and economic achievements are nothing to be proud of; they are an embarrassment.  Yet UMNO Supreme Council members parade their ‘doctorates’ from degree mills as genuine intellectual achievements.  The sorry part is that their colleagues believe them!  Spouses and families of ministers brag that their luxurious condominiums are the fruits of their entrepreneurial flair where others see those as reflecting the corruption and cronyism of the system.


Current UMNO leaders are like that inept science student; it is time to force them to pursue other lines of work, anything other than leading us.  Voters must be like the strict teacher; flunk the student who repeatedly fails to perform his assigned task.  Letting him continue would not do that individual any service; it would only be detrimental to the rest of the class.  Voters must flunk these corrupt and incompetent UMNO leaders by voting them out.



Not A Lost Cause


This does not mean that UMNO is a lost cause; nothing is.  Even the most unseaworthy sloop could through imaginative and skilful craftsmanship be brought up to Bristol condition.  The operative phrase or caveat is “imaginative and skilful craftsmanship.”  Is Najib imaginative and skilful?


I never underestimate the ability of an individual to learn or change.  The diminutive, uninspiring and uncharismatic Deng Xiaoping was well in his 70s when he assumed power.  He then took his giant nation in a radically different and far better direction.


Unlike Deng, Najib is far from being diminutive physically, but he exceeds Deng in being uninspiring and uncharismatic.  Again unlike Deng whose path to power was littered with the carcasses of personal and political tragedies (his son was paralyzed by Red Guard goons and Deng was once paraded in a dunce cap on the streets of Beijing), Najib’s ascend to the top was well paved – by others.


Deng was tempered by life’s bitter lessons; Najib’s the beneficiary of its many blessings.  If Najib considers that a handicap and an excuse for his underperformance, then he should look up to another transformative leader of modern times, Franklin D Roosevelt, for inspiration.  Roosevelt, whose name means a field of roses in Dutch, was born into privilege.  Yet he uplifted the lives of Americans especially the poor through his New Deal initiatives.  His progressive redistributionist policies earned him the sobriquet, “traitor to his class.”


Najib’s name is equally rosy; it means wise, intelligent, or high birth in Arabic.  Like Roosevelt, Najib was also born into privilege though not on the same scale as FDR or today.  Corruption and cronyism were not yet the norms when Tun Razak was Prime Minister.


Going back to Deng, Najib too spent his formative years as a young man abroad, in Britain, to Deng’s Europe.  When Deng left, his father asked him what he hoped to learn.  Deng replied, “To learn knowledge and the truth from the West in order to save China.”


I do not know whether Najib had a similar conversation with his father, but one thing I do know.  Tun Razak sent all his children abroad to escape the very Malaysian system of education he was championing!  Hypocrisy is a good word to describe such a stance.  That is one trait Najib inherits from his father.


I risk flattering Najib by mentioning him in the same sentence with Deng and FDR.  My doing so merely reflects a longing on my part for a leader who could inspire us.


Najib could initiate change now to give us a hint that he is indeed capable of being a “transformative leader” as he so frequently bragged, and not be content with merely mouthing slogans.  He could announce his “shadow” cabinet should Barisan be returned to power.  Better yet, revamp his cabinet now and pick his new team to go into the election so citizens could have a reason to vote for Barisan and not merely against Pakatan.


Malaysians do not expect miracles or demand a super team, merely capable and honest ministers.  It is not a tall order.  Begin by getting rid of those stale politicians in his cabinet.  If they haven’t yet made their mark, they are unlikely to do so in the next few years.


Characters like Nazri, Rais and Hishamuddin are like durians that have remained unsold for far too long.  They are tak laku (unsellable), not even good for making tompoyak.  All they do is stink the place up and lower the value of what few remaining good durians Najib has.  Nor are his junior ministers, the next tier of leaders, any better, as exemplified by the recent idiotic utterances of one Dr. Mashitah.  She is supposedly better educated, sporting a doctorate of some sort.


I could add a few more names including that of Muhyyiddin, but that would only be divisive.  After all he has as much claim and legitimacy to the top post as Najib.  Instead why not join forces and together pick the new dream team.


While he is at it, Najib should also pick a new Attorney General and anti-corruption chief.  If Najib were to name individuals with impeccable credentials and professionalism to those two offices, then those old tak laku durians he dropped from his cabinet would not dare create trouble for him.


Najib’s address to the UMNO General Assembly later this month will reveal whether he is content with another session of sloganeering or serious about transforming his party and country.  The greater significance is this.  By indulging in the former and naming the same old nincompoops to his cabinet and top positions, Najib soils the reputation of our community.  It gives the impression that the Nazris, Raises, Mashitahs and Hishamuddins represent the best our race is capable of producing or that we are bereft of talents.  The shame reflects on all of us.

10 Responses to “Longing For Enlightened Leaders”

  1. Foo says:

    Aren’t we asking Najib to do the IMPOSSIBLE? Wouldn’t it be easier to put him and all under his care (if he still stays as the head)in the opposite bench?

  2. King Kong says:

    I think you should write in Malay because the English speaking consists mostly of two groups (1) people who are already going to vote against UMNO and (2) the crony classes who went to universities like Nottingham, neither of which are going to change their vote any time soon.

  3. Thumb Logic says:

    Today I met a South Korean Diplomat. When I was in Korea in 1986 most of their Diplomats were struggling to converse in English. Today I was pleasntly surprised. This young Diplomat spoke flawless English. When you stop climbling the mountain other will overtake you. Please tell this our leaders.

  4. Rosli Khan says:

    Doc, I like your sarcasm. And I think you knew the answers to those suggestions as you wrote this piece. Isnt it sad for our community that these lot represent the best there is? You forgot to mention the Shahrizats, the Ibrahim Alis, the Ali Rustams, Mahathir’s children and all. The list goes on and on, and it would really be a waste of space in your fine column..!

  5. K Das says:

    Culling the corrupt and the incompetent and naming a would-be cabinet with fresh and competent faces may perhaps be the only effective way for Najib to redeem himself and win the GE. But can he and will he have the gumption and courage to take on a cartel of UMNO war lords and power wielders, who seem to be hemming him in now?

    He may still win the GE by cruising along in a boat steered by a crew outnumbered by his adversaries. But he may remain as PM only for a short period before he is booted out.

    For Najib to implement his reformist agenda, he has to win the GE on his own merit after having disposed of the war lords and useless and incompetent ministers.

    Is he is on shaky grounds and feels morally and ethically compromised? Has he told the truth about his and his wife’s (alleged) involvement in the murder of the Mongolian woman? Or do his adversaries presumably know the truth and have hidden evidence to nail him on the wall should he bark at and bite them?

    The only way to reiterate and show his innocence is for him to slaughter the war lords beginning from now. If you don’t bury them they will bury you for sure.

    If there is no indication of Najib moving against his powerful adversaries before the GE, it is best the people ditch Najib and along with him his UMNO and BN

  6. James Labi says:

    Quote :

    Brown’s (Gordon Brown) never been elected by anybody. I’m supposed to be in a country where I get the chance to elect someone and I’m around here at the most dangerous of times led by a man who’s never been elected. You’ve gotta be elected. A political party that’s in too long is like a piece of meat – if it’s there too long it will go rotten and they’ve gone rotten and they’ve gotta go.

    Michael Caine, Hollywood Star. Acted as batman’s butler, Alfred Pennyworth in ‘The Dark Knight Rises.

  7. Kiru says:

    “…A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear. The traitor is the plague…. ( or may I add…durians)

    Cicero’s 58BC speech in the Roman Senate

  8. roslan aziz says:

    i think they are more like a music students who continuosly make mistakes after years of practice…go and do science !

  9. roslan aziz says:

    i think they are more like music students who continuosly make mistakes after years of practice…go and do science !

  10. DBKL says:

    “Najib’s name is equally rosy;…” you wrote and I beg to differ.

    The Mrs. name is Rosmah. Ha..ha..ha…..

    A good read indeed.

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