Posted: 09 Jun 2013 07:07 PM PDT
After the most closely contested general election in our history, many of you probably want to know what will happen next. What do the results of GE13 mean for Malaysian politics, and for us? It's a big question to tackle over lunch, so I have decided to address it from a limited perspective, and that is: what kind of leadership is in store for us after this past election?
Since I am no longer involved in politics, some will say I am not the best person to answer this question. However, my being away from the front line of politics actually helps me to see things more clearly and objectively than a party member. I have no allegiances to service, no agenda to serve. What I say is based purely on what I see and understand about the inner workings of these political parties within the context of the larger political landscape.
Four years ago in my speech at this same hotel, I said that Dato' Seri Najib Tun Razak was not a suitable man to succeed Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. With such deep-seated problems of corruption, intensified by distrust amongst the different races, coupled with the glaring weakness of the Police force to address the question of security and the deaths in police custody, I believe that the country needs a strong leader. Since the election, we are further faced with the terrible truth about the inefficiency and partisan behaviour of our own Election Commission, the irresponsible and provocative behaviour of Umno's media apparatus in maligning those they felt had not supported Barisan Nasional, the spate of arrests and charges against students and political leaders – all these matters have contributed to the present state of helplessness and anger amongst the people. Will the Prime Minister tackle these issues head on?
UMNO cannot function when its leader is weak, and neither can the country. The many years of indoctrination, including the inculcation of fear of threats from other ethnic communities, require that UMNO have a strong leader. This leader is someone who doesn't fear his own family or the UMNO warlords, and who can employ the strength of his convictions and intellect to push his economic and social agenda successfully.
More importantly, UMNO requires a leader who at heart is someone who will not let the Malay community down. He is someone the Malays can have implicit trust to take care of them. Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is a classic example of a strong UMNO leader. He committed some errors during his years as Prime Minister and gave a number of projects to his non-Malay friends, but the UMNO Malays trusted him to always take care of their interests. He had a long history of protecting Malay interests without talking too much about it. Although lately he was rather harsh on the Chinese community for rejecting the BN and making the most unfortunate remarks in his blog, he was never like that when he was the Prime Minister. In fact, the Chinese community was always supportive of BN under him. He was a strong Malay leader who was acceptable to most non-Malays.
Perhaps that's why he was strong enough to replace the NEP in 1990 with the National Development Policy, and was also able to come up with Vision 2020, which articulated a future in which Malaysians of all races could live together in harmony in a developed Malaysia. That's why he was strong enough to get the school children to learn English through science and mathematics. There was no Utusan to mock or attack him and his policies, and there was no backlash from UMNO businessmen because he had the foresight to distribute the country's largesse fairly.
During his tenure, there was never the kind of racial incitement or extreme posturing amongst the races. Relations between the Chinese and the Malays were good except for a brief moment during Operasi Lalang in 1987. He was able to do what others could not. That's why he was able to sign a historic peace deal with the Communists. If he was the Prime Minister today, Chin Peng would have been allowed back home. Dr Mahathir would have honoured the agreement and Utusan and the ultra Malays would not have bothered him. That's what a strong UMNO leader is capable of.
I am prepared to revise my opinion about the current Prime Minister if he would address the three main issues facing this country. One, he has to stop racial polarization by making a clear and unequivocal stand on the matter. He must show he is able to control Utusan Melayu from further provoking the Chinese community. Second, he has to address the endemic corruption and abuse of power in the country, with particular emphasis in revamping the entire Police force. Thirdly, he has to work on a race relations legislation so that we can have better race relations; where there is no place for "hate politics" between the ethnic groups in the country and thus save this country from turmoil. These are big steps to take but that's what a leader is for.
At this point in time, Najib does not fit into this frame of what is being described as "strong leader" at all. He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He is cosmopolitan and lives the life as that of the rich and famous. I would imagine he is the type that relishes being flown by private jet, say to watch the sunrise in Sydney before jumping on the same jet to fly to New York to see another sunrise for the New Year! He is not perturbed by his family's spending sprees, even though many Malaysians are still languishing in the low-income bracket. He has never been a natural leader known for his beliefs and convictions. That's why his so-called reforms and transformation plans seem so dangerous to UMNO Malays. He has no history of doing enough for them and so they are worried his transformation plans would be to their detriment.
As I have said, Dr Mahathir might have been described as an ultra but in my opinion, he was fair to the other races; which is why the non-Malays had supported Barisan Nasional when he was Prime Minister. He had strong convictions and would not waver in the face of objections; and this gave the people comfort. He would not have the government fund movies such as Tanda Putera or a television series for the novel, Interlok. During his tenure, you would not hear of Utusan regularly attacking the non-Malays as they do now. That can only be explained in this way: the UMNO Malays were assured that Dr Mahathir would always take care of them, despite being generous with the non-Malay towkays. The question then is: can Najib convince the Malays that he will never ditch them for the sake of his so-called reforms and transformation plans. You see, only a strong and trusted UMNO leader can espouse and implement real and much-needed reforms or transformations. Similarly, any rapprochement or reconciliation amongst the races can only be facilitated by a strong leader. If carried out haphazardly by a weak leader, then it will be seen as selling out and will inevitably fail.
Is there anyone who would mount a challenge to Najib? Insiders say that Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin would prefer to wait for the durian to fall without having to shake the tree. It's also true that waging an UMNO contest entails spending a lot of money, and having spent so much already during the General Election, not many supporters have the appetite to submit to another round of "donations." Some of the big donors who are usually prevailed upon to supply election war chests are strapped for cash. Even if they are inclined to support the challenger, they remain wary of Najib. The Prime Minister can easily make the call to the banks and these industrialists would be exposed to some serious recall of their loans.
If Najib can display strong leadership by tackling current problems with determination, perhaps he may be the preferred choice of UMNO delegates. And by the definition of "strong", it does not mean threatening words or unleashing the keris, but one where the people of all races can be assured that he would stand by them in any circumstances.
Posted: 09 Jun 2013 01:38 PM PDT
During my Form 5 or 6 I read about an incident that was hotly debated and it was taking place in Kedah at that time. It was in 1993 and it was the Kerpan prawn breeding project financed by the Ben Laden group from Saudi and the Malaysian government.
I remember this particular news quite well as the news about this project was not well received by many affected Kedahan paddy planters who had to give up their paddy fields forcefully below the market price and turn themselves from being a paddy planter to being a prawn breeder overnight.
My source of information came from two papers which is The Star paper and Utusan Konsumer. I use to buy both from my school at a discounted rate.
I noticed both these sources has got a different take on the same issue. One was advocating for the prawn breeding project to be realized and the other one was quite against it. Yup, I guess you know which one I'm talking about right?
The Star Paper was advocating what the government of the day was proposing to the Kerpan farmers. Their message seems to be that the Kerpan farmers do not know what is best for them and it is best for BN government to do all the talking, thinking and the decision making for the displaced farmers.
The Utusan Konsumer was more critical in this project and its implementation. It was more concern about the welfare of the Kerpan farmers, the long term viability of this project and the inadequate compensation that the paddy farmers received from the powers that be.
This made me to think why is that so. At that time I had no idea that The Star paper belongs to the MCA which is part of the ruling government but it just made me to think is The Star as the people's paper telling the whole truth?
In my mind I knew The Star paper was only telling one side of the story and the other side was conveniently left out. Reading the Utusan Konsumer gave a much fresh and humane understanding of this Kerpan issue.
Fast forward to 2008 during GE12 most if not all of the main stream media (MSM) were only writing and publishing one sided stories which favoured the ruling BN government. It was so obvious and in some cases certain opposition leaders were attacked left and right and was not given the right to reply. None at all!
The opposition bashing was even more prominent during the eve of GE12. But this time the rakyat did not buy into their stories or lies. The rakyat gave an almost point blank response that they want change in the status quo and this involves how the MSM are being run these days as well.
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