Isnin, 23 September 2013

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Thank you, now move on

Posted: 22 Sep 2013 02:58 PM PDT

All the silly political ding-dong on the matter like arguing about the ashes of Chin Peng, gives Communism too much undeserved attention. In fact, the government's stubborn refusal to let Chin Peng be buried in Malaysia gives Communism too much sympathy.

Hafiz Noor Shams, MM

A good dozen issues is holding Malaysia back. Several big ones are legacies originating from days long gone.

While we can never truly escape history, I feel it is dragging us down too much. So heavy is the baggage that sometimes, I feel the best way to move forward is to forget.

I write this because Chin Peng died on Malaysia Day. He fought for a very different version of Malaysia, possibly the very opposite of what we have today.

That makes the date of his death quite ironic, although it is arguable that his struggle hastened the independence of Malaya and later the formation of Malaysia.

We can never truly know how it would have been if he had his way. But, if offered the choice between a Communist state and today's Malaysia, I will choose today's reality—even with its lamentable imperfections—without hesitation.

That does not mean the imperfections afflicting Malaysia today are acceptable. We can live in a society that is better than what we have today. That has to be true because otherwise we must have given up on this country.

One imperfection comes from the very era Chin Peng and his generation represent. The fight against the Communist rebellion took a toll on our way of life.

We sacrificed our liberty for security then. Unfortunately years after the conflict ended, we continue to make the same sacrifices when none is needed. Instruments useful for the fight against the Communists have been abused to suppress other Malaysians.

There has been progress, like the abolition of the Internal Security Act, but the opening is happening too slowly for my liking. The promise of more liberalization remains unfulfilled, no thanks to pressure from those still unable or refuse to move on.

I hope the death of Chin Peng – and slowly, his generation regardless the sides they are on – brightens the prospect of us forgetting old fears that are increasingly irrelevant to this age. I use the word irrelevant not to deny old wounds. The wounds are real and I respect that.

I write so because when you look all around you, you will not expect a Communist to shoot you. Communism itself does not deserve the attention it receives in Malaysia today.

All the silly political ding-dong on the matter like arguing about the ashes of Chin Peng, gives Communism too much undeserved attention. In fact, the government's stubborn refusal to let Chin Peng be buried in Malaysia gives Communism too much sympathy.

As that generation slowly fades, my hope is that we can finally take a step forward and leave all the old baggage behind. I hope that the memories of past terrors and the rationale for illiberal laws that we have now will go away with that generation too bitter to move on. I believe only when they are gone will we have a freer hand to write our future.

The era of Communist insurrection is not the only legacy issue bedeviling our modern Malaysia. There is a whole set too long for a comprehensive mention. Some people are blaming the British for Malaysian woes half a century later. What is certain is that these issues are in our collective mind, no thanks to that generation which keeps reminding us of their bitterness and insecurity.

The world changes but they do not. It would be okay if they had kept their old worldviews to themselves as they enjoy their retirement. The problem is that leaders of that generation are still pulling strings.

They are Malaysians too and they deserve a place under the sun but sometimes, they influence too strongly, as Lee Kuan Yew has done in Singapore years after his retirement.

This makes efforts by current leaders, whichever side they are on, to move on more difficult than it should. Former Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi knows what it feels like when Prime Minister Najib Razak comes under unrelenting pressure as the Umno election nears.

But Chin Peng reminds us all that we are mortals. It is just a matter of when.

That generation will be missed. But we need to move on.


Najib’s Leadership Deficiencies Undermine Malaysia’s Future

Posted: 22 Sep 2013 01:34 PM PDT 

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. 

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 hungers for approval. He is also severely "charismatically-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. 

A deluge of depressing headlines

Posted: 22 Sep 2013 12:58 PM PDT

Lest anyone imagine for a moment that all this one-sided spoon feeding only began post-May 13, let me relate my first-hand schoolboy experiences of the rob Peter (read Chinese) pay Paul (read Malay) policy during my secondary school years prior to 1969.

An author said, "There are no hopeless situations; there are only men who have grown hopeless about them."

Yet another wrote, "The nation is bad but not without hope. It is only helpless when you look at it from an ideal viewpoint."

If I seem philosophical, it is because of an overdose of thought-provoking headlines leading up to Malaysia's Jubilee on Sept 16.

Here's a sampling:

"Is Malaysia truly free?"

"Reversing the clock on Malaysia"

"Sarawakians look for a fairer deal"

"Harris also failed Sabahans"

"The Chinese support BN too"

"Federal government must be genuinely inclusive"

"Where do we go from here?"

Except for the last heading, the first six were all gleaned from online publications. Don't expect pungent political analyses from our impotent, or perhaps even emasculated, national dailies.

Life in Malaysia has never been more suffocating in the last half century than now, notwithstanding that the Infernal (sic) Security Act has been repealed.

The ISA was replaced by the no less offensive (pardon the pun) Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma).

Malaysians are bracing for new legislation to replace the Emergency Ordinance and the Sedition Act, if the latter is repealed as well.

Datuk Seri Najib Razak is dragging his feet on the pre-GE13 undertaking to do away with the archaic law. Meanwhile, the Sedition Act is liberally and selectively used against the opposition.

An oft-repeated joke goes like this: "One day our country will be free. Which tense is it?" "Future Impossible Tense!"

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