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M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

My Photo
Location: Morgan Hill, California, United States

Malaysian-born Bakri Musa writes frequently on issues affecting his native land. His essays have appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, International Herald Tribune, Education Quarterly, SIngapore's Straits Times, and The New Straits Times. His commentary has aired on National Public Radio's Marketplace. His regular column Seeing It My Way appears in Malaysiakini. Bakri is also a regular contributor to th eSun (Malaysia). He has previously written "The Malay Dilemma Revisited: Race Dynamics in Modern Malaysia" as well as "Malaysia in the Era of Globalization," "An Education System Worthy of Malaysia," "Seeing Malaysia My Way," and "With Love, From Malaysia." Bakri's day job (and frequently night time too!) is as a surgeon in private practice in Silicon Valley, California. He and his wife Karen live on a ranch in Morgan Hill. This website is updated twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays at 5 PM California time.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

"Badawi Ain't Got It!" Exchanges With Din Merican

“Badawi Aint’ Got It!” Exchanges with Din Merican

Dear Bakri:

You have started the year well with your new book together with your uplifting Hari Raya Haji message on your website.

You may have noted that I had taken on the Al-Jihad character on your blog. One of my MBA students, Vibol Yann, sought my help in responding to Al-Jihad’s stupid question. Vibol expressed surprise that we Malaysian Muslims are overly concerned with religion. As a result, he thinks we are losing sight of the challenges of creating “niches” for ourselves in business and thus contribute to our society’s development in this era of globalization and of “The World is Flat.”

I told him bluntly that our Prime Minister knows nothing else and thus his focusing on the only niche he can understand: religion. This is dangerous as well as myopic. The secular “here and now” world demands a holistic approach to development, with our spirituality shaping our norms and values.

I informed my MBA class about your just-released book, Towards A Competitive Malaysia. As soon as it is released in Malaysia, I will donate two copies for the library of the University of Cambodia. I will also make it required class reading, perhaps as a case study for my course on competitive strategy. They are familiar with Porter’s Diamond of Competitive Strategy model, and will have no problem in appreciating your Diamond of Development concept.

I will be a tutor this year for the Manchester University MBA program at Sunway. There are only four Malays accepted in this year’s enrolment of 20. I will use your latest book as one of the recommended texts, as well as your earlier Malaysia in the Era of Globalization.

Talking about books, Ooi Kee Beng of Singapore’s ISEAS, in collaboration with Tawfik Ismail, has just released a biography of the late Tun Ismail, former Deputy Prime Minister and colleague of Tun Razak. You must have read the Six-Part serialization in the New Straits Times, as well as Tawfik’s interview (January 7, 2007, NST). I will send you a copy of the book as soon as it hits the stands.

Both Tawfik and Ooi interviewed me on Tun Ismail’s role in shaping Malaysia’s Foreign Policy in the Tunku-Tun Razak era (1957-1973). They told me that I have an “honorable mention” in the book.
Malaysia enters its 50th Year of Independence this 2007. Last night Badawi launched the Giant Ferris Wheel at Taman Titiwangsa in the heart of Kuala Lumpur amid great fanfare, to commence Visit Malaysia 2007. He appealed to Malaysians to work hard (he is exempted of course since he loves to snooze!), and to build a clean, prosperous and peaceful nation. Back to his favorite theme of First World Mindset, I suppose. Coming from him, Malaysians will again brush that off. He has no credibility left, having squandered his massive political capital he acquired in the last elections.

Most of us want him to either retire (Undur lah Pak Lah!) or be booted out by UMNO through a “No Confidence” vote if he loses around 50 seats to the Opposition in the next elections. So far Abdullah has been an unmitigated disaster with the 9MP stalled, apparently due to “poor implementation.” The recent floods in the country also conspire against him. Yet to his spinners, the media and academic community, things are fine. Inflation is supposedly under control, economy on an even keel, and 2007 will be another good year.

In yesterday’s NST (January 6, 2007) there is a front-page report of a seminar in Putrajaya where academics and policy wonks agreed that Abdullah’s policies were “brilliant” but only their implementations flawed. Now they are irritating and agitating the civil service; they are making the service a scapegoat for their lack of political will and leadership of the economy.

In fact it is his policies that are incoherent; he has articulated no vision at all despite his many slogans like Islam Hadhari. Expect continued spinning in 2007. Others, like policy wonks and establishment academics, will be as usual, guarded in their comments. They have to protect their rice bowls. Expect the continuation of creating policies based on fiction, not facts.

As I look back over these years, it feels that it was only yesterday that we had our Independence. I feel that way not because of how much time has quickly flown by, rather that national unity and sustained quality development still elude us. Our country remains divided along racial, religious and social lines. Our ethical values as well as our physical environment have been eroded by rapacious politicians and their cohorts in business.

Our education system is an utter mess, with only piecemeal attempts at fixing it. Young bright Malaysians are staying away. The Chinese community is divesting and taking its money to China, Vietnam, and elsewhere. After over 35 years, our New Economic Policy has failed to make the Malay community economically strong. The issues you have eloquently highlighted in your book, The Malay Dilemma Revisited, remain unresolved, and with the passage of time they have become even more critical.

Compounding all these is that as we enter our 5lst Year of independence at the end of August this year, we would be saddled by an UMNO that is corrupt and divided into fractions and with a weak leader who cannot hold it together. Nor can he lead the Barisan Nasional coalition and our country. A friend of mine said it best, and rather bluntly, “Badawi ain’t got it.”

This is my early take for 2007. Salam, Din.

Dear Din:

I am thrilled that you are teaching an MBA class. With your own MBA and vast experience, your students will get an outstanding education.

I too lament the squandered opportunities and waste of precious time. The recent love fest at Putarjaya was just too embarrassing. Those third rate academics, politicians and other apple polishers ought to be ashamed of their unabashed praises for Abdullah Badawi. One Annuar Zaini went so far as to portray Abdullah as a soprano who was not getting help from the orchestra. He forgot that this particular singer is tone deaf (politically). That musical metaphor is apt. Abdullah has been so used to waiting for his cue from the conductor, and now none is forthcoming. He has never come to grip to the fact that he is now the conductor! Poor soul, he is lost and certainly not ready for the podium.

If I may shed my modesty a bit, I believe that my recently released Towards A Competitive Malaysia gives a more realistic mid-term appraisal of Abdullah. It is not pretty. If he were an undergraduate, I would recommend that he change his major to a less demanding one. If he were a graduate student, I would advise him to quit; he is just not cut out to finish his program.

I believe that he is sufficiently introspective to know that he is way out of his league. Unfortunately his fawning courtiers keep feeding this illusion of his great competence and command. The facade can last only so long.

Our ministers, pundits, UMNO Supreme Council members, as well as senior civil servants owe it to the nation to let the Prime Minister know that he is not ready for prime time. Or if he was at one time (as for example during his overwhelming electoral victory in 2004), then he is way past his shelf life now.

These Malaysians are derelict in their public duty, they should rightly share the blame for the nation’s mess. They owe it to the nation to let this old man know of the reality. As they have not been up to that solemn duty, it is now for us to do it for the sake of the future generations of Malaysians. Tun Mahathir has started the ball rolling, now we must pick it up and run. We must do so now, before we lose everything.

Sallam, Bakri


Blogger johnleemk said...

Dr. Bakri,

I think that it's more than just Pak Lah who is failing the country. All of us, as Malaysians, need to do our part to stand up for change, whether through making BN a better government, or whether through changing the government. The way I see it, presently Malaysia is on the road to failure as a nation.

7:33 AM  

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