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M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

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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, August 16, 2009

On Malay Heroes and Traitors

On Malay Heroes and Traitors
M. Bakri Musa

Malaysiakini.com August 13, 2009



It is truly despicable that Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Muhyyuddin would see fit to label the leader of the loyal opposition Anwar Ibrahim a traitor. I expect such infantile name calling and boorish behavior from the likes of UMNO Youth leaders and mainstream media editors, not from a DPM.

Muhyyuddin has yet to learn that as DPM he is leader of all Malaysians, not just of UMNO and Barisan supporters. In mentality and behavior he remains a parochial UMNO politician, not a national leader. He has yet to make the necessary transition to being the occupant of the second highest office in the land, and literally a heartbeat away from being Prime Minister.

Muhyyuddin is now clearly way over his head. His is the classic personification of the old Peter Principle, of someone finally rising to his level of incompetence. Not that he was particularly capable in his previous role as Agriculture Minister.

Muhyyuddin as DPM does not necessarily alarm me except that our recent history has shown that even incompetent DPMs do ascend to the top post. Were Muhyyuddin to succeed likewise, it would truly be a horrifying prospect for Malaysia. As he has so clearly demonstrated, this character simply does not have what it takes to lead our great nation.

In calling Anwar a traitor to Malays, and ipso facto to Malaysia, Muhyyuddin is treating the millions of Anwar supporters, Malays and non-Malays alike, also as traitors. In so doing Muhyyuddin exacerbates the already deepening and increasingly dangerous polarization of Malaysians, especially Malays. This is no way to further the aspirations of “1Malaysia.”

Muhyyuddin is clearly not ready for prime time, and he has not shown that he will ever be. With the economy tanking and the escalating health threat from the H1N1 influenza, I would have thought he would have his hands full helping Prime Minister Najib Razak. More specifically, as Education Minister he has enough on his plate in rescuing our pathetic national schools. If he has been diligent in attending to his official duties he would have little time to indulge in such infantile behaviors.

As DPM and also the minister in charge of education Muhyyuddin has all the opportunities to rise to the occasion and prove himself a hero. Instead, unable or incompetent to deal with the myriad pressing problems, he resorts to ugly name calling.

If Muhyyuddin truly believes that Anwar is a traitor, and thus a threat to the nation, then he (Muhyyuddin) should act on his conviction. There are enough statutes on the books to deal with traitors. That Muhyyuddin is satisfied only with name calling shows the true character of the man and the silliness of the charge.


Part of A Greater Problem

Alas Muhyyuddin is only part of a much greater problem, and that is the pathetic lack of talent in UMNO, and thus the government. The party’s top leaders are knaves rather than heroes.

As non-Malays still see UMNO as representing Malays, many would not unreasonably conclude that the Malay race itself lacks talent, and that we are essentially a community of dumbbells. Consequently no amount of special privileges, enhanced opportunities, and molly coddling would or could change that reality. That is the scary and destructive part. More pertinently, that hurts – deeply.

One cannot really fault these non-Malays for their erroneous conclusion. After all, hardly a day goes by without us hearing something silly coming from these senior UMNO leaders. A few days ago there was Information Minister Rais Yatim wanting to censor the Internet. A few months back there was his predecessor Zainuddin Maidin foaming at the mouth eager to demonstrate his utter stupidity in front of a worldwide Al-Jazeera audience by complaining about those ‘traitorous’ HINDRAF demonstrators and defending the abusive behaviors of the police.

I yearn to hear something sensible emanating from our top leaders.

In my earlier book The Malay Dilemma Revisited, I suggested that then Prime Minister Mahathir revamp UMNO’s top leadership by totally bypassing the next (now the current) generation of leaders as represented by Muhyyuddin Yassin, Rais Yatim, and Zainuddin Maidin.

Mahathir then was (and perhaps still is) the only UMNO leader capable of undertaking such a massive transformation of his party. Had he done that, he would have spared the nation the agony of half a decade of wasted opportunities under the inept Abdullah Badawi, Mahathir’s chosen successor.

Worse, the nightmare continues, to haunt not only Mahathir but more significantly, Malaysia. For succeeding Abdullah was the equally inept though more polished Najib. Compounding that, we now have the specter of a moronic Muhyyuddin taking over after Najib.

Mahathir is today pathetically reduced to a cranky old man continually bitching on the sideline on the fate of his party and country. And if I may add, ineffectually too! Mahathir’s recent passionate calls for not abandoning the teaching of science and mathematics in English were essentially ignored by Muhyyuddin and the cabinet. Mahathir’s success in bringing down Abdullah was an aberration, contributed greatly by Abdullah’s own spectacular ineptness.

With Najib and Muhyyuddin however, we have a pair of rapacious politicians not at all shy in abusing the powers of the state to silence their critics. The only difference between the two is that Najib is more polished and thus presents a seemingly more sophisticated image, while Muhyyuddin’s brute utterances only reinforce his thuggish looks.

With Muhyyddin set to succeed Najib, and tired characters like Rais Yatim, Hishamuddin and Nazri Aziz permanently ensconced in the cabinet, the future for Malaysia is bleak.

UMNO is incapable of self-renewal. The party’s upcoming October General Assembly purportedly to revamp its constitution will not alter anything. Increasing the number of delegates to select the top leaders, one of the proposed changes, will only result in more sharing the loot. As they all have the same insatiable appetite for avarice, ‘money politics,’ UMNO’s notorious euphemism for corruption, would only expand.

There is no reason for Malaysians to remain fatalistic and meekly accept such a fate. W are a democracy; citizens have the power to change their government, and thus alter the fate of our nation. So come the next election throw these bums out, the whole lot of them.

Once these characters are out of power, watch them resort to ugly name calling. At least then those tirades would be directed at their fellow UMNO leaders. They deserve that, and each other. That is the fate of knaves.

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