For Enlightened Leaders
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minister has voluntarily withdrawn from being an electoral candidate.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
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.