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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 12, 2018

An Advice A Decade Too Early For Najib

Q&A Alif Ba Ta Conference Cont'd (September 29, 2011)

Q5: If you were given an opportunity for a private meeting with Prime Minister Najib, what advice would you give him?

MBM:  Najib has a short attention span so I will offer him only two. If I were to give him more, he would probably forget the rest!

One is not an advice but to elicit from him his vision of Malaysia and to inquire what his greatest fear is, politically. The two are related. I think I can anticipate his answer to my second query but as to the first, I have no clue, despite his much-ballyhooed 1Malaysia public relations exercise and its attendant expensive international consultants.

The greatest fear of Barisan, and thus of Najib as its leader, is that it would not regain its traditional two-third majority in the next [2013] general election. You know the fate of Najib’s predecessor Abdullah Badawi when he failed to deliver in 2008.

If that were to be his greatest fear, then imagine it being worse and prepare for that eventuality. If things were to turn out to be not as bad, then he would be relieved and have more confidence in tackling the crisis.

What could be worse than Barisan losing the supra majority? That would be Barisan failing to gain even a simple majority and thus losing the right to rule Malaysia. To add insult to an already unbearable injury, I would have him imagine UMNO winning fewer parliamentary seats than PAS. That would shatter the myth that UMNO is Melayu, and Melayu, UMNO. If that scenario is not scary enough, then add his losing his Pekan seat, as he nearly did in the 1999 elections.

The next election is due no later than March 8, 2013, so Najib has exactly 768 days from today (January 29, 2011) to prepare for that potential political catastrophe. Add a day more if there were to be a leap year in between.

There would be only two choices for Najib. One, knowing that he would lose everything in the next election, he should seize this brief opportunity to enrich himself and his family. Then when booted out he could charter a private jet to whisk him and his family out of the country. That unfortunately is the well-trodden path followed by far too many Third World leaders, the latest being the Tunisian leader, soon to be joined by Egypt’s Mubarak. If Najib were to pursue that course, he would deserve the wrath and curse of all Malaysians. That animus would spill over and stain the memories Malaysians have of his late father.

The other option would be to execute his grand vision of a clean, efficient, and meritocratic nation, as encapsulated in his 1Malaysia aspiration, and help propel Malays onto the global arena, his so-called glokal Malay agenda. Many, including Najib, have already forgotten that slogan.
He could do this by getting rid of all those tainted UMNO characters in his cabinet and party. So what if they were to rebel and plot against him; the result would not be any worse than the earlier scenario I had painted.

Then there are those juicy government contracts. Put them all out to competitive bidding and invite international bidders. If an American company would win it, so what? At least the roofs would not leak or collapse. Yes, those UMNO pseudo entrepreneurs would be ticked off, like bears whose honey jars have suddenly been taken away.

To demonstrate his commitment to meritocracy, visit the top universities of the world and invite those Malaysians there for a private dinner. They might not fall for his cajoling to return but they might just give him some useful advice and brilliant ideas. Who knows, one or two might return. It would certainly be more productive than meeting a Petronas University flunky lobbying for a scholarship, as he did with one Saiful Bukhari.

If Najib were to opt for this second course, he would transform Malaysia come 2013. Voters, seeing the tangible results, may well enthusiastically endorse his leadership. If not, then Najib could at least have the satisfaction knowing that he had given his best.

My second advice to Najib is a real one, not merely a question for him. It is also very short: Get rid of your wife from the public arena! [Spontaneous enthusiastic applause!] As you can see, I am not the only one who would like to throw him that advice!

If Najib’s wife has the itch to involve herself in the affairs of the state (she has certainly given every indication of her itchiness for that), then lobby her husband to nominate her as a candidate in the next election.

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