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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, April 08, 2007

Looking For Some Jantans

Looking For Some Jantans

M. Bakri Musa

From Malaysia-Today.net April 7, 2007

Saddam Hussein did not by himself destroy Iraq; likewise Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe. These leaders did not become tyrants overnight. They became monsters only because of the inactions and silence of their followers. No one had the gumption to restrain them; there were no jantans (alpha males).

These leaders began with the best of intentions and noblest of motives. The seed of their (and consequently also their country’s) destruction was sown when their early strays were not corrected. The lack of jantans emboldened these leaders, enabling their suppressed evilness to surface. Once they morphed into monsters, they could no longer be restrained; they simply devoured everything in their path.

In apportioning blame for the evils perpetrated by these monsters, the culpability of those “enablers” must also be properly accounted for. They too must be held responsible even though many have already paid dearly with their life.

Not Yet A Monster

Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi is not a tyrant or monster leader, not yet. With no jantan in his cabinet and UMNO Supreme Council to restrain him, rest assured he will be, and soon. In the short period since assuming leadership, he has demonstrated many disturbing traits. He is increasingly intolerant of criticisms, self righteously dismissing his critics as engaging in fitnah, a particularly derisive term deep with religious connotations.

His campaign commitment to integrity was a cruel hoax perpetrated on the electorate. He tolerated individuals with tainted reputation. Earlier there were Kasitah Gaddam and Isa Samad; today Deputy Minister Johari and ACA Director Zulkipli. Under Abdullah, Malaysia has become even more corrupt.

Abdullah is ethically blind to the obscenely rapid accumulation of wealth by his family members. We would gladly bask in the reflected racial glory had they acquired their wealth through business acumen or entrepreneurial flair. Instead, they became fabulously wealthy only after Abdullah became Prime Minister, an ugly fact obvious to all except them.

When hundreds of thousands of our citizens were displaced because of massive floods in Johore, Abdullah saw fit to open his brother’s restaurant in Perth. Such irresponsible and perverted sense of priority!

In all these lapses, there was nary a word of disapproval much less reprimand from the pundits, intellectuals, and editorial writers. They were curiously silent, a tacit approval for such shenanigans. We look forlornly for some jantan who could have taken the leadership to task. Alas, there were none! Instead we have kaki upahan (hired hands) galore. The surprise is that they could be had so cheaply.

That Abdullah Badawi has not risen to his position is not the issue. He demonstrates the classic Peter Principle (of being promoted beyond his competence level) long before becoming Prime Minister.

The nation should not be held captive to former Prime Minister Mahathir’s mistake in selecting Abdullah. Abdullah’s 2004 landslide electoral victory should not be the excuse for tolerating his continued incompetence and sinister tendencies. President Nixon’s evil character remained hidden right through his landslide re-election. Only through the jantan in the person of the special prosecutor was Nixon finally exposed.

We should not let Abdullah interpret his massive electoral victory as a license for his (and his family’s) personal enrichment. This seemingly religious man, with previously modest taste, has suddenly acquired a fondness for luxury yachts, executive jets, and opulent mansions. To think that only a few years back when he was kicked out of the cabinet – and with that, out of his government-provided quarters – this “imam” could not even afford a house! The man’s expensive taste is as recent as it is vulgar.

Thank God for Malaysians!

Fortunately Malaysia does not lack for jantans. Our numbers may not be large enough to throw the rascal out in an election, but we do make our voices heard.

While mainstream editors are content with reprinting government press releases and reporting trivia like the Prime Minister getting yet another royal award, the real journalists and professionals have long abandoned the mainstream media. Ahirudin Attan is now more influential with his Rocky’s Bru website than when he was with the Malay Mail. Steven Gan’s Malaysiakini has long been a staple for serious Malaysia observers. Raja Petra Kamarudin’s Malaysia-Today.net regularly registers nearly two million hits daily. None of the mainstream media could claim even a tiny fraction of that figure!

The alternative media’s success reflects the hunger Malaysians have for independent news and views. It also reflects their contempt for the mainstream media. Despite endless changes in format, editors, and management, the New Straits Times continues to decline, in quality and circulation.

A few jantans are also emerging in academia. Law professor Azmi Sharom’s commentaries are a refreshing departure from the usual toadying pieces. Attorney Malik Imtiaz bravely takes on the powerful religious establishment with his fearless defense of religious freedom.

Ordinary Malaysians too are asserting themselves. Former Anti Corruption Agency official Ramli Manan already caused the non-renewal of his chief’s (Zulkifli) contract. Ramli did what Abdullah Badawi could not – getting rid of Zulkifli.

In Parliament, jantans like Lim Kit Siang may not get satisfactory answers to his serious queries, but he successfully exposed the stupidities of government ministers and backbenchers, as well as other hired hands.

Another ray of hope is emerging from the most unlikely source. The Raja Muda of Perak spoke passionately on the importance of the rule of law and the supremacy of our constitution. He declared that good and upright leadership must be demonstrated, and our nation’s problems must not simply be wished away. In nation building, Raja Nazrin went on, enforced solutions must be avoided, and the political, social and economic incentives must reward good behaviors and penalize the bad.

He was addressing young Malaysians with those wise words. Looks like our older leaders need to hear that same message loud and clear, now that they are becoming increasingly deaf, literally and metaphorically.

It is a supreme irony that while a generation ago it was the political leaders who bravely reined in the excesses of the sultans, today it is a Raja Muda who has subtly taken our political leaders to task.

Raja Nazrin as well as brave citizens like Ramli Manan give us hope. Their vigilance is the best guard against the development of our homegrown Saddam Husseins and Robert Mugabes.


Blogger Rusdi Mustapha. said...

Bakri Musa Hi!

Saw you name many times and had this nagging suspicioun you might be a Minangkabau! What a merantau eh! Walkabout, the Minang ways!

I was living in this small city called Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, and my wife for the last 31 years was born there. Our daughter lives in London, Ontario, doing her PHd and we will be there on 26th May, 2007, where she is getting married!
Its good to know a Minang like you doing well! Cheers!

7:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'jantans'?, do you think you can change people by insulting them first?... Who the f--- do you think you are? Condescending m-----f-----

I agree w/somethings you said, but w/the language you're using is not going to call for the changes you seek

12:58 AM  

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