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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.

Monday, March 02, 2020

Pathetic Malay Leadership - Recycling Turncoats

Pathetic Malay Leadership – Recycling Turncoats

M. Bakri Musa (www.bakrimusa.com)

[News item:  On February 29, amidst a week of unneeded political crisis triggered by him, Mahathir resigned and was promptly appointed Interim Prime Minister by the Agung. After the MPs (each armed with their “Statutory Declaration”) as well as the Attorney-General and Chief Justice paraded themselves through Istana Negara, the King announced Muhyiddin Yassin as Prime Minister.]

The Agung’s process in appointing Muhyiddin as Prime Minister merits scrutiny. Granted, Malaysia has never faced a similar challenge before, which makes the decision-making process critical. If unchallenged it could be precedential. Dispensing with the constitutional propriety of the Agung consulting the Attorney-General (a political appointee) and the Chief Justice (who may have to adjudicate the matter later), I would have been more reassured had the Agung sought independent legal counsel. Malaysia has no shortage of such luminaries. Even if they were to charge their customary fees, that would still have been worth it. One good solid advice is worth thousands of free ones, especially when those freebies have a stake in the Agung’s decision.

            The Agung did consult his brother rulers. One of them skipped, perhaps busy cavorting with yet another Russian beauty. Significantly, the Agung bypassed the four governors. Ever wonder at the increasing chatter for secession in East Malaysia?

            I don’t blame the Agung for this major oversight. He is new at his job. Instead I put the blunder straight upon his advisors, specifically the Keeper of the Royal Seal and the government’s Chief Secretary. They are but glorified overpaid clerks. This pair and the Council of Rulers also demonstrate the pathetic state of Malay leadership.

Earlier we saw Malay political leaders in action. They triggered this mess. As for Malay intellectuals on campus and pundits in the media, they remain uncharacteristically silent. Their wet finger has yet to tell them which direction the wind blows.

            Malay religious leaders are no better. The usually vociferous former Mufti of Perlis, Dr. Asri, is curiously mute; likewise the establishment Federal Mufti. None of his usual sterile pontifications.

It used to be that Malays could comfort ourselves that while non-Malays control the economy, we were adroit in matters political. The hope was that we would leverage that to improve the lot of our community. Instead, Malay leaders exploit that to enrich themselves.

While there are more and more Malays, including former UMNO stalwarts who had long been apologists for the party and the establishment generally, coming out against current Malay leaders, their efforts are a tad too little and too late. Where were they when Anwar Ibrahim and his reformasi movement needed support?

How long can Malays continue blaming DAP specifically and the pendatangs generally? It must hurt Malays deeply to acknowledge that two of the most effective ministers in the outgoing cabinet – Transport Minister Anthony Loke and Energy, Science, and Technology Minister Yeo Bee Yin – are from DAP.

You cannot credit their education, for while Yeo is Cambridge-educated, Loke had his from Universiti Kebangsaan.

Malays too have capable ones like Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad (Imperial College PhD) but they are vastly overshadowed by the likes of that latah lady, Housing Minister Zuraida Kamarudin, who has an uncontrolled urge to blabber on reporters’ microphones, and that semburit Minister of Economic Affairs. Don’t blame them. Blame the character who appointed them – Mahathir.

After the Agung had bypassed him, all Mahathir could brag was, “My number is bigger than yours!” referring to the MPs’ Statutory Declarations, reminiscent of my adolescent days, except then we were not referring to numbers, rather our anatomical member! He lamented that the Agung did not want to see him anymore. The Agung is not the only one.

As for Muhyiddin, he may have been expelled from UMNO but he is core UMNO. He has UMNO’s integrity (meaning, none), Abdullah Badawi’s competence (a tad less sleepy), and Najib’s morality (Muhyiddin’s salacious extracurricular activities will soon be exposed).

Unless his Singapore surgeons goofed their diagnosis, Muhyiddin would have minimal impact on Malaysia. More ominous would be his choice of a Deputy, and thus potential successor, as well as his cabinet.

In his first address to the nation, he promised to appoint ministers from among those who are “bersih, berintegriti, berkaliber (clean, have integrity, and of caliber). I am amused that he felt compelled to assert, Nixon-style, “Saya bukan pengkhianat!” (I am not a traitor!)

Nonetheless if he were to appoint those facing criminal charges (like Ahmad Zahid) or who have skipped their bills (Azmin Ali), then Muhyiddin’s lofty promise would ring hollow. Innocent till proven guilty is fine in a criminal court, but when appointing candidates to high office, the bar must necessarily be much higher, as with not even a hint of impropriety. Deadbeats are without integrity.

Likewise if Muhyiddin were to appoint the turncoats. If they could betray Anwar and Mahathir, they could just as easily betray the betrayer, Muhyiddin.

If Muhyiddin were to appoint any of these characters to his Administration, then Parliament should act right away. At its scheduled meeting of March 9, MPs should pass a vote of no-confidence on him. At which point the Agung should appoint Anwar Ibrahim. The Agung and his advisors should review the people’s mandate expressed at the last election. It still holds. At this perilous time Malaysia does not need an expensive, divisive, and rancorous election.


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