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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.

Tuesday, March 07, 2023

anwar's Confident First Hundred Days Part II

 Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s Confident First Hundred Days

M. Bakri Musa


Second of Two Parts:  Malaysia Finally Facing The Right Direction 


Anwar’s cabinet selection is an achievement, made more so when compared to the bloated outgoing one. His ministers are in a class of their own, except for a noticeable few. Pop psychology would have me highlight those positive appointments in the hope of encouraging more similar ones. However, I take the opposite tack seeing that the two I am singling out are in charge of critical related ministries.


            One is Minister of Higher Education Khaled Nordin. He has not learned anything despite his previous decade-long tenure in that position under three different Prime Ministers. In a recent televised interview, he tried to be hip by labelling his second reincarnation as ‘Versi 2,’ to contrast with his earlier ‘Versi 1.’ He did not tell us (and the interviewer too dumb to ask) what limitations were with his earlier version, or what enhancements he had brought with his second. I appreciate Anwar’s constraints, but surely there must be someone else in UMNO more capable than this old worn-out retread.


            Equally underwhelming is Minister of Education Fadhlina Sidek. Her inept responses to the ugly race segregation episode at a Johor school and the headmaster losing cash during his lunch break, were but two embarrassing examples. Instead of demanding explanations from them and their immediate superiors, she rationalized their unacceptable behaviors. Her educational background is parochial. It did not prepare her to deal with the complexity of Malaysian education. Her appointment was probably more an expression of that old terhutang budi (repaying a debt of gratitude) sentiment. Her late father Sidek Fadzil was a longtime Anwar confidant and an early forceful defender of Anwar when that was not a career-enhancing posture.


            Terhutang budi is venerated in Malay culture. Less appreciated is the potential damage not only to the direct parties but also much more significant, the collateral ones. Mahathir’s terhutang budi to the late Tun Razak, who rehabilitated Mahathir back in the 1970s when he was in the political wilderness after being expelled from UMNO, is one such hideous example. When Mahathir greased Najib’s upward trajectory in a similar repayment of gratitude gesture, Malaysia suffered the huge collateral damage. With Anwar and Sidek Fadzil, it would be the nation’s young.


            I am even less enamored with Zahid Hamidi. However in realpolitik as in life, you play the cards you are dealt. Zahid led UMNO to support Pakatan Harapan, sparing Malaysia Muhyiddin’s or Ismail Sabri’s corrupt incompetent leadership. The opposition’s recently-released shadow cabinet was a harsh and much-needed reminder of the horror that could have been for Malaysia.


            The fulminations over Anwar appointing his daughter Nurul Izzah as an unpaid advisor (since retracted) are farcical, more so when levelled by the likes of Muhyiddin. Nurul is that rare young lady (more so for a Malay) who had opted for engineering instead of the usual mushy staple of Hang Tuah or prophetic traditions. She then went on to an elite university, an enviable achievement. Anwar appointing her was more filial imposition. He would be failing as a leader in not nurturing this rare gem. Paid or unpaid, special or not special adviser, Anwar would be missing a great opportunity if not being downright silly if he were not to bounce his ideas off Nurul.


            Anwar’s first few foreign visits were to neighboring capitals instead of faraway London or Washington, D.C., as was Mahathir’s penchant. Nor did Anwar avail himself to celebrity interviewers or addressing august foreign forums, again another Mahathir favorite. That reflects Anwar’s confidence as well as priorities. He also has little need to impress the world.


            If Anwar could cripple corruption, that would be a national contribution on par with Tengku Abdul Rahman securing the nation’s independence. Anwar too would have liberated Malaysia, this time from the clutches of corruption instead of colonization. For Malays, Anwar’s success would be worth much more than the mega billions spent on Special Privileges. The corrosive impact of corruption falls disproportionately on Malays. Among others, corruption inhibits the creation of genuine Malay entrepreneurs. Instead it breeds the current glut of ephemeral, destructive rent seekers and ersatz capitalists.


            What an achievement and sense of pride for Malays to succeed sans such special privileges crutches!


            As Anwar has repeatedly emphasized, Malays are threatened not by pendatangs (immigrants) but by our own greedy, corrupt leaders. This core message needs to be hammered to those champions of Ketuanan Melayu. Crush corruption, and Anwar would be doing the purest and most productive form of ibadat (worship), quite apart from helping Malaysians, Malays in particular.


            Malays cannot be competitive and contribute our share towards the betterment of Malaysia if we continue to have corrupt inept leaders who force feed us khayalan (fantasies) of yore, or endlessly delude us of a future in heaven (or on earth) without making the necessary efforts. The recent rally of PAS supporters in their make-believe attire of the Prophet’s warriors was instructive as well as illustrative. Who do they think that they are taking on? A single AK 47 could wipe them all out in seconds. They are no threat to Malaysia, only to themselves. Islam does not need defending, least of all by these delusional characters! They would do more good for Islam, community, and their self-worth if they were to pick up the garbage they leave behind, or help with their children’s homework.


            Malaysia now has a competent skipper in Anwar Ibrahim, and is facing the right direction. The seas ahead may not be so forgiving and the winds less favorable, but she must stay the course and be ready to trim her sails and batten down the hatches. While Allah is the ultimate Determiner, as Anwar acknowledged in quoting Surah Hud (11:88) during his budget speech, he (Anwar) also needs not only our prayers and best wishes but most of all our support. As for his reciting Surah Yusof (12:55) in that same speech, “Put me in charge of the nation’s storehouses; I’ll manage them prudently and carefully,” (Abdul Haleem’s translation) Ameen to that!


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