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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.

Thursday, November 09, 2023

Syed Siddiq Class Act In Resigning From MUDA Presidency

 Syed Siddiq Class Act In Resigning From MUDA Presidency

M. Bakri Musa


November 9, 2023


Syed Siddiq’s press conference on November 9, 2023 when he announced his resignation as president of his Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (MUDA, an acronym meaning young in Malay) was a class act. He had earlier been convicted by the High Court for money laundering, criminal breach of trust, and two other charges. He is now free pending appeal. 


            Thanks to the quirks of the Malaysian constitution, Siddiq remains a Member of Parliament representing his Muar district which he won since the 2018 election. In his first term he was appointed Minister of Youth and Sports at age 25, the youngest federal minister ever. Quite an impressive start!


            Had Siddiq been in the Indian Parliament, he would have to resign his parliamentary seat upon conviction regardless of his appeal status. India adopted that rule in 2013.


            In resigning as his party’s leader, Siddiq set a new level of conduct for the political class. It was not a surprise that his press conference where he announced his resignation received many favorable comments on social media.


            Much as I admire his performance, I felt that Syed Siddiq, like so many bright young Malays, is wasting his precious talent. If I were privileged to be his mentor, this is what I would have advised him. When he graduated from law school I would have encouraged him to further his studies and not be satisfied with his first degree. Get accepted to a prestigious university to pursue his LLM or PhD. He would have no difficulty getting funding for that.


            Then find a job with a high-powered law firm to get some real life experience, and with that, some money in the bank to take care of his future family. Then only should he consider entering politics. It is unfortunate that so many bright young Malays today think that their first degree is enough. They lack adequate mentoring to advise them otherwise.


            Young Malays today have a limited horizon and think that the only way for them to serve their community is through politics. Malay politicians are a dime a dozen; not so with Malay entrepreneurs, professionals, and scientists. You serve your community far more effectively through those routes. What Malaysia needs are smart politicians, not run-of-the mill types adept only at stirring the masses with their Ketuanan Melayu fantasies and delusions. Malays already have a glut of those types.


            Over my decades in America I have been privileged to meet many smart young Malays. Unfortunately many are in a rush to return home to “help my people,” and think politics is the only path to that end. Alas many of them ended up like Syed Siddiq, their talents squandered. Think of the good Syed would have done had he become an accomplished lawyer and fight for citizens like what Siti Kassim is now doing. 


            Today young Syed faces some very serious punishments. Let us hope he has some seasoned lawyers representing him.


            MUDA is now helmed by its Vice-President, Amira Aisya, another young lawyer. As one of the few non-race-based parties (the other being Anwar’s Keadilan), MUDA should be confident of its own winning strategy. That is what Malaysia needs today. Focus on building the party and quit forming alliances. Start on your own. Prepare now in time to contest the next major election which should be the Sabah one in about two years time. In the meantime strengthen the party. Building a political party means recruiting members. 


            One way to showcase that you are indeed a novel party with fresh innovative ideas would be to introduce term limits for your officers, and have the equivalent of local primaries to select candidates for state and federal elections. Separate yourself from existing stale political parties where the folks at headquarters would select the candidates. Instead, have your local members select your party’s electoral candidates. Practice local democracy. Then you would have candidates who would pay attention to their local constituents instead of sucking up to the party’s apparatchiks at headquarters. That is the curse of PAS, UMNO, and the other established parties.


            MUDA’s top priority now should be to establish branches in every federal and state constituency. Recruit local accomplished personalities who share your views to join the party. Begin by sharing the party’s vision of Malaysia with the rakyat.


            For those other bright young Malays, let Syed Siddiq be a cautionary tale. There is a vast and exciting field out there to serve your nation outside of politics.


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