The greatest PM we never had


Mariam Mokhtar
Malaysiakini
Aug 12, 2013

Malaysian prime ministers display fascinating quirks and characteristics; Dr Mahathir Mohamad assumes the role of the Pied Piper of Hamelin who leads the children (Malays) to a catastrophic end; Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is like Rip van Winkle who slept when he should have been working to improve the nation; and Najib Abdul Razak appears to act like Nero who fiddled while Rome burned.

Najib’s entry into politics is a lacklustre, predictable story which might explain his inability to inspire the nation. His role in undermining Malaysian democracy is pivotal.

He places more emphasis on sound-bites and slogans, than on sound policies. Najib is English educated, and a well travelled man. Some consider him a roué but he comes from a family with an impeccable political pedigree. The reason he failed as PM is simple.

Najib lacks leadership.

At the age of 23, Najib became a career politician, when he was elected unopposed as MP. The seat was vacated when his father, Abdul Razak Hussein died. Najib was propelled into politics during the psychedelic 70s when wine, women and song preoccupied the young men of that era.

What would these tender, youthful Malay men from the pampered classes know about the real world? Najib’s appointment was a stunt, contrived to capitalise on his father’s popularity. He lacked experience.

What practical and useful advice could Najib give the people of a nation which had been independent for barely two decades? Two years before he became an MP, rural villagers were starving, because of falling rubber prices. How would he advise these communities when he was a greenhorn himself?

In the book, ‘Awakening: The Abdullah Badawi Years in Malaysia’, Abdullah talked about reform. Despite being in agreement with him on the need for change, Najib’s inaction is probably caused by fear.

He is also hampered by his father’s reputation. It is alleged that in previous by-elections, posters of Abdul Razak were displayed, to remind the electorate that Najib is his son. Only an insecure person would trade on his father’s image to prop up his own.

What was GE13 all about, if not change? Before GE13, Najib claimed that he would accomplish all manner of things. Post-GE13, he and some of his cabinet members gave excuses that it would take another five years to tackle these same issues. If Najib felt that he was not up to the task, then he should have left the job of change to Pakatan Rakyat.

Today, Najib may have agreed with Abdullah about change, but claimed that it would take a long time. He hasn’t even started the process of change.

Steps toward change

This writer disagrees with Najib about change taking a few generations. In a previous article, I wrote that ‘Najib could be our Super Hero’, and said that the change which Najib dreams about could be almost instant.

The first 11 steps might be those listed below. I am sure you can think of many more.

First. Detain Mahathir for treason. Remove him and put him in solitary confinement before he faces trial. Najib may be surprised to see how the nation would be solidly behind him.

Second. The chairperson and deputy chairperson of the Election Commission (EC) should also be arrested for treason. It was the collusion of the EC which allowed cheating and bribery at elections.

Third. The attorney-general, the inspector-general of police and the head of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) are to be held for crimes against the state.

Not everyone in the civil service is corrupt. Many civil servants confide that they are disgusted by the orders they have to follow. Najib should promote senior staff members who are persons of principle and known to be free of corruption.

The police, the army, the judiciary or other institutions cannot simply be disbanded as this will lead to a state of anarchy, like after the invasion of Iraq. Good people with potential to lead will soon assume control. We have enough laws. They just need to be consistently enforced.

Fourth. Make the police, judiciary and media independent. With a free press, the people may learn the truth. An independent police and the formation of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission will improve the performance of the police. True justice might finally be dispensed.

Fifth. Detain the warlords in Umno-Baru (most are involved in money politics anyway) and immediately remove their sources of income, such as the taxi-permits which are allegedly awarded in bulk, to companies belonging to politicians and their cronies.

Without money, these people will have less opportunity to plot and scheme. Umno-Baru politicians will learn the hard way, the truth of the saying, “No money, no talk”.

Sixth: Work with Bersih and the relevant NGOs which have compiled a dossier of corrupt politicians and BN cronies. They have slogged hard for the evidence. All Najib need do is to investigate, confirm and enforce.

Seventh: Provide a period of amnesty, so illegal immigrants can save themselves from being deported, but return home voluntarily. Most GLCs are run by cronies. The money trail should lead to their agencies which benefit from cheap labour on plantations, and deprive locals of jobs.

Eighth: Reduce the Prime Minister’s Department from 45,000 people to 450. This might focus people’s minds and make them concentrate on their jobs. A special unit should be set up to recover the money, lost because of corruption and illicit outflows. This money can be returned to the treasury.

Ninth: Abolish the NEP and ensure that needy people, regardless of race, religion and ethnicity are helped. Abolish quotas for university places and award scholarships to the best Malaysian students. Why should other nations profit from our brain-drain, whilst we collect the dregs of other countries?

Tenth: Provide a grace period for politicians and their cronies to ‘sing’ about their colleagues’ crimes. The first 20 people could be given immunity from prosecution, unless murder has been committed. Perhaps a reduced sentence in the most severe of criminal acts could be considered.

Eleventh: Replace the mullahs who serve only Mahathir and Umno-Baru, with learned clerics who will foster good community relations and help the nation.

Malaysia is in a perilous state because one man, Mahathir, stands in the way of the prime minister. Mahathir wants to preserve his legacy. He claims ownership of Malaysia. He has succeeded because not even one prime minister has been courageous enough to stand up to him.

Mahathir triumphs because many Umno-Baru politicians are unwilling to admit the severity of the Mahathir problem and are afraid of the dirt that he could reveal about them.

Once Najib has initiated the few steps necessary for change, he should call for fresh elections in a year’s time.

If he knows he has been a good leader, then the electorate will vote for him.

Who knows, the rakyat might be thrilled to be liberated from Mahathir, and be willing to close one eye to his wrongdoings? Perhaps, the new independent judiciary could be lenient with him, if he is found guilty of criminal activities.

Malaysian history would take a different course if Najib were to start the process of change. Elections should not be bought by doling-out wads of cash or giving freebies. Elections should be won when voters respect a party and its convictions.

MARIAM MOKHTAR is a non-conformist traditionalist from Perak, a bucket chemist and an armchair eco-warrior. In ‘real-speak’, this translates into that she comes from Ipoh, values change but respects culture, is a petroleum chemist and also an environmental pollution-control scientist.

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  1. #1 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Tuesday, 13 August 2013 - 12:56 am

    I was trying hard to find a metaphor for Najib.

    I found one: Lallang.

    Describes him well, eh?

  2. #2 by Godfather on Tuesday, 13 August 2013 - 1:14 am

    Mariam is simply showing her naivete. Never for a moment think that Mamakthir does not have anything on Najib. Mamakthir has a lot of insurance, from people willing to carry his oral commands, and take them to their graves, and from people who has stashed billions overseas to destabilise the country if necessary.

    For 22 years, Mamakthir’s orders were never in writing, and those who carried out his outrageous tasks were already in the grave – people like Ali Abul Hasan, Megat Junid and Augustine Paul. People who are not yet six feet deep will take their secrets to their graves. What are we going to introduce as evidence ?

    Mamakthir has lots on those who served under him, and Najib’s file is probably as thick, if not thicker, than others. Najib’s brothers and wive(s) are probably part of the incriminating evidence too, not to forget Najib’s indiscretions in Port Dickson some time ago.

    So let’s forget these unattainable goals. Najib is never ever going to upset the applecart because he is part of it. He is deep in it. I have said it before and I will say it again – UMNO will change only when the country goes bankrupt and there are no goodies left for the goons. By that time, the rich UMNOputras will be living in London, Paris, Melbourne and Singapore. The country will be left in pieces for others to pick up.

  3. #3 by Taxidriver on Tuesday, 13 August 2013 - 1:15 am

    Everytime kutty opens his mouth, najib pisses in his pants. What else can we expect him to do?

  4. #4 by FreeAsian on Tuesday, 13 August 2013 - 1:32 am

    Unfortunately, Najib himself is also probably beholden to Mahathir, and has a lot to lose if he speaks up. Perhaps the rakyat should consider some form of amnesty for Najib…

  5. #5 by yhsiew on Tuesday, 13 August 2013 - 6:52 am

    Najib has made too many compromises with Umno warlords and right wing groups. As a result, this gives the rakyat the impression that he is a weak PM. Another problem with Najib is he does not always back up his words with action. He could talk eloquently but would not walk the talk.

  6. #6 by Winston on Tuesday, 13 August 2013 - 7:59 am

    Et tu, Mariam?
    Mariam, who is going to detain him for the French scandal and worse?
    Talking about change and reform with UMNO/BN is an exercise in sheer futility!!!!
    As an experienced and street-wise writer, Mariam should know better!
    What’s equally important, what will happen to the gravy train with all sorts of reforms in place?
    Asking them to reform is even worse than asking them to commit suicide!!!!

  7. #7 by Bigjoe on Tuesday, 13 August 2013 - 8:33 am

    Reform CANNOT take generations..The longer it takes, the longer not only just general Malaysian are denied their right, but the Malays and the marginalized in particular are denied their rights. All the evidence are clear, the elitist corrupt class in this country is SUCKING THE LIFE out of the potential of this country and can only get worst..GST, removing subisides, subsidizing a private car company at everyone’s expense – these are removing public trust without replacing them with another – AFTER they have broken promises after promises..

    The longer those who have abused and indulged in corruption is NOT made accountable, the more it will get infused in the subconsious minds that its no evil and harder, more painful and longer it takes to rid off when it becomes unavoidable.

  8. #8 by Cinapek on Tuesday, 13 August 2013 - 11:38 am

    Many years ago I made the acquaintance of a SB officer who was seconded to the PM’s department. This was during the period when Mahathir was at the height of his power. Though the SB officer did not reveal to me what his actual role was in the PM’s dept, he did however suddenly but politely discouraged further contacts with him even though we were good friends.

    Through other reliable sources I learned that he could be seconded to the PM’s dept to investigate VVIPs whom the PM wants to keep an eye on. A dossier would be opened on these VVIPs whose skeletons in the closet would be gradually built up and used when necessary.

    Maybe this explains why some VVIPs in Malaysia behaves the way they do. Their thick dossiers could send them to jail for a very long, long time.

  9. #9 by john on Tuesday, 13 August 2013 - 12:39 pm

    No, better go back to basics and stop dreaming that these ‘PM’ from the falsehood Bumno party can or will able to carry out reforms for the interest of the people and Nation.
    Eg. the gerry mandering, postal votes, illegals ‘Malaysians’- the dilemma left by One Mamak, etc,,,,, all faced during election must be resolved somehow. ( Or, to wait till next GE again and then start acting. Or, just ,,,,,,,,)

  10. #10 by bangkoklane on Tuesday, 13 August 2013 - 2:14 pm

    Change in Malaysia will not take a few generations. This is Najib’s excuse for extended UMNO power. Neither can Mahathir be detained and charged for treason, removed and put in solitary confinement before he faces trial. There could be ….
    God’s natural way is for him to go in another 10 years or so. How long can a person live actively? For those who are already very senior citizens, live well and stay healthy. Try to outlive him so you can rejoice in his passing or loss of political clout. There will be great celebrations for a new harmonious Malaysia…

  11. #11 by yysktan on Tuesday, 13 August 2013 - 6:55 pm

    Just sack BUMNO and try out the new government. It is the quickest and surest way for reform and to save Malaysia.

    Just to demonstrate the low hanging fruits or benefits of sacking BN, say today 

    BN56yearsold 
    (Means BN that is 56 years old)

    PR5yearsold
    (Means PR that is 5 years old)

    Assuming PR5yearsold are unfortunately growing up to be as bad as BN56yearsold some 50 years in the future later.

    The benefits the rakyat will get in next 50 years of PR rule are: 

    In first year of PR in power 

    (BN56yearsold –  PKR5yearsold) less theft of nation’s wealth, corruption, cronyism, nepotism,…

    and in second year of PR in power

    (BN57yearsold –  PKR6yearsold) less bad govt

    and in the third year of PR in power

    ….. You know how to work this out for subsequent years.

    While it is possible for PR growing from an infant evil, it is easier to fight and control than against a BN evil which has already learnt, practiced and achieved 8th dan in the arts of thefts and deceptions.

    So, the first priority is to eradicate BN’s long established web and ecosystem of corruptions, deception, cunningness, immorality and their evil  machinery.

    Voting for best candidates from parties is alway a right thing to do and a mean to ensure clean PR or at least to slow down the process of erosion of integrity of PR over time. Should the need arise (which I think likely for any party in power long enough) to sack PR along the way, so be it. Meanwhile let the rakyat reap the benefits shown above.

  12. #12 by bush on Tuesday, 13 August 2013 - 9:48 pm

    Let all support the cronies putra and make malaysia bankrupt.

    Only bankrupt will erase the rotten NEP from malaysia map.

    Let see who will suffer more if no “tongkat” available.

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