Abdullah’s Pivotal “Non-Decision”

by M. Bakri Musa

There are three possible decisions that Abdullah Badawi could make on or by October 9, 2008, ahead of his party’s divisional meetings. One, he could bravely declare that he will defend his post; two, announce his resignation; and three, waffle and leave it up in the air, effectively a “non-decision.”

This third option would be more in character with him. Throughout his tenure Abdullah has shown a singular inability to make even the simplest decisions. He would defer them until the last minute when the decision would be forced upon him, as the other choices would have been effectively taken away by changed circumstances.

With the third choice, Abdullah, with advice from his “bright” advisors, would of course frame or “spin” it not as a “non-decision;” rather he would dress it up in a language more in tune with our culture. He would for example “leave his fate to Allah,” or for his “party members to decide.” This would also be a classic Abdullah’s non-decision and “flip-flop!”

This option is also nothing more than a diluted form or an attempt for a more acceptable and less confrontational version of the first choice. Former Tun Mahathir, who knows a bit more about Abdullah, had predicted that Abdullah would not give up his position. Mahathir would be wrong if he were to think that Abdullah would boldly declare his intentions to stay on, that is, go with the first option.

The first option would also be out of character for Abdullah as it would mean an inevitable confrontation with his party leaders, specifically UMNO Supreme Council members who had earlier given him an ultimatum. If there is any certainty about Abdullah, it is that he would do anything to avoid a confrontation, especially with his party members.

That has been the bane of his administration. Abdullah came in boldly proclaiming to end corruption. With the first resistance from UMNO warlords used to plump government contracts san competition, he waffled. Likewise with his “determination” to set up the much-needed Police Commission. That project is still in the air years later because of persistent opposition by senior leadership in the police force.

The decision that millions of Malaysians and I are hoping for is that Abdullah will gracefully announce his resignation, that is, the first choice. Were he to do that, it would give all his critics including severe ones like me a chance to finally praise the man. It would certainly be a brave decision from him. It would portray him as a leader who has the interest of the nation at heart, of a leader who puts the future of Malaysia ahead that of his own, as well of his family’s and cronies’ ambitions.

This painful decision could only come after the most difficult self-introspection. More significantly, it would require him to dismiss the advice of those closest to him. For this reason I believe that this would not be the decision he would make this week.

On a practical level, it would also mean Abdullah giving up those luxurious perks of his office that he has become accustomed to, if not relished. It is more than just having an opulent corporate jet at his disposal; it is all the attention and adulation he is currently getting from his staff, ministers, civil servants, and finally, the people. I recently saw a picture of Rais Yatim, one of Abdullah’s senior ministers, bowing low and very deferentially towards Abdullah while kissing his hand! That is heavy stuff!

More to the point, as Henry Kissinger once observed, power is the most powerful aphrodisiac. With a new wife (albeit a divorcee) at his side, and with Abdullah in his late 60s, this is not a minor consideration.

In a more profound level, by resigning now Abdullah would go on record as being the shortest serving Prime Minister of Malaysia. He is also mindful of the accompanying opinion that invariably would be associated with him, of being the least effective leader of the country. I am certain his advisors, and others whose fate is tied to him, would not too subtly remind Abdullah of these realities in an attempt to dissuade him from resigning.

Gracefully resigning now would require much of Abdullah. It would require of him to acknowledge the worsening situation in the nation as a consequence of his ineffective leadership. Not many of us are courageous enough to face up to our own limitations. This task is made that much more difficult as there would be plenty of folks around him and whom he holds dear telling him otherwise.

Self-examination and serious introspection are not and have never been Abdullah’s strong suits. Meaning, this option is out for Abdullah.

Consequences of “Non-Decision”

Abdullah and his advisors will, as usual, be oblivious of the devastating consequences of his hanging on. For UMNO, it would mean further turmoil and fractious upcoming divisional meetings and the twice-postponed General Assembly; for the nation, continued and rapid decline.

The implosion of UMNO is already inevitable; Abdullah’s hanging on would only hasten this. The decline of UMNO as an institution is not something I would celebrate, notwithstanding the party’s many detractors. Quite apart from it being one of the most enduring political parties, having been in power continuously for well over half a century – a record unmatched anywhere – it is also one of the few successful modern Malay institutions.

UMNO is still the largest Malay party with the strongest grassroots organizations. While not belittling PKR’s remarkable achievements in attracting young Malaysian especially Malay talents, UMNO still has many capable leaders despite the fact that they have been eclipsed by the more numerous corrupt and ineffectual ones.

UMNO’s accomplishments are many and we should not belittle them. It was instrumental in successfully leading the nation to independence, of besting a domestic communist insurgency, an achievement that has yet to be replicated anywhere else, and an earlier enlightened development policy of emphasizing growth with equity, now accepted as mainstream economic wisdom.

If that sounds like an obituary for UMNO, it is, and not a premature one at that!

The fact that these achievements have been corroded and corrupted by later leaders, especially during Abdullah’s tenure, does not in any way diminish those achievements. Instead they should be the inspiration and challenge for subsequent leaders to exceed those high expectations.

The reality under Abdullah is more ugly. While his apologists would claim that the present climate of political “openness” is Abdullah’s finest legacy, the reality is that he was an ineffective bystander. The present climate of openness has more to do with technology, in particular the Internet, than with Abdullah’s stated mission.

For that, it would be best if we were to ask the likes of Raja Petra Kamarudin, the “Hindraf Five,” and hundreds others incarcerated without trial under the ISA during Abdullah’s tenure. That is Abdullah’s real legacy, and the reason I do not look forward to this week when he will announce that he will not vacate his office

  1. #1 by pulau_sibu on Monday, 6 October 2008 - 11:49 am

    Abdullah should not bow to this handful of hungry umno leaders. Let’s see what is best for the public, not for the hungry umno people. Clean them up first. N with the various scandals? Make sure they are really suitable to run the country. It doe snot sound like any one of them can be better. Abdullah could just stay on for a while until Anwar takes over. Abdullah has just to make sure that a smooth transition of power will take place. Abdullah will create a name for himself as boleh Gorbachev

  2. #2 by Yee Siew Wah on Monday, 6 October 2008 - 11:56 am

    It is indeed sad or i should say disastrous to have a sleepy flipflop and lame duck guy running our country these past years. I beleive the rakyat have had enough of him.
    But then the other guy who is supposed to take over him is no better, maybe even worst than him especially in terms of race, greed and religion. We are somehow caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Sigh……

    If PKR do not take over soon, I can see a bleak future for the country. God save the rakyat.

  3. #3 by One4All4One on Monday, 6 October 2008 - 12:09 pm

    One4All4One Says:
    Today at 11: 59.16 (1 seconds ago)

    Perhaps there should be an awareness campaign to educate the public about governance and public administration.

    The government is an institution elected by the votes of the people and is the guardian of their rights and privileges.

    As the mandate is obtained by virtue of the people’s vote, it is therefore answerable to the people, and not vice versa.

    Often time it is observed that the rakyat’s rights and privileges have been overridden and hijacked by those in the administration. As such, can the situation be regarded as unconstitutional and illegal? ( legal experts: please correct this statement, and put it in the right perspective, thanks ).

    The government and those in the service do not have immunity against their failure to perform their duties and should be brought to face the laws and regulations of the country.

    They have a duty to perform, and just like in any other organisations, whether private or public, they are employed according to terms and conditions. There is no such thing as taking government service as their birthright and a place to where they could do as they like, let alone abuse the system.

    Ultimately, the rakyat and tax payers should be seen as the employers of the government.

  4. #4 by Jeffrey on Monday, 6 October 2008 - 1:03 pm

    To be or not to be? It is not to be!

    Well no surprises, The MalaysianInsider has reported that PM will not defend the Umno president’s position.
    The reason: He believes that Umno cannot survive an all-out contest for the presidency between him and Najib.
    The MalaysianInsider reports on 6th Oct (quote) : “An official, who attended a meeting with Abdullah, said: “He believes that the party’s biggest enemy is Anwar Ibrahim and Pakatan Rakyat. I also sense that he does not want to be remembered as someone who put his needs before the party’s. There was pressure from different sources for him to contest, but he just wants to complete several reforms he has started…. His supporters say that he must be prepared to be confrontational to keep his promise of strengthening the country’s institutions. Seems like a big ask for someone who has put his party above everything else since becoming PM in October 2003… The vexing question is this: If Abdullah could not convince his Umno ministers of the need for change when he had all the powers, how was he going to do so in a lame duck position?” (Unquote)

  5. #5 by k1980 on Monday, 6 October 2008 - 1:16 pm

    He just wants to complete several reforms he has started, e.g. filling up Kamunting with detainees and declaring more billion-ringgit “corridors” which he has no intention in carrying out. This is his legacy to the country.

  6. #6 by ch on Monday, 6 October 2008 - 1:26 pm

    Dear All,

    My bet is that Abdullah will defend his post and retire after completing his full term. It is very difficult to please everyone and no way can we have a perfect prime minister. Who ever goes up to the post as prime minister will be accused and hammered for any single issue human can think of. We have listened to many critical views on Dr. Mahathir for his iron fisted rule for the past 22 years. During that period, many including numerous opposition bigwigs commented that Malaysia would be better off having a more liberal, open minded and fair prime minister.

    When Abdullah came in and after several years, we are now hearing that he is weak and an ineffectual prime minister. My believe is that none will be happy with who ever the prime minister as we share the different ideology. We will have critical views even if Hadi Awang or Anwar Ibrahim becoming the prime minister.

    Some may disagree with my above view but I believe it does takes a while for the human minds to settle to realities.

  7. #7 by Saint on Monday, 6 October 2008 - 1:33 pm

    The PM should call for a “no confidence vote” in the Parlment. It will put everybody in “catch 21” position. UMNO, BN, Anwar, and PR.
    I wonder who will vote for whom.

  8. #8 by Bigjoe on Monday, 6 October 2008 - 1:37 pm

    Actually if Badawi change the nomination requirement for senior post, he would be doing UMNO a big favour. What UMNO need more than anything else now is a cleansing all out cathartic change. Letting anyone contest and making sure money politics is kept to a minimum would clease UMNO and revive it.

    But the man has no vision. Not leaving? Its not an option…

  9. #9 by js on Monday, 6 October 2008 - 1:48 pm

    Let AAB to continue become the PM lah….until PR takes over the government in GE13.

  10. #10 by js on Monday, 6 October 2008 - 1:51 pm

    In fact, AAB should do something benefited to all Malaysian before he steps down or before GE13 in order to be remembered by all. The 1st thing is to abolish ISA and have a fair justice.

  11. #11 by dawsheng on Monday, 6 October 2008 - 2:05 pm

    “Well no surprises, The MalaysianInsider has reported that PM will not defend the Umno president’s position.”

    This is weird. An internet news portal can jump the gun on decision PM has not yet announced. Indeed, an insider’s job! How much they are getting paid for it?

  12. #12 by yapchee on Monday, 6 October 2008 - 2:31 pm

    What difference does it make? Whether is AAB or NAR as PM ? As far as me is concern the whole system is a screw up. Is still UMNO and they have the same ‘thoughts’ – Ketuanan Melayu attitude. Nothing but greed, power abuse, outright corruptions,and racial discrimination, etc you name it ?

    All these years what had they shown us in term of wealth distribution,good governance, public amenities, education, FDI, etc?

  13. #13 by wanderer on Monday, 6 October 2008 - 2:40 pm

    Abdullah should come out and say, “Damn, damn, damn, I do it my way!” He is still a better PM than his number 2. If Najib took over, judging from his track records as a non-achiever and fence sitter, nothing great will come out from his leadership. Should Malaysia remains in the doldrums, so what is the different?
    Umno’s incompetency must not decide the future of Bolehland, others should step in. It is time for a Change.

  14. #14 by rider on Monday, 6 October 2008 - 3:29 pm

    Rais Yatim bowing down low to kiss AAB’s hand ..wow!! like the capos and michael corleone in the climax scene of “the godfather.” I pray to God he holds his position, I want to see how many lips going to kiss his hand.

  15. #15 by Loh on Monday, 6 October 2008 - 3:40 pm

    ///The decision that millions of Malaysians and I are hoping for is that Abdullah will gracefully announce his resignation, that is, the first choice.///–Bakri Musa

    We are all waiting and the question is when. It is most likely that he would sign over the paper to allow Najib to take over, and reminding Najib of the promises Najib made, just like what TDM claimed that AAB made to him. Maybe because AAB knows very well that promises are just that, he decided that he hangs on to have another three months to complete what he set out to do as PM. What he wanted would also be of national interest, if he pays taxes like everybody else on his latest take.

    The former Agong accepted the recommendation that AAB commanded the support of more than half the MPs in the House. Would the present Agong accept the recommendation of the outgoing PM AAB? Since AAB was not willing to convene the parliament to have the MPs decide whether the majority would ever accept him as leader, how could the people ever accept his recommendation of a successor? His judgment is being questioned now. It is hoped that Agong would do a repeat performance in the appointment of the next PM like that for the Mentri Besar of Trengganu. UMNO members may allow their warlords to control UMNO but they should not control the country as well.

  16. #16 by zak_hammaad on Monday, 6 October 2008 - 3:52 pm

    AAB is not only a man without principles, he is a man without shame. He is more concerned with his own dignity and respect than that of his country! He wants the 3 months to show people that he is leaving on his own accord, but I think in the latest entry of chedet, Tun may have a point in that AAB may use the time to lobby UMNO to reject Najib so that he can stay on until they find a ‘suitable’ replacement! He will also make sure that Khairy gets to ‘win’ the UMNO youth chief post and put in mechanisms to ensure that ‘Badawism’ survives, much to the detriments of BN and possible jubilation of Pakatan (who have a better chance of winning the GE with an incompetent and weak AAB in power).

  17. #17 by pulau_sibu on Monday, 6 October 2008 - 5:17 pm

    We have seen the way Bala was treated, not even knowing where is he now, Saiful meeting Najiv, RPK detained under ISA because of his writing, the poor Mongolian woman, …….. Do we still want Najiv to be the leader of this country? Can’t Abdullah be still better until Anwar takes over????

  18. #18 by Godfather on Monday, 6 October 2008 - 6:11 pm

    Don’t write off Badawi just yet. There are moves by Negeri UMNO and Penang UMNO to nominate him for the presidency. If he goes for the top post, Najis won’t take him on, because in the past 5 years, the 4th floor boys have been able to compile a dossier that everyone thought only Mamakthir had on Najis. If Badawi runs, only Ku Li will fight against him, and Ku Li may not even get the minimum number of nominations needed.

  19. #19 by Godfather on Monday, 6 October 2008 - 6:15 pm

    Whether Badawi runs or not, he should simply do the thing that he promised us in 2003 – transparency and integrity – and he should start with divulging all details of the Eurocopter purchase mentioned in a separate thread in this blog. As Menteri Pertahanan, he should just open the books on this deal (even though it was already a done deal by Najis) by stating who is the local agent, fees agreed, who the operations and maintenance contract is with, and who are the beneficiaries of such contract.

  20. #20 by observer on Monday, 6 October 2008 - 7:20 pm

    In my opinion, AAB will drag a lot of his antigonist to the open.. He will unleash the govn apparatus namely the ACA to go to town hunting down all his opponents. There will be a lot of dirts and skeletons to be seen in the coming six months, till no one will be eligible to stand for the UMNO election. This is one of the possibilties.

  21. #21 by AsalUsuLMalaysia on Monday, 6 October 2008 - 9:55 pm

    Maybe its gonna be either way,
    1) AAB could took the Emergency Exit or
    2) Najis getting flushed into toilet bowl…

    Why on earth 5 contestant suddenly anounce their interest compete over DPM post before AAB anouncement? and why they had been reduce to three, AAB also said his gonna talk to them maybe they would retrieve reduce the number to 2 contestant or even 1(Rustam guy).

    Man seems like our country politics were par with the World Wrestling Championship(WWC) dramatic series thats trilled with Heavy weight players in issues.

  22. #22 by cinaindiamelayubersatu on Tuesday, 7 October 2008 - 11:33 am

    non decision – dolla type
    election date
    petrol hike
    1st petrol down
    and many more…..

  23. #23 by Swarnabumi on Tuesday, 7 October 2008 - 1:59 pm

    Well what else can we say about a man who has no principles but only money in mind. This PM never represented the rakyat or else he would be enjoying the same admiration Malaysian have for RPK. It was his fault totally for not applying Principled Centered Leadership. In fact he should not have accepted the post in the first place knowing his ability.
    When Syed Albar said trouble maker Ahmad Ismail has been punished and no need to ISA him, a true leader would have responded something like this ” Albar you mean to say putting a man in solitary confinement in a 6×8 cell is same as staying in a penthouse and berbuka puasa with his family in five-star hotels everyday. You should head the Ministry of Clowns. Think well before you talk my friend.Don’t turn my cabinet into laughing stock for the people.

  24. #24 by homeblogger on Tuesday, 7 October 2008 - 4:05 pm

    Swarnabumi Says:

    Today at 13: 59.33 (1 hour ago)
    Well what else can we say about a man who has no principles but only money in mind.


    That would include practically 90% of the Tuans in UMNO.

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