The Labu and Labi Team of Najib and Muhyiddin

By M. Bakri Musa

[Last of Four Parts]

Salvaging Najib

There are many lessons that Najib could learn from his predecessors. The first necessary exercise however, would be for him to determine which leader he identifies with or resembles most.

One thing is certain: Najib is not his father’s son, neither politically nor intellectually. Najib also does not have his father’s personality or trait, in particular the Tun’s acute sense of probity and prudence. In persona, Najib lacks his father’s great presence; the late Tun Razak commanded instant respect. No one would dare crack a joke in his presence, not out of fear but of awe and respect. With Najib, he would probably join in with his own ribald riposte to an off-color joke by his colleagues or juniors.

In physique, Najib should have a commanding presence; after all he is much taller than his father, and broad-shouldered as compared to his father’s perpetual stooped posture. Alas your body-build would take you only so far.

The late Tun would never let his wife loose on extravagant shopping sprees. In his sympathetic biography of the late Tun, William Shaw described an exchange where the Tun’s children were instigating their father to install a swimming pool at Sri Perdana. The Tun would haven none of it. “What would the people say?” the Tun reminded his children. Najib never learned that important lesson from his father.

For sure Najib does not have Mahathir’s vision, charisma, or single-mindedness. Thus there is not much that Najib could learn from the mercurial Mahathir, no matter how hard the latter tries to influence Najib.

To me, Najib resembles the Tunku the most; smart enough to be accepted into a British university but not brilliant enough to have a transformational vision for his country. Najib’s attempt at having one – his now crumbling “1Malaysia” – proves more an embarrassment than inspiration.

Like Tunku, Najib has a fondness for the good life. I would not however, recommend that Najib pattern himself after the Tunku in this regard, like resorting to regular nightcaps. The cultural environment today is far less forgiving; it would be political suicide were Najib to indulge in such worldly pleasures. Pleasures of the flesh are more tolerable to today’s crowd than pleasures of the palate.

Very unlike the Tunku however, Najib is burdened by an overbearing spouse. With Tunku, Malaysians had a soft spot for his wife, the late Sharifah Rodziah. There was a good reason for that; she was humble, modest, and stayed in the background. She was the very antithesis of Rosmah.

Najib could usefully emulate Tunku in one respect, in having an able, young and brilliant deputy. That is, have his own Tun Razak. That someone should be like the late Tun, smart, competent, diligent, and not corrupt. That someone should also be satisfied if not actually enjoy wielding power in the background while letting the number one hogs the limelight and credit.

Tunku was only 52 when he became the country’s first leader, only a few years younger than Najib when he became prime minister. Tunku’s deputy, Najib’s father, was only 33. Like Tunku, Najib should groom someone young to be his deputy, a generation younger. He needs to cast his net far and wide, within and outside the party, to find fresh talent to entice into UMNO. He must be willing to gamble and take on those who are initially not sympathetic or even hostile to UMNO in the quest for his own Tun Razak. Who knows, by co-opting them into government they might just become UMNO members. The late Ghazali Shafie was not an UMNO member when Tun Razak brought him into his cabinet.

Najib should consider including in his team such individuals as Khairy Jamaluddin, even though I risk puffing up his already inflated ego. Khairy is not even half as smart as the late Tun, but then that is all UMNO has to offer these days. By specifically bringing in Khairy, Najib would be declaring that he is out of Mahathir’s shadow, or at least could not care less what he thinks. That would be quite a statement!

The danger is that unlike the late Tun, Khairy, apart from being not half as smart, is not content remaining in the background; he likes to hog the headlines. Khairy is also “damaged goods” because of his earlier overbearing ways while the under “protection” of his father-in-law, Abdullah Badawi. However, if a discredited politician like Nixon could be rehabilitated, so could Khairy.

As the search for his own Tun Razak would be slow and difficult, Najib needs to do something quick in the interim. First, he would have to dump Muhyiddin; he would of course still retain UMNO’s deputy presidency as he was elected to that position. To make that move palatable as well as lessen the repercussion, Najib would have to appoint someone with gravitas to replace Muhyiddin, someone who would command instant respect and credibility not only among Malaysians but also the world.

Fortunately UMNO has such a person in Tengku Razaleigh. Muhyiddin would not dare squeak if he were to be replaced by someone of undisputed integrity, competence, and stature as Razaleigh.

Early in Abdullah’s tenure I suggested that he should pick Razaleigh as deputy prime minister, but for a whole set of different reasons. Had Abdullah done that, his fate as well as Malaysia’s would be far different today.

If Najib were to be bold enough to dump his current deputy, he would accomplish many objectives simultaneously. One, he would certainly make all Malaysians take note. For another, he would reassert his leadership of the party. After all there is nothing in the party’s constitution to stipulate that the deputy leader should also be deputy prime minister. That is only a tradition. By boldly breaking the party’s hallowed practice, Najib is signaling his commitment to a new path, for his party as well as country.

Muhyiddin cannot be unceremoniously dumped; that would trigger a severe backlash and precipitate a leadership crisis. We are an Asian culture where ‘saving face’ is supreme. Thus instead of dumping Muhyiddin, Najib would have to sell the exercise as a ‘promotion’ for Muhyiddin – to undertake the more important and immediate task of ‘revitalizing’ UMNO. After all he heads the management committee to reform the party; that crucial job has yet to be completed. To further soften the impact, Najib would have to compensate the loss of Muhyiddin’s ministerial income by offering him a lucrative chairmanship of one of the GLC’s, like the Iskandar Development Project.

Najib should not be satisfied only with ‘promoting’ Muhyiddin; he should simultaneously radically revamp his cabinet by reducing the bloat and getting rid of the dead woods. I would begin with such old tired characters as Nazri, Rais, and Hishammuddin. Replace them with fresh young candidates.

All those ministers are tainted. If any were to squeak or in any way try to undermine his leadership, Najib could always unleash the MACC upon them. That ought to shut them up. We saw how quietly even the boisterous Rafidah Aziz went when Abdullah fired her. And he was a meek leader!

As deputy, Tengku Razaleigh would pose no political threat to Najib. Razaleigh would be focused on serving the nation; he is too senior to be involved in mere politicking or conniving to topple Najib. Together with Razaleigh, Najib could aggressively recruit fresh bright young talent into public service and revamp UMNO.

There is only a limited time window for Najib. If he were to delay revamping his cabinet till just before the election, that would be dismissed as political gimmickry. Then there is the UMNO leadership convention; if Najib were to delay making these changes, those dropped UMNO ministers would retain their clout and be re-elected. By removing them now, their influence would have waned come party election time.

These radical changes may be unpalatable to Najib and he may shy away from undertaking them, but then he has to ponder the consequences of his staying the course. At a minimum he risks becoming another Abdullah Badawi, except more pathetic. At worse, the battle between Najib and Muhyiddin would consume more than just the two. It would also take down UMNO, the RAHMAN prophecy coming true.

It is not enough for Najib to endlessly declare that he is “ready to make the difficult changes that Malaysia needs.” He needs to demonstrate that through his deeds, or as my old kampong folks would say, “Bikin saja, jangan cakap!” (Just do it, dispense with the hollering).

Najib and Muhyiddin may have bad karma and ill feng shui, but as practitioners of those ancient occult arts will tell you, those can be mitigated though appropriate actions. In short, Najib’s destiny lies in his own hands, on whether he is willing and capable of undertaking these much-needed radical changes.

If he does not, then it is time for voters to take actions. In P. Ramlee’s movie, Labu and Labi’s strict taskmaster Haji Bakhil would punish the pair by making them perform ketok-ketampi, a Malay version of humiliating pushups, every time they goof off. It is time for voters to make our political Labu and Labi perform their ketok-ketampi by booting them out at the next election.

  1. #1 by k1980 on Monday, 19 April 2010 - 12:42 pm

    Our political Labu and Labi are now pushing hard for Zaid to be caned by the religious authorities for previously consuming alcohol. Haji Bakhil would had roared with laughter in his grave

  2. #2 by Bigjoe on Monday, 19 April 2010 - 12:59 pm

    The only easy day is yesterday..

  3. #3 by k1980 on Monday, 19 April 2010 - 1:49 pm

    Very fortunate PKR did not choose Dr Halili Rahmat as its candidate, or else he would had withdrawn and bn would had taken Hulu Selangor without a fight!

  4. #4 by chengho on Monday, 19 April 2010 - 1:52 pm

    Old boy,

    we are watching Avatar , you are out of fashion eventhough living in NY . have you listen to Sting song , an Englishman living in New York?…

  5. #5 by ekompute on Monday, 19 April 2010 - 2:51 pm

    The R-A-H-M-A-N Prophesy has no scientific basis, yet it stays on course. Hussein Onn actually did not want Mahathir to be his deputy, preferring Ghazali Shafie instead, if I am not mistaken. But Mahathir was chosen after the three UMNO VPs threatened to quit from his cabinet if one of them was not chosen. Najib seemed more likely to succeed Mahathir but Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the most unlikely candidate, was chosen. And as the prophesy ends with N, Najib will be the last Prime Minister from UMNO. Period.

  6. #6 by Godfather on Monday, 19 April 2010 - 3:18 pm

    There is a missile coming for Najib….all the way from France. You can manipulate the local mainstream press, the local judiciary, the local police, but you can’t manipulate international agencies, and this will have a major bearing on whether Najib stays or goes as UMNO president.

    Mr Moo must be licking his chops at the moment.

  7. #7 by monsterball on Monday, 19 April 2010 - 5:05 pm

    The writer… Bakri Musa must be an UMNO BARU die hard supporter or member.
    It’s interesting reading…with his sensible observations……but who cares!!
    If Najib take his advises and does exactly what he wrote…what’s next?…vote UMN BARU again?…give Najib a chance? Is that what it is..Bakri Musa?
    It is strange….Bakri Musa ignored all the corruptions and Mongolian murder in his message. It is strange.he never spoke about the Lingam case…where the Royal Commissioners have said all should be brought to court…especially from Mahathir..who said “I forgot …14 times…making a mockery of the Commissioners.
    I wish he had ended up his message by saying….
    “Alas…even Najib follow my advises…it is too millions Malaysians have seen too much and know too much…injustices done and double standards.
    Getting rid of corruptions….with sides shows….also seen clearly. Prepare yourself to be voted out..whole I need to prepare shut my mouth…..hand in hand both of us should plan like hell”

  8. #8 by Bigjoe on Monday, 19 April 2010 - 5:22 pm

    Salvaging Najib? What for? Even if one were a UMNO/BN supporter, what you really want is to move beyond Najib and Muhiyiddin. The problem is if you look at the bench UMNO Youth – there is nobody with the talent necessary to lead this country in the future. KJ is probably the most talented but he falls short miserably. Its not his past that is tainted but rather his mind is lobodomized by the politics of UMNO.

    The fact this country need to throw out UMNO/BN just to renew the talent lineup of political leadership regardless of what their views are. All the talent are on the opposition side or have left the country.

  9. #9 by wanderer on Monday, 19 April 2010 - 7:00 pm

    When Labu and Labi are kicking each other’s balls off….chengho, don’t forget to bring along a bucket and towel to wipe the wounded balls that you fancy
    most…obviously, the one that will continue with your pay cheque!

  10. #10 by DCLXVI on Monday, 19 April 2010 - 8:38 pm

    chengho: “Old boy, we are watching Avatar..”

    Like James Cameron trying to make ‘Avatar’ look as realistic as possible with lots of CGI, Najib & Co. are also trying to make their ‘1 Malaysia’ look as realistic as possible with lots of campaigns & lip-service…

    chengho: “you are out of fashion eventhough living in NY..”

    Is Umno-BN going out of fashion since 8th March 2008?

    chengho: “have you listen to Sting song , an Englishman living in New York..”

    Isn’t Bakri a Malaysian instead of an Englishman?

  11. #11 by monsterball on Monday, 19 April 2010 - 9:20 pm

    Quoting…”Labu & Labi” is saying those two idiots are like Laurel and Hardy…the comical idiots..which are evergreen expressions..very appropriate….and it needs an additional idiot….like Chengho to bring out “AVATAR”…a science fiction movie …similar to Red Indians fighting protect their lands….that got Mahathir so thrilled too…talking cock ….like Chengho too.
    Chengho thinks his “old boy” expression to LKS makes him a smart young fut who knows more than LKS.
    This farrked up ..confused Muslim ..dressed up in cheongsam…is trying to be included into the UMNO’s Labu & Labi…making than into three….therefore…becoming ..”The 3 Stooges”.
    OK….no problem…suck Najib balls and be considered for the role.
    Are you reading me..Chengho?

  12. #12 by monsterball on Tuesday, 20 April 2010 - 1:52 am

    Anwar has said it…there is no “1 Malaysia” under Najib. He said there are 2 Malaysia….but I think there is at least 3… for the robbers and thieves doing all evil things without fear….one for UMNO’s chosen ones…the rich ones getting richer….another for people like us…to be killed or treated according to their whims and fancies.
    Najib is famous to tell lies and think he is so smart to come out with “1Malaysia” to fool all Malaysians. So far…he can keep fooling school children as much as he likes.
    Their parents won’t mind…at their innocent age…how to explain keep thoughts..but most of them will vote against U,MNO and Najib for all they do is keep teaching the children how to lie and by hypocrites….an extension of what Mahathir did for 22 years.
    How much more dirtier politics can Najib do to beat his teacher and godfather?
    His style is low class and crude…because he is an idiot too.

  13. #13 by johnnypok on Tuesday, 20 April 2010 - 3:37 am

    If I am the jib, I would have dumped cow-din a long time ago, and send him to mongolia for good.
    I will appoint 3 female duputies, one of them will be my wife, and who will be the DPM 1.
    The other 2 will be from Sabah and Sarawak.

  14. #14 by undertaker888 on Tuesday, 20 April 2010 - 7:44 am

    thanks to mamak, his 22 years were spent creating a majority of useless corrupt umno members. In this way, mamak is able to control them under his whims. Well, until the day he cried sodomy at anwar, eyes were opened.

    Fast forward to today, there is fat chance you can find any young umnos with integrity. Those will not rule. They will be “transferred” to cold storage like the honest policemen and macc guys.

    All this is happening bcos we have useless, gutless MCA, MIC, gerakan and the other component bn parties. Their throat are choked with cash that they can’t speak.

  15. #15 by Thor on Tuesday, 20 April 2010 - 9:38 am

    Visualize, my friends!
    Visualize hard!!!
    Visualize Archangel Michael leading his army and Hulu Selangor voters battling those devils.
    Visualize Cow-Moo and gang got defeated and pleaded for mercy.
    Visualize Cow-Moo’s pissing thru his pants.
    Then take a deep breath, exhale slowly and relax.
    Believe me!
    Our mind can do wonders!!!

  16. #16 by k1980 on Tuesday, 20 April 2010 - 10:31 am

    Thor, like you advised,

    I had just visualized Archangel Michael dropping a million bucks down from the sky onto my garden…
    Then I had taken a deep breath, exhaled slowly and relaxed. BUT nothing no ever happened….no million bucks one….

  17. #17 by Godfather on Tuesday, 20 April 2010 - 10:50 am

    Yeah, I visualised RM77 million bucks dropping from the sky on to the laps of some UMNOputras….and they tell me that this is a normal occurrence….

You must be logged in to post a comment.