1.1 Malaysia in transit
Malaysiakini.com yesterday reported that Najib Razak will take over as Minister of Finance from the Prime Minister while the later will assume Najib Razak's portfolio in the Ministry of Defence. The raison d'etre for this portfolio swap appears to be the smoothening of the planned power transition, whereby Najib Razak is to be given an "important portfolio" which is traditionally held by the Prime Minister. Abdullah Ahmad was quoted as saying:
"It is an important portfolio, taking into account the current economic situation, the uncertainties and the challenges that we are facing...for all these we need a plan so that we can stay strong economically"
Abdullah Ahmad also left open the prospect of him stepping down as the UMNO President and Prime Minister before the planned 2010 transition. On this, he was quoted as saying:
"I will decide when I want to go... I will not be staying more than 2010 naturally...It depends on the progress of the role I am giving to Najib. Let's see what he can do...Handing over is a process. We will study the process and as it goes along, we will decide accordingly."
The first thing which came to my mind upon hearing the news was a question. And the question is this. When will our so called leaders would act with the best interest of the country, and not the interest of the party or any other extrinsic interest(s) in mind? Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch are both in financial disarray and the former is now under Chapter 11 administration in the USofA. AIG might follow suit. The whole world is suffering from the ripple caused by the downfall of these financial giants. Bursa Malaysia might go below the psychological barrier of 1000 points soon. The Ringgit is free falling. The economy is not so hot. Foreign funds outflow for 2008 has far outstripped 2007 outflow. And all our so called leaders are concerned about is the swapping of 2 very important portfolios in order to smoothen out the planned power transition of UMNO.
Just like the various policies taken by the Education Ministry to solve whatever problems the schools, school kids and teachers are having, which would later be reversed, turned over and re-implemented, resulting in the poor school kids being overturned in the process, this latest portfolio swapping is but another furniture moving exercise for which this leadership is so well known. It lacks purpose, objective, direction and of course, class!
What is even more worrying is when Abdullah Ahmad was quoted as saying:
"Let's see what he can do..."
Yes. Lets see what Najib Razak can do. If he is good, than Abdullah Ahmad might step down earlier than 2010. Or whatever. Well, what if he is not good? Oh, not to worry, if he is not good, I would re-take over the Ministry of Finance and he would re-take over Ministry of Defence, is it?
Perhaps it is time Abdullah Ahmad, Najib Razak and their ilk (Mahathir Mohamad included) should be reminded that the various Ministries, which collectively form the Government of Malaysia, are not their private properties, or the properties of their party, which are to be distributed, parked or divided among each other willy nilly.
I have a suggestion. Recently BN MPs were sent to Taiwan and Macau to learn about agriculture, just so that they could argue and debate the 2009 budget well. If there is so much concerns about Najib Razak's ability as a leader, why don't he be sent to somewhere to attend leadership courses?
1.2 Wrong prescription
Dr Mahathir insisted that the reason for UMNO's colossal defeat in the 2008 General Election and the recent Permatang Pauh by-election is not because the people are unhappy with UMNO or the state of things but rather it is caused by the people's unhappiness with Abdullah Ahmad and his leadership (or lack of it). Well, I have got news for him. Dr Mahathir, you are wrong!
The truth is the people are fed up with UMNO's policies. It is just unfortunate for Abdullah Ahmad that he is the President of UMNO when this unhappiness swells to an uncontrollable size and intensity. You can put whoever at the top of UMNO and UMNO would still lose the General Election and by-election. It is not the people at the top. But it is the policies which these people represent which the people are unhappy with. And the policies which these people represent are the policies of UMNO. The are policies which involve the politics of fear, discrimination, unfairness, arrogance, corruption and cronyism which fuel a continuous unhappiness of, if not hatred, for UMNO. And the sad thing is nobody within UMNO's current so called leadership will be able to cure the current malady with which UMNO is infested. Why?
Because 22 years of totalitarianism has produced absolute yes men who can't think for themselves; who are incapable of differentiating the good from the bad; who are unable to see a problem when a problem exists, let alone grasp it, analise it and solve it.
When Margaret Thatcher was forced to resign as Prime Minister and not seek a re-election as the head of the Conservative Party in 1990, the party was in a turmoil. The Iron Lady had until then ruled Great Britain, and the Conservative Party, with an iron fist. She would steamroll her way to whatever decision she thought was correct, even to a point of overriding her colleague's decisions, both from within her own cabinet and the party. She left a weak Tory government in tatters. And also a weak Tory Party. After being challenged by Michael Haseltine for the party leadership, she was succeeded by the nice, straight faced but downright boring John Major. He unexpectedly won the general election in 1992. In 1997, finally, the Conservative was defeated by Tony Blair's Labour Party in a landslide defeat.
If history teaches us anything, the above episode shows that once the people have decided that enough is enough and a party must go, it really does not matter who is at the helm of the party. John Major was the nicest politician the UK had ever seen, a man whose father was a music hall artist; who rose among the poor to just obtain 6 o-levels; who professed to have been educated in the "university of life." But during his premiership, the people's unhappiness with the Tories was at its peak, fueled by hatred towards Thatcherism, a form of economics and political policies which were not friendly to the people on the streets. And the Tory went down like a led balloon (to borrow Keith Moon's expression).
Change Magaret Thatcher to Dr Mahathir; John Major to Abdullah Ahmad; Conservative Party to UMNO; Thatcherism to Mahathirism and the UK to Malaysia. And I really don't have to write more.
Allow me to give some advice. The power transition, regardless of whether it happens smoothly and as planned in 2010 or earlier or whether it happens during the coming December party election is not going to change anything as far as the people's perception of UMNO is concerned. UMNO has far exceeded the people's tolerance level and it will sink like a stone regardless of who its leader is. To win the people, UMNO itself must change. Take a look at the mirror, find out what is really wrong and correct it. In short, UMNO's current policies must change.
A change of faces just wouldn't do.
Pure and simple.