Tuesday, March 18, 2008



When a political party loses astoundingly in an election, the party president must take the blame, and as a responsible leader, resign. If a loss of that sort was not enough for Pak Lah to bow out as Umno president, then we need to tell him as Prime Minister his new cabinet does not have anyone, or a sum of personalities, that can inspire a comeback from the slough of desponds into which both the party and nation have fallen.

In the aftermath of a colossal lost of faith such as this, when after a record win four years ago, the party fell face first losing a record 82 seats in parliament, forfeiting the two-third majority for the first time in history.

The leader’s head must roll or it is the party that will have to pay very dearly for the failure of a bad leader to come to his senses.

The new cabinet the Prime Minister announced today (18 March) will not leave any positive impact either on the party or the people. There’s nobody in it with a stature large enough to provide the confidence and to secure Umno and the BN for a recovery. Who is there in the cabinet that can inspire the needed confidence?

The country too is in need for someone that can lead her out of the tiredness after the circus of high profile corruption, of large companies gobbled by little ones, and of prize lands given to cronies. That’s saying nothing of essential items repeatedly running short and their prices being hiked because of the failure to manage and moderate the inflation.

In Perlis the Prime Minister’s letter of authority for Shahidan Kassim to continue as Menteri Besar was ignored by the Raja who appointed his choice instead, after consulting the remaining members of the state assembly.

In Trengganu the Menteri Besar has still not been appointed since the election on 8 March, a record of sorts. The Sultan does not favor the former Menteri Besar, Idris Jusoh, who is Pak Lah’s choice. He agreed to the spending on the Monsoon Cup said to be RM550 million for two short events and splashed hundreds of millions more on tourists’ attractions the state could have done without.

The leadership has suffered the worst loss of confidence in Malaysian history and Pak Lah announced, in the aftershock of the 12th general elections, a cabinet that lacks required luster.

Notable is merely the absence of his son-in-law, Hairy Jamaluddin, who a lot of people were waiting to boo should he indeed become a minister. It is, alas, a right act of omission of a Prime Minister who, in popular view, has stayed for four years and delivered nothing that is the result of a tangible act of creative development.

People want the likes of Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. Malaysia needs people with the guts of Mukhriz Mahathir, who dumped his soul into a stream of consciousness rebels with larger causes would shy from. He won in Jerlun, Kedah and with Tengku Li, he made one of two winners from Umno who have asked Pak Lah to quit, or be voted out in the next Umno Supreme Council election to be held later this year.

Pak Lah clearly kept laboring in the belief he could and would be a better leader than Dr. Mahathir had been. Truth is, to all and sundry, the former Prime Minister, even if he had disregarded popular conscience in crushing his rival, Anwar Ibrahim, and he fathered high-profile corruption in Malaysia, he did succeed to amply develop Malaysia into an industrial country. Under Mahathir, even the judiciary had quite apparently succumbed to corruption.

Pak Lah, instead, is unrivalled as a Prime Minister who bothered little about the nation. He did not care to return home from his holiday in Perth when Johor was flooded in 2006, and uncaringly sailed with his rich and famous friends in their yacht in Perth while in Johor 17 persons died in the floods.

He promised the country a package of liberties from the draconian laws Mahathir had employed to rule by fear. But Pak Lah instead applied an unrivalled police state.

He does not at all compare. Mahathir was always first to arrive at his office and last to leave. Pak Lah dozed in meetings. Mahathir worked to secure Malaysia and the region from being overwhelmed by the American machine in Asia Pacific and successfully drew an agenda for the EAC.

He instituted the Langkawi Dialogue, brought about LIMA, reached into South America and Central Asia where one country named her five-year development plan after him. What has Pak Lah done? What happened to the “mega development banks” he announced he would initiate in EAC and OIC?

You’d need to send the best of intelligence agents to recover enough traces of those mega-projects to know if their tissues are still recoverable. But try the glaciers.
Pak Lah talked a lot and did hardly anything.

Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah

Tengku Li also falls into the category of ‘no compare’. He, among a few others, had been in the forefront of the exercises that brought home to Kuala Lumpur the Boards of MNCs that were rightly Malaysian, such as London Tin, Sime Darby, Guthries, Harrison and Crossfield, Kuala Lumpur-Kepong and several more companies that owned substantial land holdings in Malaysia.

They were colonial entities, some with cross-shareholdings with Chinese companies in Singapore, Bangkok and Hong Kong, making the exercises into a tidy act of astute banking, extraordinary financial management and market dawn-raids that could have fitted into an exciting novel.

Mahathir was also a member of the financially astute nationalist outfit that did the job in the early 1970s. Tengku Li was the natural leader.

What was Pak Lah doing at that time? What has he to recall in this season of embattlement when we have all to risk everything to settle for a conclusion about whether Umno and the BN will survive or die? Monsieur, what have you done?

Anwar Ibrahim, after he entered government he quickly delivered the International Islamic University, Bank Islam, Takaful (Islamic insurance) and all that we now have as Islam’s financial infrastructure in Malaysia. We certainly can do with someone like him.

Anwar is a leader with an uncanny political insight and skill. He has never lost in an election, not in any organization, not in Umno, and now he is set to win when he is finally allowed to hold political office after being disqualified because of the extraordinary six-year internment Mahathir honored him with in 1998-9.

But what has Pak Lah delivered in all the years he spent in the Malaysian cabinet? Can anyone recall?

Tengku Li has written to all party divisions asking for an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) to discuss the reasons for the terrible defeat and the terms of the future, both of the party and of the nation. He cried at what had happened. There must have been a lot of tears shed over the fate the moving hand writ, and because of the arrogance in the party.

The leadership should have been entirely free from any celebration of the ego, with the kind of one-upmanship that had been apparently pursued for reasons best known to the Monsieur, the Prime Minister himself. He said many times he would prove himself better than Dr. Mahathir.

Fact is, Mahathir did not cause a defeat as colossal as this. It only takes another 35 seats for the Alternative Front to rule, after it won 82 in a field of 222, a record breaking feat even the sharpest among the observers and analysts had not dared to forecast. The Front only had seven seats in parliament before.

Many in Umno and the BN will surely look to Tengku Li and Mukhriz to sort out the difficulties and if the duo can finally count to 35 or more, the goose that shall lay the golden egg would have been hatched. Good luck, Monsieur. --- a. ghani ismail, 18 March 2008

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