Friday, September 19, 2008

Goodbye Pak Lah



Critical questions rise like morning mists as Pak Lah agonizes about how he shall make his exit after five years of weird leadership. At the Umno Supreme Council meeting on Thursday he was told he would not get enough nominations should he choose to contest the party election in December.

His day is done. He should leave before Oct. 9 when the party divisions begin to nominate the contestants for the Supreme Council.

With Pak Lah assumed crippled and out, members have now to decide about how to rehabilitate party and nation.

Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (Pak Lah) will be remembered for suspending democratic elections for all numbers one and two positions in Umno in the first party election he presided.

It was his means to ensure he will not be contested. Consequently the 2004 Umno Supreme Council elections became a market for votes.

More than 50 Umno veterans appealed to him to restore democracy in the party immediately after. It did not bother him.

He instead postponed the next Umno election by more than a year on the pretext he intended to call the general elections in 2007, which he did not, resulting in the 8 March 2008 general elections being his doomsday.

In the run-up to the upcoming Umno Supreme Council election reports of corrupt practices abound and one Menteri Besar (Chief Minister) has opted not to contest in protest of the rampant vote buying.

Five Years Destruction

The five years of Pak Lah at the helm of the party and government have been destructive. He not only refused to continue with the purpose and vision of his predecessor but he instead dismantled piece by piece what Dr. Mahathir had done, including selling Proton’s holdings of Augusta for Euro One which was later sold for about USD300 million.

Dr. M, soured to his gallbladder over his choice of successor, remarked Pak Lah has said nothing about the global financial crisis. The Ringgit began to weaken against the USD after gaining some ground, prompting Dr.M to suggest pegging it once more.

But even when the Lehman Brothers collapse caused Asian bourses to yoyo in panic The Premier still said nothing.

In his Family First leadership the son-in-law, Khairy Jamaluddin, in his wish to become prime minister before he turns 40, already has several of his men appointed ministers and deputy ministers.

In scrap-yards in Sungai Chua and Serendah are a couple of thousand Rapid KL buses left to rust when the country is in dire need of an efficient public transport system. In many cases, bus services have been terminated since the sudden fuel-price hike in June.

There is no more bus plying the route from Kuala Kubu Bharu to the Fraser’s Hill resort for instance.

The Komuter (train) that ran every 10 minutes is now running once in 20 minutes and the trip from Rawang to Kuala Kubu Bharu which ran every half hour now runs once an hour. Some people say these problems of dysfunction are linked to the son’s companies.

Baroque Leadership

It has been somewhat of a baroque leadership these five long years, the sufferance of which prompted Dr. M to conclude there’s a Level Four in the Prime Minister’s office that makes the decisions and does the interventions, Level Five, where the premier sits, merely acting out the roles that utters and mutters.

After the doctor’s diagnosis gained wide currency, the questions that must now arise immediately address how Umno and the Barisan Nasional can best be rehabilitated and quickly return the country on course to Vision 2020.

In the recent Permatang Pauh by-election Umno members accounted for more than 20,000 of the voters but the party candidate was returned with much less than that, showing the same ills that paraded in the 8 March general elections that floored the BN in five states in West Malaysia plus a Federal Territory.

The BN lost the two-thirds majority in parliament for the first time.
Then three rulers refused to accept the Prime Minister’s choices of Menteri Besar.

The Premier was interceded in Perlis, Trengganu and Johor, causing a large question to loom concerning state-federal relationship and whether or not the rulers will form an intervening power in the structure of government.

How shall the irrationalities and the ills be overcome? How can Umno and the BN survive the next general elections?

Presidential Council

Now, after Pak Lah’s insistence that he will stay as party president and premier until 2010 has been rebuffed, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah will be free to contest for party president against Najib Tun Razak in December, should he get the required number of nominations.

But after the new president is decided, will the party be run as it used to be or will it opt for a presidential council?

Pragmatism and Mineral Water

From 22 years of his leadership, Dr. M was a strongman for 14, though hard hit in the final four. He could have run the country solely on pragmatism and mineral water when he was the big boss.

He did not need to articulate an ideology, though he looked for one.

What the country needs to know is how can Malaysia be run smoothly and efficiently without an ideology when there’s no strongman, especially in a global financial crisis with a hot geopolitical landscape to boot?

We have no stable and meaningful ideology, like what Tun Abdul Razak had attempted to introduce when he was Prime Minister and Umno president.

As a result Umno failed to produce a cadre system.

Dr. M was an early warrior, having started in his school days to aggress against the environment, and therefore, had in his head a clear vision that he did not care to articulate in words but did by his deeds.

Yet, in five years of the baroque twist in leadership almost everything he had painstakingly built was eroded and dismantled in a deliberate pursuit of obsessive destruction.

To dispel the fact the structure allowed one such as Pak Lah to succeed him and to undo what he had done would be the height of impudence towards history.

Something is structurally weak, or even wrong. Could it be located merely in the fact the Malays have apparently no wish to become a civil society and therefore, is mute and hapless within the Umno patron-client overdrive?

Has it been only an irregularity particular to Pak Lah? What? Even the striking hubris and the overwhelming materialism and the colossal corruption that hasn’t the civility and humor to spare the party even?

Is everything dependent on who exits and who enters in Umno?

Morale in the party is rather low. The members and people need to know what will be done. ----a. ghani ismail, 20 September, 2008