Why Najib, not the Opposition: A Point of View

December 29, 2012

Why Najib, not the Opposition: A Point of View

by John Teo (12-28-12)@http://www.nst.com.my

NajibDURING an animated discussion with a businessman friend this week, this friend admitted to liking much of the economic transformation programmes of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

What this writer was interested to know from him then was why, as a businessman, he was rooting for the Opposition. It was at this stage of the discussion that one basically gives up hope of a rational political discussion. A real pity indeed because this friend is hardly the rabble-rousing sort.

He is obviously thoughtful and methodical in his thought-processes, weighing different views and inputs before arriving at any decisions. Only such qualities mark him out as the successful businessman that he is.

There has been too much of perhaps exuberant irrationality on display in the run-up to the next general election. The irrationality goes something like this. Why not give the opposition a chance? And if it proves to be a failure, it can be thrown out in the following general election five years hence.

But why take the chance with the Opposition’s mere promises when one already likes what the current administration not just promises but is already implementing? Is it not far more logical for Najib to be given his mandate so he can go on deepening the economic transformations he has already started?

Why not give Najib’s leadership a chance? And if the current leadership proves to be a disappointment, will it not be far more rational and prudent to then say the Opposition deserves its chance five years hence?

So, my argument to those who keep asking why not give the Opposition a chance is this: yes, in the interest of a healthy two-party/coalition system, the Opposition certainly should in theory deserve a chance in government. But that chance must be earned, not given based on little more than blind faith.

The Opposition has certainly captured some popular imagination among some MalaysiansPakatan Rakyat in the past few years. It has shown itself to be occasionally a worthy Opposition. But far too many questions about it remain to cast doubt as to whether it can make the leap from worthy opposition to an effective national government.

Governing is a totally different ball game from opposing. It is easy to merely oppose government policies. It is even relatively easy to offer alternative policies. But the gravest doubt with the Opposition remains whether its hotchpotch of policy alternatives represents a cohesive whole that can withstand the inevitable stresses and compromises of any coalition government.

Or will those inevitable policy compromises that need to be struck only leave any alternative coalition government looking much the same as the existing coalition? Only it will possibly be worse? An Opposition-led government will by definition be inexperienced and will need to quickly learn the ropes of governing.

A steep learning curve will be combined with the likely outcome of an alternative governing coalition that secures only the barest and weakest of mandates. It could be a recipe for much political uncertainty, by far the worst possible electoral outcome for Malaysians in general but most especially for business people.

Far too many Malaysians, including those who should know better, are being swept up by the alluring seduction of the promise of “change”. The Opposition knows all about this giddy popular sentiment and is naturally exploiting it to the hilt.

But on closer inspection, or upon more sober analysis, Malaysians ought to have realised that political change has already arrived in Malaysia. For the very first time, Malaysians are experiencing the sensation of an opposition offering a serious alternative political platform and, therefore, the beginnings of a real two-party/coalition system with the checks-and-balance it entails.

As luck would have it, we have a government and, in particular, a Prime Minister who is not in the least bit in denial about the country’s political maturation but rising up to the new political challenges facing us.

Barisan Nasional’s new adaptation mode will soon be tested and should be given at least as much a chance as what the Opposition seems to be getting from voters.

We see in Japan last week its long-standing ruling party returned to office by voters deeply disenchanted after a brief hiatus under Opposition control. Japan is already a developed, stable polity with a homogeneous population. Its three-year political experimentation has thus been relatively risk-free. The risks factor for political experimentation in our case is inordinately much greater.

11 thoughts on “Why Najib, not the Opposition: A Point of View

  1. It is a choice which every registered voter must make in GE-13, between Najib-led UMNO-BN or Pakatan Rakyat with Anwar Ibrahim as its leader. I hope we can have as clean and fair elections as it is possible and put an end to the present limbo. Both sides have made promises and outlined their policies and programmes. Now we must wait for their lists of candidates and manifestos.

    John Teo has made a case for UMNO-BN by saying that “Governing is a totally different ball game from opposing. It is easy to merely oppose government policies. It is even relatively easy to offer alternative policies. But the gravest doubt with the Opposition remains whether its hotchpotch of policy alternatives represents a cohesive whole that can withstand the inevitable stresses and compromises of any coalition government”. He adds, “As luck would have it, we have a government and, in particular, a Prime Minister who is not in the least bit in denial about the country’s political maturation but rising up to the new political challenges facing us”.–Din Merican

  2. John Teo does not have an argument. The fact is the opppsition has a track record in four states to judge. It clears that the worst case scenario with the opposition in Federal Govt can’t be very much worst than UMNO/BN – UMNO/BN has NO CASE in scare-mongering.

    What is possible is that PR govt, by being too populist, programs and plans will also be limited at some point. Between the drag of corruption and risk of over-populist, its clear the wiser thing is to give Malaysian more option – that means that UMNO/BN must be removed for there to be any more options.

    Its not a risk. its about Malaysian citizen having more options, not the win i lose, lose I lose proposition that we have..

  3. John Teo opts for the status quo. That is his choice. But he is wrong in thinking that the Prime Minister is not in a state of denial. Najib is a spend, spend, bribe, bribe kind of a leader. We now saddled with a mountain of debt and corruption is rampant.Moreover, Mahathir is dictating what Najib should do.

    Look at Kelantan, Kedah, Penang and Selangor, the Opposition which is the government in these states has shown that they can govern and can agree on policy arrived through consultation and compromise at top level. Anwar himself was the former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance. He is clear on governance and fiscal responsibility. So, the Opposition deserves a chance to take over Putrajaya.

  4. John Teo, sorry I can’t buy your argument. The real basics are being ignored. They are , 50+ years of the same governing party that is notoriously corrupted & arrogant and now only compiling to some changes of policies do not impress me. We must also take into account the un-trustfulness “character “& “reputation” of the present leaders implementing those changes in the policies you mentioned. They are only doing all these changes & talking “sweetly” to garner votes. Bigjoe99 is right, the present states of Selangor & Penang are doing well and if the Opposition comes into power and do not perform, they will be kicked out in the election. What’s wrong with giving the Pakatan a chance ? One thing I am sure, corruption would not be so outrageously rampant & this alone will solve half the present problems in Malaysia !

  5. Well written piece, one of the rare well written pro BN articles. BUT arguments full of holes. Give BN a chance? Hello, they are the incumbents not the challengers, and have been holding the position since independence. And many other flawed arguments so obvious I can’t be bothered to tire my fingers.

  6. To be fair you should get one who supports Pakatan to present his views. Some one as good. You are not biased, Inche Din?

  7. John Teo and the New Straits Times he writes for are well known government and BN apologists. Their views are too stale to make comments on.
    We want to know what you think…if theirs is stale, what is yours that so refreshing.–Din Merican

  8. The only problem I have with John Teo’s argument is that if the Opposition had not been putting up such a good fight, would UMNO really give a sh*t about what people think? My feeling is, No… look at history… same old, same old.

    If a 2-party system is ever going to have a chance to endure, the system must allow a fair chance in elections, and both parties will indeed need to win elections from time to time. That is why Bersih is only the first, crucial step that this country needs. Admittedly it will take a few election cycles for the foundations to settle, but without a level playing field, only the game-fixers will win.

    This is also why ABU, and Haris’ fixation on ABU, is the only practical route given the 50+ years entrenchment. The electorate has to boot out UMNO, period. If they do that then that WILL be proof that there is power in the people in democratic elections.

    Until that happens UMNO will continue doling out goodies, as and when the noise level of the populace reaches the higher decibels. They will continue to believe, as they do now, that they have the magic formula to govern, when in fact it’s the lowest denominator that they subscribe to.

    The populace of Malaysia has to put their foot down – and say, NO MORE ! They cannot say, hmmm… maybe… let’s not rush… maybe they are sincere, this time… NO.

    Up to now we are all assuming the status quo will carry thru after ABU. And from that comes the reasoning of some – why jump into the fire from the frying pan. This is a great fallacy though, as once ABU occurs then that signifies a real paradigm shift in the psyche of Malaysia. This is crucial to understand, and in fact those who are actually in power behind the scenes do understand this and they realize that they must prevent this paradigm shift from occurring.

    But one way or the other a shift will occur and never again will a party be able to bend the rules, as long as the populace stays on guard and maintains their rights in a democratic society. And, more importantly, the new party in power will be well aware that they are walking a thin line for legitimacy.

    That is the paradigm shift — UMNO is forced to accept that the government is there to serve the people. PKR sees that it is the people who put them in power, over all odds. And the people then have learnt that they are in fact holding the reins of power, and they must never again allow another “umno” to propagate.

    I must though admit that my fear is that there will be an upheaval that brings about the paradigm shift. There are those who say Malaysians will not do an “Arab spring”. This is true, but only in the status quo, as Malaysians have never had to face the real world since they have been coddled by UMNO for 50+ years. All the power and money in the world though won’t extend this status quo much longer. The day of recongning will arrive. For my children’s sake I do hope it will arrive in relative peace.

  9. John is begging for a chance for us to try the same old Doctor whose medicine are no better than placibos…I trust the snakeoil by the street vendor…People have stop listening to the most untrusted Pm in Asean…some say also very corrupt …Hey! John you forgot the word ” BELIEVE “.
    we have been conned for over 50 years and another 5 years for BN will make the people of Malaysia the worlds

  10. I don’t know who this journalist has been talking to, but must have been a super-duper rich ‘successful’ businessman, who can afford Land-banks ripped off at nominal UMNO prices for high-end development purposes or overpriced infrastructure projects. Or one of those O&G service providers who have the transparency of crude oil. Yet, this fella is willing to support the Opposition? Yeah, he’s definitely smarter than the most blinkered pageboy of the Establishment.

    All the comments above are valid, and i’d just add a few more points for your perusal of what we’ve been experiencing:-

    * Gutter politicking;

    * Cynical manipulation of the Law, and a dysfunctional Rule of Law;

    * Matters of Deteriorating Education, affordable housing, efficient transport, heath care, social safety nets and pension funds.

    * Association of the political-business nexus/public-private collusion – monopolies;

    * Ratcheting up of Racist Communal and Religious strife/differences;

    * Inflation of prices in basic necessities and services;

    * Gangnam-style Branding and feel good policies, that remain wet-dreams;

    * Persistence of Neo-Feudalism and Caste System. And by extension, Santa Clausian attitudes of Jibs & Gang. Valentine behaviour with jealous vengeance.

    I’ll stop here, before i blow a gasket. All the businessmen (mostly the medium and small-timers) i’ve talked to are thoroughly disgusted – and so are the more erudite professionals, who are mostly independent of hand-outs from the Establishment.

    If you wanna here anything positive about business in Malaysia – kindly refer to the UMNO-BN leeches and Tuan Syed Bukhari or Tuan Mat Isa of Felda.

  11. ‘animated discussion’ and ‘much of the….’ in the first paragraph indicated more than John Teo had intended; it was a dead giveaway of what his conclusion would be like. He is entitled to his view about the ‘alluring seduction of the promise of “change”,’ but to imply that the very success of the four States under Pakatan up till now count for nothing is to reinforce the public perception that BN sympathisers from the mass media are in fact paid propagandists. It doesn’t matter one wit if one businessman’s views are sought or from a hundred others by just one journalist who has consistently proved to be BN-friendly.

    A fairer forum would be a series of discussions over public t.v. moderated by a neutral party so that the public may get to listen to informed opinions and views. These discussions should begin now, on the eve of the most momentous and contentious General Elections.

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