Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and his Team of Talented Professionals for New Malaysia

June 12, 2018

Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and his Team of Talented Professionals for New Malaysia

by Dr. M Bakri Musa, Morgan-Hill, California, USA

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At 92, Prime Minister of Malaysia again with the rare opportunity to right past wrongs like appointing Abdullah Badawi and Najib Razak as his successors.

Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad is that rare leader who recognizes his mistakes, admits to them publicly, and then goes about rectifying them with the tenacity of a hungry rooster chasing a worm. However lest we gloss over it, he is not that wise in that he had made the same mistake not once but twice. The first was with Abdullah Badawi; second, Najib.

Nor did Mahathir recognize his mistakes early enough when they would have been easier to remedy and before they could wreak havoc. Look at the wreckage inflicted by Najib. If Mahathir were to repeat those same mistakes now that he is Prime Minister again, the consequences this time would be far more catastrophic.

Mahathir corrected his blunder with Abdullah Badawi with ease; with Najib, less so. Between Abdullah and Najib, Malaysia wasted a precious decade and a half. Najib also squandered billions. That part of the wreckage is at least quantifiable, not so the damage he wreaked upon Malaysian institutions or the nation’s reputation.

Najib and Abdullah were not the only duds. Mahathir’s previous cabinet was filled with the Nazri Azizes, Zahid Hamidis, and Rahman Dahlans. Countless others of comparable appalling caliber helmed the nation’s institutions. It is this lethal combination of weak institutions in the hands of the corrupt and incompetent that cripples Malaysia and produces the 1MDB and other boondoggles.

Mahathir has his work cut out. At 93, he has precious little time. His saving grace is that today, unlike when he was leading UMNO and Barisan, Mahathir is now inundated with talent. Many are young.

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Minister of Education Dr. Maszlee Malik

His Minister of Education has a British doctorate, a vast improvement over his many predecessors. As a junior academic he was already an outspoken critic of the government through his role as moderator in the many wacanas (public debates). That is a rare trait among local lecturers where the culture is to suck up to your superiors; hence the derisive appellation Professor Kangkung. In debates, Maszlee Malik dazzled his audiences with his wit, eloquence, and receptiveness to diverse views.

Maszlee is also fluent in Malay, English, Arabic, and Mandarin, a worthy example for our teachers and students. He could “out-quote” the Koran and hadith with the most bearded ulamas; he could thus expose their stupidities in front of simple kampung folks.

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Minister of Health, an Imperial College PhD in Toxicology, Dzulkefly Ahmad.

Less young is Mahathir’s new Minister of Health, an Imperial College PhD in Toxicology, Dzulkefly Ahmad. He has much to do cleaning up the toxic residue of the Najib Administration.

The transfer of power executed by Mazlee and Dzulkefly with their respective predecessors was a picture of class and decorum. What a glaring contrast to the absence of Najib Razak at Mahathir’s swearing-in ceremony at the Palace. Najib has no class. Earlier he had skipped the traditional concession speech. On election night he abandoned his followers at a time when they needed support the most.

The new Minister of Transport, Anthony Loke, impressed me with his command of the National Language. When his ministry staff greeted him on his first day with their usual pomp and ceremony, he told them to dispense with that. How refreshing! They would serve the nation best by attending to the public first rather than to their minister, he reminded them.

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Minister of Transport Anthony Loke

Those elaborate ceremonies cost the rakyat a bundle. Think of the many public counters left unmanned because the staff had to greet and listen to their new minister.

With such superior talents, Mahathir should dispense with his old one-man-show habit. Give them space; nurture them. Najib’s mistake, apart from not being too bright, was that he was like a kid, craving praises and going so far as to buy them!

In a praiseworthy departure, Mahathir has ventured far beyond to tap Tommy Thomas to be the new Attorney-General. This infusion of top talent at the highest levels should be the new norm. Mahathir should have more such individuals “helicoptered” in to bring a fresh perspective and different expertise, beyond the typical thinking and time frame of a politician or civil servant.

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Attorney-General Tommy Thomas

I would argue that politicians are least suited to be ministers as they would be busy taking care of their constituents, attending to party matters, and campaigning for the next election. I do not suggest adopting in toto the American system where all cabinet members are non-politicians. Thomas as Attorney-General is a good start; he would also “de-politicize” that important office. A practicing engineer to be Works Minister and a professional economist or accountant for Finance Minister should be next.

One individual Mahathir should pay particular attention to is his Deputy, Dr. Wan Azizah. Like Mahathir, she is also a physician, and a specialist to boot. Unlike Mahathir who was once described by his admirers as the first Malay to graduate from medical school without having to sit for a supplemental,

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New Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Wan Azizah Ismail

Wan Azizah was a gold medalist, tops in her class in Ireland. The brilliance is there. She is no Najib, Abdullah, or Muhyddin. Help make her be not only the first female Prime Minister of Malaysia, but also the best.

That would be a legacy worthy of Mahathir. Achieve that and the soiled memories of his appointing Abdullah and Najib would recede from history.

5 thoughts on “Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and his Team of Talented Professionals for New Malaysia

  1. Quote:- “Help make her be not only the first female Prime Minister of Malaysia, but also the best”

    Bagaimana dengan abangnya?

  2. Doc l totally agree with what you wrote. I hope with a good Team, Dr.M will indeed re set the country to get to his strategic vision, Vision 2020, or modification therein.

  3. This cabinet under Tun in the of wake of new Malaysian era, seemed to be the best ever but hopefully the new ministers will not disappoint us like the proverbial saying, ‘new brooms sweep well’. Give them the time to prove!

    Wayne > DPM Wan Azizah may make a very good PM but remember she is also someone’s wife where people are getting annoyed with his attitude for not working as a team when he came out of prison.

    To your question, “bagaimana dengan abangnya?” The moment he ran to the royals to kiss their hand, he lost the confidence of people if he could fit well into Tun’s team of Ministers to reform this new Malaysia. Let’s see in the next 2+ years how the going will be with Anwar. His popularity is expected to fall if he went on disturbing Tun’s ambition to reform the nation.

  4. ‘ …….he is not that wise in that he had made the same mistake not once but twice. The first was with Abdullah Badawi; second, Najib. ‘

    This is not true. The abuse and rorting of the system did not started 10 years ago.

    The seeds of decay were sow by TDM & Anwar, with the full support of their political party. Discrimination polices were disguised as affirmative policies to award contracts and to employ Malay/Muslim mediocre into the government service to dominate and control the administration at all cost. These mediocre later moved up the ranks to be manager and head of department making important decisions affecting the country.

    Hiding behind race and religion and fake nationalism, they abused and rorted the system for self enrichment. This is clearly reflected in the corruption infested and gross mismanagement of the Malay/Muslim dominated administration.

  5. In 1942, Abraham Luchins, an American psychologist, conducted an experiment that demonstrated the Einstellung Effect, which essentially proofs that human beings have the tendency to see solutions from the perspective of previous problems; thus if A type of solution worked for B type of problem in the past, then the same or similar approach should work for the same and similar problem in the present (or the future for that matter). Perhaps, Dr Mahathir being a medical doctor with training in the field of sciences, sees the drawbacks of the Einstellung Effect and purported to draw on the talent and fresh perspectives of a new, talented and inexperienced team of professionals in the Cabinet to solve Malaysia’s current problems.

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