January 2, 2015
Floods: The Watershed for Change in Malaysia?
by A Kadir Jasin
DEBATER Ismail Muda had the following to say – “Dari sudut politik, kita amat berharap akan muncul pemimpin baru yg lebih berwawasan berkaliber dan penuh tanggongjwab membetulkan segala kepesongan.”
Translated, it says, from the political angle, we are very hopeful that a new leader with calibre, vision and sense of responsibility will emerge to put right all the wrong.
I am afraid his statement typifies the dissatisfaction of many Malaysians with the leadership of Prime Minister, Mohd Najib Abdul Razak and his merry men and women – not all but many.
The “banjir besar” (big floods) could have been the ultimate opportunity for them to rise to the challenge and prove to the people far and wide that they are concerned and capable.
Instead the Prime Minister himself had chosen to put his so-called “golf diplomacy” with US President Barrack Obama ahead of the flood victims and played hide and seek with the rakyat on the whereabouts of the government jet he used to travel to Hawaii and also the whereabouts of his wife, Rosmah Mansor.
On the positive side, despite the extent of the floods the lost of lives had been minimal. More people died in a New Year stampede in China! Still the lost of properties, sources of income and economic opportunities are significant and will take time to recover.
The Malays have a saying that “sekali air bah, sekali pasir berubah.” It means, each time it floods the sandbank would move. If that saying holds true, I believe the wave of change will only get stronger. UMNO has to do something about its President and Prime Minister if it wants to stop the situation from getting worse. Like the sandbank, it could be swept away the next general elections.
The big floods may be the watershed that we are hoping for. They may spell the beginning of the end of a mediocre leadership. That old Malay wisdom about the banjir and the pasir could very well have a literal meaning for Mohd Najib.
The Beginning of the End?
It is a watershed and an ominous one when the rakyat, through the blogs, the independent news portal and the social media outlets, discovered that the PM was golfing in Hawaii while a quarter million people were flooded out of their homes, they asked, does the PM care?
No amount of explanations and attempts to gloss over the Hawaiian misstep by his propaganda machines will restore the Prime Minister’s image as a caring leader. His “rakyat didahulukan” (people first) slogan is a sham.
His RM500-million allocation and the speeding up of 1Malaysia People Assistance (BR1M) may help to mend fences with the rural poor but is unlikely to appease his critics and detractors.
His psychological warfare onslaught is farcical. For instance, in calling for his ministers, who were also holidaying abroad, to come home, the Prime Minister was proving the social media right that some members of his cabinet were more concerned with their holidays than the well-being of the people who elected them.
In seeking to placate the people, the PM is clearly being poorly advised his psychological warfare specialists, of whom we know there are many. The instruction to his holidaying ministers to come home should not have been made public. It makes it to sounds like “bapa borek anak rintik” – like father like son.
For UMNO and the Barisan Nasional, a change has to happen. If it does not happen, the situation can only get worse and the grand old coalition may finally succumb to old age. Like the Romans who had to choose between Caesar and Rome, the time has come for UMNO and BN to choose between Mohd Najib and Putrajaya.
The Buck Stops with the PM
NO matter how we look at the handling of the big floods in particular and the administration of the country in general, we have to be very clear that the buck stops with the Prime Minister.
We cannot hope to have a motivated, committed and transparent civil service, the Police, the Military and, above all, the populace if the man at the top does not display the same motivation, commitment and transparency.
Can the “golf diplomacy” not wait? Would Obama be fuming mad if Mohd Najib told him that he could not come because his country is suffering big floods?
How many more disasters and tragedies do we need before we dare judge our government, our leaders and our Prime Minister and say, enough is enough? Just ask ourselves do we still believe in “Malaysia Boleh”? Does people first, performance now slogan has any meaning?
By the look of things, the future does not hold great promise for the rakyat jelata (the populace) if this situation continues. And unless UMNO and the BN have lost all sensibilities and bearings, they would by now know that the future does not hold a great promise for them either.
They can pretend and continue to be in a state of denial, but the record of the last few years does not speak well of their performance and their endearment with the rakyat.
The Heavy Price of Denial
I am sorry to have to say this. UMNO and BN can keep the PM and pretend that everything in fine, but they must accept the fact that the risk of them being thrown out by voters in the next GE is immense.
The Pakatan Rakyat parties do not have to do much. They just need to keep their internal differences in check and stop washing dirty linen in public. If they stop bickering about ideologies and stop being egotistical maniacs, they stand a good chance of keeping their 52% popular votes and probably get more in the coming polls.
Hudud will likely undo the PR Coalition
In simple language, all that the PR has to do is keep its nose clean and hope that no positive changes happen in the leadership of the BN and the government. Do not underestimate the voters’ desire for change. The tumbling support for the BN since the 2008 GE suggests that this trend is gaining momentum.
BN should realise that it has not only lost the popular votes but also the battle of words. Its propaganda machines have lost the war with the social media.
Also, the PR has many more younger and smarter leaders than the ageing BN parties. Can we name more future UMNO-BN leaders other than Youth Minister Khairy Jamaluddin and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Dr. Wee Ka Siong?
Do not forget that the young people who are joining the rank electorates are the prime movers of social media and the BN is a poor second in the use of this new communication tool. For UMNO, do not forget that the most numbers of unregistered voters are Malays and UMNO is trailing the DAP in enticing young people to register as voters.
The era of strong leaders like (Tun) Dr Mahathir Mohamad and late (Tun) Abdul Razak Hussein is over for UMNO. The survival of the party, for now, appears to rest on collective leadership, which Mohd Najib has failed to put together.
This is because, from the start, he fashioned himself as a president not a prime minister. He does things not in consultation with the party and the civil service. Instead he surrounds himself with presidential-type councils, committees, advisors, consultants and special officers many of whom are not government servants but have access to confidential materials and state secrets.
And may be Mohd Najib’s earliest mentor (at PETRONAS), the Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, is entirely correct, when he said Malaysia may be heading into 2015 but we have deviated from the path of progress, and instead progress has been set back several decades.
In his New Year message, the former Finance Minister said, 2014 had been a “horrible year” but the future does not look bright particularly because of worsening racial and religious politics.