Perdana 1: Silence is not an Option for Najib

January 5, 2015

Perdana 1: Silence is not an Option for Najib

by Scott

The funny thing about rumours is that you can never really choose to ignore them. But then, if you say too much, people will assume that you are acting in self preservation because there is truth to the talk. Say too little, and you add to the intrigue. Say nothing at all, and a piece of gossip takes a life of its own, ever growing in intricacy and complexity till little of the original remains.

najib-rosmah3001Rosmah–Najib’s worst nightmare?

Considering the options on the table, you’d think that addressing the situation makes the most sense for the parties involved, in this case, Prime Minister Najib Razak and the elusive Perdana 1, which currently awaits the Prime Minister in Thailand after a week-long jaunt in the United States, stopping in Los Angeles, Indianapolis, Los Angeles again and then New York en route to London, Dubai and back to South East Asia.

The fact that the aircraft remained in the US while the Prime Minister rushed home to deal with the flood crisis has intrigued many commenters and critics across the social sphere, with many coming to the conclusion that it must be the First Lady of Malaysia (FLOM), Rosmah Mansor, who is aboard the flight, probably indulging her allegedly infamous penchant for extravagant shopping and travel.

The Prime Minister’s Office has tried to pass it off as a maintenance issue, but as a piece carried by FMT on Saturday suggests, there was only one possible reason for Perdana 1 to be in Indianapolis, and for a week at that, raising even more concerns over the use of the jet, and more important, the doings of its possible passenger.

Najib should have just come out and addressed the rumours before they became such a source of national concern. Had he said, yes, it is Rosmah on board, he would have caught flak for it, but no more than he already has, as many Malaysians have already made up their minds about FLOM’s temperament and passions. Instead, his elegant silence has dealt a far worse blow to his and his wife’s reputation, at a time when he actually has made a public relations score with his efforts to address the floods. Had he clearly told Malaysians that the jet had issues, and the reason why it was in Indianapolis for so long, his honesty would have at least been appreciated by Malaysians whose tax dollars pay RM27,501.75 per hour for use of the jet.

Tony Fernandes: A True Crisis Manager and Role Model

Compare this to the way AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes has been dealing with the biggest crisis facing his airline yet. The ill-fated QZ8501 would have devastated AirAsia had Fernandes dealt with the situation the way that our Prime Minister has with Perdana 1. Had he been as opaque over the issue, critics would have lambasted him for having no sympathy for his employees and the passengers onboard the flight, but what Fernandes has done is give the world a master class in crisis management.

Tony and JokowiPresident Jokowi and AirAsia’s Tony

He has gone to the ground, given comfort to the staff of AirAsia, personally accompanied the body of a stewardess back to her home, communicated constantly with the public and media, and his efforts have been rewarded with a positive afterglow on the airline despite the disaster. His constant updates have left little room for rumour, little space for unbridled speculation.

It is this openness that has given Fernandes some leeway as the airline recovers from the disaster, and our Prime Minister would serve himself well to learn from what the AirAsia Group CEO has done over the past week.

Due to Najib’s refusal to address the status of Perdana 1, he has given way for gossip to hit him and his wife much harder than anything he could have possibly confessed to, even a shopping spree that spanned the breadth of America, from Los Angeles on the West Coast to New York on the East Coast.

Obviously, the magnitude of the loss of QZ8501 cannot be compared to the extravagance Perdana 1 has been associated with, but the two leaders dealing with crisis and controversy have chosen to deal with their situations in mirror-opposite ways. Najib must learn from his mistakes and stop the cycle of PR disasters marking his tenure as Prime Minister of Malaysia.


Floods: The Watershed for Change in Malaysia?

January 2, 2015

Floods: The Watershed for Change in Malaysia?

by A Kadir Jasin

AK JasinDEBATER 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.

Najib and Rosmah

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?

Mahathir-Vs-NajibIt 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

An aerial view of flooded streets of the National Park in Kuala Tahan, PahangNO 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?

Manek_Urai_floods_Bomba_251214How 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.

Anwar-UbahHudud 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.

Ibrahim-ali and MahathirThe 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 MPTengku Razaleigh Hamzah 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.

Question and Answer with Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak in Kelantan

December 28, 2014

Question and Answer with Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak in Kelantan

NAJIB / BANJIRPM Najib with Dato’ Seri Mustapha Mohamed

Excerpt of Q&A with Dato’ Seri Najib Razak at the press conference during his visit to Kelantan yesterday (December 27, 2014).

Question (Q): Why is a state of emergency not declared for the floods?

Prime Minister: There are many implications. Firstly, if we declare, insurance companies will be exempted from paying compensation for damages to properties and vehicles. When we declare (emergency), it means a “forced measure” category that insurance companies need not make settlements. Secondly, we are already moving within an emergency situation now as government machinery has been directed to perform at its maximum level.

Q: Will BR1M be paid in three stages?

PM: BR1M will still be in three stages but the (first) payment will be speeded up to the middle of January.

Q: Any help from outside?

PM: So far we have received none and we can manage this on our own.

Q: Has the government made any assessment of the damages caused by the flood?

PM: We have not done it as the flood is still here. If we make an estimation now, the damages will not be the overall value as we do not know how long more the flood will last.

Q: When will the RM500 million be disbursed to flood victims?

PM: Next year when the flood is over and the victims have returned home. They certainly need a sizable budget and that is why we will distribute the funds.

Q: How do we assist flood victims when the situation is very bad?

PM: We have decided that the committee which is chaired by Dato’ Seri Mustapa Mohamed will ascertain where there is a landing point, we will send help using helicopters. The Armed Forces have been carrying out such operations. Additional food supplies, seven days worth, are being flown via Charlie (transport aircraft) which is carrying out five, six sorties now.

Q: Could you tell us about your visit to meet US President Barack Obama?

PM: Actually, when President Barack Obama visited Malaysia, he had mentioned to me that if I was in Hawaii while he was there, he wanted me to play golf with him.

Golf Diplomacy

Playing golf is not something which is strange or out of the ordinary because from the time of Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak, Tun Dr Ismail, playing golf with other world leaders is something that can be called golf diplomacy.

I played golf to build relationship with world leaders to benefit the country. It doesn’t mean we agree to everything, but only on things that benefit Malaysia. Such social ties will benefit Malaysia. I made the decision to do that (play golf) as I was invited by him (Obama) and it was difficult for me not to do so as it had been planned earlier. However, every day when I was overseas, I received latest updates on the flood situation.


Compassionate Najib cancels holidays in Hawaii due to Floods in Malaysia

December 26, 2014

READ THIS from The Washington Post: What Game is this Pro-Democratic Party tabloid (since the days of Philip Leslie “Phil” Graham and Katherine Graham’s friendship with John F. Kennedy) playing? Najib is a victim of US domestic politics.–Din Merican

Floods in Malaysia: PM Najib got the message and will return home after golfing with President Barack H. Obama in Hawaii

Dato’ Seri Najib Razak will return to Malaysia tomorrow to personally oversee the emergency response to Malaysia’s worst flooding in decades that has seen nearly 120,000 people evacuated, after a torrent of criticism about his golf round with US President Barack Obama.

A government spokesman said the Prime Minister will fly to Kelantan to chair a meeting and receive briefings from the National Security Council, the National Disaster Management and Relief Committee, the state government and local emergency responders.

The media statement said Najib will also meet people affected by the flooding and discuss new measures to support those who have been displaced.

Golf with Obama, Floods in Malaysia“I am deeply concerned by the floods”(?)

“I am deeply concerned by the floods. I feel for the people who have lost their homes, and the families who have lost loved ones.While I have been away, I have been in constant contact with the National Security Council and the National Disaster Management and Relief Committee, who have assured me that they are doing everything they can to help those who have been affected. But I want to see the situation for myself and be with the people,” Najib was quoted as saying in the statement.

Najib had come under heavy criticism, following news and pictures of him golfing with the US President in Hawaii, at a time the country was hit by severe floods.

“Najib’s rounds surprised some of his countrymen, who are calling on him to return home to deal with massive flooding that has displaced tens of thousands,” said the Washington Post in a report today.

The daily noted that Obama had also come under attack for playing golf after the beheading of American journalist James Foley by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) militant group.

Floods in Malaysia StatsYesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin defended his boss, and said he would monitor the flood situation while Najib took his “well-deserved” break.


Tough Treatment from Journalists and Television hosts is normal in the UK, Europe and the United States

December 11,2014

Tough Treatment from Journalists and Television hosts is normal in the UK, Europe and the United States

Conservative MP Chloe Smith crumbles under questioning by Jeremy Paxman on the government’s u-turns on fuel tax, and other taxes. How many Paxmans do we have among our mainstream television hosts and journalists? I dare say none. 

Our hosts and journalists are deferential and too timid  to take on our Ministers on issues of policy. In the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States, ministers are expected to be able to handle tough questions from journalists and television hosts. Listen to the grilling Ms. Smith got.–Din Merican


Have High Expectations Of Our Young, says Bakri Musa

September 22, 2014

A Modest Proposal for the Champions of Ketuanan Melayu

First of Three Parts: Have High Expectations Of Our Young

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

Hardly a day goes by without those self-proclaimed champions of Malay race and defenders of Malay rights frothing at the mouth demanding that they (non-Malays) do this or that so we Malays could be the unquestioned Tuans (masters) of Tanah Melayu.

Dr.MahathirWhen these Hang Tuah wannabes are not consumed with their theatrics of brandishing their ketchup-soaked kerises, they are obsessed with denigrating our culture and national character. To them we are lazy, dishonest, and know no shame.

Strip the rhetoric and those expressions of frus (“Manglish” for frustration) and fury are understandable if not predictable. We are frustrated because with the billions spent on us and the ever-generous special privileges heaped upon us, we still lag behind the others. We are furious because despite not being mollycoddled by the government, they thrive.

We are so angry that we cannot even pause to ponder perhaps they prosper precisely because the government leaves them alone and does not direct their lives, or that the massive “help” we get is anything but that. There is an art in helping. Done right and you open the door to the world for those you help; done wrong and you have a dependent invalid.

Our futile and unenlightened reactions do not solve our dilemma; they hinder by hiding the glaring reality and fundamental issue: Malays are not competitive or productive.

Malaysia cannot be stable much less thrive if a sizable and readily identifiable segment of its population (more so if they consider themselves “special” or “princes and princesses of the soil”) is marginalized through lack of competitiveness or productivity. Then all Malaysians would suffer. If Malays are competitive, then Malaysia would be too.

At the individual level, if Malays are competitive then we would be Tuans even if we are not in Tanah Melayu. I can attest to that.

Because we are not productive, our hard work does not generate commensurate returns.That disheartens us. To aggravate matters, those whom we deem “successful” get there not through their own effort but connections, corruption, and other classic manifestations of a rentier economy. That discourages us even more; worse, it encourages us to emulate them, meaning, do anything but an honest day’s job.

Our laziness and dishonesty are the result and not the cause of our lack of competitiveness and productivity. Our newly-acquired value system where honest hard work is denigrated only aggravates matters. Once we acknowledge that we are not competitive or productive, and appreciate the various contributing factors, then we can begin crafting effective remedies. That demands hard work and much thought, with little time left to shout or be angry.

Enhancing our competitiveness and productivity would enable us to contribute to rather than depend on the state. Apart from benefiting the economy, that would also dignify our values and culture, quite apart from reducing our envy for the achievements of others. We would also be less likely to be swayed by the demagogues amongst us.

It is too late and would do little good to focus on the old, rigid, or senile. Besides, they are the not the future of our race or country. Likewise the Mat Rempits; their die is already cast. As per our ancient wisdom, melentur buloh biarlah dari rebung nya (if you wish to bend bamboos, begin with the shoots). Not just any sapling but those promising ones, the ones at our Sekolah Berasrama Penuh (SBP, fully residential schools).

How good a job are we doing at shaping those vigorous saplings? SBPs get the top students, best teachers, and more than their fair share of resources. However, visit the top universities and the Malaysians there are from other than our supposedly elite SBPs. This sorry state should alarm those champions of Ketuanan Melayu.

Consider the oldest SBP, Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK). It only recently started its InternationalHisham_Keris Baccalaureate (IB) program. Prior to that the school, like most SBPs, was but a glorified middle school; its students had to go elsewhere to matriculate. Despite the luminaries on its board (with Raja Muda of Perak, now Sultan, chairing it), MCKK took over a decade to implement its IB program. Imagine the pace at lesser institutions! MCKK’s female counterpart, Tunku Kurshiah College, remains an expensive middle school.

IB is a rigorous academic program, and recognized as such worldwide. Despite or perhaps because of that, few of MCKK students enroll in the program. That speaks volumes of them, and their perception of the school after spending five years there.

It may surprise many but the two schools that regularly send the most students to elite universities are not in Britain or America but South Korea (Daewon, established in 1984; and Minjok, 1997). Both may be new and in a non-English speaking country, with their students non-native English speakers to boot, but they bested the Etons and Exeters.

It is a sad commentary that in over a century MCKK managed to send only a very few to the Ivy League, fewer than peas in a pod. If Malaysia aspires to have a Nobel laureate by 2020, as expressed often by many, then may I suggest that it first try a less lofty goal, as with sending a student or two to Harvard or Yale? This should be SBP’s yardstick. There is no point in having these expensive SBPs if their students were to end up at UiTM, Creekville State U, or the University of Ulu Britain.

Our SBPs do not lack for potential Ivy League candidates. Fulfilling their aspirations would require strong effort not just from them but also the entire community, from teachers and governing boards to parents and policy makers. Failure to do that would provide potential recruits for future Mat Rempits and latter-day Hang Tuahs.

SBP students must and should end up at top universities. There must be acceptance of and striving towards this singular goal. The scarce and expensive resources of SBPs should not be expended on those with lesser expectations. If the students do not share such high aspirations, then they should not be at a SBP. The students at Minjok and Daewon are very much aware of this high expectation when they apply for admission.

There should not be any equivocation, or the adding of extraneous fuzzy themes like loyalty to “bangsa, bahasa, agama, negara.” Those are nebulous and not readily measurable anyway. The cause of our bangsa, bahasa, negara, agama is best served with these students attending elite institutions.

By “elite” I mean the top dozen in Britain, the half a dozen in Australasia and Canada, and a hundred or so in the US (University of California level and above). You do not need expensive SBPs to prepare for the rest.

Mahathir and his wardsSBPs are expensive, so we must explore innovations to reduce the cost so many more could benefit. These include dispensing with the boarding component, inviting private sector participation, and making those who could afford pay their way.

Take the last item. To non-Malays, the billions spent on SBPs are for Malays; there is no denying that. However, visit any SBP on weekends; the parking lots and beyond are filled with expensive late-model cars of wealthy parents.

If I had been spared my children’s educational expenses I could have a new Lamborghini and more every year. If those rich Malay parents had been made to pay the full freight, they would not send their children to SBPs, thus opening more slots for deserving poor kampong kids. That would truly be helping Malays.

When I went to Malay College in the early 1960s, there was a quantum leap in my living standards. I studied under the cool comfort of the fluorescent lamp instead of the searing heat of a kerosene one, and enjoyed piped water instead of having to haul it from a well. I was also spared endless hours waiting for the erratic village school bus. For my sons and grandsons however, sending them to Malay College would be a significant downgrade. Besides, that would deprive other young Bakris now in the kampongs of their opportunity.

Contrary to popular perception, making SBP free does not “help” Malays. Far from it! As well-to-do parents do not factor in the costs of their children’s education, they do not save. In the aggregate that contributes to the declining savings rate; and with that, capital formation that is so essential to economic growth. Worse, we corrupt the values and mindset of those wealthy Malays, turning them into welfare recipients. They in turn transmit those values to their children; the subsidy mentality and culture of dependency ingrained for generations. That is the most destructive part.

Next Week – Second of Three Parts: Molding Our Students