Aug 12, 2013
Malaysian prime ministers display fascinating quirks and characteristics; Dr Mahathir Mohamad assumes the role of the Pied Piper of Hamelin who leads the children (Malays) to a catastrophic end; Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is like Rip van Winkle who slept when he should have been working to improve the nation; and Najib Abdul Razak appears to act like Nero who fiddled while Rome burned.
Najib’s entry into politics is a lacklustre, predictable story which might explain his inability to inspire the nation. His role in undermining Malaysian democracy is pivotal.
He places more emphasis on sound-bites and slogans, than on sound policies. Najib is English educated, and a well travelled man. Some consider him a roué but he comes from a family with an impeccable political pedigree. The reason he failed as PM is simple.
Najib lacks leadership.
At the age of 23, Najib became a career politician, when he was elected unopposed as MP. The seat was vacated when his father, Abdul Razak Hussein died. Najib was propelled into politics during the psychedelic 70s when wine, women and song preoccupied the young men of that era.
What would these tender, youthful Malay men from the pampered classes know about the real world? Najib’s appointment was a stunt, contrived to capitalise on his father’s popularity. He lacked experience.
What practical and useful advice could Najib give the people of a nation which had been independent for barely two decades? Two years before he became an MP, rural villagers were starving, because of falling rubber prices. How would he advise these communities when he was a greenhorn himself?
In the book, ‘Awakening: The Abdullah Badawi Years in Malaysia’, Abdullah talked about reform. Despite being in agreement with him on the need for change, Najib’s inaction is probably caused by fear.
He is also hampered by his father’s reputation. It is alleged that in previous by-elections, posters of Abdul Razak were displayed, to remind the electorate that Najib is his son. Only an insecure person would trade on his father’s image to prop up his own.
What was GE13 all about, if not change? Before GE13, Najib claimed that he would accomplish all manner of things. Post-GE13, he and some of his cabinet members gave excuses that it would take another five years to tackle these same issues. If Najib felt that he was not up to the task, then he should have left the job of change to Pakatan Rakyat.
Today, Najib may have agreed with Abdullah about change, but claimed that it would take a long time. He hasn’t even started the process of change.
Steps toward change
This writer disagrees with Najib about change taking a few generations. In a previous article, I wrote that ‘Najib could be our Super Hero’, and said that the change which Najib dreams about could be almost instant.
The first 11 steps might be those listed below. I am sure you can think of many more.