Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Limp Replacing The Lame



With Najib Razak scheduled to replace Abdullah Badawi as Prime Minister by June 2010, we have the specter of The Limp Replacing The Lame.

THE CORRIDORS OF POWER

M. Bakri Musa

Abdullah's recent announcement that he may give up even sooner thrilled Najib. Presumably to "prove" his sincerity, Abdullah traded ministerial responsibilities with Najib. Now we have the limp taking over what was once the responsibility of the lame, and vice versa.

In classical Malay literature, for example Hikayat Malim Deman, everyone in society has his or her own responsibilities, doled out according to one's capabilities. Thus the deaf would man the cannons, an appropriate enough duty as the blasts could not possibly damage his hearing any further! This reflects the traditional values of our culture in respecting the inherent dignity and worth of every individual, and that each of us can contribute in our own unique ways.

Those great narratives of our ancient literature also reveal something else. While the lame and the limp can still contribute to society, there is one place where they should not be. The limp and the lame have no place in the leadership. I have yet to read of the limp or the lame becoming Bendahara or Panglima in our literature, ancient or current.

Abdullah The Lame

As shown by his performance during these past five years, Abdullah is a lame leader. His propensity to doze off aside, the responsibilities of leading our nation is way over his head. The poor man is simply overwhelmed. He does not realize that he is drowning as the crowd around him keeps cheering him on.

Abdullah clearly has been promoted beyond his capability. Judging by his talent, Abdullah is more suited to run the Kepala Batas municipal council, at best.

Malaysian voters were not the only ones fooled by Abdullah; so too that shrewdest of politicians, Tun Mahathir, who appointed Abdullah. Voters realized their collective misjudgment in giving Abdullah his undeserved massive mandate in 2004 by repudiating him in this last election. Mahathir too has openly admitted his error and is now desperately trying to remedy it.

There are two groups of individuals still mesmerized by Abdullah's pseudo talent. One is his cabinet colleagues and two, his fellow leaders in Barisan, specifically those in UMNO Supreme Council. Lately however, we are seeing signs of them getting wise, only a few of them though. It is not so much that they are finally seeing that their emperor is stark naked, rather that he is no emperor at all, in demeanor or performance.

Abdullah received much praise when he appointed Zaid Ibrahim as the de facto Law Minister. Those praises came less out of conviction, more of hope.

It did not take long for Zaid to realize that what he thought from afar as a sultan wrapped in shining samping sutra was, up close, nothing more than a jungle man wrapped in tattered bark loincloth. He was not amused. Zaid recognized early his error and despite pleas from Abdullah, quit the cabinet. Zaid did not build his hugely successful law practice without being a good judge of character and talent. In Abdullah, Zaid saw neither.

Zaid's reputation soared on quitting the cabinet. It was not at all tarnished by his brief association with Abdullah.

To be sure there are some rumblings in the cabinet suggesting that a few may share Zaid's assessment of Abdullah. There is for example Trade Minister Muhyyiddin Yassin. Like many, his is only cakap kosong (empty talk). Unlike Zaid, Muhyiddin does not have the courage to act on his conviction. He is reduced to mumbling his dissatisfaction in the hope that his uttering would be incoherent enough so that whoever would win, he could say that he was on their side!

As for Abdullah's fellow leaders in his Barisan coalition, they too are assuming Mohyyiddin's mumbling and indecisive posture. So far only the leaders of the small SAPP with two Members of Parliament have taken decisive action by leaving the coalition. Even they are hedging their bets by choosing to remain independent

Leaders of the other Barisan coalition in MCA and Gerakan are clearly unhappy. However, either due to lack of courage or out of loyalty, they too are reduced to Muhyyiddin-style mutterings.

There is one brave soul in UMNO Supreme Council, Tengku Razaleigh. He alone was the first to see through Abdullah. He is also the only one who has come out to challenge Abdullah openly. Even more remarkable, he did so very early on. This prince can sniff out the qualities of real sultans from the pretenders very quickly.

The meek may inherit the earth, but they, like the lame and the limp, have no right to the leadership of our nation.

Najib The Limp

The mainstream media and the hierarchy of UMNO are as usual delirious with joy with Najib taking over the finance portfolio from Abdullah. I am uncertain whether that sentiment is genuine or merely the meek paying homage to the powerful.

Najib has not demonstrated much competence in running the Defense Ministry. It was during his tenure that a ragtag bunch of village bums, members of the Al Muanah group, successfully overran the Army Base near Grik, Perak a few years ago. We were promised by Najib a White Paper over this massive security breach, but so far that is only a promise.

It was also during Najib's tenure that the newly-built Pularek base in Johore collapsed just as it was being completed. Mercifully it was before its opening ceremony!

In the current trial of the Altantunya murder case, there is the grisly reminder of the massive corruption and bungling of the multibillion dollar submarine deal with France. The list is long as well as expensive.

We are told that Najib is particularly qualified to take over Finance from Abdullah. We are also told that Najib is a "British-trained economist! Take a few courses in economics in your undergraduate years and presto, you are an economist! This effusive praise and embellished accolade reflects the generosity of our culture. We are generous even in our praises, whether they are deserved or not.

Frankly, it is not too difficult to be "better" than the inept Abdullah. That is no praise!

Anwar Ibrahim and his Pakatan Rakyat have every right to demand the reconvening of Parliament and to introduce his "no confidence" motion against Abdullah. In denying Anwar his demand, Abdullah merely reaffirms his weakness. Only the lame and the weak shy away from challenges.

Malaysians are not lame or limp. We successfully stood up against the British colonialists. We still remain unique in that we are the only nation that had successfully beaten back the communist insurgency. We are proud of our traditions and achievements. This is not the time to let the lame or the limp lead us. In fact, there is no such time. - Malaysia Today

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