Najib, Abdullah, Mahathir – are we missing something?


So much time has been spent discussion the legacy of the three premiers we have had since 1981. But in many ways, it is a pointless exercise, especially when it comes to discussing Najib and Abdullah.

Not when Mahathir is still lurking behind the scenes to the extent many believe he is the real mover and shaker in Malaysia, anxious to preserve his “legacy” (read what you like into that).

Malaysia changed with Mahathir’s coming to power in 1981. The emphasis on heavy industrialisation (Perwaja, Proton), mega projects (Bakun Dam) and mega spending, the crisis in the judiciary, the deterioration in the education system, the introduction of neoliberal economic policies including privatisation, the growing income inequality, the financial scandals beginnning with BMF, the crackdown on dissent (e.g. Operasi Lalang), more repressive laws, the exploitation of cheap migrant labour and the weakened overall position of workers – all these took place during Mahathir’s tenure. And of course, the events of 1997-98 – the economic crisis and Anwar’s ouster.

And all the while, all the while, power was being centralised in the hands of the federal government; no not just the federal government, but in the hands of the executive; no, not just the executive, but in the hands of the prime minister. (Just look at where we are today – the sheer number of departments and personnel under the Prime Minister’s Office and the humongous budget to go with it.)

Abdullah rode a wave of hope and expectation that things would get better – expectations of clean government, democratic aspirations – in the process, deflating somewhat the reformasi movement. He provided the soft face, the soft touch of a government that had grown hardened over the years.

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Though he created a bit more openness and stopped some of the more outlandish projects (e.g. the crooked bridge), he ultimately failed to deliver enough where it really mattered to meet the rising expectations of the people. He was unable to stem systemic corruption and concerns about clean and fair elections. He could not change the system which by then had become entrenched in the bureaucracy as well. Look what happened to the recommendation of the Royal Commission into the police to set up an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission. No joy there.

The resulting tide of public disappointment culminated in that watershed of Malaysian politics at the 2008 general election, when Malaysians showed they wanted an alternative – an outcome that led to the formation of a two-coalition system.

The rise to power of Najib, along with his baggage, did little to restore faith in the BN. If anything, the little space that opened up under Abdullah was tightened, though Najib touted his so-called transformation programme. The ISA was replaced with Sosma, and now the increased use of sedition laws … While he proclaimed “1Malaysia”, Najib refused or was unable to rein in (or turned a blind eye to?) those Perkasa fellows harping on racial and religious issues.

But if we focus only on these three prime ministers, we are missing something. We are marginalising the fact that a growing segment of the Malaysian people are now more aware of what is happening in the country.

We are underestimating the impact of the Bersih movement (along with Himpunan Hijau) and before that, its forerunner, the reformasi movement. We are ignoring the work of civil society over the years – the women’s groups, the human rights groups, the environmental movement etc. which laid the earlier ground work. And now we are seeing a more politically aware younger generation stepping up to the plate.

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GE13, despite the process being seriously flawed with all the vote-buying (BR1M, free dinners, ‘lucky draws’, payouts, etc), confirmed that politicians can no longer take the people for granted. The people, once awakened, will not go back to sleep.

This is what is worrying the ruling politicians. Umno, though now more dominant within the BN with the marginalisation of the MCA and the MIC, now has to rely on its tainted Sabah and Sarawak partners to retain its grip on power. It also appears to be in the throes of a potentially damaging factional contest.

Meanwhile, perhaps to camouflage the setback the BN suffered in GE13, the Old Politics of race and religion appears to be rearing its ugly head – perhaps because certain quarters believe that is what is necessary to ensure their relevance.

But I prefer to be optimistic that the New Politics that looks beyond divisive communal issues will prevail – even though our economic outlook does not look good, even though our household debt and federal government debt have soared, and even though divisive controversies have surfaced.

As more people gain access to alternative worldviews – indeed, Utusan, NST, TV3, and The Star are serving a shrinking no-longer-captive market – they will become more aware of the issues that really matter, no matter what the politicians tell them.

That would be the first step in a more enlightened journey – based on a celebration of our cultural diversity, respect for every individual, the empowerment of the marginalised, and reverence for Nature.

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And that could herald the dawn of a new Malaysia where the common good of the people comes first.

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  1. Can Anil provide the extracts of the interesting bits of ‘The Awakening’ of Pak Lah?

    The book must be translated to BM to reach the intended audience.

    • Good idea, but due to copyright issues, perhaps that is best left to the publishers/editors to disseminate.

      • Anil

        Just found out some of the Pak Lah’s revelations in his book here:

        •Dr Mahathir criticised him because Abdullah tried to do things differently. “He believes that his way is the only way… Mahathir’s inability to accept any other view accept his own.”
        •Though Abdullah’s son was a businessman, he didn’t obtain any contracts through direct negotiations. Abdullah noted that it was hypocritical of Dr Mahathir to attack him on his son’s involvement given that Mahathir’s own children “were all heavily involved in business in a big way throughout the entire time he was Prime Minister”.
        •Once a prime minister retires, he should not interfere with his successor. “If there is anything you are unhappy with, you can always offer your views privately. I didn’t like what Mahathir did, ” Abdullah said.
        •Had Abdullah succumbed to Dr Mahathir’s pressure to continue spending on mega-projects, the budget deficit would have widened and Malaysia would be bankrupt by now.
        •Dr Mahathir was a man of contradictions. When BN did well in 2004, he said such a strong mandate was not good for the country. When BN didn’t do well in 2008, he blamed Abdullah. Yet “Mahathir cannot deny that he contributed to the erosion of Barisan Nasional’s support in the 2008 elections through his open and unwarranted criticisms and attacks.”
        •Abdullah informed Dr Mahathir of the sleep apnea condition he was suffering, which caused him to doze off. “So for him to say that I doze off because I am not interested in the job is most unkind,” said Abdullah in the book.
        •Abdullah noted that even after the groundswell against him manufactured by the Mahathir-Muhyiddin combo, Abdullah’s supporters in the party presented him with evidence that they had the “numbers to fight” and for him to remain as Umno president.

    • Just watched the ntv7 news today, seems like pak lah has taken 2 steps backwards after 1 step forward with the book, due to pressure from Umno?

  2. Just like most people in Malaysia, I too at first for a while pray and wish that this m will leave … soon, but on second thought, we must instead hope and pray that he will (stay) to see the destruction of his creation of Umno Baru.

    Therefore let us all pray very hard that, and don’t worry about anything else because it is proven, not only in the last election, if only one cares to look at the records of the 12th GE and also the many by elections thereafter. All of the candidates he openly supported or campaigned for lost, just look at the Perkasa’s candidates he supported and campaigned for, particularly those stood in the Malay dominated areas they all lost and heavily they all lost. Need you ask, why ? They cannot hold the Chinese for the defeats of those candidates and he still doesn’t want to accept the reality that his … deceives are no longer believed and accepted by the very people he adamantly claims to be. What is there left for him to cling to ?
    Once again let us pray very hard he will (stay) long enough for him to witness the destruction of his Umno Baru.

  3. tunglang should empatise with Kingston (not all Kingstons have a rich father like LCW) who represents the plight of many Malaysians who have put too much blind faith in The M’s Wawasan 2020 – 7 years away and yet one has to depends on BR1M while seeing inflation eating away the depreciating ringgit, sadly in the deep abyss of blue ocean!

  4. To all still young, aspiring & active:
    Study Hard & Excel.
    Get A Foreign Scholarship.
    Graduate & Build A New Future – Overseas.

    To all 50 & above who are stuck here for life or eternity:
    K E E P C A L M.
    Live A Simplicity Life (No need for impractical Bing Chui)
    Be Debtless & Free. Stay Surplus.
    Being Self Reliant (Side Income, Food, Clothing, Shelter)
    Live Healthy & Fit (no need for over-insured)
    Plus, If you are the imaginative type, 3 cuppa of Kopi-O kau kau (self-brewed) to stay motivated &
    overflowed with ideas to sell.

    For more motivation, look for KEEP CALM inspirations.

    • To all still young, aspiring & active:
      Study Hard & Excel ==> (Study Smart Not Hard to pass exams-do past years exam papers)
      Get A Foreign Scholarship ==> (Must “bodek” cronies to get it ???)
      Graduate & Build A New Future – Overseas ==> (no cronies no future !)

      To all 50 & above who are stuck here for life or eternity:
      K E E P C A L M ==> Tell me keep calm when Ah Long after me ???
      Live A Simplicity Life (No need for impractical Bing Chui) ==> need to flash flash act rich lah
      Be Debtless & Free. Stay Surplus ==> already in debt awaiting bailout ! wanna help ?.
      Being Self Reliant (Side Income, Food, Clothing, Shelter) ==> awaiting more BR1Ms lah; nation in debt then can clear debt when banks go bankcrupt forfeit my debt as bad loans.
      Live Healthy & Fit (no need for over-insured) ==> ok lah less kopi-o kau kau less caffein
      Plus, If you are the imaginative type, 3 cuppa of Kopi-O kau kau (self-brewed) to stay motivated &
      overflowed with ideas to sell. ==> Go for green tea less caffein kopi; also kopi industry now cut throat biz last time so cheap now Ah Huat Ali Cafe helps to raise prices gonna on par with starrybuckish ?

      For more motivation, look for KEEP CALM inspirations. ==> inspirations seeing shooting crimes daily ? better go live in mountains catch spiders/fish to survive away from imposed-cosmopolitan-lifestyle !

      • Kingston, Poor Soul.
        You must be living a very desperate D.S. life in innercity George Town or should I put it, Cosmopolitan Penang for the Rich & Famous of Bing Chui!
        Have A Proactive Life! Have Some Degree of Self-esteem. Why act like a no-brainer wildebeest chasing in the crowd after something beyond your means here or ‘deteriorating’ under a racist status quo? Think out of your sacarstic brain & put them to work, lazy Mc Minion.

        Unless you are already drowning in the deep, deep Blue Ocean Strategy of the BeeEnder of Hopelessness & Tongkat + Free Loadings! (Btw, sudah habis gaya-raya, lu miah BR1M + GE13 Duit kah?)

        Afraid of shooting spree? Already cannot survive well till tomorrow in Cosmopolitan Penang, some more want to worry about shooting?

      • Malaysians are really spoilt.
        What used to be a luxury item is now a basic needs.
        A simple life would include air-cond in bedroom.
        Now we know why our sportsman could not play badminton when the air-cond is turned off.

  5. what you missed is the changed role of religion in malaysia after the 70’s
    which divides rather than unites the country.
    unless religion is separated from the state, which will not happen, there
    will be no new malaysia!

    • Middle Eastern Fever? Religious orthodox-toxicity.
      See what is happening in Europe (no thanks to ‘open door’ immigration policies) – no-go zones run by foreigners even the local police dare not drive through!

  6. Since BN ruled(which actually the main player is UMNO),the country has not been shorts of scandals after scandals-first the BMF case,MAMINCO,the currency scandal(RM verses The Pound),PERwaja scandal,RENONG,MAS,PKFZ and The Scorpene submarine payout .All these have incurred billions of dollars loss to the nation and no body was held accountable. So how not the people not angry especially with the deteriorating economic outlook of the country.

    • Hi Mark, NOT ALL people are angry……because about 47% still support BN GOONS. Give them some monies they will do anything for BN. So another 5-10% is enough to bring in PAKATAN to Power so that all these Atrocities will stop.

  7. Perkasa seems to disctate the government actions ?
    Najib being silent on many controversial issues as if people mudah lupa as the wind blows away ?

  8. M kutty … One more day here will spill more racism, religiousm, intolerance and distrust amongst the various races

  9. Since the advent of M-Dilemma Mismanagement Leadership, we were missing:
    1) the common sense of “Together in unity we float, divided we sink (altogether).”
    This, the so-called venerable PM of ultra-racist affirmative policies had failed to understand & empower the Rakyat, regardless of skin tones.
    2) the prudent financial & resource management of wealth from tin, rubber, natural oil + gas & taxes. Including abundance of natural resources & now, the big Milo-tin savings EPF.
    Promoting ‘gatai’ spending penchant since the 80s for anything ‘Mega&Gaya’, thinking that the nation’s coffer was an everlasting hot spring, no bean counting responsibility was ever enforced. ROI & opportunity cost benefits were not the high-lighted vocab in the minds of Finance Ministry. Added with corruption, the ‘bleeding’ of Ah Kong’s monies & wealth is unbelievable & unprecedented to this day.
    3) 360° global vision with an open mind to the importance of English in almost every field of endeavour.
    Blowing nationalistic hot airs post ‘Ang Moh’ colonialism has blinded us to the realities of competitiveness in globalisation to come. Looking East was just one direction to a hardworking culture but it still failed to catapult our workforce to excel & thrive.
    4) the cutting edge of multilingualism in a global society, beyond the unrealistic culture phobia of losing one’s Asian identity.
    We once believed our sole national language together with Tagalog could rein prominent & influential as a lingual franca of commerce, trade, banking, education & R+D in Asean archipelago. The Japanese of WW2 also thought on the same wave length. In fact, the Europeans & Americans envy our multi-lingual edge to deal trade with China, India, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea & Japan, besides with the English speaking Ang Mohs.
    5) the undeniable truth that talents could come from any race, regardless of economic status, social standing or geographical distribution.
    We are the Asean export centre of much needed global talents who are welcomed with wide open arms, interacted with respect & given equal opportunities to excel in the career of one’s choice. LKY may have been grateful (daily & nightly) for this ready supply of migrating talents from across the Straits of Johor, which could also explain for his old-age longevity.

    Sometimes, we have to drink the Bitter Gourd Soup for a healthy dose of reality, no matter how exceedingly bitter the global truth hurts our bloated, inward-looking cultural supremacy of a misguided leadership.

  10. Mahathir so senile he still thinking he his the PM.
    Abdullah – so sleepy and slept through.
    Najib – to many baggage he carrying – smooth talker nambikai guy but he scared to push through anything because scared of Malay support.

    rajraman.I rather have Najib at this moment because ultra Malays will take control of UMNO and start again Mahathir ERA by saya Melayu dulu DPM.

  11. You can’t dismiss great general ideas just because its not immediately practical or profitable. Badawi may have failed miserably execution wise but he came from an an era and place where great original ideas which was part of the founding of this nation originate which Mahathir flushed down the toilet during his tenure. Badawi should be given credit that he never gave up on the big ideas we all still cherish even in his defeat.

    There is also a danger too that if you dismiss these great not immediately profitable ideas, then you dismiss also great poisons of society, of humankind, it will only turn intractable in the future. Najib is COMPLETELY WRONG about that reforming UMNO will take a long time. IF it takes a long time to reform UMNO, then there is NO HOPE OF REFORM..Mahathir is a classic sociopath and his followers are cultist. It is already bad enough that Mahathir has not been defeated even after he left office, to allow him not be defeated while alive will only crate a legend, a demi-god that will have cost that will go on and on an on – that is the nature of fanaticism..

    There is a point – the task for change is urgent. TIME IS RUNNING OUT.. LKY is not wrong. The potential for change is OPPORTUNISTIC and problematic..

  12. A great and thinking article to be read with an opened mind…….wish the dumb and stupid BN nuts of East Malaysia will begin to awaken from BN propoganda which is not really 1Malaysia as preached by Najib….

    • Najib can no longer preach his satu slogan as he has been very quiet towards Perkasa that breached his concept with racist agenda. Pak Lah failed to curtail Che Det when he was the PM thus no sympathy from rakyat despite all he could awaken in his book.

  13. You are right that the real mover of the political scene in Malaysia is still in control by the rapscallion Mahathir, not because the Malays are behind him, but it is because the Umno warlords are still holding on to the political control of this country. Not that the Umno warlords are supporting him but they too are trying to protect themselves from being indicted , just like the m, and also the gravy train they are on

    plus the ill gotten gains they have (allegedly) stacked up abroad. The Malays have awoken up that this m is the one that is responsible for what they are in ! He has proven to the Malays that he does not care for the Malays … A good example of that was how this m hijacked NEP …

    Therefore to get rid of this m (politically), first you have to get rid of all the rapscallions in Putrajaya now and you will have no problem getting rid out of this … Mahathir and you would even have no problem at all having … (those) corrupted Umno baru warlords indicted !

  14. I think the REAL TRUTH will only be uncovered once Pakatan took over Putrajaya to expose those skeleton in the closet. This is an incentive for us to Ubah in the GE.

    • Which is why no matter at what cost he must prevent PR from coming into power by using thew most racist and religious of issue


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