Najib, Abdullah, Mahathir – are we missing something?

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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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27 Comments on "Najib, Abdullah, Mahathir – are we missing something?"

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Club41 Oon
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Club41 Oon

We cannot say M is still influential, but rather we have a very weak PM who is afraid to make decision.

don anamalai
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don anamalai

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.

loke min xian
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loke min xian

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?

najib manaukau
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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… Read more »
Fariz
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Fariz

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!

tunglang
Guest

To all still young, aspiring & active:
KEEP CALM.
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.

kingston
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kingston
To all still young, aspiring & active: KEEP CALM : ==>HOW WHEN NO MONEY (CAR) NO HONEY (GIRL GIRL) 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… Read more »
yonghua
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yonghua

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.

tunglang
Guest
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,… Read more »
jay
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jay

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!

tunglang
Guest

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!

mark
Guest
mark

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.

john simon
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john simon

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.

Priyanka
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Priyanka

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

Yang
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Yang

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

john simon
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john simon

Mikey mouse you are right……Now Najib is a Lone Ranger…No Tonto Yassin to tag along.

tunglang
Guest
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… Read more »
mickeymouse
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mickeymouse

rahman+razak+hussein=three mouseketeers…mahathir+abdullah+najib=three blind mice

rajraman666
Guest
rajraman666

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.

bigjoe99
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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… Read more »
john simon
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john simon

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….

loke min xian
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loke min xian

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.

najib manaukau
Guest
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… Read more »
Rafiz
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Rafiz

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.

Yang
Guest
Yang

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