MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Sunday, February 28, 2016

Dispelling the myth that leaders are invincible

Leaders are not invincible and all-powerful, or anyone to be deified, as though they are immortals.
In fact, it is against the teachings of Islam to make leaders seem like they are without faults. If they are consistently doing a good job, they should deserve the praise from the people, but if they plunder the nation’s wealth without even blinking their eyes, do they not deserve all the brickbats, to say the least?
In a democratic nation, an elected leader will have to be accountable to the people, not the other way round.
I am not as na├»ve to think that the Arab leaders are a bunch of great people as some readers commented in my earlier article (read the readers’ comments), but the onus is on the embassy and the government of Saudi Arabia to show us that they deserve our respect by telling the truth by responding to the memorandum submitted by a group of concerned Umno members.
The Arabs, too, have a stigma from the legend of Ali Baba and the forty thieves that they have to deal with, but we should at least give them the benefit of the doubt to prove that they are truthful people who can be trusted. Respect has to be earned.
In the same breath, I observed that within the past week, Umno appears to be moving in the direction where it upholds the idea that its leaders can make no mistakes; therefore, any criticism of them is considered a slander or wrong in the eyes of the law.
I remember even someone as ‘dictatorial’ as former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad did not place two former prime ministers under police investigation when they openly criticised him. If anything, Dr Mahathir should have retaliated against the late Tunku Abdul Rahman Petra Al-Haj for sacking him; instead, we see now that Dr Mahathir is being investigated by the police for alleged slander.
On the other hand, a coffee table book of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak is currently in circulation, and one of his yes-men has even the cheek to place Najib on the same pedestal as Nelson Mandela, a statesman respected by all who fought against apartheid in South Africa. Until Najib receives a Nobel Prize, I would not even dream of putting him on the same pedestal.
The reasons are simple: One is a freedom fighter, the other is caught in a massive public relations battle over the 1MDB scandal. While Mandela was fighting against the iron-fist regime in South Africa, Najib has imposed several more laws that would stifle the freedom of speech in the country.
However, Najib has miscalculated, because Malaysians are no longer what they were some 30 years ago where they had no access to information. I suspect that till now, Umno has not grasped the reality of today’s environment since the advent of the Internet.
To add another point from my observation, several NGOs are also trying to push for harsh actions to be taken against the individual who posted an ‘insult’ in a Facebook account against Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
Leaders will have to face the brickbats
As public figures, Malaysian politicians have to realise that they will face the brickbats if they do not do a good job. In fact, when they do wrong things, they are to be judged more severely.
Forget about whatever good things he might have done, but then-US president Bill Clinton was impeached when he was alleged to have had sex with one of his staff, Monica Lewinsky.
If Zahid or Najib think that they are worth the respect of all Malaysians, they should behave as statesmen, instead of being exposed for writing a letter in support of alleged illegal kingpin Paul Phua who had been arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Even I am embarrassed when friends asked me why Zahid wrote such a letter, and how someone like Phua could have helped in national security, because it simply makes no sense at all!
If he wants to be respected as prime minister, Najib should have all the guts to stand before the Parliament to explain his grand plan about 1MDB, and show with all documentary proof that the money funneled into his account (RM2.6 billion and RM40 million), were being used for a good cause.
It is only fair that when allegations or even insults are hurled at them, they should stand up and be men to defend their own integrity. Even in academic circles, a PhD would not be awarded until the candidate can defend his thesis before a panel of examiners.
Instead, what we see is a brief and spineless answer by Zahid during Parliament, with no answers to the questions raised by both the opposition and concerned members of the public.
Najib, as both 1MDB advisory board chairperson and finance minister, should have been there to answer all the questions. This is the function of the Parliament, but his absence was noted by all. Where is the quality of leadership that deserves the respect from the people of Malaysia?
When I read what Amir Amsaa Alla Pitchay, who is president of a relatively unheard of non-governmental organisation known as Ikatan Rakyat Insan Muslim Malaysia (Irimm), has to say,I cannot help but believe that there are people in the corridors of power who are indeed afraid of an uprising.
Surely in months to come, we will be hearing more from Irimm, instead of Perkasa or Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma), but Amir should not have spilled the beans too early. At this juncture, I doubt if the people are ready for an uprising (I only pray that this will not happen), but then, I could be wrong.
This is because within the last 48 hours, we have seen another major episode in the history of Umno that I believe will truly shake Umno’s foundation. Again, no one is to be blamed, but it shows the way how arrogantly the present leadership is handling the situation.
A big turnaround
Suspended Umno deputy president Muhyiddin Yassin, who was also an object of ridicule in the past, has suddenly swung around and is now given a heroic welcome in the public arena with his new lyrics, “If we want to see Malaysia return to a respected country where the rakyat can live a more prosperous life, we need to be prepared to demand for changes.”
Even former Bersih 2.0 co-chair Ambiga Sreeneevasan has saluted him for being courageous. Finally, Muhyiddin has managed to resonate with the rakyat. He realises now that they rakyat “has (indeed rejected) a political institution that has failed to fulfil the aspirations of the rakyat.”
This is the root problem. It was created during Dr Mahathir’s 22 year in power, but I believe even he realised the mistake he had made. DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang also observed that Dr Mahathir is now speaking a different lingo. I believe Dr Mahathir will do what he can to clean up his mistakes in the past in order to see Malaysia becoming a great nation.
The question is, will we see more other leaders, past and present, weigh in to save the country from going to the dogs? For example, I am surprised that none of the former human resources ministers have said anything about the 1.5 million Bangladeshis who will be entering Malaysia in the next few years.
What we need are leaders who are willing to speak up for the truth. There is this sense of respect for Muhyiddin now after he showed that he has the spine to stand up to demand for reformation in the government.
Unlike in the past, when Anwar Ibrahim first urged reformation and there was no strong opposition to back him up, today Muhyiddin and even Dr Mahathir can call upon Pakatan Harapan to join forces with them toward a common objective.
It is true, and I believe many of us will agree with Muhyiddin, that removing Najib as prime minister would not be sufficient, until we can strengthen all the institutions in this country by appointing good and honest leaders. The United States became great because of good men who laid a good foundation for the country. Down south, Singapore, too, had good people to run the country in the past.
In my opinion, the March 27 rally or ‘closed-door meeting’ called by Zaid Ibrahim should look at redefining the goals and objectives of a new reformation movement. If the problems of this country are caused by one particular party, then perhaps defeat in one or two general elections would be the best medicine.
In order to save Malaysia, Malaysians from all walks of life have to stand united. In coming months, I shall be writing less in order to concentrate more on my theological studies, but I hope to see that our generation will not pass away without making a difference to this nation. Satu Malaysia! Malaysia Boleh!

STEPHEN NG is an ordinary citizen with an avid interest in following political developments in the country since 2008. -Mkini

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