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Is Najib a sentimental fool?

 | May 26, 2011

Singapore PM had the temerity to persuade the republic's two ex-PMs to quit politics, unlike our Umno leadership.

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It’s more difficult to acknowledge what we did not learn. And the truth is, we have not learnt anything from the Singapore election.

What has happened is that Umno’s conceit and belligerence have escalated. The leadership’s insensitivity appears to have heightened instead of subsiding.

It still claims to be the sole spokesman and the voice of Malays. Umno advertises pompously its commitment to transformation. Yet Umno is digging itself deeper into the trenches.

Let’s see now what we, as in Umno, did not learn from the Orchard Road polls.

The most shocking outcome was the defeat of several ministers from Lee Hsien Loong’s party, PAP.

Notable among them is Brigadier General George Yeo.

Next came the resignations of Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong. Both are ex-Prime Ministers of Singapore. They will probably be appointed as heads of Singapore GLCs I suppose.

Hsien Loong had the temerity to persuade the two ex-PMs to exit from the party.

That means they will not be part of the political process of the island city state from now on.

Hsien Loong’s no sentimental fool

Lee on his part is a political realist. He is willing to make the exit reasoning perhaps that it will make PAP stronger. Goh probably arrived at the same conclusion.

Their withdrawal from active political process showed their readiness to allow the 3rd and 4th generation of Singapore leaders to tune into the new expectations of the people.

Lee and Goh are pragmatists in the sense that they owned up to the fact that they represent that section of leadership that is out of tune with the times.

Hsien Loong is a harder realist and no sentimental fool.

A leader of weaker constitution will reject the resignations or will find some artful maneuvers to keep the grey eminences in power.

Hsien Loong isn’t doing what a leader of weaker constitution will normally do – appoint losers as senators and make them ministers.

And the Singapore PAP is quick to address the issues that are held as important by the people. It’s going to revise the salary of ministers.

Lee has long held the conviction that paying high salaries pegged to the highest paid employees of multinationals will attract the best talent into PAP and the government.

Well, this time around some of the crème de la crème of Singapore citizens choose to be in the Opposition.

Meaning, Lee has been now proven wrong on his strategy of placing the carrot before the horse. The horses are ready to bolt.

Some government scholars have contested as opposition members. This means, paying high salaries no longer guarantees that PAP gets the best talents.

Out-of-tune values

The fact that some of the best talents embraced the opposition can only mean, a higher premium is now placed on the validity and legitimacy of the policies imposed by the PAP government.

Policies, vision, and idealism are now more important to people than the crass materialism of the PAP.

The PAP government has also immediately tackled the issues of exorbitantly priced housing and has directed attention to the immigration problem or the so called foreign talent issue.

Over here in Malaysia, we have a leadership that entrenches itself with long held values and an outlook that is no longer in tune with expectations of the present generation.

Nothing better captures the convoluted reasoning behind the decision not to carry out the promised great transformation more than the political maneuvers of retaining losers in the previous general election.

Shahrizat Abdul Jalil (Minister of Women Family and Community Development) lost her Lembah Pantai seat in the 12th general election, but was appointed a senator as though telling the world that she is indispensable.

The current minister (Raja Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin) of the Federal Territory never won any seat but was appointed a senator and a minister.

Koh Tsu Koon (defeated Gerakan president) who has clearly been shown not to have achieved anything for Penang and the Penang Malays was rescued from political oblivion by being appointed a senator.

The MIC president (G Palanivel) who lost his seat, was also made a senator.

These maneuvers are clearly at odds with a leadership which makes a spectacle more out of declarations as opposed to walking the talk.

If Hsien Loong has the courage to persuade two ex-PM’s to stay out of the cabinet, can we find the same over here?

We have not really learnt from the Singapore election.

The writer is a former Umno state assemblyman and an FMT columnist.


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