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From order to confusion?

 | November 3, 2012

While Mahathir was a disciplined and a decisive no-nonsense leader, Najib's major flip-flops in the last four years says a lot about the man's mettle.


One cannot help but compare the contrasting styles of leadership between the fourth and the sixth Malaysian prime ministers.

The fourth, Dr Mahathir Mohamad of course had the longest tenure which stands at 22 years while the sixth, Najib Tun Razak may be facing the prospect of being the one with the shortest tenures if he loses the 13th general election next year as he would have been holding the post for about four years only.

The fifth prime minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, took over the premiership from Mahathir on Oct 31, 2003 and relinquished his post on April 2, 2009 which means that he was PM for about five years five months.

Mahathir is a formidable strategist as he had managed to vanquish all his opponents while at the same time running a tight ship. His policies were simple, straightforward and to the point. This is what strategy is all about – at the highest level it is simple and at its most basic.

Take for instance these few fine examples:

  • Look East Policy;
  • Leadership by example; and
  • Vision 2020.

All the above policies are self-explanatory and can be understood by the common man-in-the-street. They are without frills, hype and complications. The rakyat had no difficulty in understanding these policies.

On the contrary, PM Najib Tun Razak has too many alphabets in his policies. Appended below are a few examples:

  • NKRA (National Key Results Areas);
  • NKEA (National Key Economic Areas);
  • GTP (Government Transformation Programme);
  • ETP (Economic Transformation Programme);
  • EPP (Entry Point Projects); and
  • NEM (New Economic Model).

There is also the EOC (Equal Opportunities Commission) which at first was part of the NEM but has since been discarded.

Item No 3, the GTP begs the question: ‘What is it all about?’

This policy is not clear-cut because people are asking what sort of transformation it entails.

Questions such as: ‘Transform into what?’ and ‘How to transform?’ are being asked by the rakyat. The whole plan is hazy as it lacks clarity and a well-defined goal. At the back of it, people are wondering if those who initiated this idea are justt as dazed and confused. So much for policies.

In Mahathir’s era, citizens had to work more as Saturday was also a half-day working day. Mahathir wanted everyone to consistently work hard. He had once commended the Chinese stall-owners and coffee-shop proprietors for doing business seven days a week and only taking a long break during Chinese New Year. He exhorted Malaysians to emulate the Japanese work ethic and never to shirk their duties.

In Najib’s era, working hard was not given so much emphasis. As for the National Day celebrations, the slogans during Mahathir’s time were always inclusive and neutral. This is so unlike PM Najib who had plug in his BN slogan of ‘Janji Ditepati’ as the National Day slogan for this year’s celebrations.

Overall, Mahathir is a disciplined and decisive no-nonsense leader. This was well-reflected in the way he had run the general elections all throughout his tenure. Zap, zap, zap and the polls came and gone. There was no pondering and hesitating because he had the big picture in mind. He always knew when to call for the polls and went about it in his own meticulous manner.

Questionable leadership skills

Where Najib is concerned, the polls date is stuck as his mind is clouded with uncertainty. The current Prime Minister is also prone to flip-flops. Four of his most well-known flip-flops are the MAS-Air Asia Share Swap Deal, the New Civil Servants Remuneration Scheme, the omission of the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) from the New Economic Model (NEM) and the name change of KLIFD (Kuala Lumpur International Financial District) to TRX (Tun Razak Exchange).

Chalking up these four major flip-flops in his less than four years tenure certainly says a lot about the man himself. That he fails or does not want to reprimand MCA President, Chua Soi Lek, although the latter has openly insulted Islam certainly shows that he lacks the necessary authoritativeness in handling matters.

The leadership skills of the current prime minister is weak. Due to this, he has to put in much effort to whip up the BN component parties into shape to get them going properly in time for the 13th general election.

It must also be mentioned that one of his most scatterbrained schemes to-date was to approve the Health Ministry’s test-project to release mutant mosquitoes in Alor Gajah, Melaka with the aim of getting these mutant mosquitoes to devour the aedes mosquitoes which cause dengue.

PKR’s Gopeng MP, Dr Lee Boon Chye has raised this issue in Parliament by asking how safe and reliable is this Health Ministry test-project. We hope that the mutant mosquitoes will not start to feed on the humans instead.

Another bad project during the current Prime Minister’s tenure is allowing too many foreign workers into the country. The KL areas surrounding Pasar Seni is teeming with Bangladeshis many of whom are just walking around doing nothing and yet 800,000 more are to be taken in, said the Human Resource Minister, S Subramaniam as they are needed to work in various sectors with the plantations sector being most in need of workers.

And the National Debt during Mahathir’s era of 22 years was just over RM200 billion but now it has ballooned up to a figure of over RM500 billion in less than 10 years that Mahathir has retired. From the era of Mahathir to PM Najib, we have now descended from order to confusion. Will this situation be allowed to deteriorate?

Selena Tay is a FMT columnist.


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