Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Fix the past, design the future

In politics, if you don’t do the right things for the people, unless you are a devious schizophrenic Machiavelli, events will come back to haunt and hurt you.
Even if you are a devious Machiavelli, events will still haunt you but the fact that you are a sick schizophrenic will shield you from the pain of knowing you are a failed leader. It is important for politicians to understand this and more important for the citizens because they will bear the brunt of failed policies.
Some of our politicians do not seem to show any signs of reducing the play of political games. It is clearly calculated to cause political instability so as to achieve a certain political objective. On the other hand, people-oriented issues such as education, freedom of faith, employment, corruption, cost of living and so on, are not, and have never been championed as passionately by the political leaders. It should open up the eyes of the citizen that nothing excites politicians more than pure political issues, especially ones that directly concern power.
Hence, it falls back on the current government and the national leadership to decide what it wants to do under such turbulent political times. To me, the principle approach is easy but it requires honesty, courage and willingness to follow through to fix the past and progress to the future. There needs to be not only leadership, but visible leadership with a clear direction.
It is impossible to progress if we keep maintaining some of the failed national mindset and systems that have clearly brought us to this national inefficient state of existence.
We have to be courageous and not vindictive to identify the policies and thinking of the past that are preventing us from leaping forward as a successful united nation.
The sliding of Malaysia’s reputation on the world stage began a long time ago when we were accused of practising cronyism, nepotism and indulging in patronising politics in the mid-1980s.
Criticisms were already levelled then at how we have been misusing our newfound oil money on mega projects at the exclusion of building human capital. Home-grown and cottage industries, which are always the fundamental shock absorbers of any nation, were never given the necessary and due attention. Small and medium-sized enterprises were ignored or given lukewarm political attention, never mind the fact that we have an SME Bank. Political handouts to those who were close to the political circle and not to the talented were an open secret.
The judiciary suffered total disrespect locally and abroad and only recovered its image somewhat partly thanks to Datuk Zaid Ibrahim’s initiative, when Tun Abdullah Badawi became the prime minister. Racial polarisation, religious egoism and extremism of the worst kind are allowed to rear their ugly head. Political leaders have been blind to the fact these divisive mindsets took decades to grow due to past policies or lack of visionary policies. Understandably, the people were excited when Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak introduced the “1Malaysia” vision only to be thwarted by Umno’s powerful old guards who do not want the “old status quo” disturbed. A chance for a powerful reform vehicle to unite the people forward as one nation was watered down by these old guards who still wanted to wield power.
I can go on with many of the past policies that had failed and are still hurting the nation. Abdullah had somewhat tried to implement a reformist government but due to internal Umno politics, his administration was short-lived. He had largely refused to follow the old “Umno way” of doing things. Again, powerful old guards in the party will not allow change and hence, despite everyone saying what a nice man Abdullah is, the disinformation machinery was unleashed to retire him early.
 The writer says people want leaders who can fix parts of the past and the future to be planned and identified. — Bernama picThe writer says people want leaders who can fix parts of the past and the future to be planned and identified. — Bernama picThe unfortunate fact of the matter is this: the health of the country is tied very much to the health of Umno. There are many trappings that have been put in place in Umno and there are many powerful old guards who will try to chain the president down. Therefore, even as a president, you either toe the line or risk forced retirement. Only a firm and strong willed president can survive with his way of doing things in Umno. 
There are many things from the past that still persist today that have to be fixed by the present leadership. I repeat, the current leadership has to be courageous to fix the past so that we can move ahead as one nation. For years, Malaysians, especially the Malays, have been programmed not to think about many things. Allow the citizens in general and the Malays in particular the space and liberty to think and debate without having it always turned into a sensitive, political or taboo issue.
The integrity of the institutions that have been undermined over the years have to be restored so the citizens can have a sense of stability, safety and respect. Humanistic and nationalistic narratives ought to be accompanied by humanistic and nationalistic policies and actions. 
Real and holistic economic solutions ought to be designed, implemented and communicated to the people so uncertainty does not result in misinformed rebellion. An efficient leader is one who completely understands uncertainty among the masses is dangerous for the country’s stability. No one likes anxiety resulting from thinking the country has no direction.
The people are resilient but they need to understand and believe they have a leader who can help them pull through difficult times. That’s how people are.
People generally are sick and tired of political games. They now better understand the hypocrisy of the games and they want leaders who can fix parts of the past and the future to be planned and identified.
Floating along without a direction is bad, especially for a nation.
*Jahaberdeen Mohamed Yunoos is a senior lawyer and founder of Rapera, a movement that encourages thinking and compassionate citizens. He can be reached at
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