Yes, I was at the debate and many of you saw me on TV.
It is amazing how many people called, emailed and text asking if I am on Anwar’s side as I sat at the so called Pakatan’s half of the hall. Are you Anwar’s supporter Anas? You in Pakatan ka? What do you think of Anwar as the PM?
Well, let me explain.
We were early, my cousin Lola, my close friend Susan and I. (Susan is also for a long time Zubedy (M) Sdn Bhd’s lead consultant for presentation skills. I will tell you her one liner comment about the debate later). As we were the earliest we could choose where to sit. My cousin Lola chose the right side third row, Susan and I just followed. Then the Pakatan people came and sat around us. My cousin said ‘alamak ‘, we wished there was a middle section for those who are neither BN nor Pakatan!!! A real Barisan Rakyat who is getting a little tired of Malaysian politics today.
Okay, let’s deal with this. My position on Anwar …
I am not an Anwar hater but I was never a fan. Well before he fell from Tun Mahathir’s favor and the first sodomy case against him I found him lacked in depth. I found his speeches and writings mostly as grand lectures with little meaning. Lots of air and entertainment value, but not much to take home or profound enough, that is why we always remember how a great speaker he is but not the contents. That’s the Anwar branding in my head; as the Malay saying goes “Indah kata dari rupa’. My apology to Anwarites if my position hurts you. . In my books, message must be bigger than the speaker. We can agree to disagree on this, but before you jump and send me nasty emails go analyze carefully. Read for example his writings as compared it to Dr M or the late Tun Razak or Tun Dr Ismail. See if you can find something really original in what he proposed.
Need not go too far, go listen to the speeches he made during the PR12 campaign period. I do not deny the hype, he is good at that. Go listen not as a fan, not as an Anwar hater too, not as an UMNO, Barisan, DAP, PAS, PKR or any partisan person or worst still someone who wants to be entertained. Listen with a balanced mind, as a thinking human being, as someone who wants to unearth the truth, as an economist, a manager, a mother, a father, a student, etc. Be someone who listens without any emotional attachments to any particular likes and dislikes and then generate both the positive and negative aspects of his speeches and you will see what I mean. Do the same with the recent debate too (I will comment on the debate before this article ends).
Please don’t get me wrong, I respect and really like many things he did when he was in the government. He has done many good things and worked to eradicate poverty and provide cheaper homes for the poor. Furthermore during his tenure as DPM there were more cultural dialogues and sharing of values within the spiritual traditions. And, I love that!!!!
Let’s say that I am not warped about Anwar or anyone for that matter (Dr. M, Pak Lah … not even the Prophet Mohamad) as I do not believe in idolizing anyone but God. What is due is due, what is not, is not. You will find my approach to be consistent here not just when dealing with Anwar. Read the articles below about Dr M’s episode of swearing with the Quran twenty years ago in 1988 which was carried by DAP’s Rocket and the misunderstanding about Dr Chandra and the ghost of Mahathir (written 14 years ago) carried by Aliran Monthly. No one is 100% perfect or 100% flawed. Would you follow a similar balanced approach too or at least allow others to?
(note : i also wrote on the mahathir-anwar crisis of 98. If interested click here http://letusaddvalue.blogspot.com/2008/06/what-i-think-of-anwar-ibrahim-has-not.html
Let me put it straight.
Anwar’s supporter will hate me for saying this, but for the longest time I have maintained that Anwar is not Prime Minister Material. At least not yet, even now when he is already 60 years old. This has no connection with him being a sodomite or not. I cannot prove if he is or is not. Let’s deal with things we can deal with. Let me say this loudly, I HATED AND DO NOT AGREE WITH THE MANNER HE WAS TREATED IN THE FIRST SODOMY CASE AND YET AT THE SAME TIME I AM VERY UNHAPPY WITH HOW ANWAR IS TREATING THE CURRENT CASE ESPECIALLY CASTING DOUBTS WAY BEYOND REALITY ON SUCH AN IMPORTANT INSTITUTION AS THE PDRM.
Anwar is not PM material yet because he still lacks the conceptual ability and ‘group to group’ skills plus the attitude to be a PM. Furthermore unlike BN leaders, he lacks an organization that can back him up in both the conceptual framework needed and ‘group to group’ actions. Why do you think till today he has not announce a shadow cabinet? He needs BN - especially UMNO structure and manpower to lead the country. In other words, even if Anwar becomes the PM, UMNO and BN component parties will still run the show albeit in another form. Have you not seen how PR has been courting GERAKAN and MCA managers and at the ground level UMNO penghulus?
(Those who have attended my workshops may recall that I suggested that even if the opposition takes over the government (even back in 99), the alliance will collapsed within six months or at most one year. Watch Pakatan Rakyat these next few months).
To be Top Management and especially the number one person in any organization be they political, business or social a leader and his team must have the conceptual ability to understand and deal the complexities of the total organization/country and see how his/her operations and actions fits into the whole. This allows the leader to seek for the total success of the organization rather than fight just for the needs of his/her own immediate group or any specific group of people – the problem of the day. You cannot please every group each time you want to win them. That will in the long run create an overrun. That is exactly what Anwar has been doing. To a certain extend in reacting to Anwar’s pressure, PM Abdullah is doing a little of the same thing but he is far more checked. He and his team know that there are limits in pleasing the various demanding parties or the balance will slowly crumble and the country tumbles. That is the brilliance of the UMNO lead government. In fact, it was the slow but sure dilution of this balance over the last 20 – 30 years that cause BN’s poor showing in PRU12.
As most of you who reads my blog are working in a business organization let me give you a business organizational example. Let me quote from an advert my organization featured in the Star for Hari Raya last year.
Why you must listen to and support the CEO
Do you know the number one task of your CEO? He or she makes sure that everyone in the company move together at the same pace and in the right direction, at a speed faster than competition.
The act of balancing the strengths and weaknesses of each department and making sure the various divisions operate at the same speed yet faster than competition is challenging and there is no one right answer, no one right way. The playing field changes constantly, everyday is a work in progress. Your CEO chases different people and teams at different times to make sure every unit works in tandem. It is no good if sales do well but the factory cannot produce the orders or when marketing creates award winning advertisements while the delivery system fails.
Productivity counts only when the company’s product and services reach the customers as the market demands it. This will need the entire organization to work as one as and faster than the competition.
When staffs are not able to see the business in its entirety or when they question the CEO or work against him, the organization is doomed. Sometimes people unknowingly work against corporate direction when they view only from
their own individual unit or section in the organization without an understanding of the whole.
The CEO is the conductor of an orchestra, the audience, the market place. The CEO sees and hears the presentation in its entirety. Just as the maestro leads the various musical sections, a CEO leads departments, separately and together.
Then, a beautiful work emerges and is a success in the market place.
In a country like ours, instead of the various departments or divisions we can cluster the groupings and individuals into the following depending which methodology we want to choose and work with.
RACE - The usual approach – the various races or ethnic groupings. It is very important that each group is moving and achieving at the same pace and no one and no group is left behind.
STATE – each state from Perlis to Sabah must not be left behind.
LOCATION – urban versus non- urban. The divide and quality of life must not be too far off.
SOCIAL CLASS – the haves and have-nots. The rich cannot be too rich and the poor too poor.
The NEP as a ‘Group to group’ action plan
No group must be left behind and none should get more (perceived or real). Failing which we will lose balance and brew trouble. That is why we must support affirmative actions. Affirmative action is like the CEO chasing and making sure the slower departments catch up with the rest. BN’s answer was the NEP and that was the job of the NEP; to reorganize society equitably. It is unfortunate that it was seen more from a politically raced tainted angle by most Malaysians instead of an organizational need. At the implementation level too, it was wrongly carried out as a racial policy by many officers.
However, the NEP was probably one of the most successful affirmative action taken by a government in modern times. We need to just tweak it here and there to make it a super success. Going against the NEP wholesale as Anwar is suggesting is counter productive. The Malays and Bumiputra rightly or wrongly may perceive that they may loose in the future. That may create unrest.
I am not saying the NEP is without any flaws.
Let me give you an example; let us use the RACE and LOCATION methodology. I would like to focus on the Indian poor (RACE) who resides in the urban (LOCATION) area. The mistake happens on both sides, poor understanding of the Indian ethnic groupings and failure to detail urban poverty in greater degree. My organization’s Deepavali advert in 2006 discussed this concern.
“Imagine … Affirmative action for the urban poor.
The flight to urban areas in search of employment present humanity with a new challenge — urban poverty. Across the globe, particularly in emerging nations, cities become centres where the poor seek a better life only to find crime, drugs, broken families, juvenile delinquency, and despair. The dilemma of the urban poor is that, even when they work hard and long, they are unable to make a decent living.
In Malaysia urban poverty affects all ethnic groups but the massive movement from kampongs and rubber estates poses a bigger challenge amongst Malays and Indians, with the latter experiencing the highest rate of urbanization.
When plantations close down or crops change, many workers are forced to seek employment in cities. Some displaced plantation workers are so totally uprooted, they do not have a hometown to go back to.
Most have little education and lack skills. They get poor paying dead-end jobs that are dangerous and difficult, with no legal protection. Often there is little or no community support system and suicide rates are high.
This socio-economic background often means shoddy homes and inadequate educational support. Which translates to children underperforming in schools and high drop-out rates, which in turn affects future employment prospects. Unless things change, the vicious cycle continues.
The challenge for us as Malaysians is to ensure that no segment amongst us is neglected. We are all brothers and sisters. We need to look at problems affecting a community not as that particular community’s problems, because we all share the burden as a nation.
We succeeded in dealing with rural poverty through affirmative action. We can do the same for our urban poor. We have the resources, technology, know-how, experience, creativity and talent. We need to open our hearts and focus our will and take action. We can do it!
Imagine you and I... changing the world for the better!
Here the NEP is flawed in two ways.
Firstly, we grouped Indians as one ethnic grouping as we did the Chinese, Malays and the other Bumiputras. Many non Indians do not understand Indians. That is why the Perak MB can make a simple mistake thinking a Punjabi is a Benggali. The Indians are not one, not in India and definitely not here, not in history nor the present. Malaysian Indians are more ONE as a Malaysian as compared as Indians. I know this because I have many Indian friends and thank God for growing up in Penang! For instance you will find there are more inter race marriage between an Indian and non Indian as compared to intra-Indian ones. Basically, if you are a Gujerati and you bring back a Tamilian partner to show your parents or vice versa, your mother may just go into conniption or drama (sorry my Indian brothers and sisters, you know what I am talking about, though now many parents are loosening their grip a little… especially if you are already 30+ and still single… ha!ha!).
By grouping all Indians into one group, we mistakenly aggregated mostly poor Tamilians and mostly richer non-Tamilians into one economic grouping thus creating a wrong picture in terms of per capita income for poorer Indians. (Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying there are no rich Tamilians and no poor non Tamilian Indians). The net effect is that the real poor Indians failed to be detected in the poverty radar.
This lead to the second flaw; by location. The NEP place more attention to the rural poor. Thus, they face a double whammy. Furthermore, unlike our Bumi brothers and sisters who have easier access to government jobs and zakat- baitulmal, our Indian brethren does not. Here is where the Government must play the role of protector of the group and administer direct assistance and thus balanced off the ‘group to group’ imbalance. During a talk presented at Gerakan last year I suggested that if the BN fail to quickly deal with the Indian poor, they will take drastic actions, a few months later the infamous HINDRAF march took place.
But Anwar, in trying to get the Indian support, have gone overboard as perceived by the Malays. If we do not correct this perception, we will go off balanced again.
And while I like the idea of a more equitable allocation to poorer states, over promising Sabah just to buy over MPs is counter to the balancing act again. All these will have a longer term effect and role over.
Well, Anwar however has improved tremendously since 1998, thanks perhaps to all the reading he did in jail. His semi success in forming the Pakatan bringing together two groups so different in outlook PAS and DAP is payment for his mental and conceptual growth while in jail. You see God acts in mysterious way. Will he be able to harness his conceptual ability and built on his ‘group to group’ skills before he is out maneuvered? What do you think?
What are the Criteria to be a Malaysian PM?
Tied to the earlier ideas of being conceptually sound, ‘group to group’ ability, leadership and management skills etc, let us agree on what we want from a PM. At least we must set a minimum criterion.
There are four contenders today. The incumbent PM Abdullah, DPM Najib, Anwar and Ku Li. Notice that they are all UMNO trained. Anwar included. This is because amongst all our political parties, UMNO is the premier school ever since before Merdeka that breeds and trains conceptually sound and skillful ‘Group to Group’ leaders that know how to balanced the delicate groupings within our nation. It is not an easy job. To be a Malaysian PM you must remove the doubts of not only your own ethnic group but also of the others. For example, When Tun Mahathir spoke when he was the PM not only the Malays listen to him, but also the Indians, Chinese, Eurasians and do not forget we also have our brothers and sisters in Sabah and Sarawak. A formula PAS and DAP have yet to grasp. This ‘Group to group’ skills!!!
But, we need to set some basics. We should not accept anyone who have said or did the following unless they openly on national TV ask for pardon to the nation for their past ’mistake’.
1) Wave a keris and wanting it to taste blood of a fellow Malaysian
2) Say words like, “Bangsat! Bangsa pendatang, keluar dari negara ini!” when a young undergrad asked why is it that though he is from a poor family he is not entitled for a scholarship.
3)That he wants to stop temple bells from ringing in this country.
4)Has gone against Bahasa Malaysia as the Bahasa Kebangsaan
5)Does not recognize Malay Special Rights and at the same time the Equality of all Malaysian Citizens.
6)Does not respect our Constitutional Monarchy System.
While all of them passed criteria 4 – 6, guess who out of the 4 contenders have done at least one or more of the first 3?
How about the debate?
Now for the debate…Who won the debate? It depends what you use as the objective of each side.
1)If BN’s plan is to demystify Anwar, they did a good job. This is the most important achievement for BN. Placing a rookie and younger Minister to face him off. Basically, Anwar became just another speaker and leader overnite. One must realize that we expect more from Anwar and much less from Shabery and yet Shabery held up. Anwar looked tired and a little beaten. Man to man I feel sad seeing him that way although I disagree with his idea to subsidized fuel (read my earlier blog on my position). The last time I saw him in person, he was really bergaya. Now he looks old and tired. The last many years must have taken a toll on him. I wish we can call a truce and let him rest. Shabery looked calm and cool. I must say he looked poised, far more then who he was as my lecturer. By the way, he was one of my better lecturers at UM. A bad student I was but I tried very hard not to miss a single of his class. But I wish Shabery did not overdo the personal attacks and stick to economics. But, it may be his tactic as Anwar has not much to counter personally as Shabery is known to be a simple person with no airs.
2)If BN’s plan is to show Anwar’s inconsistency to non- PKR and non – BN supporters ie the silent majority. It did. It also strengthens the stand of those who are already BN supporters .
3)Anwar conceded defeat that he would have had to increase the price of fuel albeit at a lesser quantum after the elections. BN people will have a gala time using that the next few months on the ground!!!
1)If the plan is to talk to a totally new market of voters, they scored A! I bet amongst UMNO and BN veterans and ground leaders, they feel by this alone the debate is counter productive.
2)If Anwar’s plan is to get people to soon go out in the street and bring down the government. It will not work. Malaysia prefers to watch Astro. But, Anwar reads the market well. The average Malaysian first and foremost care about their spending power and not lofty economic management. Many Malaysians liked what they heard. He must have added a few more supporters.
3)Anwar showed numbers, rightly or wrongly. It made people think…. Why not?
1)Cool start of a new era of politics – open debates on TV
2) Political maturity – the debate was more matured than what we hear from the parliament.
3)But still not clear of economic implications
As for me, well I would have been happier if both speakers dealt with real economics rather than politics, but I guess it was a political debate. Maybe we can have another one with the BN economic expert versus Pakatans. As for Susan who is apolitical and spend minimal time reading and keeping abreast on Malaysian politics, she lamented immediately after the debate that she did not gain much, that it was kind of waste of time.