原题 ∶The Star:Rock the boat, if need be
作者 ∶再娜安华（ZAINAH ANWAR）
敦阿都拉当初提出『和我一起工作，不是为我工作』（work with me, and not for me）的口號，掳获人心。他誓言巩固民主、消除贪污和实施政策透明化与有效率；承诺成为全民首相，呼吁非政府组织成为政府耳目。这些宣言令厌倦了专制管治手法的国人感到悦耳动听。
The new Prime Minister has to translate his change agenda into concrete public action immediately; change cannot take place without champions with passion to drive it.
For many Malaysians saying silent goodbyes to our fifth Prime Minister, it is a sad moment. For there goes a good man who had the right instincts to do what is best for his country, but who did not have the strength nor the decisiveness needed to deliver on his promises of reform in the face of resistance from within his own party and government.
Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi captured the public imagination when he addressed the nation in Parliament, asking Malaysians to “work with me, and not for me”. He pledged to strengthen democracy, weed out corruption and make governance transparent and accountable. He promised to be Prime Minister of all Malaysians. He called on the NGOs to be the eyes and ears of the government. These pronouncements were all music to a populace tired of the ancien régime autocratic rule.
His promise of change swept Barisan Nasional to an extraordinary electoral victory in 2004. But the overwhelming public support for his change agenda soon turned to frustration and fury when his ministers, his civil servants, and his party apparatchiks went off his change message. He let them run loose on the rakyat, with no mechanism and no monitoring system in place to pull the leash on them and get them to stay on message. The cacophony of divergent voices and messages from his administration led to a public sense of a ship adrift with a captain buffetted by all sides.
He opened up the public space for debate, but the Old Guards in the Information and Home Ministries had no clue how to strategically and intelligently respond to the new openness and counter the criticisms and the challenges posed by the free-for-all new media, a strengthened Opposition and an emboldened electorate.
He should have been the master change agent, providing leadership to effectively execute his message. Instead his laissez-faire leadership style enabled those within his party and his government opposed to his vision and his policies to set a different agenda that undermined his authority and eventually turned the rakyat against Umno and the Barisan Nasional.
It is ironic and a lost opportunity that someone as progressive as Pak Lah in his vision and judgment on race relations, women’s rights, and democracy, who could have brought the party and government success to reflect the changing mood of the times, has instead ended his tenure by being forced into early retirement. By the time he realised that he needed to be more decisive to deliver on his promises of reform, it was too late. His party did not want him at the helm any more. But history will be a kinder judge of his record.
Pak Lah is right to advise his successor not to make the first major mistake he committed – to keep a Cabinet he inherited, dominated by Old School ministers who did not share his change agenda or did not have the energy nor the ideas to deliver the change. Instead of getting the right people with the right skills, he kept the old hands as he did not want to antagonise his predecessor.
Change cannot take place without champions with passion to drive the change agenda. Change cannot take place if one fears rocking the boat. Sometimes one might even need to capsize the boat and lose some crew members because intense resistance will come from those fearful of change.
Now Malaysia’s sixth Prime Minister has taken office with an ominous warning to his party: change or perish. My worry is that the euphoria among the party members at the General Assembly for the new leadership is not for the change that Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak wants to bring, but for him to turn back the clock and bring back Umno’s past glory – through political fiat.
The rakyat outside remains uncertain if Najib will be the bearer of change they can believe in. Najib himself is aware of this for he knows that in the public eye, his reputation is not unblemished. Thus, wisely, he appealed to the public to please judge him by his actions.
He knows there is no honeymoon period for him. He has to get the Cabinet right, he has to translate his change agenda into concrete public action immediately, and bring his party with him on this. He must produce results, tangible and visible, without delay. If not, the negative public perception will only be reinforced and his mission to reconnect Umno with the rakyat and to build public trust in his leadership will be damaged beyond repair.
He has made the right start with his maiden speech, making clear his direction: 1Malaysia, People First, Performance Now. He took immediate action: the release of ISA detainees, the promise to review the ISA, and the lifting of a temporary ban on two party newspapers.
Najib and many of the newly elected Umno leaders do realise the dire straits the party is in and that defeat in the next election is a possible reality. But I do not believe most of the delegates share that sentiment. Those cheers could be for an expected return to the good old days of generous patronage trickling down to the divisions and branches, and autocratic rule to cripple the Opposition and civil society.
Journalists covering the assembly lament how little the delegates picked up on Najib’s or Pak Lah’s speeches calling for change and their criticism of grasping Umno members who have lost touch with the rakyat.
In his closing speech, Najib appealed to the delegates to be the eyes and ears of the rakyat so that Umno can read accurately the pulse of the nation and translate that into policy and action. He directed them to go back to Umno’s beginnings, a party rooted in the grassroots. However, for many of these Umno delegates, the rakyat means them. To listen to the “akar umbi” means the party leadership should listen and respond to the disgruntlement of Umno members for a piece of the pie that has gone to the big boys.
While Najib has proposed some immediate structural changes to reform Umno to make it more democratic and to deal with the scourge of money politics, he was silent on what really makes being an Umno leader such a coveted and lucrative position. It is, for many, a passport to personal wealth accumulation or, at the very least, a better life. Thus the bitter battles to win at all costs, for the investment will bring greater returns. Thus the reason why talented young Malays are blocked by talentless, self-serving branch and divisional leaders from joining the party or rising to the top. Thus the exodus of educated Malays to PAS and PKR, or who opt to be active in civil society instead.
Umno desperately needs fresh young talent to revive the party. But first it has to root out the systemic corruption, rent-seeking behaviour and entrenched patronage within the party. It is this lucrative system that attracts the carpetbaggers to join Umno and to fight tooth and nail to win leadership positions.
In a 2005 party assembly speech critical of bumiputra rent seekers who abused the opportunities given, Pak Lah revealed how the government had been threatened to pump-prime the economy to give the 42,000 Class F contractors, most of whom are Umno members and grassroots leaders, more and more contracts. In 2000 when the government was compelled to allocate projects to each parliamentary constituency to ensure the survival of Class F contractors, it led to even more contractors being registered, demanding even more contracts than the government could ever hand out, he said.
Those familiar with the government’s failure to deal with the migrant labour situation cite the lucrative permits to import workers being in the hands of key figures linked to Umno. Again and again, attempts to effectively control the demand and supply of foreign labour are thwarted because of political interference. The same with taxi permits.
For as long as the government continues to play Santa Claus to keep Umno members happy, there will be no end to money politics and corruption in the party. This is the big running sore that is poisoning Umno. But who within Umno has the courage to really bell the elephant within? Who dares to sink the gravy boat? Obviously, if the new President does not also embark on this big party clean-up, the disconnect between Umno and the rakyat will prolong.
Three million members have become a burden to the party and the economy. The vicious circle of goodies in return for support must end.