John Fitzgerald Kennedy once spoke something like this – “When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters; one represents danger, and the other represents opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger, but recognize the opportunity.”
Wei Ji = Crisis
Rather crudely, the famous Baron von Rothschild was also quoted as saying – “When there’s blood on the streets, buy property!” And bought them he did. Eventually, he became the wealthiest financier in the expansion of the British Empire in the early 19th century. Just because he recognised the opportunities that can be gained from emerging crises.
On that note, it is believed that an able leader can overcome any crisis without much dent on his dignity, resources and vision. However, if he could emerge from a crisis even stronger than he ever was before, he is indeed has the makings to become a truly remarkable leader.
Nevertheless, since the Chinese and wealthy Barons of Europe had long recognised the fact that from any crisis, comes the possibility of an opportunity, the current economic and political crisis will serve as a good barometer to test the leadership skills of the Prime Minister elect.
It is important for Datuk Najib to quickly get his house in order. To expand on Hantu Laut’s article here;
Najib has four years, if he doesn’t lose the government by cross-over, to set things right in UMNO.When he becomes PM the first thing he should do is to sack half of the present cabinet ministers and replace with new and untainted faces.He must also be prepared to take unpopular actions and spare no effort to bring corruptions under control and distribute government projects not only to party members but equitable distribution to other deserving and capable contractors.
Datuk Najib must take to his heart the quote by Harry S Truman below;
“Within the first few months I discovered that being a president is like riding a tiger. A man has to keep riding or be swallowed”.
And getting swallowed he will be should he choose to ignore the many warnings and advise from the ground. To ride a tiger, one needs to be bold. Bold enough to make important decisions.
I agree with Datuk Sakmongkol’s assertions that first and foremost, Umno must have a dignified leadership. More than that, Datuk Najib must show that he is serious in steering the floundering Malaysia back to charted waters.
He must be seen as willing to make sacrifices for the sake of Malaysia. He must get the best people in the current limited talent pool that he has. He must take a leaf from President Abraham Lincoln’s actions more than 150 years ago.
From the book of Doris Kearn Goodwin – Team of Rivals, President Lincoln basically pulled in all the people who had been running against him into his Cabinet because after putting personal feelings aside, the more pertinent issue was, ‘How can we get this country through this time of crisis?'”
Lincoln then appointed four of his rivals to his cabinet. Each one of them became the secretary of war, the secretary of treasury and an attorney general respectively. One even became the secretary of state.
This act is closely imitated by the current President Obama in electing Hillary Clinton as the powerful State Secretary.
The main gist is, getting the best available people to manage these crises. And what is the point I am driving at? The point is this:
1) Appoint Tengku Razaleigh as the Finance Minister.
By appointing his greatest rival to the most coveted position any ambitious Umno leader would kill to get, he will show 2 things. One, he is strong and bold enough to stave off potential backlash from his own faction. Two, he shows some element of dignified politics whereby his personal interest is never above the interest of the nation.
Hence, from a crisis, Datuk Najib may find yet an opportunity to harness the experience and the knowledge of Tengku Razaleigh in the area of economics. It would even be more magnanimous of him if he cancels the post of Finance Minister I and give Tengku Razaleigh the total control in sorting out our financial and economic woes.
I have always believed that the PM should never hold the post of Finance Minister. Having two Finance Ministers shows lack of trust and above all, exposing the Prime Minister unnecessarily to an artillery of criticisms. The post of Finance Minister is a delicate post. One smart move will ensure strong vote of confidence from the people. One ill advised move or a contentious project made under the watch of the Finance Minister will render him hapless in the face of public scrutiny. Datuk Najib do not need this kind of attention as the Prime Minister. Repeating the mistakes of Pak Lah will be the death of Umno under Najib.
Will there be any negative impact from the appointment of Tengku Razaleigh as the Finance Minister? There are quite a few actually. Difficult decisions will often be preceded and followed by some dilemma. One, the matter of ego.
Datuk Najib could never accept anyone who at one time, was only the protege of his father. While Tengku Razaleigh could never accept anything less than the post of Prime Minister itself. Clashes of ego will emerge.
Two, potential bitterness from Najib’s faction and further bickerings between the people of both factions.
But between those two points above, would there be anything that could give an adverse impact to the nation itself, should these two personal issues were put aside? I believe no. Therefore, Datuk Najib and Tengku Razaleigh must exercise strong leadership and must show fine examples to their followers. Massive egoes and selfish, personal endeavours must be shed and be replaced with undying spirit of teamwork in getting this country out of its current quagmire.
Afterall, by end of March 2009, Umno members must be united under the leadership of ONE MAN. And that man is Datuk Najib.
More than that, Tengku Razaleigh must believe that the post of Finance Minister IS the greatest compliment anyone can be bestowed upon in this particular circumstance. In any other circumstances, Tengku Razalaigh could not even dream of being in the cabinet, let alone a full minister.
Tengku Razaleigh also has his fans among the general public. Regardless the political affiliation. Safe to say, the opposition is also quite friendly towards Tengku Razaleigh. Before divulging too much on the potential ramifications of this highly presumptive article, I shall conclude this point by saying that Datuk Najib , Umno members and Malaysians in general can achieve two things through this appointment:
The politics of dignity and getting the appropriate people for the difficult job ahead.
Nevertheless, I wonder what will the market reaction be should Tengku Razaleigh be appointed as the Finance Minister in April 2009.
2) Throw out the deadwoods or underperforming ministers.
The idea is to bring back COMPETENCE in the cabinet. It would be an achievement in itself should Tengku Razaleigh agrees to become the Finance Minister. For far too long Malaysians had made to suffer under the incompetent Pak Lah.
Pak Lah could be best remembered as the Finance Minister, upon being sieged with sudden increase of world oil prices, increased our petrol price up to 40%!
It was only one branch of an economic crisis and what all the Oxford geniuses could only advised him was to increase the fuel prices unexponentially. And what was the long term effect out of this? The out of control inflation. Until today, the prices of our day to day goods have yet to come down to pre June 2008 levels.
If young geniuses and a clueless PM could not manage even a commodity crisis, we need better suited people to be in charge of far worse crises (political, world and economic) ahead.
I know I may receive a lot of flak in this. But I’d say extreme times require strong characters. Bring back Rafidah Aziz to head the International Trade and Industry. She is still an MP. Why pay RM34,ooo a month to Shahrizat Jalil in a highly redundant position of Advisor to Women and Social Development Affairs but the more economically able Rafidah Aziz is sidelined from contributing to the nation?
Bear in mind that both Tengku Razaleigh and Rafidah Aziz had faced many great economic crises while holding a financial or economic related portfolios as Minister. Thus, experience and wisdom are keys to ensure success.
In other aspects, Rafidah Aziz has her fair share of accusations in practising corruption. Tales of her being the AP Queen were not uncommon.
But there are also stories of her iron will and winner takes all attitude in trade negotiations. During her time, Malaysia was proud to have her as the person that helped drove Malaysia to become one of the industrialised nations in Asia. She complemented the outspoken Dr Mahathir with her feisty attitude.
But could Malaysians see her positive contribution despite her alleged bad reputation? Perhaps her track records should speak for itself. Was she not competent? Were the Malaysian industrialists or the manufacturers unhappy with her? I am sure that should Rafidah be brought back to the position she is familiar with, the market will have some renewed confidence.
Competence and efficiency should be the main motto for Datuk Najib’s new cabinet. Likewise, all the deadwoods, the weak links and the incompetent ministers must be given the boot.
One such example is Datuk Sri Sulaiman Abdul Rahman Taib. Just by reading the parliamentary hansard and watching his performance in parliament will show us how inadequate he is in answering questions. And he is the deputy minister in tourism! The quality of our ministers had never been in deeper rut than this.
Which brings me to this next point-
In the movie The Patriot, General Cornwallis was chastising an army colonel named Tavington. According to the general, Tavington’s conduct in the war was cruel and barbaric. The colonel was giving the British Army a bad image in the process. The furious general snarled at Tavington –
“You serve me and the manner in which you serve me reflects upon me!”
Hence, through that viewpoint, Datuk Najib must aware that the antics of his cabinet ministers and the people he appointed will severely tarnish his reputation as well. Datuk Najib will be accountable for their actions. Again, repeating the mistakes of Pak Lah will be disastrous to everyone.
Datuk Najib must by now, had fully identified the weak links in this current set up. Identify the lazy ones. Identify the underperformers. Identify the ones that caused much unnecessary damage to the government.
Riding the tiger is never easy. Datuk Najib needs help in every way. Therefore, he should bring back the post of parliamentary secretary. At least in the highly important portfolios.
There is no point in having huge cabinet but some of those ministries failed to answer questions during parliamentary sitting due to their absent reps. The existence of parliamentary secretaries can quickly dispel any incompetencies in providing answers to questions. Furthermore, that post is a good training ground for future leaders. Not too high up, but have enough clout to be taken seriously.
All these appointments should not confine itself only to cabinet positions. Corporate appointments should be reviewed as well. When we have big bosses of national corporations such as Khazanah Nasional and Tenaga Nasional Berhad not wanting to take responsibilities to the massive losses they incurred, we truly had descended towards national apathy and decadence.
Both of them had casually explained the losses due to external factors. Bad leaders are the ones who could not foresee the inherent risks in each of their corporate decisions. They are neglecting in their duties if they could not manage all the calculated risks they took. These corporate figures must be given the axe.
3) Understanding what went wrong.
Sometimes it is quite amusing when the Umno leaders are trying to shift the blame to other people everytime they are facing a problem.
Take for instance, the BN lost in KT by election two weeks ago. Listen to all the blaming game and the misguided analyses. But yet, no one came out with a detailed report of what went wrong.
Because there were no real post mortem being made. Post mortem this, post mortem that. We heard this word since March 2008 and yet no viable report were presented to all Umno and BN members.
What was the top ten reasons for the lost of 2/3rd majority in parliament? Nobody really knows because there were no empirical studies done by BN leaders itself.
In the KT by election, some blamed the choice of candidate, some blamed Pak Lah’s reputation, some blamed Najib’s. But what was the truth? Nobody can answer because right after the election results, no Umno or BN members stayed in KT to do a survey on WHAT WENT WRONG.
Nobody posed questionnaires to the people with questions like;
1) What do you think the cause of Umno’s lost there?
2) Why do you think PAS won?
3) Do you think people did not vote Wan Farid because of;
a) Najib / Altantuya / Rosmah
b) Pak Lah / Patrick Badawi / Khairy Jamaluddin
c) He is arrogant
d) Other reasons
4) Do you think people vote Abdul Wahid Endut because of;
a) He is capable
b) Lim Kit Siang makes sense
c) We want Hudud
d) Other reasons
Surely with these questionnaires everytime there’s by election, Umno and BN can better gauge their performance and make necessary steps to improve themselves in the future.
But from observation, right after election day, all the Umno election machinery offices had closed. Presumably, there is nothing more to do there because the continued act of kissing arse must be done back in Kuala Lumpur where the Umno big guns are.
It was a missed opportunity for Umno should these types of study was not done at this hot site. Especially the day after the elections where people are more in tuned and more inclined to answer using current political emotions.
If we cannot understand on what we did wrong, then how can we learn from this particular lesson? Read the quote below:
In life there are no mistakes, only lessons, but if we do not learn from the lessons then it is a mistake” – Anonymous
Umno and BN kept on repeating the same mistake precisely because they are unable to really gauge the sentiment of the people. And how to learn and improve from thereon.
They must know how to ask the right question and analyse the answers obtained.
Anyway, all that I write above are pretty obvious and it would be a forgone conclusion if Datuk Najib and his advisers could not consider these options.
I read with interest Dr Bakri Musa’s recent article. He wrote that Datuk Najib must also address the question of his ability, integrity and legitimacy, in order to stamp his leadership forward. I concur with that too.
As most people have said, any person succeeding Pak Lah may not do any worse. I have to disagree with that statement. Without the proper reflection and a healthy ego, Datuk Najib can well be the worst Prime Minister next to Pak Lah.
I leave you with this quote again:
In a crisis, be aware of the danger, but recognize the opportunity.
Update : Syed Akbar Ali published relevant articles pertaining Umno’s myopia:
A blogger named Hidup Tuah pointed out another relevant issue – The ability of EPU and MOF in handling Budget 2010 and the problems that will arise should necessary steps are not taken to mitigate the early warning signals. It seems to this blogger, the EPU and MOF had not done their duties diligently. Our next budget will be another opportunity that Datuk Najib can look into in order to re-energise the Malaysian economy. Please click on the links below: