The Malaysian Insider – BN’s premature optimism – Sakmongkol AK47

October 27, 2011

OCT 27 – Why is Umno facing so many problems when the time comes in selecting candidates for leadership potential? The short answer, it seems, is because it has never been serious about constructing a system for selection and leadership succession.

It’s too much to expect the members of the JKKK or village committee, the bank and school jagas, village lay-about, to know what the country needs. We might as well elect the hawker to become prime minister.

Short-term judgments cannot produce sustainable leadership. Umno should have recognised this. They will choose to elect people reflecting their own standards and achievements. After more than 60 years, Umno, which evolved into something radically different from 1988 onwards, hasn’t perfected a selection process. Instead it leaves the emergence of leaders to unplanned events and happenstance.

We can’t replicate the times when leaders emerged naturally. When Umno was formed in 1946, the world was engulfed in an era of fervent nationalism. During that time, leaders with the required temperament and idealism emerged naturally to lead.

Once that phase has run its course and the first generation leaders either passed on or were themselves consumed by the corruption of power, natural leaders cannot be found. We have to either replicate the natural milieu (which we can’t) or consciously plan a process. We have to do the second option.

On that note, let me make some comments on the prospects of Umno in the coming general election. Or more precisely, I want to say something on the source with which Umno, Barisan Nasional and its likeminded supporters make their prognoses and choice of candidates.

The next GE is probably the toughest Umno and BN will face. Just consider this. All the leaders of BN component parties in West Malaysia are having trouble finding a seat to contest. They are all political fugitives with no place to call home.

The leader of the MCA is now negotiating with local MCA leaders on where he should stand. So far, three Mentri Besar have offered Soi Lek a seat that he can choose. He has to prove his “winnability” claim.

His deputy is not going to have an easy time in Bentong. He hasn’t sorted out his promise to have the central spine road built in the town of Bentong. See? A leader is judged on the standards of the Jurutera Jalan JKR.

The MIC leader can’t re-contest in Hulu Selangor for he will surely be taken to task over the many things he promised the voters when he was their MP. No one buys his cock and bull story about being sure of being chosen if not for last minute unseen hands.

He would have lost if he had stood there. There are indications that he will stand in Cameron Highlands replacing S. Devamany. If Devamany stands, MIC will lose that seat. Gerakan’s embattled leader, Koh Tsu Koon is ready to make the ultimate sacrifice, offering not to stand.

The leader of the PPP, as the Umno Youth leader recently said on his Twitter message, is always a good show warming the stage before the arrival of bigger leaders; he is indeed a good show being in his best element, bowl in hand begging to be given a seat. I thought KJ was referring to a court jester.

Actually it’s all about Umno. Umno, in the end, carries BN. So the way it chooses its leaders on all levels is profoundly important. So far, it hasn’t perfected a sound policy. And it’s not seen as a dominant force as it once was. It’s reduced to constantly having to juggle between the competing needs of component parties. So far, PM Najib Razak is seen as being an easy compromiser.

The way BN and Umno go about choosing candidates and assessing their chances at the GE is pathetically flawed, because it shows they are not interested in putting up capable, determined and serious leadership for the country.

Good leadership is seen as a game of chance, we choose using random methods in the hope, that by some fortuitous process, good leadership emerges. In other words, we are leaving it to chance. Because of that, we often have duds emerging as leaders.

A candidate’s suitability is couched in simple-minded things such as getting along great with people, playing futsal or football, a likeable person, etc. How do you judge whether a person has the interest of the people and nation at heart?

Surely not through walkabouts, playing football and such things; you judge them by their work ethics, by their determination and by their articulation of issues. And doing hard work at raising the standard of living of the people.

The methods employed to make the current assessments indicate qualities that make up a person?s disposition but not a reflection of good leadership. We have to be clear right from the start, we are looking for good leadership not a good person in the sense of possessing a likeable personality.

A good person earns credit for himself and the benefits of being a personable fellow accrue to him alone. But if he is not a good leadership material, his defects affects whole societies.

The country needs good leadership first and foremost – men with abilities, appropriate qualifications and the special quality that allows them to remain cool and collected when under pressure. The benefits arising from these qualities accrue to society as a whole.

Sadly, these are not reflected in the reports on potential candidates. Consequently, they are not of much use to a country that needs good leadership. They are in general questionable, being the product of some shadowy authors feeding off the information gathered and more often than not, fabricated by field operatives.

The operatives in turn are easily compromised by the usual stock-in-trade practices of incumbents and elections hopefuls – getting paid to give favourable assessments. Incumbents and election hopefuls know them – the operatives in JASA, Kemas, MIO, the Special Branch and numerous point men relied to carry good stories about each hopeful to the people who matter.

Other than being used to select candidates, the reports are also relied to interpret the chances of the incumbent national government. Needless to say, they are self-serving, designed to fortify their own nerves and offer their supporting public the much needed confidence booster.

As to the date of the elections, I am certain it will be held sometime in March 2012. Najib realises that he needs a mandate of his own making. Is he getting some divine signals as to the elections date?

His pilgrimage to Mecca this time may be prompted by purely pious reasons; as another Muslim, we mustn’t discount another person’s desire to seek religious salvation. We have no reasons to disbelieve Najib’s religiosity is any less than the religiosity of any other outwardly packaged Muslim.

Allow me to join so many others to wish him selamat berangkat menunaikan fardhu Haji dan semoga dapat menunaikan nya dengan sempurna.

But as to the date of the elections, the auspicious date isn?t linked to the Mecca pilgrimage at all. The date, if it’s already in Najib’s mind, may have been suggested by swami ji in India. Yes, it’s the swami ji who told a visiting American lady that his son would one day become the president of the US, which the son did.

Let’s get back to the main story. One piece of news that intrigued me greatly last week was the research undertaken by OSK Securities. I waited for a few days to see the reaction to the outcome of the findings by OSK Securities.

As far as I could see, there were not many reactions to the report by OSK. OSK said, according to its research findings, the BN is set to win the next GE with bigger margins. Are they relying on the reports that I alluded to above? Jeepers creepers. The BN and Umno are doomed.

The dearth of spirited response to the OSK findings may be the result of two possibilities; one, the findings are accepted as legitimate and having more truth quotient in them or; two, no one is placing much credibility to the findings of OSK.

This is probably because OSK’s forte is in doing research for securities, shares and the business health of firms trading on our bourses. OSK is never known for its political assessment prowess.

The state that I am most familiar with is my home state, Pahang. I suppose the same generalisations are applicable as regards the other states. Overall, they overstate the BN and Umno’s chances by at least 30 per cent. The reports are simply inflated to give a favourable colour to them.

What did the report say about Pahang, for example? Pahang has 14 parliamentary seats. The report says BN will retain 12 seats. It will lose in Kuantan and Indera Mahkota, the two seats now held by PKR.

My own assessment is, on the assumption that its chances are overstated by 30 per cent, the BN can only win nine parliamentary seats. Where will it lose? It will lose in Jerantut, Raub and Bentong. No MCA parliamentary hopefuls or incumbents will win in Pahang in GE13.

The parliamentary seats in Bera and Temerloh are also in jeopardy. An interesting seat to watch is Cameron Highlands where there is much grumblings about the incumbent MP, Devamany. If I hear it correctly, MIC president G. Palanivel is set to stand in Cameron Highlands. If Devamany is retained, BN may lose that seat.

PKR is set to retain the Kuantan parliamentary seat as the PKR rep there is seen as being relentless in her fight against the Lynas locating its rare earth refinery in Gebeng. Public opinion seems unmoved by the explanations and appearance of experts attempting to quell public disquiet about the Lynas Plant. Fuziah Salleh has benefited from the unpreparedness of the state government in handling the Lynas issue.

In Indera Mahkota, the PKR rep hasn’t done badly either, but chiefly, PKR’s relevance is retained simply because Umno is no longer seen as the credible platform on which voters can depend on. The local Umno is devoid of credible leadership and the divisional leader is hardly MP or even Adun material.

This time around, I don’t see the chances of BN retaining the two state seats in Indera Mahkota as high. Pang Tsu Ming, the incumbent in the Semambu seat, looks shaky as that area has a substantial portion of Chinese voters.

The other DUN seat currently held by PAS is likely to be retained by PAS. Beserah constituency has a large number of voters with kinship ties with Terengganu and Kelantan.

I fear BN’s chances are not good in Tanjung Lumpur and in Teruntum, Tanah Rata, Ketari. The lone Gerakan rep, a very competent fellow is in the wrong place and wrong time.

* Sakmongkol AK47 is the nom de plume of Datuk Mohd Ariff Sabri Abdul Aziz. He was Pulau Manis assemblyman (2004-2008).

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication, and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.

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