What is it with Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, and articulate young men?
Four decades ago
Around four decades ago, one young man captured Mahathir’s attention. He had a strong following, formed the Malaysian Islamic Youth Movement (ABIM), and led student protests to highlight the plight of the starving poor in Baling.
Alarmed by the Iranian Revolution and its sweep across the world, Mahathir could see that the Malays were gravitating towards PAS and abandoning Umno. The party was losing its hold on the Malays.
Mahathir was forced to act, and so the ambitious young orator was handpicked to help transform Umno and make the party more appealing, in the religious sense.
Anwar Ibrahim accepted Mahathir’s invitation, experienced a meteoric rise in the cabinet, and was groomed to become Mahathir’s successor. The rest is history. Despite falling out, they teamed up to rescue the nation from kleptocracy. The play is ongoing. The stakes are high.
Today, Mahathir’s blue-eyed boy appears to be Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman (middle in photo), the youngest man, at 25 years, to become a Malaysian federal minister.
Touted as Asia’s greatest debater, what else has he to offer Malaysians? When he opens his mouth, we often wonder what Mahathir saw in Syed Saddiq.
He has very little experience of the real world; the world of going to work, to support a family, of getting a mortgage, of saving for a car, and facing the discrimination that is experienced by those born on the other side of the racial divide. Malaysia’s youth adore him. Some older Malaysians call him cocky.
Syed Saddiq’s ice-bath moment and his endorsement of a soft drinks brand, smacks of stupidity that will end in disaster. It may be soft drinks today, but a multi-million ringgit government tender tomorrow.
His public spat with Penang’s Deputy Chief Minister P Ramasamy, and Bersatu Youth’s demand for the resignation of minister P Waythamoorthy following the death of firefighter Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim were unprofessional.
A born leader would have calmed the tense situation. Syed Saddiq did not respect the ministerial code of conduct.
Similarly, Anwar’s (below) inability to unite the factions within his party speaks volumes about his leadership qualities.
A man is judged by his actions, not his words. Leaders unite people, including those with differing views. Leaders listen.
Last week, Syed Saddiq said that Pakatan Harapan could be kicked out of office if reforms were carried out too swiftly. Really? The rakyat’s bone of contention is the snail’s pace of reform.
People are losing confidence in Harapan, and Syed Saddiq’s fatuous comment provides ammunition for Umno-Baru to denigrate Harapan. The former leader of BN, Najib Abdul Razak, struts around like a peacock, challenging Harapan, and boasting that he could have done their work better.
Steps to be taken
Syed Saddiq is best placed to reform our sports scene, but will he listen? We used to have multiracial sporting teams representing Malaysia. Today, only one race predominates, not because of their talent, but more because of quotas imposed on non-Malays.
What steps has the minister taken to discover and nurture new talent, when champions like Nicol David and Lee Chong Wei retire? The tower runner, Soh Wai Ching, is Asia’s best and may soon rank among the top five in the world; but is hardly noticed by the ministry.
The welfare of former national athletes is being addressed, but only after a public outcry.
The minister must work with the Education Ministry to promote sports in schools and prevent school fields from being sold off, either for profit or for buildings. He must liaise with the Health Ministry to ensure that only nutritious food is sold in school canteens.
He must engage with local authorities to set aside green spaces, in housing estates, for rest and recreation. He must encourage youth clubs to be formed in residential areas, to keep our young off the streets.
Perhaps, the best quote from Syed Saddiq was when he was asked about deputy foreign minister Marzuki Yahya’s (below) dodgy degree scandal, and said, “My stance on the issue is that if it is a truly falsified document, I am principally against it as anyone should be. But I believe the explanation from Marzuki’s side has already been given.”
So that’s it? Marzuki lied about his credentials and it is alright? What other big issues might Marzuki be covering up?
In Perak, Menteri Besar Ahmad Faizal Azumu must have cursed the ‘dodgy degree’ probe. When he could not avoid the intense scrutiny into his degree, he claimed that he had told Bernama last July that he failed to return with a degree from an Australian university.
His damage limitation exercise worked, and few people asked the relevant questions, “When and where was the interview given, and where is the link?”
The Malays are the major recipients of scholarships and study loans. If senior politicians (both in BN and Harapan) fudge their degrees, or fail to graduate after their studies abroad, do they represent the tip of the iceberg?
We should disable the affirmative action policies, and give scholarships to all deserving Malaysians. Make assistance needs-based, not race-based.
The elephant in the room is the New Economic Policy and other affirmative action policies. Decades of incompetence, corruption, mismanagement, under-investment, wasteful white elephant projects, and Umno-Baru/PAS’ “manufactured” divisions of race, religion and royalty (the three Rs), have taken their toll on the rakyat and the nation.
We have the potential to be among Asia’s best, but we are distracted by these three Rs.
At this critical moment in our history, you’d think that Mahathir would call upon people with the necessary experience, irrespective of race or religion, to turn the nation around and rebuild Malaysia.
Instead, Harapan rewards failure. People who lie about their degrees are rewarded with a post as a minister, or a menteri besar. This sends out mixed messages to everyone.
So, don’t be a lemming and think that all this is fine. Don’t be an ostrich and think nothing is wrong. Speak out! There is one major issue which Mahathir cannot suppress, and that is the will of the people.