Leading the laden

Johor

Feudalism is legacy of the past practices and norms, being brought forth to the future regardless how ‘constitutional’ and ‘democratic’ this nation has been designed and perceived to be. Just because it is there, we should tolerate and allow it to go on as if it is acceptable.

Johor, which was named after ‘Jauhar‘, which literally means ‘jewel’ is a land of plenty. Until the middle of the 19th century, it was known as Johor Riau Empire. So many societies migrated to the state for economic reason, which was once during pre-colonial times was the richest state in the Malay peninsular. Father of modern Johor Sultan Abu Bakar transformed and developed the state to be the most progressive in the region in last quarter of the reign by the most powerful woman in the world and longest serving British monarch, Queen Victoria’s of the House of Saxe-Coburg.

In the last quarter of the 19th century, Johor was already having diplomatic relations.

Sultan Ibrahim succeeded his father and carried the transformation further. A constitution was drafted and adopted and a full fledge Whitehall-styled civil service was effectively put in place. The Johor Military Force was the most modern Malay armed forces, then. Its history is at least 50 years ahead of the current Malaysian Armed Forces, formed by the British Army in 1933.

Johor is now home to 3.3 million people and the position and role of Johoreans in Malaysia politics have been strategic and instrumental. It is where UMNO was born and since the struggle against Malayan Union, the state has been the most important bastion of Malay political power. Since UMNO found firm footing on 11 May 1946, there have been two UMNO Presidents, one Prime Minister and four Deputy Prime Ministers who are proud sons of Johor. Once, 25% of the Cabinet Ministers are Johor MPs. The first Army Officer rose to the rank of Jeneral and first Navy officer to reach Admiral, are Johoreans.

Unfortunately, Johor has been burdened with far too many political and corporate scandals, which is more apparent in the last five or six years. So many unanswered issues been cropping up in the open and all these have compounded into serious complication. Some are ‘open secret’, especially in the ‘inner circle’ of the more affluent pockets of society around Johor Bahru.

First was the ‘Flip-Flop’ decision of unilaterally canceling the ‘Scenic Bridge’ to replace the Johor causeway, almost six years ago by then Prime Minister ‘Flip-Flop’ Dato’ Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. In the same year, the notorious ‘Level Four Boys’ concocted and incepted the South Johor Economic Region (SJER) and was launched by then HRH Sultan Iskandar of Johor in November 2006. His Royal Highness even expressed his deep displeasure of the cancellation of the ‘Scenic Bridge’ in his titah at the dedication of Iskandar Development Region (IDR).

During the 12 General Elections of 8 March 2008, Johoreans expressed their displeasure of the political developments the past two years. Not only DAP won substantially by Johor’s standards, PAS unprecedentedly managed to have two ADUNs in the state assembly. 100,00 spoilt votes were recorded in the state.

Then the ghastly stories of personalities like Dato’ Lim Kang Hoo who has been perceived as being allowed to the ‘buffet line’, did not come down well when Johoreans talk about their state over social gatherings such as weddings, Hari Raya outings or even teh tarik sessions. Not only within the borders of the state, but also amongst Johoreans who have found their ‘permanent’ home here in Klang Valley.

The Johor Corporation Bhd (JCorp) episode is still fresh in the minds of many. The conglomerate group records RM 14 billion in turnover and almost RM 1 billion in profits the last financial year. The manner how JCorp Supremo Tan Sri Ali Hashim quite almost instanly as rumours about the State Government playing a more active role in the micro management of the most successful state economic development corporation at the times the flavour is about Federal Government is in the process of rationalizing its role in business, is a controversy with a life of its own.

On top of the successful stories plcs in the likes of Johor Land, Kulim, KPJ and Sindora under the group. JCorp as a GLC has been commended for the work of promoting entrepreneurism amongst its managers. Ali Hashim’s entrepreneur program developed over 100 businesses being managed and partly own by Malay professionals. Some demonstrated termendous growth. One of the notable success story is Metro Parking where MD Halmi Jasmin managed to develop to be a company managing over 200 car park sites in six countries, over the last 20 years. However, Halmi was unceremoniusly ‘shown the door’ last August.

Recently, to complicate and makes matters worse Menteri Besar Dato’ Hj Abdul Ghani Othman endorsed the appointment of four personalities, which include the infamous whipping-boy of ‘Level Four Boys’ Dato’ Zaki Zahid and the 28 year old grossly inexperienced but idealistic Wan Firdaus into the Kulim Bhd BOD. Now that Ali is no longer around to be zealot as the ‘custodian of JCorp’, so many that even Non Johoreans fear that QSR which hold super brands such as KFC and Pizza Hut would be dissected and sold away.

Then there are rumours going about being bitched from mouth to mouth and spiced further, like a certain GLC land being privatized and then flipped to a Singaporean businessman. Although in general Johoerans have a long tradition of symbiotic relationship with Singapore, these sort of stories don’t come down well especially when it is repeated in the tone of challenging the pride of an average Johorean.

Iskandar Malaysia

Federal Government agency Iskandar Region Development Authority (IRDA) and Khazanah Holding Bhd controlled Iskandar Investment Bhd (IIB) have been plagued by a series of report of misconduct and corrupt practices. These are not really helping the perception whenever the word ‘Iskandar’ is mentioned, it almost automatically form the already bleak big picture, even though as the story progress and promises great success.

‘Iskandar Malaysia’ (then Iskandar Development Region) promised incredible figures and exponential growth, with investments from Singapore and the GCC states got Johoreans excited. Ghani as the MB sits as the co-Chairman along with Prime Minister of Malaysia. Johoreans would naturally look up to Ghani, to deliver all these big promises. The very least, pressure the Federal Government to inject and infuse more direct infrastructure investments, which include the much needed for Johor ‘people development’ programs.

The transformation did happen at the hype and speed that the rakyat expected it to be.

The truth is, even though many of the projects within Iskandar have been announced and some taken physical form, the trickle effect to the rakyat has not been felt. Some of the world class institutions such as our old alma matte Newcastle, Southampton, Nederland Marine and Marlborough College, Legoland and the brand new Johor Premium Outlet brought in and operating, are not providing the much needed trickle down effects to the many local businesses. Hence, the benefit from these mega and super luxury projects to the Johor SME/Is is not really present and tge multiplying effect to the local economy is marginal.

In the final analysis, the buck trickling down to the pockets of everyday Johoreans within the Iskandar Malaysia has not been seen and worse still, able to realised in the local economy.

All these is not withstanding the RM 50 billion Petronas petroleum hub project of Refinery and Petrochemical Inetgrated Development (RAPID) along the south east corner of the last bit of the main continent of Asia, all the way to Kota Tinggi. Some people believe that certain select few are already ‘carving out’ the parcels using the cover of ‘protecting Johorean interests’ within the new mini economic corridor that is expected to be bigger as compared to the Gebeng-Kerteh corridor.

Why has this ‘cover’ been capitalised for the interests of a selected few certain few, simply to ensure that they determine who gets footing within RAPID? The ‘bogeyman’ from the across the board failure of Iskandar Malaysia to actively get Johorean based businesses, especially the Malays, to be actively involved even in the second or third tier jobs and business opportunities. Realistically, some of the strategic positions within Iskandar Malaysia have been filled by Non Johoreans.

Kota Iskandar: The new Johor administrative centre in the heart of Iskandar Malaysia

Confidence is something that Menteri Besar Ghani seriously need to solidify, if not restore. For a seasoned MB, he should step up and demonstrate his leadership. Once, he earned the trust of the Sultan, strong mandate of the rakyat, iron clad support of JCS and close interests of the Federal Government. Those were the times when UMNO Johor played the spinal role in Malay right wing politics. During the challenges of ‘Refomasi’ and many young Malay sought exodus in KeAdilan, Johor UMNO boast the strong membership 0f 500,000 members which then translated to one-sixth of the nationwide membership.

Ghani got to aggressively take charge of the whole situation in Johor. His wisdom via ‘elegant silence’ and academic-approach of resolving issues simply would not do anymore, at the times where the rakyat actually demand to see some action. In fact, they would be glad if some ‘heads were to roll’.

Too many at stake here.

Johor is the perfect example of ‘Malay Three-nity’; Ruler, Executive and Civil Service. One cannot move and be succesful without the other two. The rakyat democratically gave the Executive very strong mandates in each of the past twelve GEs. The Executive in return got to play its role of adviser, strategic manager and co-ordinator role up and above the planner and executer, for the good of the Ruler, rakyat and the state, jointly and in sundry.

At the moment, with the strong current mandate from the rakyat and confidence and loyalty of the civil service, the Executive should really sort things out before the mess gets untangled into the web of complications.

In the current times, it is not that easy and straight forward. But it has been done before. Its time to go back there again. Return the to legacy of the Johor glory. Its time to lead the laden. We cannot change history. However it would be negligent and deemed that we would be damned by the generations to come, if we fail to learn from it.

Published in: on January 6, 2012 at 02:00  Comments (27)