Extending the legacy of growth, to propel the nation forward is a very tall order but it was expected of Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd. Najib Tun Razak when he took the reigns of the Federal Government exactly six years ago this week.
Making Malaysia a great nation and realising its full potential as an extension if not value added to work already done the previous three and a half decades is what Fourth Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad expects from Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd. Najib Tun Razak is able to do and deliver.
In twenty two and a third years, Tun Dr. Mahathir challenged odds in the transforming Malaysia. He introduced heavy industries and literally got the wheels in motion for Malaysia to be an automotive producing nation by his third year in office.
Islamic banking was introduced. Trade was multiplied and industrialisation was a big agenda. Infrastructure programs were planned and realised in mega proportions (then in the late eighties), where acts as the catalyst for domestic trade.
In short, everything was big. Really big for Malaysia and in the eyes of most Malaysians, then.
He did not give a toss whether it was popular or not, even by the people. He weighted the odds and went for it. Government owned utility and infrastructure service owners and providers were privatised and corporatised, to improved on efficiency and ability to expand without resting the burden on the government.
“If we need to alleviate the livelihood of the people, we gave them education, created jobs and provided opportunities. We didn’t give them money”, the Doctor who was in the House opposing to BR1M. “If they are really poor, then we help them. Its our responsibility. But not like this!”.
All these sounds about what British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher did, despite being very unpopular when her ballsiness. Regardless, these bold strategic actions did pay off. British economy grew into into a powerhouse in the late eighties.
Then Malaysia too, had the progressive growth bullish enough to project the nation to be propelled as a developed nation’s status by thirty years time. Launching it in 1991, Tun Dr. Mahathir calls it ‘Vision 2020’.
Tun Dr. Mahathir saw the pace and adreline steaming towards 2020 being dismantled during the bleak leadership of PM ‘Flip-Flop’ Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Despite having a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ of not interfering, PM ‘Flip-Flop’ Abdullah was the one who broke promised when he cancelled all the projects and programs decided and agreed during Tun Dr. Mahathir’s time.
It was exactly nine years ago this week Tun Dr. Mahathir openly went against PM ‘Flip-Flop’ Abdullah. It was because the latter unilaterally cancelled the ‘Scenic Bridge Replacing the Johor Causeway’. This was despite then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong in writing didn’t oppose Malaysia’s intention to remove the causeway and replaced it with a bridge on Malaysia’s side of the waters.
Tun Dr. Mahathir expected Prime Minister Najib to reinstate the project and reclaim the ‘face lost’ when PM ‘Flip-Flop’ Abdullah cancelled it, which was seen favouring Singapore instead upholding the pride of Malaysia is free to do what we want at our end. However, Prime Minister Najib had a different approach and agenda when dealing with Singapore.
Then multi billion Ringgit burning contention is the 1MDB. The interview with Hamdan Ahmir did see Prime Minister Najib providing answers, However, those aren’t to the questions Tun Dr. Mahathir raised.
“Yes, I watched it”, stating it with his usual smirk.
“All these AG’s (Auditor General) report takes time. Would there be any investigative audit? How long before we get to know all these?”.
We did ask him about his call for Prime Minister Najib to withdraw and pass the baton on to someone else. “What should the new Prime Minister do (for 1MDB)?”.
“Bite the bullet. Even if it breaks his teeth. We will lose some but its alright”.
On politics, Tun Dr. Mahathir opined that despite doing so much and involved is so many programs, Prime Minister Najib faired worse than his predecessor.
“The ‘Sleepy Head’ even did better than him!”.
He stressed that the Chinese are not with Prime Minister Najib. “It would not work (without the Chinese). When the Malays were not with me (during his last election, 10GE November 1999) because of ‘Mata Lebam’ (Anwar Ibrahim’s black eye), the Chinese were all out supporting me. I won more than two third (majority in Dewan Rakyat)”.
“The Malays are divided. The Chinese are not with him. How to win (14GE)?”, the simple analysis. Since the formation of Barisan Nasional (BN) by PM Najib’s late father Tun Abd Razak Hussein in 1973, the latter led BN to win its first at the 4GE. When PM Najib led BN to face his first (13GE), the coalition faired the worst performance of 10 GEs.
“I want to see Malaysia to be great”, the sincere parting words of an old man who did so much for nation building.
Like it or not, this man with a very sharp mind despite of being short of a decade to be a centenarian, in his stride defied unimaginable odds to win in the toughest of all challenges. Economic, political and global.
In the course, he did transform the nation into a different landscape, on all sides. Malaysia was put in global map as a trading nation and also on the global diplomacy arena.
Malaysia was even a nation of impeccable principle when he committed armed forces for the peace keeping role in Bosnia, when the Europeans and Americans were still wishy-washy about it.
It is obvious that Prime Minister Najib could learn from the vast experience, strategic perspective and wisdom of a man who was actually part of his father’s Cabinet after the Great Tun won his only GE after Barisan Nasional was born and the New Economic Plan was introduced.
It is a perfect time to do mid-term review. Some serious restructuring (Cabinet, Khazanah, GLCs, civil service, commissions) must be done and course correction put in place, necessary to move forward. Prime Minister Najib should get Tun Dr. Mahathir actively involved in some of these capacities.
After all, he has proven to be engaged globally for this thoughts and visions. This is on top assuming the position and role of Chairman of the Proton BoD.
Then again, Prime Minister Najib should be the bigger man and work with Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, in the course of nation building to make the Mega Malaysia. It is not quite suffice with just the proclamation of respect.