In my previous article, I touched upon the subject of what really is the practice of leadership. When I mentioned the example of the Chinese PLA using tanks on the Tiananmen demonstrators, some people got worried about the signals which that paragraphs sent.
Only in the very fertile imagination of Hindrafied thinking people, the paragraphs would conjure up images of the Malaysian government using army tanks to pulverize opposition. I have merely used an extreme example that leaders cannot govern when respect for them is lost. This is an essential component in the practice of leadership. It is a part in the nature of leadership.
Pak Lah? Sorry to say, he is too kind to understand the nature of leadership. He abhors acting firmly and decisively. Case in point? When the Hindraf people brought pillows and presented them to him, they were mocking at his self respect. He should have acted decisively by having these people arrested. Not because he cannot tolerate dissent which he has proven he could. To tolerate such transgressions will erode respect of him as a leader. He can’t govern like this where people at every turn, take the opportunity to be derisive on his person.
When Hindraf leaders go around the world and lied through their teeth that Indians are being massacred in Malaysia, can we reason with this kind of outright mendacity and dishonesty?
What is troubling with Pak Lah’s leadership is that he is fearful to act decisively.
Najib is of that same constitution. If he continues, he will forfeit respect and in due course, he will have difficulty in governing. Take a leaf from the study of two leaders. Mr. Lee Kuan Yew and Tun Dr Mahathir are two tigers which cannot be at the mountain top together. They share of a common trait essential for governing a society like ours. They have this Bismarkian trait essential to govern societies like ours. It is essential trait in particular to govern Malay society.
Like a government, a good party needs good leadership. Many have written about this as I did too. UMNO members mustn’t be too fixated with the idea of a party being self perpetuating. This happens when we accept the talent pool as being located within a certain genetic elite. It happens when we submit ourselves to accepting recycled version of the old guard. Aiyoo! Don’t you think as many as I do; there are probably hundreds better than Hishamudin as a leader?
Events such as Permatang and KT showed that we need leaders who are of firmer constitution, very determined to get things going. We want leaders who can enthuse those around them to share their determination to get things going.
We must not call for changes at the top levels only. This kind of revolutionary change must take place at lower levels. Dato Najib is not playing the role of a helmsman here. If he does not get it, then perhaps it is true that he is ill placed to revolutionize UMNO.
This kind of mindset demands UMNO members of different qualitative constitution. Get rid of the riff-raffs at cawangan levels; insist on a minimum of educational level, open membership to anyone interested to become members of that particular branch. Limit the size of each branch to 250 so that the maximum number of delegates each branch can muster is 5. Allow those branches with more than 250 members, freedom to set up other branches. What’s the use of having 700 members when you can only send 5 delegates? You could form 3 branches with 700 people and no one local warlord can bully bahagians into submission.
Otherwise, you have an UMNO full of wild-eyed people using the crossbows against the AK47. What do the less equipped then do to even things up? They will use the same bogeyman- threats to bangsa Melayu, threats to the Malay rulers; attack on Malay rights etc. In time, all these usual tiresome arguments disenchant the rakyat. That was the message the Kuala Terengganu folks sent to the UMNO leadership. Playing the fear mongering cards- threats to language, religion and rulers, are not saleable any more. Instead the message by the KT people, no doubt buttressed by Islamic ideology, is that they are more receptive of universal values- transparency, equality, integrity etc.
The important thing to realize is that these are qualities that transform society. But the UMNO jocks who feel cornered because they underestimated the preference for universal values can only offer the standard staple- racial bigotry.
The concept of cognitive egocentrism has its greatest impact in the political relationships between the principal actors in a political party such as UMNO and possibly the BN in general. Let’s face it, unless we are able forego our own race first kind of thinking which we can’t, we are in fact a divided society. The basic political principle of divided society is “rule or be ruled,” “do onto others before they do onto you, kind of thinking. What do people do in such a political culture? Most times, the main political actors from this political culture assume the same zero-sum, domineering intentions in their rivals and political enemies.
That’s what UMNO has lost- that transformational leadership ideology nurtured in those early years. Those years during which our grandfathers and grandmothers, our fathers and mothers toiled and invested their faith in and offered blood, sweat and tears for. This was supposed to be the UMNO that we inherited.
The reaction of UMNO is the action of the beleaguered man. Impinged on all sides by imaginary threats, unsure of themselves, led by compromisable leaders, filled with equally stressed and besieged followers, the only way UMNO knows how to react is use the crudest of weapons, racism, religion and the like.
For over 50 years, UMNO’s ideological weapon hasn’t change. Meanwhile the people’s perception has changed. Even the most hardened and recalcitrant anti PAS and anti Islamic public are responsive to reasoned, quiet but persuasive arguments from PAS people. UMNO on the other hand knows of only single appeal- that of bigoted nationalism when it suits them. It suits them to use this besieged appeal in times like the Kt elections. That simply indicates, UMNO has no arsenal to answer not that the opposition has no issues to campaign.
COMPETING COGNITIVE EGOCENTRISM (CCE):
The main problem now, is UMNO is dominated by people motivated by the principle of competing cognitive egocentrism. Dato Najib is surrounded by legions of them. The party is riddled with leaders who project bad faith onto one another. It’s full of people going around with the assumption that everyone abuses power that one must rule or be ruled. It’s always a zero-sum game for these people. If I don’t wallop now, the other goons will. I’d better grab everything now while I still have the chance and position.
In most cases, these types of UMNO leaders cannot even perceive the possibility of a positive-sum game; they wouldn’t even admit of the possibility that other people may just want to do their job of transforming their society. The constant belief is : whatever the “other” does, no matter how generous it may seem, is a trap, a covert act of hostility in which the other is really jockeying for superior position in a zero-sum game. Hence these UMNO leaders have a strong affinity for conspiracy theories. The other is malevolent evil that must be opposed at all costs. The other guy is out to rob what’s ours.
Dato Najib must do the imperative if he wants UMNO to stay relevant. Even more important, if he wants to be leader of a party that is relevant. In theory he must have more transformational leaders not those transactional leaders constantly looking for angles to exploit. Translated into PRACTICAL terms, he needs good leaders. Not those backslapping hail feller Hey Yo kind of leaders. Good for a JKKK, not suitable for government.