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Sakmongkol ak 47

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Looking for Leadership-2

We cant leave the issue of leadership to providence. Leadership must not be a matter of historical accident. That would only limit the talent pool available to us. It would then confine our choice as leaders, to those who have the right lineage, those within the personal knowledge of present leaders and so forth.
The conventional wisdom is of course to leave it to tradition or some form of re-crafted divine intervention. In tales of old, the white elephant will emerge and prostrate itself before an individual. He is the chosen one. Or the white crocodile will surface and lay itself becalmed before the chosen one.
But as I have always maintained, in UMNO , there is no tradition of ‘fixing up’ leaders. Choosing a leader is not a quick fix matter. The traditional way has always been for the delegates to choose their leaders through the ballot box. The new tradition that was recently formulated by the DPM was just a convenient device serving his personal interest. That formula feeds into his obsession to self perpetuate in contrast to the need for self renewal. One serves a personal agenda, the other the greater good of the party.
We must have that system, that on the whole, permits our best to come forward. I don’t see any other way to provide for the widest possible choice of leadership than to remove the hurdles holding them back.
How do we simulate the conditions that had allowed the first generation leaders to emerge? The conditions that fired leaders with nationalism, idealism and selfless commitment? We cannot replicate the conditions, yes. But we can put in a system of natural selection, so that the fittest, the best and the most able can come to the fore. And I think the system is already there- let there be open competition for the best from the talent pool can come forth.
America cannot replicate the conditions that gave birth to the founding fathers nor can we do the same the saw the rise of Onn Jaafar, Tengku Abdul Rahman, or Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore, Nehru in India, Sukarno in Indonesia. We cannot replicate the battles and struggles that preceded independence and liberation. That would be too costly in all aspects.
There is a civilised alternative. Free competition between ideas. And this is what America does. Who would have ever thought that a black like Obama could have made it this far? But what America does is, it defends free competition among those who offer leadership. That Barak Obama has managed to come this far is testimony of the system that allowed the maximum possible choices for the American people.
Tun Mahathir’s rise to power also saw the emergence of a credible alternative in Tengku Razleigh Hamzah, precisely because competition then was not stopped.
But what happens after we introduced the quota system? We could not identify credible alternatives as the talent pool now has dried up. The moneyed class infiltrated UMNO to make it a haven for fortune hunters and other depravities. Our MKT is filled with many whose stench as described by a blogger rise to high heavens.
Hence we forced ourselves to fall back on the re-crafted form of divine interventions that I spoke of above- the white elephant prostrating itself, the white crocodile surfacing and of course, in the most recent case, the elaborate ritual of ‘power transfer’ from the present great elephant( in certain African nations in the 19th century, the leader of the nation was called the great elephant) to the DPM( who looked like a Cheshire cat that has just got its milk). Our great elephant now is Pak Lah.
The two top leaders must make the sacrifice that is incumbent upon them. They must make it a point to carry out this for the good of UMNO. The removal of the quota system. It must never be defended even though pushing for its removal can be potentially politically lethal for them, but its removal is required for the good of UMNO. you have told us to make sacrifices, now make it yourselves.
The idea to have competition must come from the top. You cannot expect the branch leader who is a hawker, jaga sekolah or the village bully boy to usher in reforms in UMNO. Can we?
Imagine what benefits we can get from removing the quota system. We widen the net for talented leaders to come forward. They could not if they have no money. Down the leadership hierarchy, relaxing of the quota system will likewise widen the net for talent pool. It will limit and curtail the powers of local warlords to determine the outcome of contests at branch and divisional levels. It will limit the powers of divisional leaders in unilaterally deciding who comes into office. We do not want leaders to do a Henry Ford on us- we can have any colours we want, as long as its black!.
UMNO is now inducing self paralysis onto itself. It must begin by reforming and doing away with edifices that stifle the emergence of alternative leaders. It must begin by removing the quota system. It must begin at the highest policy making body- the supreme council itself. Please don’t be so patronising to make us believe that the country hobo of a branch leader in some remote areas can decide what’s good for the party.
As we move into the new age, UMNO needs to re-invent itself by being more open and transparent. Perhaps recognising that we have our own human frailties and limitations, organisation-wise, UMNO needs to consider having structures that provide the leavening effects. Maybe we have to study the merits of having a presidential council that can offer not binding, but persuasive arguments to the supreme council. Indeed with the present crop of leaders we now have, a presidential council is what we really need.
This new mindset is needed if UMNO wants to project itself as a political organisation that moves with the times. The image of UMNO that is willing to engage in a contest of ideas and civil arguments.
The most fundamental lesson learnt from the 12th General elections and the recent loss in Permatang Pauh drives home the fact, that the rakyat is not longer willing to be coerced. Hence the route taken by way of flexing our political muscles, exemplified for example by unsheathing of the keris, inflammatory speeches and recently by draconian censorship on the free exchange of ideas will only reinforce the process of atrophy in UMNO.
Hence UMNO’s enmity towards bloggers in general shows that it is still stuck in the old ways to fight the new. Which is reliance on forms of brute force to coerce people and oppress them. The fall back on brute force serves only to inform the public that UMNO hasn’t got the capacity to handle what actually moves the people. In the movie A Few Good Men- the colonel character played by Jack Nicholson said it fittingly- You cant handle the truth!.


Anonymous,  31 August 2008 at 20:59  

Salam Ariff,
Couldn't agree with you more! My stomach got sick nowadays at the mention of Salleh Abbas & Amiga... the ultimate hypocrisy & ego trip in the name of upholding the judiciary!!

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