Copyright Notice

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other non-commercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the author, at the address below.

Sakmongkol ak 47

Tuesday 27 January 2009

Object Lessons for UMNO- The Practice of Leadership

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.


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.


Pak Zawi 27 January 2009 at 10:41  

Dato' Sak,
The process of choosing the best leaders to lead the country was lost when outgoing leaders started appointing their successors. Thus a single man's mistake of choice has to be borne by the whole nation.
Some chosen leaders are prone to change their colour once in power.
Pak Lah was once elected to the post of UMNO VP on the strength of his being a nice man despite the rampant money politics that was already on going then.
I think he is too nice a man to be the leader of a nation as he will oblige to anything that people approach him for. An officer of an agency went to check the authenticity of his signature for the application for rubber wood since he was hesitant to accept the fact that a PM will put his support to such an application. How surprised he was when those people in Putrajaya confirmed the signature.

Anonymous,  27 January 2009 at 12:28  

Dato Sak

Every civilisation fell when corruption, immorality and decadence pervade into society.

If you could put aside corrupt practises and questionable act of Khairy that is seen as corrupt, you lost every bit of credibility to preach.

Anonymous,  27 January 2009 at 12:39  

Then you better not come to Dato's blog anymore in case you get a heart attack and die!!
No more pain for you mentally right??
Preach your opinions elsewhere then!!

Anonymous,  27 January 2009 at 12:46  


The party is seen as a collective whole and no matter who leads, the current view is that it is same old, same old.

You have been very vocal through this blog and we wonder if it actually reaches the desired ears. Perhaps your goodself and like minded colleagues can do something to replenish the lack of leadership, a mutiny of sorts if you will, but done in such a way that it is not seen to be treacherous but in earnest hope to save the party that you still believe in. Guess when one boxes oneself in there are not too many options to choose from.

Anonymous,  27 January 2009 at 13:37  

Hi Datuk,

Your apt argument on leadership crisis applies to all the BN component parties and especially the MIC. For some reason or other, these BN party leaders have created a leadership vacuum given the ego centric zero sum attitude. Everytime a leader is groomed, for some reason or other he is demolished by the same leader because of some imaginary fear factor.

Ariff Sabri 27 January 2009 at 14:18  

anon at 12:28
you said:
f you could put aside corrupt practices and questionable act of Khairy that is seen as corrupt, you lost every bit of credibility to preach.

you have read the meaning wrongly. i do not condone corrupt practices. i said don't be sanctimonious when it comes to KJ. you seem eager to apply this criteria on KJ but silent on others.
corruption and other moral depravities are condemnable by everyone. you dont have the monopoly over it just by professing you have higher moral standards. those are your mere words.with your kind of thinking, i doubt you have any.

why dont you publish yr article so that we can see it goes? ada berani?

Archer Daniel Smith 27 January 2009 at 14:36  

Hello Dato'
Cognitive egocentrism.
Sounds good, but can it be cured? I think not, because there is no check and balance in society. As long as Barisan still rules the Federal Government, there is zero 'push' factor to do anything change, lest the aggrieved parties hop over to the 'Hindraf' side.

Essentially, what we are seing is a slow version of wayang kulit epic drama. No prizes guessing who would emerge victorious amongst the 5 pandava.

Ariff Sabri 27 January 2009 at 14:50  

data macammana,
the consensus among many umno people on the street, they are just waiting to join in administering last rites to UMNO.

Anonymous,  27 January 2009 at 15:21  

Obama said the right thing to Mitchell who is going to broker another peace effort in the mid-east.

He said,"Start by listening. We have been dictating too long"

Obama could well have been adressing this to UMNO.


Anonymous,  27 January 2009 at 15:58  

I disagree totally if only UMNO is condemned for having corrupted leaders.
Just look at our Malay leaders in PKR? especially our very pious DSAI.
When he was our Minister Of Finance, he divided the loot for himself and his family members and croonies.It was an open secret!

After quarrelling with Tun because Tun did not want to give him the power of being a PM yet, of course so many things happened because politics can be so bloody dirty.

Tun Mahathir did what any dirty politician would have done to shame DSAI.Air out DSAI's dirty laundry of course!

DSAI then again did many corrupt practices to make himself immensely rich.

Now being the PKR leader hes definitely not going to stop his old ways..and he will be just as corrupt or worst should PKR ever lead the government.

Beware of those x-UMNO members who lead PKR.They are all the same UMNO trained mentality goons wanting to gobble as much as possible the country's wealth!And wanting to hold the posts they never got the chance to when they were in UMNO!

And so stop saying only UMNO has corrupt leaders! Those in PKR are the more power-hungry and more corrupted chips from the UMNO block!!And they all came from Tun Mahathir's time!!Not from Pak Lah's era!

Our very2 corrupt leaders also came from Tun Mahathir's era.And are still about to become powerful leaders in UMNO!!

kuldeep 27 January 2009 at 19:14  


UMNO's problem boils down to arrogance.Its inbuilt in the whole ecosystem and nourished by the traditions of adulation,pomp and pageantry.
The easiest way to rectify UMNO is for all of you guys to surrender all your honorifics (no more Tan Sris,Dato Seris etc),no more bunga mawar and kompangs,no more flash cars,outriders,bodyguards(formal or the nightclub bouncers type hangers on)...
Oh yes...never meet up in coffeehouses with guys carrying bundles of drawings or stacks of project proposals.

Good luck.

Anonymous,  28 January 2009 at 01:31  

UMNO was for so long in power simply because of the naiveness of the other partners in the BN. Partners in many countries have say in the main government. They dont like they leave... if it does not take care of their members' or race's interests.

Here in Malaysia, you have all those other parties more like cows pulled like a nose to whichever direction the main guys UMNO wants them to be.

In the absence of alternative, these cows managed to give the extra votes to UMNO to run the country as though they are the lord of the country.

With the coming of Pakatan and DSAI , a changed man, to form coalitions based on mutual interests rather than one party overlord on others.... is the winning formula.

Really how Malaysia can be hookwinked by UMNO is really a wonder. You just need to look at these UMNO guys... they are still thinking they are the lord and answer to no one.

kuldeep 28 January 2009 at 11:10  

lets do something really constructive and brainstorm ways to help the general populace to at least suffer a bit less from the worsening financial crisis...

>will non branded,non packaged essentials (rice,sugar,cooking oil,detergents,salt...) purchased thru central warehouses be cheap enuff for ppl to wish to take the trouble to queue up etc?
>can banks defer consumer loan repayments for 6 months..that would drive the NPLs up by 0.6 % but still ok for the banking system?And in the 6 months window do active repackaging/rescheduling etc etc >>can employ lots of the unemployed graduates to do the loan workouts.
>can the income tax collection be relaxed a bit..allow longer repayment periods instead of PAYE..its all cashflow not actual revenue loss except myb the cost of funds.
>create more jobs in rural areas to address urban poverty and encourage the reverse migration.Jobs can be for the simple agrobased,govt supplies(theres lots of opportunities to restructure this supply chain)and even relocation of call centres.My theory >>I earn $1000 ringgit in Pasir Mas I am an ok guy but with the same income in KL I am struggling.

lets forget umno for a while

Toncet Biru 28 January 2009 at 12:28  


Dato' Sak

I was born on the year Tun Dr. Ismail died. I've read 'The Reluctant Politician' and came to the conclusion that Malaysia would have been a different nation had he lived to succeed Tun Razak. I am not an UMNO member and shall never be one, but I am urging all UMNO members to at least read and understand the book and learn from history because personally I believe they never have.

Anonymous,  30 January 2009 at 09:01  

I agree with Anonymous 27 January 2009 15:58 that corruption also exists in PKR, already pervasive during Dr Mahathir's era, etc.

When leaders are corrupt others down the line say why shouldn't we.

But what do we do? The least the ordinary citizens can do is to continue talking about it abhorrently. Along the way it will stick in the minds of a few that it rots society and prod them to take concrete action. Hopefully those are UMNO members and perhaps later UMNO leaders.

UMNO leaders are at the helm of the Federal government which can get ACC to prosecute big-time corruption culprits.

If the leaders are corrupt, ordinary members can vote them out.

We must avoid saying that not much can be done because so many are corrupt. One small step is a giant leap.

Anonymous,  30 January 2009 at 09:01  

I agree with Anonymous 27 January 2009 15:58 that corruption also exists in PKR, already pervasive during Dr Mahathir's era, etc.

When leaders are corrupt others down the line say why shouldn't we.

But what do we do? The least the ordinary citizens can do is to continue talking about it abhorrently. Along the way it will stick in the minds of a few that it rots society and prod them to take concrete action. Hopefully those are UMNO members and perhaps later UMNO leaders.

UMNO leaders are at the helm of the Federal government which can get ACC to prosecute big-time corruption culprits.

If the leaders are corrupt, ordinary members can vote them out.

We must avoid saying that not much can be done because so many are corrupt. One small step is a giant leap.

  © Blogger templates Newspaper III by 2008

Back to TOP