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Sakmongkol ak 47

Thursday 11 June 2009

Great Expectations- MM LKY’s visit to Pahang.

Together with thousands of other private citizens, I would like to extend my warmest regards to Minister Mentor Lee Kuan yew for taking time to visit Pahang. I understand he will be in Pahang next week on the 15th of June. I have read in the past that Mr Lee was a frequent visitor to the hill stations in Pahang- either Cameron Highlands or Fraser's Hill. I am sure Mr Lee has fond memories of these places.

What can Mr Lee see in Pahang? He will see only opportunities for the Pahang people to progress. Mr Lee will also see the borderless possibilities to plan for progress for Singapore companies. Provided of course there is leadership.

Which brings us nicely to a brief discussion on the question of leadership.

The primary purpose of leadership is to helm social transformation. According to Mr Lee there are 3 basic essentials for successful transformation. We need an effective and determined leadership, an administration which is efficient and social discipline. These appeared to be recurring themes, sort of guiding principles behind the success of society. Leadership that honours and rewards hard work, provide strong and determined leadership, enlightened economic policies and a culture that encouraged thrift and learning.

As we are aware, Mr Lee is less concerned with being loved than with being respected. A leader who is not respected will not be able to motivate the people to work with him.

Mr Lee's ideas on leadership are seminal. Let us for example, examined the ideas concerning leadership succession which are particularly instructive.

Very early on, Mr Lee Kuan Yew grappled with the issue of leadership succession. One of the vexatious issues of leadership is how do you choose your successor? The answer to this question can also be generalised to how do you select leaders in general? How do you choose those people with the drive, verve, intelligence, analytical powers, imaginations and are practical and realistic?

Lee Kuan Yew is conscious of the need to reject a pants off the seat approach typified normally by the way leaders are chosen on the basis of being liked/disliked by the supreme leader. A is chosen because he is liked or B is rejected because he is not liked. Then you have a system of leadership choice that doesn't extend beyond an individual's likes and dislikes. What kind of system does this create? It creates a self perpetuating system of leadership. Leaders are chosen because they are perhaps the most servile and malleable of the lot. But because, the choosing principle rests on a very slender and unstable principle, such a system is seen as leading eventually to disappointment.

Pak Lah was probably chosen on the assumptions that he would be servile and malleable. He turned out to be the direct opposite to what Dr Mahathir would have wanted and preferred. In other words, we are supposed to get a leader who should have been exceedingly compliant. And because he was chosen on the basis of he was more likeable then, UMNO was handed its worse defeat in its history. It was also due to the fact that actually we wanted to have a self perpetuating leadership system.

To Lee Kuan Yew, it is better to have a self continuing system which suggests independence from personal preferences. Such a system is committed more to goals, driven by shared ideals. This is the more ideal and progressive leadership system.

Effective and efficient administration.

Undoubtedly much of Singapore's success is attributable to the extraordinary leadership of Lee Kuan Yew- determined, driven and disciplined leadership. This writing is but a ripple to the vast ocean of literature narrating and explaining the leadership of Lee Kuan Yew. Accordingly, it will not do anything more than a casual treatment.

The other significant contributor to the success of Singapore is of course the civil service. We have not heard much about the civil service perhaps because of the ethos of civil service professionalism. In the early years for example, the Singapore civil service was described as a sort of priesthood. The analogy was made by the other grey eminence of Singapore- the owlish Goh Keng Swee. It was both an exclusive fraternity and practitioner of vows of silence and confidentiality.

I hope this ethos of civil serve professionalism is not lost on our own civil service. Nowadays, we have seen too many transgressions and adventurous incursions into the world of politics by civil servants. They are basically implementers and not policy makers. If they want to go into politics, resign and enter.

There is a chapter in the book, Lee Kuan Yew- the Man and His Ideas about the role government. Chapter four of that book is titled The Secret of good government.

Thus according to Mr Lee to get a good government you must have good men in charge of government. One civil service luminary who lends credence to this observation is a man named Mr Ngiam Tong Dow. Mr Ngiam joined the Singapore civil service in 1959 after graduating with First Class Honours in Economics from the then University of Malaya in Singapore. After spending 40 years in economic development of Singapore- he is convinced that the most important condition for success is good Government. A good government is one lead by able, honest, selfless men and women. A Mandarin and the Making of Public Policy-Reflections b Ngiam Tong Dow.


Anonymous,  11 June 2009 at 08:55  

most bumiputera companies in malaysia have very poor corporate governance and administration (including GLCs and state-owned corp). as a result, they 'bocor' all over the place, in a state of 'sakit' and won't last very long unless being prop up by more public funds. the directors don't care much about the company as long as the leakage went into their pockets too. this is because the people responsible are worth zilch in term of leadership but got to be what they are because of political connections. a very good example of the opposite of what LKY propagate. but as usual, i don't think many of us will want to listen and learn from LKY,s wisdom but instead we will scoff, disparage and throw in the racial factor for good measure. bila lah orang kita ni nak jadi cerdik dan pandai agaknya

Unknown 11 June 2009 at 15:46  


Instead of Avidly Promoting The "Blue Ocean Strategy" (Which was Compulsory Reading for DS Najib's Staff), DS Najib would do well to recommend his staff to read those books you mentioned......

Talking about important literature...
Recent statements by DS Najib and Hassan Merican on the need for further increases in oil development and its relationship with oil price...
Try reading:
CERA, Fact or Fiction: Non OPEC's Potential for Exceptional Production Growth, Cambridge (MA): CERA, Dec 2004...

With this policy announcement, Malaysia will join Several Non-OPEC producers to eventually produce 3 times the current level by 2010-2015. And we know what that will do to the Oil Price...
Which will lead to less money coming into PETRONAS Coffers just when we need the money for the economy to recover...

Anonymous,  11 June 2009 at 15:47  

Is Enron,WorldCom,AIG,GM and all those USA banks managed by Bumiputras?

Its not whether its Bumis or Non Bumis...we should look deeper and understand our own strengths and weaknesses.

For a fact,a Bumi venture by virtue of being late into the game are generally heavily geared i.e have little equity and borrows a lot to create the business.

Its nice if the company started as a rubber plantation bought in the fifties and matured into Damansara Uptown & Bandar Utama.

And political patronage never comes free/You have to invest and support and do lots of "national service"

I don't see business as a racial issue but merely believe that any analysis should be specific and case to case basis.

There are things we can learn from LKY as much as S'pore can learn from our own Tun Mahathir.

walla 11 June 2009 at 18:52

Anonymous,  11 June 2009 at 20:22  

Have you been included in the welcoming entourage from Pahang?
Will you be shaking hands with LKY?

I hope you'll get that once in a lifetime meeting.

Anonymous,  12 June 2009 at 14:28  

There are no quick fix or any magic formulaes.I guess we are all in awe of fast turnarounds and new management fads;that we forget that it boils down to 99% perspiration and 1 % sweat.Now we will see that the fortress GLCs built by Pak Lah is nothing more than wayang kulit,wolves in sheep's clothings and ultimately a house of cards.Over the last 5 years,nothing substantial was achieved by the GLCs except for their monstrous pay packets and even more money stuffed into friendly consultants,PR agencies pockets.What we shld learn frm S'pore is commitment,hard work and the eye for the main chance i.e like dumping BNI at overpriced valuations to our hapless NEC boss. No magic potions...just get some dumbos to pay high sell low on fears.

Anonymous,  12 June 2009 at 16:20  

abom 15.07

i support your comment.people is quick to relate failures to Bumis..

We can learn so much from our own Tun Mahathir but of course to some imported product is always better for us.. Really

ajoyly 12 June 2009 at 22:25  

Again a question of meritocracy. If you choose the most meritorious, you will certainly get the best. There is no doubt that this is the most reliable way of selecting a candidate in whatever field of endeavour.

Anonymous,  13 June 2009 at 00:04  


is Francis Yeoh the best guy to take over from his dad Yeoh Tiong Lay?And the same for the Genting group?and it goes on...These companies also practising meritocracy?
Wat about LKY and his son?No better candidates in S'pore too?
Meritocracy only works when ur chosen..for the unchosen it never works.

ajoyly 13 June 2009 at 10:19  


I agree in the situations you mentioned when family ties and vested interests are considered. But in the case, when fairness is not connected with any family considerations, etc., merit is still the best answer.

Anonymous,  13 June 2009 at 12:22  

Lets put it in the righr perspective...

Merit is not an easy measure.Its horses for courses and not an absolute measure.I would pick Federer on grass and Nadal for clay.

The guys with 1st Class Honours from Oxford/Cambridge was the bane of our country for the last 5 years..and it was quite an eclectic mix.

Thus,as a boss I want to pick a team that works best for me...I want a mix of smarts of various disciplines i.e, academics,social work,human resources development etc..isn't that meritocracy too?

The problem with Malaysians is we jump to conclusions without sufficient understanding of the underlying issues and without detailed figures.I got Bumi friends who got straight A but didn't get scho;arships.I got a of the class..but still a senior lecturer whilst others (non bumis) have made it as a professor madya.

So,pls don't join the bandwagon unless you know its going in the right direction.


ajoyly 13 June 2009 at 21:44  


Agree with you, the person(boss) making the selection may as you mention used other criterions depending on the type of activities involved but the underlying factor would still be merit. Merit, according to the definition of the Encarta Dictionary is - proven ability or accomplishment.

Anonymous,  14 June 2009 at 17:43  


Then our leaders may well might be practising meritocracy all these years..using criterions that they figure out as most appropriate>>thus wats all the complaints and noises all about?
Ajoyly really hit on the nail..great reasoning indeed.

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