Saturday, February 15, 2014
Shout And Hopefully We Are Heard
A Kadir Jasin
IT HAS been a while that I have not reported on the Kedai Kopi Assembly (KKA) proceedings. The task of “cari makan” has taken a bit too much of my time lately. Times are hard.
Irrespective of where the KKA met and who attended them, the narrative – pardon me for using the cliché – is the same. The participants are worried about the direction the country is taking or the lack of it.
In the realm of politics, they were in agreement that Prime Minister Mohd Najib Abdul Razak has to change his way and the way he manages the country and the economy or face the possibility of being hounded out of office.
He has to acknowledge that things are not as rosy as being portrayed by the mainstream media. He has to stop lavishing scarce public funds on cash handouts and salary increases that do not contribute to productivity and sustainability.
He must acknowledge that his “cash is king” stance does not work. It did not even buy him votes. He must find a more productive and sustainable method of helping the poor. He must have the gut to fire his failed, pseudo advisers and go back to relying on government machinery and civil servants.
Among the KKA sessions that took place since the last report were at a Yemani restaurant in Mont Kiara involving a prince of the Selangor royal household, a former Umno minister, an ex-diplomat and a leader of the Malay Chamber of Commerce.
At the RSGC, the KKA involved two former Umno MPs and a businessman. One of the former MP is from Pahang and reputed to be a buddy of the PM.
In Kota Bharu, it involved the Kelantan MB (Datuk) Ahmad Yakob, an ex-Finance Minister and two young Malay businessmen and in Negri Sembilan, a session on history with Puteri Umno information divisional chiefs from Johor and Melaka.
The KKA also held a session with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Present were three young Malay economists who were desperate to be heard. We talked about the economy, in particular the declining position of the Bumiputera in recent years.
Dr Mahathir’s advice to them is “shout” about issues and problems they think the PM and the government should know and pay attention to.
This is vintage Dr Mahathir. The “shout” message is “typically Mahathir”. When you don’t have the power to act, you shout. He said exactly that when I interviewed him during his early days as Prime Minister. He said, when he was out of Umno and without power, he shouted to be heard.
From the queue at his offices at the Perdana Leadership Foundation, Proton and Yayasan Albukhary, it is clear that he may be out of the loop but certainly not out of circulation, holding his Kabinet Rakyat sessions with people of all walks of life who have stories to tell, advice to seek and spirit to strengthen – like the veteran Wanita Umno leaders who were allegedly shown the door at the PMO because they came without appointment.
At the princely Yemeni dinner, a question was posed: If Mohd Najib has to go (or he throws in the towel), who could or would take over?
The response wasn’t spontaneous. I took a bit of head scratching among the balding participants before Muhyiddin Mohd Yassin’s name was mentioned. That was partly because Muhyiddin had purportedly said he was not interested in the job and that he was tired.
Going by hierarchy, Muhyiddin is the successor. He is Deputy Prime Minister and Deputy Umno President. But like Mohd Najib, he was not elected by members. He was merely endorsed by the Umno Supreme Council.
The most senior democratically elected Umno leader is Ahmad Zahid Hamidi who won most votes as Vice President in last year’s party election. But most KKA delegates think he is not the favoured successor. That honour belongs to Hishammuddin Hussein, the third-ranking VP, and Mohd Najib’s cousin.
By the way, Dr Mahathir had done his duty. He had passed on to me the message from a certain very important big man water land (Johan Jaaffar’s version of orang besar tanah air) concerning this blog witnessed by four Muslim men of sound mind and good character. Thank you Tun.
But as a former editor noted not too long ago, the PMO has nothing to worry about this blog as it has more than enough journalists and communications experts in its employ to tear our blog to shreds if they want or dare to.
The PMO’s most powerful media group is the Communications Advisory Group (CAG) comprising PM’s former media adviser (Datuk Seri) Jalaluddin Bahaudin, Utusan Melayu Berhad Chairman (Tan Sri) Mohamed Hashim Makaruddin, PM’s Press Secretary (Datuk) Tengku Sharifuddin Tengku Ahmad, Bernama Chairman (Datuk) Abdul Rahman Sulaiman, PMO’s Datuk Hardev Kaur and Datuk Rohana Mahmud, Isis’ Steve Wong and Ideas’ Wan Firdaus Wan Mohd Fuad.
What then are the things that we should be shouting about? There are many and among them are:-
1. Stop playing Santa Clause. Cash is not king and cash handouts could bankrupt the Treasury. Find a more sustainable way of helping the poor and bridging the widening income gap between the rich and the poor, among and within races.
2. Either it is a coincidence or the product of his policies, programmes and proclamations, the nominal income gap between the Malays and the Chinese has widened since 2009 (the year Mohd Najib became PM), erasing gains made in past decades.
3. The rural households - the bedrock of the BN in the 2013 general elections – are worse off now than in 1957 when compared to the urban households. Umno has to remember that almost all the 88 parliamentary seats it won last year are in the rural areas and all of BN’s Sarawak and Sabah seats are rural.
4. Only about 10% of Bumiputeras were employed in management and professional positions in 2012, a slight decline from 2009. Some 62% were employed in semi-skilled jobs, which included bus drivers, and the rest in unskilled jobs.
5. Youth unemployment is high. In the age bracket of 15 to 19, almost 25.7% of Indians, 15.6% of Malays, 18.9% of non-Malay Bumiputeras and 9.9% of Chinese were unemployed in 2012. In the 20-24 age group, 14.1% of the jobless were Indians, 9.9% Malays, 13% non-Malay Bumiputeras and 7.1% Chinese. This explains the disproportionate involvement of Indians in criminal activities.
Finally, on the claim by the Pakatan Rakyat that because of its expose and criticisms that the BN Government “has improved.” Some participants said since the PR is doing a superb job as opposition, the people may want them remain in that role rather than electing them as BN’s replacement.
My apology to participants if their views are not captured here. Feel free to add. Thank you.
- A KADIR JASIN
- I was born in 1947 in Kedah. I came from a rice farming family. I have been a journalist since 1969. I am the Editor-in-Chief of magazine publishing company, Berita Publishing Sdn Bhd. I was Group Editor NST Sdn Bhd and Group Editor-in-Chief of NSTP Bhd between 1988 and 2000. I write fortnightly column “Other Thots” in the Malaysian Business magazine, Kunta Kinte Original in Berita Harian and A Kadir Jasin Bercerita in Dewan Masyarakat. Books: Biar Putih Tulang (1998), Other Thots – Opinions & Observations 1992-2001 (2001), The Wings of an Eagle (2003), Mencari Dugalia Huso (2006), Damned That Thots (2006), Blogger (2006), PRU 2008-Rakyat Sahut Cabaran (2008), Komedi & Tragedi-Latest in Contemporary Malaysian Politics (2009) and Membangun Bangsa dengan Pena (2009).