Friday, November 03, 2006

"How to Set Pak Lah Free?"

As highlighted in my post in Education in Malaysia, I was invited as a panelist in a Young Malaysians' Forum on the 9th October, to discuss how we can "set Pak Lah free". Here's the text of my 10 minute speech on what I thought. You can also listen to a podcast version of it here in

"Unlike many of Pak Lah's critics, I am one who has til today believe that he is a good man with a kind, sincere and noble heart. However I must say that I have almost lost total faith in him as a leader and administrator. It appears that his rise to the very top is an accident of sorts for he has shown a total absence of political cunning to ensure that his noble objectives for Malaysia gets achieved.

I lost faith when he took 4-6 months to decide on an unshuffled cabinet revamp. I would have expected that Pak Lah was taking his time to find the political means to weed out the deadwood. but he obviously took his time and kept the nation guessing to change nothing. Or alternatively, he tried and failed to change, giving in to reactionary forces.

This brings us back to the underlying theme of tonight's forum. As a novice political scientist, having studied politics as part of my university degree, change in a country is often met by both resistance and demands by opposing forces.

Let me give an example. For those familiar with the old Soviet politics at the end of the Cold War when Gorbachev came into power. He tried to change the corrupt and decaying Soviet Union under a totalitarian regime with his policies of perestroika (economic reform) and glasnost (openness). However, he had a difficult time facing two equally powerful forces.

First, he met with resistance from the reactionaries who wanted to keep the status quo. At the same time, he was criticised and opposed by impatient progressive forces who thought the pace of change was too slow. Political instability finally resulted in the creation of many new new independent and autonomous nations, and the break up of Soviet Union.

While i don't think you'd find Malaysia breaking up, the political circumstance is similar. Pak Lah was elected overwhelmingly as an agent of change for a better Malaysia. However, many powerful incumbents resistant to change and possibly even at risk to prosecution fought hard to ensure that Pak Lah is kept in chains. Being the consensual 'Mr Nice Guy' obviously enables the reactionary forces to secure the necessary compromises to maintain their grip on power and severely retard the reform processes.

While the bulk of my life since primary school i would never contemplate on joining the government or governing political parties, there was a short moment of a couple of months where i thought that Pak Lah's government might be woth joining, like Kay Peng here. That moment has since passed, not because i think Pak lah is a bad man, but that the reactionary forces appears way too strong for him to handle.

So how do we set Pak Lah free?

The only way in which we can ensure that progressive forces win the battle of Pak Lah's will is to ensure that young Malaysians like you and me be active, in our own ways, in speaking up about what we want. And in the elections within the next 18 months, we need to let our voices be specifically heard to ensure we vote in Members of parliament who will protect our desire for a better Malaysia.

If Pak Lah has his hands & legs shackled such that he is unable to stand up to the reactionary forces in our government, then we must do it for him. And if Pak Lah wins the next elections as well as retains the UMNO presidency for another term, which i think he will although not easily, we may have helped him by eliminating some of the deadwood in parliament. At the very least, there will be some major black eyes, whereby Pak Lah can see clearly for himself who is wanted, and who isn't.

In the last elections, i believe that the public has given Pak Lah too big a margin of victory. Instead of giving him the unlimited political capital to restructure and reform the cabinet, it paralysed him into indecision and compromise with the reactionary forces who themselves won comfortably.

Hence the only way to save Pak Lah's reforms and set him free is for us to speak up, be social and politically aware, highlight injustice in our blogs and the media. Only then will Pak Lah know that there are young Malaysian progressive forces are in support of his vision. If he doesn't realise that by the next elections, then make sure that he does after that."

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