Oriental Daily interviewed me yesterday (13.04.09) regarding Najib’s leadership and the BN's future. The interview was conducted in Mandarin and the following is the English translation. There was no prepared question.
On the New Cabinet line up
On the new Cabinet line up, I am sure Najib has to consider many issues.
1) Component parties’ representation
2) Representation from the state
3) The winners and the losers in the various component parties
4) Political consideration which is his prerogative as the Prime Minister
Majority are supportive of the new Cabinet line up. However, many felt that there are too many appointed senators who made their way into the Cabinet. There are 28 Cabinet Ministers and 40 Deputy Ministers but 11 of them are senators. Generally, the public feels that if they are rejected in the general election, they lose their credibility to represent the rakyat in the Cabinet.
In view of the fact that the younger generation is not supportive of the BN, I thought Najib would have created a Youth Ministry to reach out to the younger generation. The Sports Ministry could be easily converted to a Sports Council. In the 308 election, there were 10.9 million voters. There were at least 3 million eligible young voters who did not register. Coming election, there will be another 1.5 million of new eligible young voters. This scenario is not favourable to BN.
The 3 By-Elections
During the 3 by-elections, I campaigned for the BN candidate in 2 constituencies. I went from house-to-house to campaign. I have stated in my blog about my feelings on 2 the by-elections.
1) PR is more organized although it is PAS dominated;
2) PR campaigning team is make up of younger generation below 40 while BN campaign workers are generally older except for Puteri.
3) National issues are important but the local issues are also at play. The dissatisfaction from voters about local issues, especially in Bukit Gantang were where the Chinese are frustrated that the government have not resolved their land issue and land title.
The feedback I had was “It’s not that we support PAS, it’s that we do not trust BN. BN has been in power for so long but local issues have not been solved. This is a problem of confidence and trust”.
Many people said that the by-election result is a referendum of the leadership of Najib but I beg to differ. The 3 by-elections were held on the 7th April but Najib was only appointed as Prime Minister on the 3rd April. It’s too short a time to evaluate his leadership. Most of the voters have not even heard of One Malaysia. Today’s voters are more critical and they want to see our leaders walk the talk. They want to see our leaders fulfill what they have said.
Can BN change?
I agree with the PM and DPM that the coming 2 years are critical to BN. Out of the 5 by-elections, BN only managed to win 1, failed to regain from PR 3 seats and failed to defend the Kuala Terengganu Parliamentary seat. To BN, especially UMNO, MIC and MCA, this is a crucial time to:
1) Reinvent, reorganize, unite and stabilize the party;
2) Review the performance of leaders and party;
3) Change the perception of the public towards BN government because the public feels that BN has lost touch with the rakyat and that BN government do not fulfill their promises. It is not true to say that BN government has not changed since 308 election. Setting up MACC, JAC, and strengthening the security are some of the changes initiated by the government. However, this may be small changes since the rakyat wants more.
Another challenge is the state of the nation’s economy. No one is sure how the economy will perform during this crisis. So, the economy is the key issue that the BN government should focus on. BN should implement policies that will reduce the burden of the rakyat. I still feel that the direct cash aid to families with income of less than RM2500 a month is important. It shows that the government cares at this crucial time.
A lot of the younger generation feels that BN is race-based. They want to see policies that cut across racial line. However, at the same breath, the same group of people will talk about Chinese education, Chinese temple, Chinese new villages and etc. If we look at BN’s ceramah, we always see UMNO ceramah will be Malay leaders speaking, MCA ceramah with MCA leaders and a sprinkling of invited UMNO leaders. On the other hand, we see PR’s ceramah represent a more united front with leaders from PAS, DAP and PKR speaking in different languages. Singing the old tune doesn’t work anymore. BN leaders are still singing the old tune of power sharing and vote for development and stability. We are under the delusion that development will bring votes. Voters want more.
Key Performance Indicators
The Key Performance Indicators (KPI) is often evaluated based on reports. Malaysia officers are best in writing reports but whether they are implemented or not is questionable. People are able to see whether a leader is performing or not. It is of no use if your KPI is good but the rakyat says differently. What is KPI based on? How is it measured? KPI is viewed differently by the government and the rakyat. Let me give you an example. In the hospital, there are adequate ambulance with excellence facilities but in the event of emergency and the ambulance arrive one hour later. To the rakyat, this is lousy service but in the KPI report, since there are adequate ambulance with facilities and man power, the report may in fact be good. In principle, the KPI is good, but how it is reported and evaluated could make a lot of difference. After all, a report is man-made. It is good to have a mechanism to monitor the performance but we should not think that the KPI is the ‘be all and the end all’ of evaluation. In politics, perception if often important and this is difficult to be measured by the KPI.
The One Malaysia
BN must implement the One Malaysia concept as raised by Najib. This is important. We must see MCA speak up like One Malaysia. In the same way, we expect UMNO leaders to speak like One Malaysia leaders. Leaders like Najib and Muhyiddin should go down to the grassroots and have dialogues with the locals to understand their problems and issues. Walkabout generates a lot of publicity but it is not going to win rakyat’s heart and support. Leaders must not only say the right thing, but also be seen to be doing the right thing as well. The government must make sure that the policies are rakyat based and fair. It must show that it not only knows and understand the rakyat’s problem but also care for their needs.
If Najib and Muhyiddin could complement each other, then it will be a good combination. Both Najib and Muhyiddin have extensive experience in the 3 tiers of the government - local, state and federal government since both leaders have served as Menteri Besar and Federal Ministers. Both of them know the state’s strength and weaknesses. Najib once asked me, “do you think it is better to have a federal leader that has served in the state before?” Both of them are open-minded, good brains, good listeners and punctual.
BN is now very weak and the coming 2-3 years are crucial for it to reform and change in order to regain confidence of the rakyat.