ON THE BEAT
By WONG CHUN WAI
He is putting the final touches to the speech he will make a day or two after he is sworn in as the country’s number one.
He will speak to the nation, possibly on April 6, to set the tone for the direction of his leadership, in what has been dubbed as the National Agenda.
The other document must be a preliminary list of his new Cabinet line-up, expected to be announced after the three by-elections on April 7.
Najib is well aware of the expectations ahead of him as he attempts to bring confidence back in the country.
Najib takes over the helm at a difficult time with the country grappling with economic difficulties, a weakened government, deepening political and racial divisions, and the integrity of institutions being challenged.
History seems to be repeating itself. His father, the late Tun Razak, became Prime Minister after the 1969 racial riots, the darkest blot in our nation’s history.
The going will be tough for Najib but whether we like it or not, tough times call for tough decisions.
There is this perception we have gone through a period of indecisiveness and the time has come for a strong leadership.
A strong leadership to put Malaysia on track, however, should not mean compromising our democratic space.
It must not mean stifling dissent or criticism, as expected by those who yearn for the nostalgic past, because the political landscape has changed. So has the electorate, who are now exposed to many alternative mediums of information.
At the same time, many Malaysians also have had enough of destructive criticisms and preoccupation with half-truths and slanders, passed off as the pursuit of justice and the truth when all this is merely about wresting power and positions.
The people are also fed up with the seeming lack of authority – from poor policing to fight crime and blatant corruption to demonstrations which disrupt the city – and yet many seem to escape the law.
But firm leadership must also mean being compassionate and hearing what the people are saying.
Politicians who intend to stay relevant need to feel the pulse of these dynamic changes, even if they are pressured by their supporters to pursue a certain tough line.
Fortunately, Najib is aware. He is also well advised, too. Those who wish to get an idea of what is in store should read his blog (www. 1malaysia.com.my).
Like many new leaders, he has embraced the new media, incorporating video messages and posting them on YouTube, the video-sharing portal. He’s also the only minister to use Twitter, the social networking service that allows users to send short messages to each other.
One Malaysia – the name of his blog – is expected to catch up soon as he would be adopting it as his rallying call for the nation to come together.
He wants to emphasise a nation of One People, where reforms would be carried out to put things right, particularly in government policies. For example, he is determined to revive the original spirit of the affirmative action plan – to eradicate poverty and to restructure society. By that, it does not mean making rich Umnoputeras richer.
It does not mean dishing out contracts because these party members have the “cables” while the poor, ordinary Malays are left out. These leaders may talk about fighting for the community when in actual fact, they are just championing their own pockets in the name of Malay interest.
The poor, of course, are not restricted to those in the traditional villages. With urban migration, many are holed up in tiny flats in the city and in squatter areas and their calls for help are often left unheard.
The so-called middle class, earning less than RM2,000 in the city, struggle to feed their family members. They need help and that is what the NEP is supposed to do – not help bumiputras get a discount to buy a RM2mil house or a golf club membership.
Najib is aware, as he has been told many times by well-intentioned friends, that he needs to put things right if Umno and Barisan Nasional are to survive in the next general election.
Failure is not an option. The denial mode of party members and the refusal to reform the party and government must be put to a stop by Najib.
We can assume that he must be finalising his Cabinet line-up now that the Umno elections are over.
Malaysians want change. They have spoken out loud and this is a chance for him to bring changes to his line-up.
Those who have over-stayed, are perceived to be corrupt, mediocre, dogged with controversies or have not performed must simply be told they have to be dropped.
He cannot afford any baggage. This is going to be a rough three-year ride where only the best leaders with credibility and dignity would be allowed to get on board.
Najib should also dispense with convention – a victory at the Umno polls need not mean a passport for a place in Cabinet.
For that matter, becoming a division leader does not mean automatic access to becoming a candidate in the constituency. It is such mentality that has pulled down Umno.
The country needs leadership that can inspire the people. If that means bringing in outside talent who are not politicians, do it by all means.
Let’s make Malaysia work again.