Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Second Fiddle: Fearless Deputy

Hantu Laut

I couldn't agree more with Zaid.There are no two ways about it, there can only be one captain. Members of the cabinet are his crew and should behave like one.Those who tried to undermine him should have the sense of shame and should resign from the ministerial position.

Najib failed to put his foot down not only with his deputy but also his own cousin, the Home Minister, who had equally harmed the administration with his ridiculous political fatwas.Adding to the woes is Minister in the PM department Nazri Aziz who more often than not is more upsetting with his air of arrogance and incredulity.

I have in my previous postings indicated the need for reshuffling the cabinet, but unfortunately, Najib did not do the needful and now the problem has become too entranced.

The trouble with UMNO is the archaic political system where the deputy president of the party by convention would automatically become the deputy prime minister and successor to the prime minister.It begets sycophancy, cronyism and intensive lobbying with the DPM for those waiting for the next gravy train.Anwar Ibrahim was an example of a deputy in a hurry who stumbled and fell flat on his face because No.1 was smarter than he had expected.

I find it very upsetting that he would have made a good prime minister but succumbed to pressures from his subordinates that crippled him from pushing forward his policies.

Running a nation is no different from running a company, there can only be one ultimate boss, the head honcho.

How many of you know who is the deputy president of the US, the DPM of Britain and for that matter the DPM of our next door neighbour, Singapore? They know they can only play second fiddle and stay out of the limelight as deputy.

In the case of Pak Lah it was not Najib who pushed him out, much of the work was done by Tun Mahathir Mohammed and with some help from Muhyiddin.

The Fearless Deputy
Zaid Ibrahim
Aug 18, 2011

Someone asked me if there is a power struggle going on in UMNO right now. I said no, only in the Cabinet. This poser was perhaps brought about by the way Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has skilfully contradicted Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib Razak on several important issues. When the PM promoted the idea of 1Malaysia, the DPM countered with his now notorious statement: “I am Malay first”. It seems the PM didn’t know what to say in reply. Many people know that the PM would have liked Science and Mathematicsto continue to be taught in English (as it should be), but his Deputy, who is also Education Minister, decided otherwise.

Najib recently made another sensible decision to accommodate – or at least to recognise – some of the concerns raised by Bersih. He has decided that a Parliamentary Select Committee should look into the many complaints in the way elections are being conducted in our country. Not surprisingly, his Deputy quickly reminded him that very little was wrong with the process. It just needed a little “tweaking”, Muhyiddin said.

Now this is not the first time that a Minister in the Cabinet has openly challenged a PM in Malaysia. It happened even in the most recent administration before this one: when Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was PM (this was soon after the 2008 General Election), Muhyiddin called on him to step down. He used the phrase “peralihan kepimpinan” — change of leadership. And he did so not once but many times. It was a sorry sight to hear Pak Lah telling Muhyiddin “sabar lah”. Be patient.

Muhyiddin was probably emboldened by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed, who joined the fray and openly discredited and ridiculed the man he himself had endorsed to lead the country. I believe had Pak Lah reshuffled his cabinet post 2008 to show that the Cabinet was his, he would still be PM today. Sure enough, they took him out soon after.

In the Westminster system of Government, the PM is always the real power. The Cabinet are his advisors. This is why it’s normal for Prime Ministers in other Westminster-based countries to reshuffle their Cabinets whenever they feel that effective government will be compromised without such a change. The Prime Minister is responsible, as head of the ruling party, to make sure that the right policies are implemented. In an ideal situation, the Ministers serve to advise the PM on how these policies should be executed, and they bear responsibility for this.

When there is a charismatic or strong PM, Cabinets can sometimes become overshadowed and individual Ministers might resemble mere “extensions” of the PM’s will. We have seen it here for many years, and Dr Mahathir practised it to perfection. He would not even allow Tun Musa Hitam (the first of his many deputies) to share in the name of the administration: does anyone remember the “2M” Government?

In many ways Dr Mahathir was right. There can be only one captain of the ship. It is not for the PM to agree with his Ministers, but for the Ministers to carry out the vision of the PM in the form of policy. This is why any Minister who disagrees strongly enough with the PM over a particular decision or policy should resign, as I did. This is the convention practised in all Commonwealth countries.Read more.

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