Kuala Lumpur, 12 March 2004
The new Prime Minister has hit the ground running and taken most people by surprise especially those who thought of him as an acolyte of Dr Mahathir or the UMNO ‘nice guy’ but weak and indecisive.
Datuk Seri Abdullah embarked almost from day one on a series of bold actions that gave us a preview of the Agenda he is likely to pursue. Taken singly many of these, like the attack on corruption, improvement of front line services, the backtracking of the railways project or the Special Commission into the Police were each of intrinsic news interest and attracted a lot of headlines. But we should not view them individually and in isolation. Collectively they may be taken as part of a planned strategy that identifies Abdullah’s political style and the thrust of the new Administration.
At the micro management level he will do his own thing. Here his distinguishing feature is his administrative skill. We are moving from magisterial to managerial rule. Abdullah has spent all his life in public service – was a senior civil servant before entering politics. His political skills in winning the severely competitive top job in UMNO is almost legendary. His forte is as a doer – an implementer – just the man to follow on from Dr M’s serial innovations, Abdullah is the strategic mission that follows the creative vision.
He is above all things thorough and consistent. He plans – he listens – he consults – and once his mind is made up he acts, and acts with firmness. He is ably assisted by a coterie of intellectual giants who are both young and idealistic. Abdullah’s ability to match rhetoric with solid programmes is therefore enhanced.
He had 15 months in the transition period to plan the new Administration. His policies to date are almost a model of the science of management.
Take his war on corruption. His actions are all interlinked.
- He appointed the new IGP and his Deputy – both men of probity.
- He then set up the Police Commission with the appointment of the respected former Chief Justice Dzaiddin as Chairman and also a former Senior Judge from the opposition party PAS as member.
- He embarked on the arrest of 2 high profile individuals – and ordered ACA to vigorously pursue other targets
To prevent ubiquitous accusations of nepotism and cronyism in the award of government contracts, he stopped the mega projects like the railways project in favour of fiscal prudence and henceforth all projects had to be reviewed.? He decreed that all projects be subject to open tender.
In all of the above the strategy was to pluck the low hanging fruits first – the ones most obvious and ripe for the taking, and bound to win public sympathy. The rest will follow.
The tentacles are reaching out to all the areas of law enforcement and a more equitable system.
He has also even at this early stage impressed on us his own approach to leadership. He is a truly Malaysian premier – speaks to all races and for all races the spirit of Bangsa Malaysia. He deliberately revealed the Chinese strain in his own family and his Japanese relatives from his wife.? Coming from Penang he accommodates easily to the multi-racial aspect of our society. “The multi-ethnic comfort is high”. Many of his closest advisers and appointees are Indian Muslims from Penang. One of his political Secretaries is Chinese. He meets people of all races on the ground. The Chinese and Indians have confidence in his leadership.
Another distinguishing feature is his religious stance. He is the most credible Muslim leader to date with a strong religious lineage (a family of learned Islamic scholars) himself qualifies as an Imam. He almost single-handedly refutes the PAS strategy to make this a theocratic Islamic country – believing instead in a healthy coexistence amongst the races and other religions in the spirit of Islamic justice and brotherhood – the Medina principle. He fits naturally in the role first identified in Dr M – of a moderate progressive enlightened Muslim leader. But he has the potential to take this beyond a demonstration effect. He now heads the OIC – leadership of the world. Muslim community at a time when a global impasse between Islam and non-Islam is getting closer. Datuk Seri Abdullah is ideally suited to the role of mediator and is well qualified to deepen the understanding of Islam in the West especially. He will be able to internationalise religion – enable Islam to go global.?