Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Saintis berusia 100 tahun tetap gigih

ROM - Pemenang anugerah Hadiah Nobel, saintis Rita Levi Montalcini berkata, walaupun usianya 100 tahun tetapi mindanya kini lebih tajam berbanding ketika berumur 20 tahun.

Levi Montalcini yang turut berkhidmat sebagai senator seumur hidup di Itali meraikan ulang tahun kelahirannya yang ke-100 Rabu lalu, dan beliau berucap sempena majlis penghormatan terhadapnya oleh Institut Penyelidikan Otak Eropah, semalam.

Beliau berkongsi hadiah Nobel perubatan 1986 dengan rakyat Amerika Syarikat, Stanley Cohen kerana menemui mekanisme mengawal pertumbuhan sel dan organ.

"Dalam usia 100 tahun ini, saya memiliki minda yang hebat berbanding ketika saya berumur 20 tahun, terima kasih kepada pengalaman," katanya pada majlis tersebut.

Dilahirkan di Turin, Levi Montalcini mengenang semula bagaimana undang-undang anti-Yahudi pada 1930-an di bawah pemerintahan rejim Benito Mussolini Fascist memaksanya keluar daripada universiti dan membuat penyelidikan di makmal dalam bilik tidurnya di rumah.

"Saya tidak takut saat-saat sukar itu, semua yang terbaik datang daripada mereka.

"Saya patut berterima kasih kepada Mussolini kerana mengisytiharkan saya sebagai bangsa yang rendah. Ini mendorong saya kepada kerja yang menggembirakan, tetapi malangnya bukan di universiti tetapi di dalam bilik tidur," ujar saintis itu. - AP

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Losers On All Sides

Losers On All Sides

M. Bakri Musa

It reflects how low the public’s respect for our judiciary is that a unanimous reversal by the appellate court of a High Court’s decision should be greeted with such widespread scorn.

We must await the Appeal Court’s written judgment so we could weight its wisdom, legal and otherwise, and compare it to that of High Court Judge Aziz Rahim who made the initial ruling in Nizar vs. Zamry. Justice Aziz gave his within a week. Let us hope the Appeal Court judges, being more senior and higher in the judicial pecking order, would do better and come out with theirs faster. After all they have to set the proper example.

At least the Appeal Court had the common sense to have a quorum of three to hear the appeal. It would have been better on a case of such import involving fundamental constitutional issues to be heard with the full quorum. At least those judges showed better judgment if not common sense than Appeal Court Judge Ramli who in his wisdom decided to hear by himself the appeal on the associated stay of execution.

Regardless, this case is headed to its final level of appeal. Let us hope that the Federal Court would hear this case with its full quorum and not just the minimal. While that is not a legal requirement, it is from the perspective of public credulity. At a time when the image of our judiciary is anything but pristine, this would be an opportunity to restore some credibility.

Thus far these are what we have. In favoring the plaintiff, Justice Aziz Rahim effectively declared that the Sultan of Perak Raja Azlan Shah erred in appointing Barisan’s Zamry as the state’s Chief Minister to replace Pakatan’s Nizar. Justice Aziz cited principally the precedent of the 1966 case of Stephen Ningkan vs Abang Openg.

What is unique here is that Raja Azlan Shah is no ordinary sultan, having served as the nation’s highest judge from 1982 to 1985. In this decision, Justice Aziz is in fact telling the former chief justice that the country’s statutes and legal precedents do not support the sultan’s action. More simply and directly stated, the sultan was wrong

This precedent was set during Raja Azlan Shah’s tenure as a judge, long before he ascended to the Perak’s throne. Meaning, he should be fully aware of the precedent and its attendant legal reasoning when he deliberated on Najib Razak’s (as head of Perak’s Barisan) request to have Zamry replace Nizar.

The only possible explanation for Raja Azlan’s ignoring that precedent must be that he felt that it did not apply to him as a Malay sultan. After all how could a sultan be compared to a mere mortal, the governor of a state? In Malay culture, a sultan is God’s representative on earth; his mandate comes directly from heaven. It is not for mere mortals to trifle with it. Sultans have daulat, a special status denied those common-blooded governors! Unfortunately for our sultans, that is not what is provided for in our constitution.

This delusion of having a special mandate from high above is of course an affliction affecting not only our sultans but also all hereditary leaders everywhere, save the most enlightened.

In reversing the decision, the Appeal Court effectively sided with the sultan. The sultan alone could decide whether the Mentri Besar still commanded the confidence of the Assembly. Presumably the sultan had special divine powers to read the minds of the legislators and how they would vote before there was any voting!

In his decision, Justice Aziz Rahim made some uncomplimentary remarks about the role of the State Legal Advisor (SLA). Indeed the role of the permanent establishment as represented by the police and State Secretary, in addition to the SLA, merit an even greater scrutiny as they reflected the degradation of our pubic institutions. I await the Appeal Court’s written judgment to see whether those wise judges will also comment on this equally pertinent issue raised by Justice Aziz.

Had leaders of the permanent establishment been more professional and less partisan in discharging their duties and obligations, they could have acted as buffers and be the restraining force that would have prevented this crisis from escalating. Instead they became part of the problem, and a major one at that, instead of the solution.

As to the SLA’s claim of neutrality, Justice Aziz “will take it with a pinch of salt.” The SLA admitted to being “instructed” from the respondent’s solicitors in wording his affidavit, a term that took Justice Aziz by surprise. One would have thought that being a legal advisor and thus professionally trained, the SLA would act on his own judgment. Alas those are the qualities of our top officials.

Political, Not Legal Problem

All disputes could ultimately be decided by the courts. However whether some should, is another matter. A perfectly rational and easily comprehensible reason could be advanced on whether certain disputes are best resolved outside the court system. This ongoing dispute in Perak is one such case. It is essentially a political dispute, and as such it would have been best resolved in the political arena. No less a veteran politician than Tengku Razaleigh has said this, and I agree with him.

At the other end of the spectrum, Law Professor Shad Saleem Fariqi said it well and correctly. “… [T]his political crisis in Perak is like a “hydra-headed monster that cannot be eliminated so easily by ding-dong judicial decisions.”

Since the case has landed in court, it still could have played a crucial role in resolving it, had the various participants and institutions been more professional and less partisan. Imagine had the court expedited the case and Justice Aziz rendered his decision prior to May 7th, before that disastrous legislative session where the Raja Muda delivered his speech. The nation would then have been spared the ugly spectacle. Now that singular repulsive episode will forever be engraved as part of the Malaysian democratic tradition.

Had the principal players demonstrated a modicum of restraint and (dare I say it?) wisdom, and delayed the session till after the court’ decision, that too would have spared our nation that shameful blemish.

Najib’s appealing the case only added to the volatility and uncertainty; it is a major distraction and at a time when the nation can least afford it. Even if Barisan were to ultimately prevail, the price – political and otherwise – will be severe. More significantly, it will set yet another precedent on the enhanced powers for our sultans. After the humiliation then-Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi suffered at the hands of the Sultan of Trengganu not too long ago, a reversal of Justice Aziz’s decision will legitimize and cement the sultans’ enhanced powers.

On the other hand, if Barisan were to lose, this judgment would further strengthen the earlier precedent. At the most elemental level, it would establish once and for all that the powers of the sultan within a state are no different than that enjoyed by a governor.

While I would welcome such a development, those who cling to the idea of Ketuanan Melayu or that Malay sultans have a “special” if undefined role in the nation, must pause and ponder the vast implications of such a development. I doubt very much that Najib Razak in his hasty pursuit of immediate short-term gains has reflected on this critical point.

This case has thus far only created losers on all sides. It already exposed the sorry ineffectiveness of our institutions, in particular the permanent establishment. It has revealed the inadequacies of the monarchy in ensuring a smooth transfer of power. It rekindled the sorry memory of the constitutional mess we went through in the 1980s. Most of all the pitiful losers are the people of Perak. Their leaders, from the elected ones in the Assembly, to the hereditary ones in the palace, and the professionals in the permanent establishment, have all failed the people of Perak.

To be reminded that these leaders are paid for by the citizens’ hard-earned cash would merely add the proverbial salt to the still-raw wound, one that has yet to stop bleeding much less begin to heal.

This case awaits its final adjudication at the highest level. When it started the first judge, Judicial Commissioner Mohammad Ariff Yusof, recused himself as he was formerly associated with PAS, Nizar’s party. Now on its final stage, the sitting Chief Justice is Zaki Azmi, up until a few years ago a legal advisor to UMNO, a party in this dispute. Will Justice Zaki heed the example of Judicial Commissioner Ariff? It is on such simple and elemental matters that the credibility of our judicial system hangs.

Anderson School

Anderson School Ipoh Perak.

Gambar kelas aku 5 Science 3 pada tahun 1979. Aku dapat gambar ini dari sahabat lama (Radzi Yaacob) ku yang telah terpisah selama 30 tahundahulu iaitu selepas tamat sekolah 1979 kami telah berpisah.


oleh :Mohamed Hanipa Maidin

Jam menunjukkan pukul 2.30 pagi awal Januari 2010, Najib Tun Razak yang baru pulang ke rumah rasminya di Putrajaya tiba-tiba dikejutkan dengan satu surat dari Duli Yang Mulia Yang DiPertuan Agung ( YDPA ) bahawa beliau dan Rosmah hendaklah mengosongkan rumah rasminya kerana YDPA telah melantik orang lain sebagai Perdana Menteri menggantikan beliau.

Alasan YDPA di dalam surat tersebut adalah ahli-ahli Dewan Rakyat khususnya dari Pakatan Rakyat ( PR ) dan beberapa ahli BN yang mula menyokong PR telah berjumpa YDPA di Istana dan menyatakan bahawa mereka tidak lagi yakin dengan Najib dan mahu orang lain sama ada Tuan Guru Dato’ Seri Haji Abdul Hadi Awang atau Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim sebagai Perdana Menteri. Surat YDPA juga menyatakan bahawa jika Najib tidak meletak jawatan beliau hendaklah dipecat dari jawatannya sebagai Perdana Menteri.

Najib merengus marah manakala Rosmah berteriak macam orang yang kena histeria . Najib yang masih marah dan berang berkata : “ Macam mana Tuanku dengan sewenang-wenangnya memecat patik sedangkan Parlimen tidak mengadakan apa-apa sidang atau membawa apa-apa usul atau undi tidak percaya kepada patik. Patik tidak nampak mana –mana peruntukkan di bawah Perkara 43 Perlembagaan Persekutuan yang member kuasa kepada Tuanku untuk memecat patik sebagai Perdana Menteri. Macam mana patik boleh dengan mudah dipecat dan sebagai ganti dilantik orang lain sebagai Perdana Menteri sedangkan tidak ada sebarang undi tidak percaya diluluskan di Parlimen ke atas patik”.

Keluhan Najib didengar dengan tenang oleh YDPA . YDPA dengan senyum berkata kepada Najib : “ Adakah tuan hamba sudah lupa bahawa pada 22 hb Mei 2009 iaitu pada hari Jumaat jam 3.30 petang di tingkat bawah Palace of Justice, Putrajaya tiga orang Hakim Mahkamah Rayuan iaitu Yang Arif ( Y.A ) Dato Raus Sharif, Y.A Dato Ahmad Maarof dan Y.A Dato’ Zainon Ali telah sebulat suara memutuskan antara lain bahawa

a. Seorang Menteri Besar ( di peringkat Negeri ) atau Perdana Menteri ( PM ) di peringkat Pusat secara tersirat boleh dipecat atau diminta letak jawatan jika Sultan atau YDPA memutuskan bahawa MB atau PM tidak lagi mendapat sokongan majoriti ADUN atau Ahli-Ahli Parlimen.

b. Perkara 16 ( 6 ) Perlembagaan Perak atau Perkara 43 ( 4 ) Perlembagaan Persekutuan tidak menyebut bahawa kaedah bagi menentukan bahawa seorang MB atau PM hilang keyakinan majoriti ADUN atau ahli-ahli Parlimen adalah melalui undi tidak percaya ( votes of no confidence ).

c. Kes Stephen Kalong Ningkan ( 1966 ) iaitu kes yang diputuskan oleh Mahkamah Tinggi di Sarawak yang memutuskan bahawa Governor atau Sultan tidak ada kuasa memecat Ketua Menteri atau MB dan satu-satunya cara menentukan seorang MB atau PM hilang keyakinan ahli-ahli Dewan adalah melalui undi tidak percaya tidak boleh lagi dipakai.

YDPA seterusnya menambah : “ Bukankah keputusan Mahkamah Rayuan tersebut yang tuan hamba inginkan bagi meraih keuntungan politik jangka pendek tuan hamba dan parti tuan hamba. Bukankah tuan hamba yang berkeras tidak mahu mendengar keluhan rakyat dan pemimpin partai komponen tuan hamba sendiri supaya krisis di Perak diselesaikan secara aman dan melalui amalan demokratik iaitu dengan kembali kepada rakyat melalui Pilihanraya semula di Perak. Maaf tuan hamba, Beta terikat dengan keputusan tersebut dan tidak boleh buat apa-apa . Maka Beta dengan ini memerintahkan tuan hamba dan sekeluarga keluar dari rumah rasmi Perdana Menteri kerana tuan hamba bukan lagi Perdana Menteri Malaysia."

Najib tersentak dan lemah segala sendi manakala Rosmah pula terkaku dan jatuh pengsan. Tiba-tiba mereka sedar keputusan Mahkamah Rayuan hari ini kini telah makan diri. Jika keputusan yang paling wajar dan munasabah oleh Y.A Hakim Mahkamah Tinggi iaitu Y.A Dato’ Aziz Abdul Rahim yang memutuskan bahawa satu-satunya cara menentukan seorang MB atau PM hilang keyakinan ahli-ahli Dewan adalah melalui undi tidak percaya sekaligus mengekalkan doktrin Raja Berperlembagaan ( Constitutional Monarchy ) keputusan Mahkamah Rayuan pula ditafsirkan oleh ramai cendikiawan undang-undang telah melahirkan doktrin baru iaitu Raja Mutlak ( Absolute Monarchy ). Jika Raja Berperlembagaan melahirkan kesejahteraan sudah tentu doktrin Raja Mutlak akan melahirkan suasana yang tidak menyenangkan.

Sketsa di atas adalah , bagi saya, cara terbaik untuk memahamkan para pembaca tentang kesan keputusan Mahkamah Rayuan pada hari ini.

Sebagai seorang anggota pasukan peguam Nizar, saya menghormati keputusan Mahkamah Rayuan tersebut. Tapi saya tidak pasti keputusan tersebut akan diterima dengan baik oleh rakyat khususnya rakyat di Perak.

Dalam keadaan keyakinan rakyat kepada institusi kehakiman masih belum pulih sepenuhnya sudah tentu keputusan Mahkamah Rayuan tersebut tidak dapat lari dari cemuhan rakyat. Inilah masalahnya apabila sesebuah institusi dalam sebuah negara sudah hilang keabsahan ( legitimacy ). Di negara ini apabila BN memerintah terlalu lama dan keabsahan parti tersebut dipertikaikan turut sama terpalit adalah institusi keadilan seperti Mahkamah , Peguam Negara dan polis. Apabila rakyat hilang keyakinan kepada sistem keadilan , maka sebarang keputusan Mahkamah apatah lagi keputusan seperti keputusan Mahkamah Rayuan pada hari ini sudah tentu tidak akan mudah diterima sebagai satu keputusan yang adil dan telus.

Sejak dari awal rakyat sudah nampak macam ada sesuatu yang tidak kena kepada cara kes rayuan Zambry dikendalikan. Zambry kalah di Mahkamah Tinggi pada 11/5/2009. Mahkamah Tinggi menolak permohonan Zambry bagi menggantungkan perlaksanaan penghakiman.

Pada 12/5/2009 di sebelah pagi Zambry membuat permohonan bagi menggantungkan perlaksanaan penghakiman. Mahkamah Rayuan menetapkan tarikh pendengaran permohonan Zambry pada pagi hari yang sama . Tarikh pendengaran yang diberikan dengan tergesa-gesa sudah tentu memprejudiskan Nizar dan pasukan peguamnya bagi membuat persiapan yang teliti dan mendalam.

Pada tengah hari 12 hb Mei itu juga Y.A Hakim Dato Ramly membenarkan permohonan Zambry dan perintah diberikan tanpa sebarang syarat.

Nizar membuat permohonan bagi membatalkan perintah penggantungan yang diberikan kepada Zambry. Mulanya permohonan Nizar ditetapkan pada 18/5/2009 tetapi kemudiannya ditangguhkan pada 21/5/2009 iaitu pada hari yang sama rayuan Zambry didengar. Sudah tentu permohonan Nizar tidak lagi relevan untuk didengar atau seperti yang sering dikatakan ianya menjadi akademik.

21 hb Mei rayuan Zambry didengar dengan hujah lisan dan bertulis dikemukakan oleh pihak –pihak secara mendalam . Mahkamah hanya ambil masa satu hari sahaja untuk putuskan. Memang hebat Mahkamah boleh buat keputusan dalam masa satu hari .Tetapi cuba kita bayangkan jika kita menghantar baju untuk dijahit dan tukang jahit siapkan baju kita dalam satu hari- saudara boleh bayangkanlah tahap kualiti baju tersebut .

Suatu yang amat mengharukan kami ( pasukan peguam Nizar ) adalah meskipun Nizar kalah namun sambutan rakyat kepada kami di Mahkamah Rayuan hari ini seolah-olah menunjukkan Nizar yang menang dan bukannnya Zambry.

Untuk rakan pasukan peguam Nizar iaitu Tuan Haji Sulaiman Abdullah, Philip Khoo, Ranjit Singh, Razlan Hadri, Nga Hock Cheh, Chan Kok Keong, Mr .Leong, Edmond Bon, Amir Arshad dan Zulkarnain Lokman ingatlah keputusan hari ini tidak akan mematahkan semangat kita sebaliknya ia memberi semangat baru kepada kita untuk terus berjuang menentang kezaliman dan menegakkan keadilan . Kita jumpa lagi di Mahkamah Persekutuan insya’Allah.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Lesson From Perak

The Lesson From Perak

M. Bakri Musa


The current political paralysis in Perak reflects the major failures of our key institutions. It is a total breakdown at the palace, the legislature, and the permanent establishment. It also exposes the glaring inadequacies of the judicial system which has yet to adjudicate this critical and urgent matter of state.

It is not however, the failure of the people, as some pundits have implied by quoting the old adage that we deserve the government we get. It is the voters’ prerogative whether to grant the incumbent party a stunning victory, humble it with an unstable slim majority, or even throw it into the ranks of the opposition. Canada and Italy have a long history of minority governments, and they have managed well.

A mark of a mature democracy, or any system for that matter, is the transfer of power from one entity to another smoothly and predictably. Perak is a spectacular failure; it is also a preview for Malaysia.

Perak is one of three state governments that changed hands as a consequence of the 2008 general elections. In the other two, Kedah and Penang, the transition went much smoother. There were hiccups of course, like the destruction of state documents and the dissolution of legislators’ wives’ club in Selangor, for example. That reflected more infantile behaviors than institutional failure. Why Perak should be the exception merits careful consideration.

We used to assume that if only we could get qualified and experienced people, then no matter how battered or inadequate our institutions, those people would rise up to the challenge. In Perak, we have a sultan who by any measure is the most qualified and experienced, having served as the nation’s top judge for many years. Yet his decision in this critical matter, which demanded the most judicious of judgment, proved to be unwise and precipitous. And that is putting it mildly.

This is not hindsight. Even at the time when he made that pivotal decision (which was the singular event that triggered developments which culminated in the spectacle of May 7), the voice of the people was loud and clear. Only that the sultan refused to hear or chose to ignore it. No amount of subsequent royal pontifications will ever rectify or justify this error. Only a reversal of that earlier erroneous decision would.

It was too bad that Sultan Azlan Shah deputized his Raja Muda to the May 7th opening of the legislature. While that may have spared the sultan the spectacle and embarrassment of being physically entrapped by the bedlam, he missed a splendid opportunity to witness firsthand what his modern-day version of hulubalangs was up to! Instead it was his Raja Muda who was left to cool his heels for a good six hours! Well, let us hope that at least it was an edifying experience for him.

It was nonetheless pathetic to see the Raja Muda reduced to pleading for respect for his speech! Few, not even the normally pliant mainstream media, bothered to carry his speech in full. So much for the respect that he desperately sought!

Amazingly in his speech, the Raja Muda did not deem it important or necessary to comment on the ugly spectacle he had just witnessed and been a part of. He remained aloof and strangely uncurious. He must have been in temporary suspended animation, oblivious of his immediate surroundings, during his six-hour wait. He was from another planet, earlier programmed to deliver his royal speech and then leave! Nothing more; for that you would have to reprogram him again!

The principal political protagonists here were Barisan Nasional’s Zamry Kadir, a Temple University PhD, and Pakatan’s Nizar Jamaluddin, a professional engineer fluent in multiple languages. Then there was the Speaker of the House, Sivakumar, a lawyer by profession. Their impressive diplomas and credentials meant nothing; they only looked impressive when framed and hanged on their office walls.

Instead of being the stabilizing force and buffering factor, the permanent establishment, from the State Secretary to the State Legal Advisor and the Chief of Police, was hopelessly ensnared in the mess through their highly partisan performances. They rapidly degenerated to being part of the problem (and a very significant one at that) instead of the solution.

As for the judiciary, it failed to appreciate the urgency and gravity of the crisis. Thus the case did not merit an expedited hearing and left to meander through the usual slow judicial pathway. By contrast, the 2000 American elections that saw the Florida ballot counts being litigated, the case ended up at the Supreme Court for a definitive decision in a matter of days, not months.

Lessons Learned

Thanks to modern technology, those who were not there in Ipoh could still follow the unfolding events in real time, trumping the severe censorship machinery of the government. Not that it was ever effective, just like the rest of the government.

Unfortunately there is not much that we could learn from the sorry spectacle. Even to declare that it reflected the sorry state of our institutions would be inadequate. Besides, we already have too many affirmations of that sad reality.

The next reflex reaction would be to declare, “Everyone is to be blamed!” While that is an understandable response, it does not solve anything, for the corollary to that statement would be that no one is to be blamed. That would be a cop out; we are all not equally culpable.

Everyone in the chain of events could have stopped if not reversed the destructive sequence right up to the day before the infamous debacle at the legislature. Failing that, the buck must and should stop somewhere. In our system, the buck stops at the highest level, the palace.

Consider the chain of events again. First there were those renegade legislators switching party affiliations. No law against that; it was their choice. Perhaps that would galvanize the leaders of the party they had deserted to do a better job of screening and scrutinizing their future candidates. Maybe primary elections among party members (as in America) instead of a decision from headquarters would produce better and more reliable candidates. That certainly would be a useful lesson.

However, this being Malaysia, things get more interesting. It turned out that those turncoats were earlier being investigated for corruption. Miraculously after their switchover, the charges were not pursued! So far no journalist has any thought of following that lead.

Even if those characters were pure, their switching over should never have triggered such a mess. Surely they could wait till the next sitting of the legislature to introduce whatever vote of no confidence they may have in mind of the leadership, and thus bring down the sitting government in the traditional and only legitimate way.

Even if leaders of the Barisan coalition were to petition the sultan to dismiss the sitting Chief Minister (which they did), the sultan ought to first also hear out the incumbent before making a decision. Common sense dictates that. One does not have to be a judge or have read the weighty tomes of legal luminaries to appreciate that elementary dictum. Hear both sides before rendering a decision! Even a new father knows that.

Sultan Azlan Shah cannot pretend to be able to read or predict the thinking of his legislators after only a few moments of “chat” under the most severe royal protocol at the palace. That would be the height of royal arrogance. In any other circumstance, decisions made under such surroundings could be considered as coerced. Besides, it is their collective judgment expressed openly in a properly convened legislative forum that matters. Not only could you not predict individual behaviors, you could never foretell the group dynamics and the final collective decision.

If our political leaders make a mistake, they are held accountable. Just ask Abdullah Badawi. The buck with the present imbroglio stops at the palace, with Sultan Azlan Shah. Unfortunately in our system at present, there is no effective system of checks and balances with respect to our monarchs, both at the state as well as federal levels. They are also immune to prosecution in the conduct of their official duties. There is no mechanism to fire or censure them. The Special Tribunal is only for prosecuting their personal misconduct. Well, at least that is a beginning, a measure of some accountability.

Regardless whether we have an effective system of checks and balances with respect to the sultans, our society has irreversibly changed. The old feudal order is now gone, for good, and never to return. Get used to it! In today’s world, the people is sovereign. Just ask the descendents of the late Shah Pahlavi and King Farouk, or closer to home, the Sultan of Sulu.

I tried to convey this in my poem, Makna Merdeka 50 (Meaning of Merdeka 50), I wrote to commemorate our 50th year of independence. I quote a couple of stanzas:

Rakyat negri bukan nya kuli

Untok di kerah ka sana sini

Zaman purba tak akan kembali

Mungkin menteri di buang negri!

Renungkan nasib si Idi Amin

Yang Shah Pahlavi pun tak terjamin

Pemimpin negri mesti meninggati

Rakyat – bukan Raja – yang di daulati!

(Blessed with freedom and reason are God’s children/To lords and kings we are not beholden/The feudal order has long been toppled/Let’s be clear, the sovereign is the people!

Ponder the fate of one Idi Amin/That of Shah Pahlavi was equally grim!/Those realities our leaders must heed/“Power to the people!” is the new creed.)

That in essence is the pertinent lesson from Perak.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Monday, May 4, 2009

Merindui buku ~ A. Samad Said

Inilah denai jejak seni ke hati,
puncak fikir yang indah sekali,
tanpa himpunan ilmu di kalbu buku
kita tak sempat sampai ke mercu itu.

Di sini diri sentiasa di taman
menikmati unggas dan puspa menawan;
di sinilah vista buku saraf seni,
meranum akal mematang peribadi.

Kita wajar berpesta di kalbu buku
menghayati nikmatnya seindah syahdu
dalam tenang waktu khusyuk di pustaka
lebih cepat kita terasuh dewasa.

Buku adalah denyut nadi utama
penting bagi minda waras manusia;
dan buku juga gema fakir yang sakti,
nyaman dan mesranya sebuah simfoni.

Kita memupuk insan yang luhur budi
melalui tapisan hikmat berseni;
dan buku memang tasik aneka ilmu
yang perlu diselami sejujur kalbu.

Buku mengasuh diri sasa bersuara;
membaca menjadi jambatan bertuah
kita merindu buku dan ghairah baca
agar sentiasa canggih dan berhemah.

A Samad Said
7 Mac 2004
Dewan Sastera Ogos 2004 ms 50

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Walkabout Versus Makan Angin Management

Walkabout Versus Makan Angin Management

M. Bakri Musa


It is commendable that Prime Minister Najib Razak is periodically leaving his air-conditioned office to experience first hand what ordinary citizens have to put up with in their daily lives. Last week saw him riding the Light Rail Transit; the week before, a stroll down Petaling Street. All these so he could “understand the pulse of the people.”

Najib would like us to compare him to his late father with his legendary working visits to the various “Operations Rooms” throughout the country to monitor development projects. Whether Najib would prove to be like his father or closer to Abdullah Badawi, the country’s most inept leader, remains to be seen.

Recall that Abdullah too made frequent well-publicized visits to various governmental agencies. One of those was to the Immigration Department, notorious for its less-than-stellar public service, where he announced that all its problems were miraculously solved following the impromptu visit. The tragic part was that Abdullah believed it; Malaysians of course were much wiser.

At least thus far Najib had the sense not to wear a three-piece dark suit like Abdullah did on his walkabouts. Instead Najib opted for the more casual batik look. While Abdullah appeared formal and imperious, like a sultan showing the flag, Najib was more like someone out for an evening stroll, more jalan jalan (leisurely stroll) and makan angin (lit. eat wind) than a working visit. Both Najib and Abdullah looked like they were not ready for serious work.

Emulate His Father

I suggest that Najib (or his aides) look at the archives of Filem Negara to see how his father did it. The image we have of the Tun was of a leader who was serious, brooked no nonsense, and most of all ready to do some heavy lifting. It was not just an image. As many who had worked with the late Tun would readily attest, that was also very much the reality.

The Tun did it long before Tom Peters and Robert Waterman popularized the term “managing by wandering about” in their bestseller In Search of Excellence. Never mind that twenty years later Peters would confess that he faked the whole data on which their book was based, or that many of the “excellent” companies he cited no longer existed! Later, the movie Crocodile Dundee brought to the American mainstream the Australian Aborigine’s expression “walkabout.”

A prominent feature of the late Tun’s walkabouts was that they were working visits, not “photo ops” designed for the day’s prime news cycle. The Tun’s trademark gear was the bush jacket, not dark suits or casual batik. Aware of the blasting heat of the tropical sun, the Tun often wore a hat or carried an umbrella. The Malaysian sun is still as hot today even though I do not see our leaders appropriately attired on their various “official” visits.

Tun Razak’s frequent visits to the field were focused. He would first hear the official briefings; and then visit the various projects. Woe to the official whose glowing reports did not match the reality! At the same time those visits were also opportunities for junior officers to show off their stuff. The late Tun effectively used those trips to scout for promising talents.

How does Razak Junior measure up? Too soon to tell, but I wish that he would dispense with his colorful batik shirts and three-piece dark suits, have a more purposeful stride, and do away with the media hype. He should also severely trim his entourage, to a security person, a secretary to jot notes, and the head of the visited department.

I would also like him to be more prepared. Surely he did not need to visit the LRT station to know that our commuter trains are overcrowded and frequently late. What he should have done instead was to query management as to what steps they were taking to rectify the problems, and how could he help solve them.

Short Reading List for Najib

Najib has one thing going for him as compared to his immediate predecessor; he is an avid reader. I suggest that he read how some great leaders did it. From our own tradition he could read the various celebrated accounts of the night time walkabouts of our second Caliph, Omar (May Allah be pleased with him!). Closer to home, Najib could emulate his father. Unfortunately as not much has been written by Tun’s contemporaries on his unique management style, Najib has to rely on Filem Negara’s archives.

There are two old books that I would recommend for Najib in developing his own walkabout management. One is Robert Townsend’s Up the Organization, first published in 1970. Townsend was the CEO of Avis Corporation, the car rental company whose advertising jingle, “We’re Number Two; We Try Harder!” changed the fortune of the company.

Townsend related how whenever he was out of town to visit the various franchises, he would phone his headquarters incognito to see how his staff would handle customers’ queries. This was of course long before the days of outsourcing where such complaints would be routed to service centers in India. Townsend would also go to the local counters to experience the services his customers were receiving, or not receiving! When he found that wanting, he did not harangue the poor receptionists but would bring the matter up with their local managers.

The other book is Jack Welch’s Jack: Straight From The Gut, co-written with John Byrne. Welch was the legendary CEO of the giant conglomerate GE Corporation. Under his leadership, GE’s revenues increased five-fold; and market value, 30 times!

On his frequent visits out of headquarters, Welch would ask the local managers to name three or four of their promising subordinates. He would then meet them privately to get a firsthand assessment. Following that he would ask their managers what they were doing to groom the promising talents they have under them.

Welch went further. Whenever young talents were “fast tracked,” he would make sure that their immediate superiors would also be appropriately recognized and rewarded for having played an important role. Were Najib to subscribe to that, he would help reduce the pernicious habit endemic in our civil service where promising young subordinates would be banished to the ulus lest they would pose a threat to their superiors.

Najib should also adopt one of Welch’s favorite practices. He would spend one whole morning addressing about 70 of GE’s “fast tracked” managers attending a three-week development course at the company’s “university” at Croton-on-Hudson, New York. Those were no cheerleading or pep rallies, rather he would challenge the future leaders of his company, inspire them, and most all get fresh ideas from them. It was his relished assignment, one he rarely missed.

Likewise Najib should regularly visit INTAN and challenge those young civil servants. Get them before they become corrupted by the corrosive civil service work culture.

I would also suggest Najib heed one of Welch’s more brutal practices, weeding out the bottom ten percent “underperformers” every year. Were Najib to do that, he would reduce the terrible bloat and greatly enhance the civil service’s efficiency.

I would not advise Najib emulate another celebrated CEO, Southwest Airline’s Herb Kelleher. In an attempt to get close to his employees and customers, Kelleher would often fly as an ordinary passenger and also take on temporary assignments as baggage handler and counter clerk. Najib does not have Kelleher’s charm or sense of humor to carry that out. Air Asia’s Tony Fernandez could, but not Najib.

Management by walkabout is a powerful and effective tool, but only when it is done right. As the management guru Edward Deming put it, “If you wait for people to come to you, you’ll only get small problems. You must go and find them. The big problems are where people don’t realize they have one in the first place.”

Were Najib to do anything less than what have been presented here, his frequent forays would quickly degenerate into makan angin or jalan jalan outings. All you get with makan angin is foul flatus. Worse, those visits would only disrupt the normal workings of the visited agencies. God knows, our leaders have already engaged enough in those already.