THE business community, reading the speech of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to the Umno Youth, Wanita and Puteri on Tuesday, can be forgiven if it is disappointed and surprised that the Deputy Prime Minister had hardly devoted any attention to the economy and business.
But before anyone comes to the conclusion that the Deputy Prime Minister is not interested in the economy, or business matters, let me say that Pak Lah, as he is fondly known, has done this on purpose.
One would also notice that his speech also contained very little on security and social issues. Again it was deliberate.
According to Pak Lah’s aides, the Deputy Prime Minister wanted Umno members to re-focus their attention on the basics – that is, politics. After all, if the political equation is not right, nothing else will be.
Abdullah is emphatic that unless Umno members get their political priorities right, the party and the country are headed for serious trouble.
Hence, a great part of his speech was devoted to warnings of the dangers of Umno losing sight of its original struggle; of members using the party for their own selfish ends, and the constant infighting among members for position and power.
Again, a superficial reading of Ab- dullah’s speech might give the impression that the Deputy Prime Minister was being negative and was indulging in some Umno bashing.
But his real intention is to issue a timely reminder to Umno members to come to their senses, and not to allow political power to lull them into a sense of complacency and arrogance and assume that Umno is the natural ruling party of Malaysia. It was a wake-up call.
Abdullah cited examples of how great political parties have come to grief – the Congress Party in India and the Kuomintang Party of China/Taiwan, both of which are now in the opposition – and Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party, which is riddled with factions, and powerless to revive the languishing Japanese economy, which used to be the world’s most dynamic.
The Deputy Prime Minister and deputy Umno president said Umno had serious problems to deal with to regain the people’s trust and respect, and party members must unite to face the challenges ahead. The first and most important challenge ahead is to win the coming general elections convincingly.
Abdullah chose “Managing Success” as the title of his speech.
It is most appropriate. After all, that will be his business when he takes over as Prime Minister in October.
Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad has made Malaysia a success story in an increasingly polarised and turbulent world.
So many things could go wrong for a multi-racial, multi-religious country like Malaysia, but thanks to the vision and pragmatism of the nation’s leaders, particularly Dr Mahathir, the country has powered ahead.
Dr Mahathir has given Malaysia a template for the future – Vision 2020.
In his famous Oxbridge Society speech (see my comment, “A robust heart and a soul that is true”, on March 7), Abdullah had this to say about Vision 2020: “Dr Mahathir’s vision has become my vision and the vision of all Malaysians. We need not dream another dream.”
Abdullah is conscious of the awesome responsibility of succeeding a dynamic leader, and making a success of it. One can come to a great inheritance, but it can be lost all too soon through poor judgment.
It took Russian leaders more than 300 years, starting with Peter the Great, to build a great empire. Mikhail Gorbachev took less than a decade to lose most of it through his policies of glasnost and perestroika.
Pak Lah ended his speech by reciting a simple but most meaningful poem he had composed. In it he said he would always seek inspiration from the great Islamic thinkers, Al Ghazali (1058-1111 AD) and Al Shafie (767-820 AD) and guidance from Allah. I am comforted by his thoughts on leadership and wish him well.