The morning after the night before


Long ago and also far away, when some of us were younger, we sometimes wake the morning after the night before with total shock.

There would be detritus of dishes in the sink and other tell-tale signs that something big happened, all over the place. The house would be a mess, and no one has a clue to get the house restored to the night before the party.

Yesterday, I had the exact same feeling. Something big happened and there is a mess everywhere and I am sure there are many Malaysians like me who are not exactly sure who is what and where because of the massive amount of things that has happened since last Wednesday.

We have a man who just last week wielded enormous power, but is now humbled by the realisation that not everyone liked him. In a space of a few hours, he is no longer prime minister nor leader of Barisan Nasional with millions of followers on Twitter. Instead, he is now restricted to remain in the country and is staring at a full investigation over past deeds.

Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak seems dazed and confused. We wish him luck and fortitude to weather the next phase of his life.

On the other, we have Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, a 92-year-old man who had been treated with the highest and also lowest of respect, and yet still have the alert presence and clear-mindedness to steer us through this historic and difficult transition period.

Under him, and after a few hairy moments since he won the majority, we finally have a new government who got elected by a promise not to be like the previous government.

Probably, one of the simplest ways for Dr Mahathir to not emulate his predecessor is being candid, open and effective in handling the economy.

Dr Mahathir’s first agenda is to clean house. First, you need to find out all that is wrong with it before you can make it better. There will be a lot of unpacking to do — 1Malaysia Development Bhd, Chinese contracts, government agencies in businesses, just to start a very long list.

And in this uncharted territory that Malaysia has never faced before, it is good to know that Dr Mahathir knows all the pitfalls to avoid through his 22-year previous job experience.

Dr Mahathir has named the new finance minister as Lim Guan Eng, who was chief minister of Penang

This appointment has already drawn the expected questions from that free-for-all comments section of Twitter and Facebook where many Malaysians live.

The fact that Lim, a Chinese, will hold a powerful ministry in the new government should not raise eyebrows anymore because this is what Malaysians want.

The voice of the overwhelming majority of us who sacrificed to come home and cast their ballots from near and far.

Dr Mahathir has made a strong statement in the appointment of Lim, it is that he will select the most capable Malaysian, man or woman, for the job at hand. Lim, who steered Penang’s economically and politically with success, has the credentials to follow in the footsteps of Tun Tan Siew Sin, Malaysia’s first finance minister since independence.

But Dr Mahathir is nothing if not pragmatic. Just in case, he has set up a Council of Elders comprising tried and tested people who know what they’re doing, as oversight.

Between this council and the newly-empowered rakyat watching over, there would be little space for any spectacular abuse in the Finance Ministry.

Malaysians spectacularly united on Wednesday last week to bring about change because we didn’t like what was happening before. There will always be bickering and jostling about in a new and diverse coalition, that is Pakatan Harapan, whose sole purpose is to bring down the old government.

Now that they have achieved that goal, the arguably more difficult task is to manage that victory. We wanted change and Dr Mahathir is saying that he needs to do it by using new ways.

Give him space to clean up the house.

  • ZB Othman is the editor-in-chief of The Malaysian Reserve.