pic credit: Muhyiddin Yassin FB
IN A period when scrutiny and scrutineers rule the roost, as expected, Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s (picture; left) missteps in the first 24 hours in office did not go unnoticed and were, in fact, deliberated and dissected.
All these blunders were committed in pursuit of one single objective — to visit Yan in Kedah as the district had suffered from a massive water surge resulting in flash floods and landslides.
For some, the attention given to his faux pas was splitting hairs but for others, if he can’t get such things right, there’s not much hope of him getting other things right either.
But taken in context, these missteps represented Umno’s past that had led to its rejection.
From leaders boarding the PM’s official jet, the 51-vehicle convoy, the SOP (standard operating procedure)-defying stunts, to the erection of a congratulatory billboard at the site of the tragedy — they were crass displays of entitlement and war-lordship, apart from an insensitivity that stems from power getting to the head and of being detached.
That being the case, such close scrutiny on the new PM is as much an inevitability given that the nation is still reeling from his predecessor’s scheme of things during his 17-month rule. And it still leaves that bitter aftertaste.
Lest people forget, despite condescendingly labelled as a backdoor PM and government, Tan Sri Mahiaddian Md Yasin (right) enjoyed a period of relative calm in particular in the early stages.
It was almost as if the nation was giving him some slack while his minders worked overtime in building his image as a pious and fatherly figure to the extent of adopting the “abah” moniker, the English equivalent of “dad”.
The public was even ready to “allow” Mahiaddin to lead without having to face the media, but such concessions too only lasted for a while.
Whether Mahiaddin consented to the image his minders had worked on is anybody’s guess, but it eventually fell flat and instead, Mahiaddin’s image went south and if a trigger point was to be identified, it would probably be when the Sabah polls were held.
Piety and fatherliness seem best kept personal and if such attributes are prevalent, it would eventually emerge, seen and felt.
Mahiaddin never recovered, but the invaluable lesson that Ismail Sabri could probably derive is that image building could only go so far in present times — what the nation wants is simply a hardworking, committed, wise, intelligent and humble leader who’s sensitive to the needs of the people and not of the elites.
Of course, Ismail Sabri cannot fully absolve and distance himself from the previous failed government because he was very much a part of it, but the nation, yet again, seems ready to cut him some slack especially when what he inherits is unenviable.
Not only are the Covid-19 new cases at an all-time high, the political equation of 114-seat majority has not changed since Mahiaddin’s time.
In other words, Ismail Sabri is as vulnerable as Mahiaddin to political threats and demands from partners in the coalition.
As such, some pundits lauded Ismail Sabri’s move to take the unprecedented steps of meeting with the Opposition’s Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders to find a convergent point in dealing with the nation’s crises.
And the response from the PH seems quite encouraging for Ismail Sabri, leading to opinions that it was a signal to Mahiaddin’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, which may still be sore that their president was unceremoniously ousted as the PM, and to the Umno court cluster that if they attempt to repeat the mischief that led to Mahiaddin’s ouster, they may find themselves wanting.
Such a potential arrangement between Ismail Sabri and PH also serves to remind all of them of several things.
For one, Ismail Sabri’s preparedness to work with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Lim Guan Eng under normal circumstances would have been a cause for vilification. The Palace’s decree that he should find ways of being inclusive provided a soft landing somewhat.
After all, Ismail Sabri and Umno bandied with Mahiaddin, PAS and the others in the Sheraton Move as a culmination of the “No Anwar and No DAP” campaign, which was heavily laced with the pseudo-Malay/Islam postulation.
It is time for Ismail Sabri to go slow on it and eventually rebuild the party, rid it of the court cluster, the warlords and rent seekers from its midst, and regain the Malay pride the party claims to champion.
As for PH, it is time to accept that Anwar is not going to be the one leading them to the epitome and it is an opportune time to allow for regeneration and promotion of fresh faces to lead and be named as their new PM candidate. And PH has an abundance of such young, promising talents.
For Bersatu, it is time to stop extolling Mahiaddin’s fictitious virtues and accept the fact that in the 17 months, except for securing Sabah for Bersatu though its hold on it is suspect, Mahiaddin had literally handed over Johor and Perak to Umno, Kedah to PAS and the coveted PM post to Umno.
Refusing to accept it is naivety bordering on imbecility. The faster the party moves on, there is still some possibility of it from being swallowed whole by Umno.
As for PAS, it probably has its head too deeply stuck in the sand. Luckily, its followers also have their head stuck somewhere to offer any dissent, despite witnessing the party leaders perfecting the art of leeching power with divinity. It is one big mass of mess.
All of Ismail Sabri’s, and the King’s, men have their work cut out.
Shamsul Akmar is the editor of The Malaysian Reserve.