A bizarre loss of hope


EVEN by the standards of nations that have long been accepted as failed states, what transpired along Malaysia’s corridors of power within the last week was truly weird.

First, the appointment of Tan Sri Mahiaddin Md Yasin to head the National Recovery Council.

For someone who had lost the prime minister’s (PM) post largely because of his far below par handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and dismal management of the devastated economy, apart from being ungraciously ousted by kleptocrats whose support he had earlier sought to get into office, Mahiaddin should not have even been considered for the position even if he was the last man standing.

But it got weirder still. Former PM Datuk Seri Najib Razak, chief among the kleptocrats, paid a visit to PM Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob and emerging from it, the latter said that the former was keen to share his experience and knowledge on how to revive the nation’s devastated economy.

Within 24 hours of the visit, speculations are rife that Najib, not unlike Mahiaddin, is proposed to be the economic advisor to the PM and, of course, with ministerial status.

Convicted in the High Court and on trial for a slew of other cases, Najib is obviously the last person anyone would consider to be anywhere close to the nation’s coffers, let alone take his advice on how to manage it.

Sandwiched between the two stale and mouldy bread slices, it is now doubtful that Ismail Sabri can be the savoury filling for the nation’s woes.

The weirdness doesn’t end there. It only seems to be the beginning. If Najib is bad news for the government, now, another member of the court cluster Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan has been nominated for Deputy Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat.

If all these speculations become true, whatever goodwill extended to Ismail Sabri from a cross-section of society will thin and eventually evaporate.

Whether he realises it or not, Malaysians, by and large, are truly exhausted over the political uncertainties and how they had turned musical chairs into toilet seats.

Due to that, most are prepared to give him a chance, even though everyone is aware that he was part of Mahiaddin’s failed government.

First, he recycled previous Cabinet members back into office. Then, he reinstated unproductive envoys to their posts, yet again, with ministerial status to boot. With one rejected PM back and another speculated to so join the ranks, how much more does Ismail Sabri expect the citizenry to stomach before they start purging?

But such blasé or indifference is a trait expected from mediocrity.

On the sideline of all this, someone hailed as an accomplished diplomat decided to write a book.

Dennis Ignatius wrote Paradise Lost: Mahathir & The End of Hope and the book was supposedly launched yesterday. But it had presumably been distributed for reviews and a news portal provided some highlights, of which some of them left very jarring notes.

While it is said that it is not fair to judge a book until it has been read in entirety, it is also incumbent upon the writer to correct some of the reviews if the media outlet had gotten it wrong. This is especially true in present times when it is most likely that more people would have read the review rather than the book itself.

As such, the jarring notes based on the reports by the portal need to be addressed and, in particular, one that attributed Ignatius’ writings as saying that the rot in the civil service began during Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s first stint as the PM.

It is quite bizarre for Ignatius to make such conclusions or at least, that’s what the portal contended, when to the general populace, it was Dr Mahathir who turned the lackadaisical and indifferent civil service into respectable and responsible public servants.

The name tag and punch card may be trivial, but for those familiar with the civil service pre-Dr Mahathir era would vouch how it transformed them.

And it is equally baffling for Ignatius to make such conclusions when it was during Dr Mahathir’s first stint that the nation attained the unprecedented double-digit growth, the newly industrialised country as well as the Asian Tiger tags.

Surely, the driving force would have been the civil service unless Ignatius is giving Dr Mahathir a back-handed praise that all the achievements were his and his alone.

Even in international relations, Malaysia was hailed as the voice of the south, an independent nation that will not be bullied by the superpowers and very articulately narrated by the late Tan Sri Ahmad Kamil Jaafar in his book Growing Up With The Nation.

The erudite Ahmad Kamil, widely accepted as the quintessential diplomat and a sterling personality, was obviously proud of being a member of the nation’s civil service during that period as narrated in his book.

Unless it is Ignatius’ intention to sully the memories of Ahmad Kamil, the late Tan Sri Ahmad Sarji and Tan Sri Abdul Halim Ali, to name a few of the illustrious civil servants that felt privileged to serve the nation and doing it with pride when they were at it.

There are other questionable assumptions from Ignatius’s book as reported by the portal, but suffice to say if he can’t get it right on something he was directly in, then his opinion on the subject that is not his forte should not be taken too seriously.

There is another book written by a former member of Dr Mahathir’s Cabinet during his second stint as PM. Some of the points highlighted by the ex-minister bordered between attempts to portray himself as a victim of heroic acts, but ignoring his acts which made fools of the entire Cabinet.

That is, however, for another day, if need be. For now, he needs to be reminded, as it has been said, that to reach great heights, a person needs to have great depths.

That is the measure of a man.

Shamsul Akmar is the editor of The Malaysian Reserve.