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The Expat: A courageous leader

Comment by Marybeth Ramey* (From The Sunday Mail of April 16, 2006)

LIKE most long-stayer expats, unlike most expats who are here for a two-year or so posting, I read the local newspapers daily. After all, this is my adopted country and full assimilation will never occur unless I immerse myself in issues of importance to Malaysians.
I find the English dailies an excellent source of finding out what the rakyat is thinking and disseminating important topics so that we all can understand.
The Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP) is a case in point. I read most of it through highlights published and as I was making my way through it, a thought kept running through my mind.
That thought was what a world of difference there is on every level possible between my adopted Prime Minister and my native homeland one, George Bush. Could any two people be more dissimilar?
The 9MP is a visionary and inclusive document that addresses many issues that are not politically popular.
It takes a true leader to formulate and write a document as critically vital and important, as is this new five-year plan in the way Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has.
A genuine leader cares not about opinion polls, his next sound bite, or trying to get fellow party members re-elected; rather an authentic leader cares about his or her country first and foremost and he or she takes the courageous and usually the not politically popular step of doing and implementing long-range planning.
This is where Abdullah shines. He has taken unpopular issues and disregarded the personal criticism, the tidal waves of negative sentiment against certain issues, and he has crafted a document that will not only address the genuine needs of his people today, but will also benefit the generations five or six removed in the future. That is courageous and that is leadership.
Malaysians are proud of their Prime Minister and so am I. I proudly tell my network of associates back in the US about Malaysia’s Prime Minister. He is a man touched by greatness, indeed.
Early on in his new post of Premier, he quickly established himself as a man of substance on the world stage with his unforgettable speech at the United Nations. He also proved his leadership qualities again with his opening speech at the Organisation of Islamic States that he chairs.
Both speeches and his natural performances led immediate stature to not only him, but to Malaysians too, since this was their person of choice, the man they had elected in a free democratic process.
I cannot ascribe greatness or leadership qualities to my own President. I can ascribe a host of negative values to him especially hypocrisy, deception, selfrighteousness, disingenuous and misleading statements that honestly can now be described as lies.
As one of my readers, a Swedish gentleman, who e-mailed me on my April column in The Expat, said, unpopular actions such as raising the petrol 30 sen, are done by genuine leaders who have their citizenry’s and the generations that will follow, best interests at heart. He does not have the interests of big corporations, powerful lobbyists, or political parties as his guiding muse.
Not our Pak Lah. As an expat who has lived under so called democratically elected (not true with the present Electoral College), presidents from Eisenhower to the present George W., I can tell you the forces that control and influence these Presidents are designed to control the President and make it enormously difficult to do the right thing, or even, gasp, to ignore those self-serving interests and do what is right by your people.
Along with adopting Malaysia as my permanent home, can I also adopt your Prime Minister? He is a man I am so truly impressed by and proud of.

*Marybeth Ramey is a former University Associate Professor of International Relations. She is happily transplanted from the US and has lived in KL for about 10 years with her son, Naim.

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