Nov 27, 2003

Malaysia banks on Mr Right

By Keith Andrew Bettinger

WASHINGTON - As the torch of Malaysian leadership passes from Mahathir Mohamad to Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, pundits are scrambling to figure out what to make of the new prime minister. Abdullah, it has been decided, has a number of hurdles to overcome, and while not possessed with the unique attributes of his predecessor, he does have certain qualities that could help him steer Malaysia nearer its lofty "Vision 2020" goals.
While doubters keep pen and paper at the ready to chronicle any signs of behind-the-scenes manipulation by Mahathir, challenges from Islamic fundamentalists or any economic indicators that would doom Abdullah's administration in its infancy, the new prime minister has indicated that his ascendancy will be measured and calculated. It will have to be if he is to balance trends toward fundamentalism in his country against Malaysia's relationship with its No 1 trading partner, the United States. He inherits criticism from abroad for Malaysia's draconian Internal Security Act (ISA), but any moves toward liberalization could strengthen the opposition and weaken his grip on power. Malaysia is indeed at a crossroads; Abdullah will make or break his career with the decisions he makes as Mahathir fades into the background.
In terms of economics, Malaysia is on the brink of a new phase of development. Malaysia was the grand Southeast Asian success story of the 1990s - the great hope for the developing world. Bucking conventional wisdom and eschewing the Washington Consensus, Malaysia emerged relatively undamaged from the Asian financial crisis, poised to continue its meteoric rise through middle-income nationhood. Malaysia's growing affluence stemmed from its export-oriented economy and its success in transforming itself from reliance on commodities to finished goods and high-tech products. During the 1990s Malaysia benefited from its relatively cheap labor force and became a hub for silicon chips.
Now Malaysia faces greater competition from abroad. Many observers have pointed to China as a threat to Malaysia. In the mid-1990s, Malaysia was attracting US$5 billion to $7 billion a year in foreign direct investment (FDI). While China's FDI is approaching $50 billion annually, Malaysia's has dipped below $1 billion. Some analysts warn of a great sucking sound as jobs move out of Malaysia to take advantage of cheap, abundant labor and a liberalizing business environment. However, with balanced policies and a sensible eye toward the future, Malaysia may be able to increase its fortunes in tandem with the People's Republic. Things have been looking positive for Malaysia; the stock market is up, and the economy has experienced 4.5 percent growth this year and is projected to grow by another 5-6 percent in 2004. These figures are down from the average 7 percent pre-meltdown growth rates experienced in the 1990s, but Malaysia's economy has entered a new phase in which the goal should be slower, sustained growth.
Dr Arvind Panagariya, former chief economist for the Asian Development Bank, focused on China by explaining how its rise could benefit other nations as well. "It's a big opportunity," he said. "The Chinese market is evolving in such a way that other countries, if their policies are right, can do well. China's market is not closed." Panagariya then added: "If Malaysia can compete with China now, they will able to compete later."
Specialization would improve Malaysia's position. As China continues to develop, wages will need to rise, as people desire a higher standard of living. Panagariya said that unfettered markets in Malaysia will enable experienced entrepreneurs to take advantage of opportunities in China. One current example is palm oil, one of Malaysia's most abundant commodities, which is selling briskly in India and China, where consumers are choosing vegetable over animal oils.
Abdullah Badawi has said publicly that he will continue Mahathir's economic policies. But this by itself is a vague statement providing few clues for international investors; Mahathir was praised for his handling of the 1997 Asian financial crisis but has been jeered for rewarding friends and "picking winners". However, Abdullah has railed against the cronyism and corruption so ingrained in the Mahathir regime, and as time goes by, he should feel more comfortable in criticizing his former boss. He will seek to make Malaysia more attractive to foreign investors by cracking down on corruption and mindless bureaucracy while improving the efficiency of the civil service.
One early test of his ability will be how Abdullah handles the recent imbroglio over a contract to improve a stretch of railway; the multibillion-dollar contract had been awarded to a Indian-Chinese partnership, but just 10 days before he retired, Mahathir reneged on the promise, instead awarding it to Syed Mokijtar al-Bukhary, a reclusive Malay tycoon with personal ties to Mahathir. This type of contract is an example of the type of cronyism that marred the Mahathir years; critics often assailed the administration over billions of dollars spent on megaprojects, such as the Putrajaya capital district, the Kuala Lumpur International Airport and the KL monorail.
Abdullah has indicated that he will move away from big-ticket spending and will instead focus on agricultural and small business development. This may have the serendipitous bonus of discouraging cronyism because agricultural development and small businesses are harder to skim huge amounts of money off the top of, and these types of projects will be less accessible and less attractive to the old-guard tycoons. Then Malaysia may enjoy the best of both worlds - increased transparency and competitiveness to go along with the lure of a well-developed infrastructure. Abdullah does not have the solid hold on the reigns of power that will allow him to be perceived as favoring one group over the others. If he allows cronyism to flourish anew, he risks losing credibility with younger Malaysians still forming their political loyalties.
Abdullah's reputation as a consensus-builder should further soothe the misgivings of international investors. In addition to the aforementioned criticisms, Mahathir has also been attacked for his autocratic management style. K S Jomo, economics professor at University Malaya, wrote recently in the Far Eastern Economic Review that "the quality of Malaysian policymaking would have been considerably enhanced by genuine popular consultation in the national interest, rather than presuming to know what was best for the nation. There are few instances when greater consultation, transparency, and accountability would not have helped."
His style not withstanding, Abdullah does not have the political capital to dictate his terms. He will need to be more open to other views and will need support of other leaders to buttress his administration. In the long run, this will provide stability and more enlightened policymaking. As Abdullah follows a moderate path, institutions that were cowed under Mahathir may slowly reassert their constitutional purview. This will increase transparency and improve governance, enhancing Malaysia's image among human-rights watchers.
The new prime minister will have ample opportunity to prove himself in international politics as well. Malaysia's geostrategic location makes it a key variable in the international calculus of power politics. Abdullah's predecessor has been somewhat of an enigma for global-minded statesmen. Mahathir's anti-Semitic rantings and periodic outbursts aimed at the West have won him few friends, and have perhaps hindered Malaysia's relations with the West, preventing it from taking a greater role in regional affairs.
Dr Bridget Welsh of Johns Hopkins University's School for Advanced International Studies said that since Abdullah is a more consensus-oriented leader he may be able to soothe the recently rocky relations between his country and Australia and the US. In the past there were "leadership issues causing needless negative energy", Welsh said, adding that the United States should give Abdullah and other leaders some time to consolidate their positions and suggested patience.
So far, though, Abdullah is making progress. Welsh cited the recent release of prisoners jailed under the controversial ISA as an example. Releasing former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, whose health is deteriorating, would be a further sign of goodwill and would "show that Badawi is standing on his own ... that he is different". Welsh, the editor of Reflections: The Mahathir Years, cautioned that it is still too early to make judgments on Abdullah's chances.
Abdullah is well equipped to deal with international issues. In addition to a term as finance minister, he served as foreign minister for eight years. He will have a chance to define himself quickly, as Malaysia is the chair of the 114-member Non-Aligned Movement and the 57-member Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC). Abdullah, though seen as a moderate, has excellent credentials with his country's Bumiputra (Malay) majority; he was trained as an Islamic scholar. This should enhance his credibility in the OIC. Thus, while Mahathir was lauded by some Muslims for his remarks about the Jews, Abdullah's background will enable him to be more of a model, leading by actions rather than words.
Abdullah has a chance to be the prototype of a new kind of Islamic statesman, rather than a fiery demagogue. This could woo supporters away from the Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), although he may have difficulty in reconciling Malaysia's relationship with the United States with his political imperative of appealing to the Muslim majority, among whom US foreign policy has not been well received. Abdullah has shown promise, though. This year, while Mahathir was on a two-month vacation, Abdullah had a "dry run" as acting prime minister and diplomatically voiced Malaysia's opposition to the US-led campaign in Iraq while keeping internal protests manageable.
He will also have an opportunity to reinvigorate the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which many analysts have claimed is mired in a procedural swamp that prevents its members from getting anything done. With the recent debacle in Cancun, Mexico, and protests in the streets wherever the carnival that is the World Trade Organization sinks its stakes for a meeting, regional trade agreements have a great deal of appeal.
India and China have both expressed interest in forging ahead with a free-trade area in Southeast Asia; if Malaysia can move these projects forward it would enhance its prestige in ASEAN. Abdullah's Islamic credibility and his diplomatic manner would serve him well as a regional leader; if he plays his hand well he could be a bridge between ASEAN and the United States, interpreting and guiding US policies toward the region while steering regional initiatives in a direction that is amenable to the heterogeneous populations of the ASEAN nations and to the US as well.
Southeast Asia is an important nexus in the "war on terror"; while it is becoming more obvious to the administration of US President George W Bush that terrorism is a global problem, it seems apparent to other nations that US policies are shortsighted and ignorant of local realities. And though it would be down the road a bit, given the realities of the current world, Abdullah may be able to cultivate "soft power", that is influence over other nations, especially by making friends in Washington and subtly informing the leadership there while making monetary and manpower contributions to international reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The United States will be eyeing Abdullah's policies vis-a-vis the PAS, which now controls two states, Terengganu and Kelantan. Under Mahathir, Islamic extremism never had the chance to thrive, but in the past few years the PAS has gained ground on Abdullah's United Malays National Organization (UMNO), much to the consternation of the US. The PAS has declared jihad against the United States, and PAS demonstrators clad in Osama bin Laden shirts protested the campaign in Afghanistan outside the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. While the running joke at the US State Department is that the United States had no problem with Malaysia, just one particular Malaysian, Mahathir has been the only Muslim leader in Asia with the courage to take on Islamic schools that are hotbeds of teaching hatred and terror. Abdullah will be watched like a hawk for any sign that he favors a relaxation of Mahathir's policies against fundamentalism.
Mahathir has been synonymous with Malaysia. He has been labeled a visionary and will go down as a national hero in Malaysia. There is good reason for this. During his tenure, Malaysia's per capita income grew from RM4,630 in 1982 to RM$14,877 ($3,915) in 2003; a true middle class developed and now most citizens have houses and cars. Regardless of his eccentricities, this is a marvelous feat; the "Malaysian Dream" has become a reality.
Now Abdullah Badawi takes over. No one has accused him of being a visionary, but he may be exactly what the doctor ordered: a steady hand to guide Malaysia into a new millennium, using a "nip-and-tuck" style of modifications to improve the country's governance. Abdullah will face the difficulty of moving away from Mahathir's shadow and asserting himself, while not arousing the ire of the former prime minister. Abdullah has shown that he is politically skilled, but he will need support and a certain amount of luck to succeed.
While the challenges are formidable, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi just might be the right man at the right time for Malaysia.

Tue, November 25, 2003

New M'sian PM no longer Mr Nice Guy


LESS than a month into office, Malaysia's new Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has cracked the whip.

The new premier, who took over from Mahathir Mohamad this month, has signalled his resolve by naming a new police chief known for his no-nonsense attitude.
And his administration has given the nod to sack the editor-in-chief of establishment newspaper New Straits Times (NST). Abdullah Ahmad (no relation to the prime minister) incurred the wrath of the government with commentaries seen to be damaging to the ruling party's unity and the country's relations with the Saudi government.
The new premier - who was dubbed 'Mr Nice Guy' in Malaysian politics over the years - has shown that he can be as tough as Dr Mahathir.
While the merits of sacking the NST heavyweight are still debatable, Mr Abdullah's determination to wipe out corruption is good news for the country. This is because many Malaysians and political commentators have long clamoured for a drive to weed out corruption that has become more entrenched after years of unfettered growth.
Another possible area to tackle is the government's system of awarding major contracts.
Quite often, contracts worth billions of ringgit are given out without a transparent and competitive tender exercise.
Instead, they are awarded to invited bidders or through negotiations with companies that submitted novel ideas to privatise certain services or assets.
To be fair, the current system has its benefits: It makes sense for the government to select private sector companies that propose the most innovative ways to resolve public woes. But the system is also fraught with difficulties as it leaves too much room for speculation.
Take the current fiasco over the government's award of the country's biggest infrastructure contract - the double-tracking of the railway link along the peninsula - and the handling of the Bakun dam project.
In the railway project, the government had tentatively picked two contractors from China and India as part of an oil palm barter trade. The two companies had submitted a combined bid of a staggering RM42 billion to complete the job. They subsequently lowered their demands to under RM20 billion following the emergence of a rival bid.
Tycoon Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary's Malaysia Mining Corporation (MMC) entered the fray by offering a substantially lower price tag of RM14.5 billion. MMC and partner Gamuda also offered to take over the running of money-losing national railway company Keretapi Tanah Melayu as part of the comprehensive deal.
The government dropped the foreign contractors and awarded the contract to MMC-Gamuda. There is no doubt MMC-Gamuda's offer is superior to the government's original plain vanilla proposal but why couldn't the exercise have been conducted in a more transparent manner? Why can't the government call an open and competitive tender exercise for all and sundry?
Competitive bidding is still viable even if a project is initiated by the private sector. The government could adopt the private sector initiative and call for an open tender exercise with a checklist of quantitative and qualitative criteria to evaluate all the bids.
For instance, the government could adopt MMC-Gamuda's idea and then call for a competitive tender exercise. The government could award bonus points to MMC-Gamuda for adopting its privatisation idea. Other factors - such as cost, the bidder's track record and financial strength to carry out the job - must then be weighed to ascertain the costs and benefits in an objective manner before a major contract is awarded.
Similarly, the privatisation of Bakun could have been done in a more transparent and competitive manner. Incidentally, the RM2.4 billion project has been awarded to Syed Mokhtar and associates without an open tender exercise.
The system of privatisation has worked wonders in spurring economic development over the past two decades. But it has also spawned a deep-rooted system of patronage.
But Mr Abdullah should not abandon Dr Mahathir's privatisation legacy. Instead, he should help fine-tune the system to make it more efficient.
He should continue to shed the 'Mr Nice Guy' image and achieve the dream of a clean, efficient and trustworthy administration.

Nov 25, 2003

Abdullah Badawi: Malaysia's tinker man

By Anil Netto

PENANG, Malaysia - Like a home handyman tinkering around the house making adjustments and minor repairs, Malaysia's new premier has been busy fine-tuning what he believes is a successful system.
In power now for nearly a month, Abdullah Badawi has had plenty of time to shake up the system and rid it of some of the excesses of the previous administration of Mahathir Mohamad, who retired as prime minister at the end of October.
And indeed, Abdullah has already made a few newsworthy moves. But rather than grabbing the administration by the scruff of the neck and shaking it up, he has been tinkering with it on the surface, including providing some material goodies to civil servants, perhaps with one eye on the coming general election.
Barely a day passes without some new policy or approach being announced. Some of these moves have been perceived in various quarters as vote-catching ploys ahead of a general election, widely expected to be held early next year, and party elections of the ruling United Malays National Organization (UMNO).
Since taking office, Abdullah has swooped down against civil-service inefficiency, corruption and bottlenecks. He also made a surprise check on the Immigration Department in its frontline office where the public has to queue starting at dawn.
One day he announced an effective hike in the golden handshakes for civil servants upon retirement and a pay raise for the police; another day, he launched a major road-safety campaign ahead of the end-of-Ramadan rush to return home.
The new premier, obviously trying to distance himself from the excesses of the previous administration, wants moderation in all future government functions, pointing out that many of these events were "way too elaborate".
He has also directed the Treasury to take immediate measures to settle all outstanding payments to government suppliers and ensure that payment is made within 30 days of delivery. Identifying corruption and education as key areas to focus on, Abdullah has urged his ruling-coalition leaders to tell him the truth about the problems being faced by the people.
But many Malaysians remain deeply cynical over whether the untested new premier can undo overnight years of tolerance for a culture that often closes an eye to various abuses and inefficiency. Moreover, Abdullah has yet to even be confirmed as leader of the UMNO by the party rank-and-file.
Although the crackdown on corruption and inefficiency in the civil service is widely welcome, it does not tackle one of the major problems in Malaysia: money politics. Far too many politicians in business have close links with the dominant parties in the ruling coalition like the UMNO. Critics point out that the prime minister, cabinet ministers and other elected representatives should all be required to declare their assets to the public and that the Anti-Corruption Agency, which falls under the Prime Minister's Department, should be made genuinely independent.
As his first month draws to a close, Abdullah has not reshuffled the cabinet or brought in new blood. Power continues to be centralized in the hands of the prime minister. In addition to the powerful home affairs portfolio that he held even before taking over the helm, Abdullah also assumed the Finance Ministry's portfolio that Mahathir controlled. And he cannot argue that he needs more time to select the right candidate, as Mahathir announced his resignation in June last year. Critics say he is insecure - the deputy premier's post is still vacant - and he needs more time to build his support base before he can relinquish these key portfolios.
Not long ago there was some bright news for Abdullah: third-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) growth reached 5.1 percent after the economy expanded by 4.5 percent in the first half of the year. But recently a hot potato has landed on Abdullah's lap: the hiring of a local consortium - Gamuda Bhd-Malaysian Mining Corp Bhd (MMC) - to build and electrify a 636-kilometer double-track railway line despite a letter of intent having been given to the Indian Railway Construction Co (Ircon) and China Railway Engineering Corp (CREC) in mid-2002.
The railway line is part of the US$30 billion 5,500km trans-Asia railway track linking Singapore with Kunming in China. Gamuda-MMC reportedly won the bid after quoting a lower price - RM14.5 billion ($3.8 million) - under controversial circumstances.
Holding the finance minister's portfolio is especially convenient for Abdullah at this point with a snap general election looming. The ruling coalition's election campaign has traditionally banked on the "politics of development" - a euphemism for promising development projects and aid and dishing out on-the-spot grants to win votes.
Also, the finance minister's post means that Abdullah controls the purse strings in the run-up to the elections of the UMNO, of which he is now acting head.
Politics in the UMNO is dominated by the politics of patronage: contracts, licenses, shares and other favors are awarded to build support within the party. Abdullah, who was only appointed - rather than elected - as UMNO deputy president after the ouster in 1998 of the then incumbent, Anwar Ibrahim, has not been tested in party polls for the UMNO leadership. Holding on to the finance portfolio, therefore, would give Abdullah an obvious edge over any potential rival that may emerge from within the party ranks to mount a leadership challenge.
Widespread speculation over who will be Abdullah Badawi's deputy is also revealing. If anything, it shows the extent to which Mahathir's tenure had assumed feudal overtones after 22 years of autocratic rule. Now that Mahathir's successor is at the helm, Malaysians are obsessed about who will be next in line to succeed the new premier. This fixation on who will be the new premier's deputy is a phenomenon that is rarely seen in democratic nations that have installed a new leader and shows how the feudal mentality has seeped into the political arena here.
Meanwhile, news broke on Friday that the editor-in-chief of the establishment English-language broadsheet New Straits Times, Abdullah Ahmad, had been removed. The NST boss has been seen as a Mahathir loyalist who appears to have been backing Mahathir's choice, Defense Minister Najib Razak, for the vacant post of deputy premier.
If tradition is the guide, the deputy president of UMNO will become the new deputy premier. But party elections for top posts are not due until mid-2004 and, with other potential candidates lurking in the wings, it is by no means certain that Najib will be a shoo-in for the UMNO deputy presidency.
Away on a vacation in Europe, Mahathir himself was largely out of the media glare during the early part of the month.
Abdullah, still unsure of his support base, shows no sign of easing up on autocratic rule. The number of those in detention without trial under the feared Internal Security Act swelled to more than 100 after 13 Malaysian students were held on suspicion of involvement in terrorist activity. Some of these students are teenagers who were picked up by Pakistani authorities and sent back to Malaysia.
Human-rights campaigner Irene Fernandez meanwhile faces the possibility of going to jail after she was convicted of maliciously publishing false news despite overwhelming evidence in her favor during the course of her trial. And ex-deputy premier Ibrahim is still in jail, trying to get medical treatment for a spinal injury while appealing against his conviction. There also appears to be little sign of any major reforms in the judiciary. And although a new police chief has been appointed, it is doubtful whether this alone can improve the image of the force among the public after all the bad news during the Mahathir years.
As the weeks roll by, Abdullah can be expected to apply more fine-tuning rather than the adventurous radical reforms in almost all areas that Malaysia needs. It is unlikely that such tinkering will capture the public imagination or enable UMNO to win back lost ground.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Pak Lah can puncture PAS, but
what about his party?

By Karim Raslan

PAS' long-awaited Islamic State document has failed to create the momentum the party had hoped for. Instead of defining the political debate and carrying the party forward towards victory in the upcoming Malaysian General Election, the blueprint has been neatly pushed aside. Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi has dismissed the document and moved on.
After five years on the rise could this be the end of PAS' ambitions to win over the hearts and minds of the Malay community? Certainly they've failed completely in their attempts to persuade non-Malays to support them.
It must be remembered that PAS' dramatic and sudden spurt of growth originated from the sacking and detention of Anwar Ibrahim. Frankly, one man and he wasn't even a PAS member propelled the party to its current heights. Shrewd politicking at the time ensured that they "rode" the issue without having to deal with the man himself. Umno's weakness at the time and a protracted bout of in-fighting gave PAS an unprecedented opportunity.
Of course it is true that PAS capitalised on the traditional religious conservatism of the Malay community. Nonetheless, without the Anwar Ibrahim debacle, PAS would still be locked away in its northern and rural heartlands.
Moreover, Malaysia's former Prime Minister, Dr Mohammad Mahathir's resolute and principled handling of events post-911 ensured that PAS was unable to draw strength from American incompetence and belligerence on the global stage. This is entirely unlike the case of Indonesia where ultra-conservative Muslim forces were able to out-manoeuvre the flat-footed Megawati Soekarnoputri administration that was hampered by the need to placate a heavy-handed and unsympathetic White House.
Five years on and another Umno leader Pak Lah is ending PAS' winning streak. Pak Lah's combination of Islamic scholarship, honesty, integrity and humility looks set to win back much of the Malay ground that was lost in 1999. Pak Lah has been scrupulous in setting the tone with which he intends to lead Malaysia. We are receiving clearly thought-out and considered images of the man: leading prayers, visiting Immigration offices unannounced and spending time with non-Muslims.
However, he can do these things because they ring true to his personality. Unlike so many politicians he's not posing. This is no charade this is what the man stands for. This is what Pak Lah is all about. It's not particularly dramatic but it's vote-winning and effective on the ground where it matters.
However, there are two key problems with this approach. The first is that Umno a party of over 3.1 million members is hiding behind its leader. The second is that the inroads Pak Lah is making into the Malay community will not be consolidated unless and until his message of restraint, honesty, tolerance and incorruptibility is absorbed fully and acted upon by Umno's rank and file. One good man will not alter the party's future unless the party is willing to reform its ways.
Mr Abdullah has given Umno some welcome breathing space. He is the right man at the right time. Certainly, it is not easy to imagine either Mr Muhyuddin Yassin (Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs) or Mr Najib Tun Razak (Defence Minister) dealing with the Islamic State document as effectively as their Prime Minister. Pak Lah possesses the credibility and legitimacy to counter PAS' arguments without having to be shrill and or abusive. He doesn't have to demean the opposition he merely belittles their efforts by dismissing them as being out-of-hand. And, because he is an acknowledged authority on Islamic matters, his approach is respected.
Whilst I am relieved that Umno finally has a leader who can handle PAS, I confess I am disturbed by the Prime Minister's isolation within the party. He stands alone and the party cowers behind him. Pak Lah combines three vital characteristics and strengths: First, he has credibility and legitimacy in Islamic issues, second, he has a modernist and technocratic inclination and third, his is a moderate and multiracial disposition.
Where are the others? His fellow party members and certainly Umno's upper echelons, are woefully lacking in men and women who are similarly qualified. Koranic knowledge and the confidence to be able to debate Islamic issues has to be a pre- requisite for any aspiring Umno leader. I want to see men and women who can argue effectively the moderate, modernist position.
As Pak Lah prepares for the next general election, he must focus on the party's revival and rejuvenation. I would like to see many more young men and women in Pak Lah's image young parliamentarians who can switch between the mosque, the boardroom, the Chinese association meeting, the international conference centre and the makeshift teh tarik stall. Cultural multi-tasking is the Malaysian reality.
These young leaders have to understand that Malaysia while predominantly Muslim is a multiracial nation where social justice is a reality and then, more importantly, they have to be able to live by these ideals. It's tough but that's life and these are the standards we expect from our leaders. We don't want trash. We want leadership.
If Pak Lah is to be the new model Malay Malaysian leader, I want hundreds in his image. I don't want to wake up on election day and discover that the party hasn't been able to cleanse itself of the warlords, the slimy corporate bigwigs and the Ibn Khaldun-quoting fakes.