(Posted on Friday June 06, 2003 )

Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi should be commented for striking the right note when he advised over 300 students leaders from over 18 public universities in a vintage address, typical of the deputy premier, that they must start preparing themselves for the 'real world', which runs on meritocracy not the "spirit of tongkatism"!.
Unfortunately, the keynote address did not get the type of high powered hype and follow up endorsement from various quarters which includes, politicians and "politicians wanna be" the country over.

This was expected, as for over four decades our politicians did not have the "moral or ethical courage" to say the right thing till our Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad spoke on the subject at the UMNO General assembly last year, sending "shock waves" across the board.

This time around, incoming premier, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi continued the trend, and did the right thing to largely the
leadership core of various students leadership groups in the country's 18 public universities!

It is clear the deputy premier was preparing these young minds in positions of power within their respective universities and institutions of higher education to prepare themselves to be indoctrinated to realities of the real world!

The message is clear, precise and wanting - 'Do not expect special treament - the kind your predecessors received!'

But for the advice to take root and work, there should be a well planned and comprehensive political will and vision to steer it through what is expected to be clear and defined opposition from groupings within the Barisan fold!

I am certain that incoming premier Abdullah is certain that junior and sidelined politicians would want to be "wira bangsa" and they will certainly fan various sentiments for their own political and private agenda. This has worked in the past and they would hope that this may work for them too.

And for the record, for too long some leaders have said one thing publicly and acted otherwise in private and this is only too true in the Malaysian political life.

Whether it is on the growing issue of corruption, meritocracy, abuse of power, corporate governance, accountability and the need to elect local government leaderships - the "pussy footing endeavors" is clearly visible.

But, it is clear the deputy premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, is convinced that change is needed as we move towards globalization, where domestic issues and government policies become quite visible to investors and foreign business interests. and where protectionist or racialist policies of any "form and kind" is detested.

This is why our deputy premier is urging the disposal of the "subsidy mentality - the ridding of the tongkat" so that one will be able to strive and compete in the "real world" without the assistance of politicians and the government!

For this to work the government should immediately also disarm itself from actively providing all forms of "unhealthy assistance,subsidies and awards" not based on merit that propels a novice company or politically connected individual over other more deserving cases.

One need not go far - a look at the number of "failed or delayed" government construction and infrastructure contracts given in several states through the system of "political patronage" is clear indication that all is not well.

Some federal ministers ashamed with current practices had spoken on it rather publicly.But action has not been forthcoming!

And, when this has repeatedly happened, and the courage to expose or punish is absent and when whistle blowers are instead threatened, with guilty and embarrased politicians wanting to cover up instead of extending the dragnet to curb all forms of corruption and unhealthy practices that has become a norm in the country, as in a recent case in Selangor - the raayat are confused.

If we want the nation to take us seriously then we must act above and beyond suspicion but how many would have the moral, ethical and political courage to do so only time will tell!

I am certain we will find out post October 2003!