Can Ismail Sabri break the curse?


ALL of them fought very hard to get to the top administrative post, but very soon they all came to the realisation that to be Malaysian prime minister was a whole lot tougher than they had imagined.

In the end, out of no choice they had to make the exit in a helpless, embarrassing and even tragic way.

Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi quit his job in reluctance; Datuk Seri Najib Razak in embarrassment, with a slew of court cases awaiting him; Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in disgrace, with curses tossed at him until this day; and Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin in desolation.

Will Ismail Sabri’s fate be any better than his predecessors?

This is a question he has to seriously contemplate. He must do his utmost to evade the same blunders and twist the ill fates of the country’s more recent prime ministers.

To change his destiny, he will have to institute the changes himself.

To implement the changes could be very much more difficult than what he has thought.

To be honest, to get started itself is already a very tall order.

Very obviously, after being sworn in, Ismail Sabri is set to be a very weak PM, probably not any better than Muhyiddin.

He only has the support of slightly more than half of all the lawmakers. A couple of defections will put him in a very precarious position. Every parliamentary sitting could be a thorn in his flesh.

He is a prime minister from Umno, but not the party’s president. Above him there are big boss Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and second-in-command Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan, along with former president Najib. These people are watching him closely.

PH is not going to give any opportunity to take him down a miss, just as they have seized every available opportunity to beat his predecessor Muhyiddin.

Bersatu has supported him out of no choice so that the party will not fall after Muhyiddin’s departure. That nevertheless dos not mean Bersatu will always remain loyal to him. All that is in their heads is short term interest.

Sabah and Sarawak are going to be very demanding on him, too, having reservedly nominated him as PM candidate only in the eleventh hour.

Ismail Sabri is inheriting a PN government in disarray, with the pandemic soaring, economy nosediving and the rakyat in complete bewilderment over an uncertain future of their country.

The King has set the bar: the new PM will have to pass the confidence vote in parliament. This puts Ismail Sabri in more hard pressed circumstances with very little time and space to turn things around, compared to Muhyiddin.

The PM seat is most definitely not a comfortable position Ismail Sabri is taking over at this particular juncture. Put it this way, if the job is easy to accomplish, there shouldn’t have been a change of commander in the first place.

To reverse the ill destiny of Malaysian PMs, Ismail Sabri cannot afford to be just a PN 2.0 prime minister, or life is not going to be kinder to him than Muhyiddin of PN 1.0.

The thing is, he must not think he can please all greedy politicians. To please some means he will invariably offend more. This is a lesson he should pick up from Muhyiddin.

Muhyiddin expanded his Cabinet line-up to an unprecedented level. If not everyone fits into the bloated Cabinet, there are always GLC openings to be exploited. Like the US aircraft leaving Afghanistan with a capacity of two to three hundred but ended up squeezing in six to seven hundred, with a dozen desperate daredevils holding to the wings and tires before they plunged to their death mid-air.

Eventually, Cabinet and GLC positions will not be sufficient to satiate the greed of all. Those who are left out, or feel they have not been well treated, may plot against him!

The rakyat are already enormously disappointed with and disgusted at these politicians. If Ismail Sabri continues to entertain and reward these people, he will only incur more wrath from the people.

What he can do is to please the people instead of his party comrades. By pleasing the people I do not mean he should keep distributing candies but to put up a good administrative team and draw up good policies as desired by Malaysians:

1. He must shrink the new Cabinet, reduce the number of ministries and effectuate streamlined management. An irrationally bloated Cabinet of 70 plus members is akin to a 150kg fatty who can only lie flat and pant heavily as excess fat and cholesterol swallow up his health and mobility.

The total number of ministers and deputy ministers must be cut down to below 50, and politicians should be banished from GLCs boards.

2. Small is not enough, the new cabinet also needs to be competent to serve the needs and expectations of the people. Young politicians who are capable and principled should be offered key positions in his cabinet.

While Malaysians may have their preferences when it comes to political parties, this aside everyone will approve of truly competent leaders of good caliber. For instance, many PH supporters approve of Khairy Jamaluddin’s performance in fighting the coronavirus pandemic, and have seen his rational thinking and more liberal political philosophy. Putting him in a better position will boost the reputation and credibility of the new administration.

If the new PM can think outside the box and bring young and energetic opposition politicians in the likes of Nurul Izzah and Ong Kian Ming into his cabinet, not only will this lift the overall quality of his cabinet, but will also win him the support of middle voters.

3. The new government will need to have a crystal clear mindset and policy in running this country instead of repeating the failed old tactics of previous administrations.

The pressing tasks now are to fight the pandemic, revive the anemic economy and unite the people. Nothing else. Not more power or partisan interests.

The new PM should consolidate his ruling team with refreshing political ideologies, convince the rakyat with good governance, and lead the nation by creating a stronger bond among the people.

This is the only way for the new PM to justify his raison d’être and break the curse of having to bow out in disgrace.


Sin Chew Daily