“Thank You, Pak Lah” is the title of The NST Supplement (April 2, 2009) to mark the end of another era in the history of our country. Badawi leaves office on April 3 and hands over the premiership to Najib Tun Razak. The government controlled daily published articles by individuals who are favorably disposed towards the former premier.
These articles are in general complimentary, bordering on sentimentality, romanticism, and sycophancy. Talk about foreign policy, for example, when we know he has no policy at all. Just ask those who have served him in Wisma Putra when he was Foreign Minister, and they will tell you that he spent most of his time holding court for his political supporters, not on building our relations with the rest of the world.
I have been very critical of the man, his politics and so-called policies, not so much because I am a member and a keen supporter of Anwar Ibrahim’s Parti KeADILan Rakyat and Pakatan Rakyat that he leads. My disenchantment with Prime Minister Badawi is because he lost a unique opportunity to make a difference to our country. His is a story of countless missed opportunities.
In March 2004 (on nomination day), I went to Jitra in Kubang Pasu Parliamentary constituency to support Johari Baharum of UMNO- Barisan Nasional against a PAS candidate, because I was taken up by Badawi’s Election Manifesto. Because of his election promises, I said to myself that he deserved my support. Most Malaysians agreed with me and Badawi won a resounding mandate and decimated the Opposition, even outperforming his predecessor, Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad, in terms of voter popularity.
Over the years since that historic victory, Badawi showed us that he lacked the leadership qualities and resolve or grit needed to carry out his election promises and in 2008, his political fortune took a nose dive and UMNO-Barisan Nasional was hit by a political tsunami, losing 5 states and the 2/3rd majority in Parliament. Badawi lost all credibility and goodwill he had. Eventually, he succumbed to pressure from UMNO to step down.
Malaysians, without any prompting from Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad, saw that Badawi was ”long on talk and short on action”. He came in with bang and is now leaving with a whimper, probably remembered in our historical annals as the Prime Minister who blew the opportunity to bring about reforms he promised the nation.
On April 3, he hands over the fate and future of our country to a successor who is surrounded by scandals and allegations of corruption and abuses of power. Najib Tun Razak is very unpopular and most people believe that the new Prime Minister will likely resort to political repression and suppression of all political opposition to maintain his legitimacy.
In 1969, when I was a graduate student in Washington D.C. I remember that when President Lyndon Baines Johnson, the most unpopular President of that period (because of the Vietnam War) handed over his job to President Richard Nixon, I saw billboards in the Washington Beltway with “Thank You, Mr. President and May God Bless You”.
In keeping with that spirit, I say to Badawi, “Thank You, Mr. Prime Minister”. For all his errors of commission and omission, Badawi truly deserves our respect as our elected Prime Minister, at least for “trying his best” (!). God bless you, Mr. Prime Minister and Datuk Seri Utama Jeanne Abdullah!
Din Merican, a former central banker, diplomat, regional director for Sime Darby Group, member of Anwar Ibrahim’s KeADILan’s back room team, and now a prominent Malaysian DJ blogger.
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