Thursday, April 2, 2009

Farewell, Pak Lah

Yesterday was the farewell day for Abdullah as Prime Minister, as his last cabinet meeting. Today(2-4-2009) the King has accepted his resignation. He has served as 5th Prime Minister since 2003. In 2004, general election, Abdullah and his party scored a significant victory, but in 2008(or 308), the party scored only slim majority, resulted in 5 states ruled by the opposition.

Abdullah was born in Bayan Lepas, Penang on 26-11-1939. . His father Ahmad Badawi was a religious figure and UMNO member; he was MP for Kepala Batas. His grandfather Syeikh Abdullah Badawi Fahim was of Arab descent, and a well respected religion leader. He was also one of founding member of Hizbul Muslimin, the forerunner of PAS. He becomes the 1st Mufti of Penang after independence of Malaysia in 1957. He was the one Tunku Abdul Rahman (1st Prime Minister) consulted for the date of independence. (Note: A Mufti is an Islamic scholar, but in Malaysia it is an official position in Islamic affair, a state position). Abdullah's maternal grandfather, Hassan Ha Su-chiang was a Chinese Muslim who came from Sanya, Hainan Island (now Hainan Province), China. He has a strong family background.

He studied in Permatang Bertam national school, and his secondary school is Bukit Mertajam High School in Bukit Mertajam, and he did his sixth form in Methodist Boy’s School (MBS) in Penang Island. In his school days, he was active in Boy Scout movement. He attended religion lesson in his family run religious school. He graduated from University Malaya with Bachelor of Art in Islamic Studies in 1964. He married his wife, Endon bt Mahmood in 1965. They have two children, son Kamaluddin and daughter Nori.

He was then working with civil service, attached to Public Service Department as Assistant Secretary. He was transferred to National Operations Council (NOC), a body set up after May 13th 1969 racial riots. At the time the Prime Minister was Tun Abdul Razak.. responsible for running the country. He was later promoted as Director General of Ministry of Culture, Youth & Sports in 1973, and Deputy Secretary General of the ministry.

He was an UMNO member since 1965. He was Member of Supreme Council in 1981, Vice President in 1984, Deputy President in 1999, and President of UMNO in 2003.

In 1978 when elected as Member of Parliament of Kepala Batas(which was previously held by his late father), his home town. He was appointed as Secretary General to the Federal Territory Ministry and appointed Deputy Minister in 1980.

1981-1984 Minister in Prime Minister Department
1984-1986 Minister of Education
1986-1987 Minister of Defense
1991-1999 Minister of Foreign Affairs
1999- 2003 Deputy Prime Minister(appointed on Jan 1999)
2003-2009 Prime Minister (take over from 4th Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir on 31-10-2003)

Note that he was not in the cabinet from 1988 to 1990, he was a supporter of Team B , the Finance minister Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah & Deputy Prime Minister Musa Hitam. Team A was the supporters of Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir. As supporter of Team B, he was sacked from his post as Minister of Defense. Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah formed Semangat 46 (Spirit 46), but as royal UMNO member, Abdullah did not joined the party. When UMNO Bahru (New Umno) was formed in Feb 1988, Abdullah rejoined as Vice President of protem committee. He retained Vice President in 1990 party election, and was appointed as Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1991. It was once reported by him, during the period when he was not a minister, few people visited him, and the only one who did visit him was the Chief Minister of Penang, Tan Sri Koh Tzu Koon. He lost his Vice President seat in 1993, but still retained as Minister of Foreign Affairs.

His relationship with his mother and wife were strong and touching;
(i) His relationship with his mother, Datuk Khailan Hassan, who passed away on 1-4-2004 at the age of 78
(ii) His relationship with his wife Endon bt Mahmood, who passed away due to breast cancer.
It is his family relationship and promise to change that won him the 2004 election. He is like a role model for the Malaysian family, respect of the parent and love to wife. His religious background is strong. He is popularly known as Pak Lah (Uncle Lah), Pak is uncle and Lah is short form for Abdullah. The name reflected that he is closed to the grass root, humble and down to earth. A person with that personality cannot be bad, the people said. People gave him a strong mandate in 2004 election, but he failed to capitalize on the mandate given, and speed up the reformation process. He has no strong support from his own party. By the time of 2008 election, the mandate expired and with the critical issues rose up by the opposition and the critical corruption issues not solved. People voted for change, the famous 308. He lost the strong mandate by the people. The ruling party won marginally.

Initially, the opposition was proposing no confidence votes on him, he was attacked by the opposition, Dr Mahathir and his own party members. All demand him to step down. But when he announced his date of resignation, the opposition requested for his extension. Opposition realized that Abdullah provide avenue for opposition to raise their agenda, he is indirectly helping them to achieve their agenda, he is the facilitator. The opposition should have cooperated with him to achieve their mutual agenda e.g. anti-corruption, judicial reform……No one give him more time, which he urgently required it. Politic prevails in the country, rather than the national interest first.

Abdullah is a gentleman, not as vocal as Dr M. He said he do no want to offence anyone verbally; he prefer communication. He has tried to change the legal system, corruption situation, and the party. But the culture of UMNO is so strong with long tradition, he is not able to completely change the party and policies, this included the government policies. He cannot change it all alone. He needs strong mandate and power. But the positive thing is that he is credited for more liberal mass media to report on issues, despite some hip up. He initiated two significant changes, the ACA (Anti Corruption Agency) to be fully independent and judicial reform proceedings. He provided the opposition more freedom and opportunity than previous government.

He has the will to change, but no absolute power to change, as resistance is strong internally. It needs longer time, but the people and opposition are inpatient to wait, and his own party members are impatient to see him down. The dual forces of discontent speed up his downfall. He was not able to erase money politic in his own party, and as such he will not able to change the government system. To change a traditional strong culture, it needs strong power, & a strong transformation leader. I wonder why he did not make any of his ministers who are more vocal to lead the changes. As a gentleman, he shoulders himself the burden and takes the blame personally. He failed to make himself a name as “Father of Transformation or Change” in Malaysian history. Pat Lah is gracious, he is not the one that hold long to power, he give back the power as promised , like a gentleman.

Sayang-lah (what a pity)……..

Anyhow, he is a good man. We will remember him as a good man.

Farewell Pak Lah…..Welcome back to Penang, your home state.

( Note: picture credit to

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