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Thread: Book: Awakening: The Abdullah Badawi years in Malaysia

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2008

    Book: Awakening: The Abdullah Badawi years in Malaysia

    If I listened to Mahathir, Malaysia would be bankrupt, says Abdullah

    AUGUST 06, 2013
    LATEST UPDATE: AUGUST 06, 2013 09:17 PM

    Malaysia's 4th and 5th prime ministers - Mahathir Mohamad (left) and Abdullah Badawi - in happier times. The Malaysian Insider pic, August 6, 2013.If Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had succumbed to the pressure applied by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to spend without a care and continue with some of his pet mega-projects, Malaysia would be bankrupt by now.

    This frank assessment was offered by Abdullah in a book covering his years as the prime minister of Malaysia.

    Titled, "Awakening: The Abdullah Badawi Years In Malaysia", it was scheduled to come out earlier but there were some concerns in Putrajaya that the fifth prime minister’s comments and observations could spark a war of words between Abdullah and Mahathir and split Umno before the May 5 general election.

    Putrajaya need not have worried. Abdullah lobbed a few barbs here and there, and threw a few zingers in the direction of his chief critic but did not reveal state secrets or offer juicy and humiliating anecdotes about the country’s longest-serving PM.

    And he could have, he said. Referring to the constant attacks against him by Mahathir and other critics when he was in office, he recalled that some people asked why he did not clarify in detail the role of his young advisers, his son’s involvement in business and the influence of son-in-law Khairy Jamaluddin.

    “Perhaps I should have been more vehement in defending and explaining these issues. I could have retaliated by exposing Mahathir. But what good would have come out of this for the government and party?” he said.

    He noted that Mahathir is very set in his ways and believed that his is the only way. And this fact is why Abdullah believes he has been on the receiving end of vitriol from mid-2006 till today.

    After all the layers of biting comments from Mahathir are peeled away, it boiled down to just one thing: Mahathir’s inability to accept any other view except his own.

    For example, Abdullah remembered that he went to see Mahathir and explain that he had to postpone several projects, including the double-tracking rail system that the latter had initiated because of the bulging budget deficit.

    “He, however, disagreed with me as he felt the government should continue to spend. But how do we do it when the deficit was at such critical levels? It would be highly irresponsible for me to continue spending.

    “So we had no choice but to reduce the deficit by postponing some of the mega-projects like double tracking and this made Mahathir furious. I suppose he viewed them as his pet projects.

    “Can you imagine, if I had succumbed to Mahathir’s continued pressure to spend when the deficit was already so high, how could Malaysia have weathered the oil and financial crisis which subsequently came in 2008?

    “The deficit which we brought down to 3.2 percent crept up again due to subsidies for oil and essentials and hovered again at the 5 percent level. If we had not been prudent then, continued to spend, I can tell you we would be bankrupt by now."

    In the book, edited by Bridget Welsh and James Chin, Abdullah also said that when he left office in 2009, he was determined not to be like Mahathir. He wanted Datuk Seri Najib Razak to establish himself as the prime minister.

    “That is why I have remained silent all this time. I believe that once you retire, you are retired. You should not interfere with your successor. If there is anything you are unhappy with, you can always offer your views privately. Why bring it up in public and make life difficult for him?

    Abdullah earned the biggest mandate from the electorate in 2004 but squandered the historic opportunity to reform the country and carry through many of his election pledges. As a result, in 2008 he led Barisan Nasional to a poor showing, losing its customary two-thirds control of Parliament.

    In the book, he accepted blame for not meeting the expectations of the voters but said that Mahathir could not walk away from the 2008 results unscathed.

    “When we did well in 2004, he said such a strong mandate was not good for the country. When we did not do so well in 2008, he heaped all the blame on me.

    "He is doing it even today… Mahathir cannot deny that he contributed to the erosion of Barisan Nasional’s support in the 2008 elections through his open and unwarranted criticisms and attacks, calling my administration, which included a majority of people from his own Cabinet, as a ‘half-past six government’ and accusing us of corruption and all sorts of things,” said Abdullah. – August 6, 2013.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Awakening: The Abdullah Years in Malaysia – Bridget Welsh and James Chin

    AUGUST 10, 2013
    LATEST UPDATE: AUGUST 10, 2013 12:04 PM

    Dear Malaysians,

    We hope that all of you are enjoying your Raya holiday and apologise for disturbing it to respond to errors in the media coverage of our edited collection, Awakening: The Abdullah Years in Malaysia.

    The media response to this collection was not expected. Despite our efforts to stress to the media early on that this was a serious reflective collection by scholars and practitioners, the focus has been on sensationalising parts of the book, especially former premier Tun Abdullah Badawi's interview.

    The media dynamic has taken on a life of its own, with nasty unjustified attacks on individuals, including some of the contributors and editors. These are not in the spirit of the season, or do they reflect the substance or the intention of the collection itself.

    This was a project that began several years ago, and consistent with a project involving multiple contributors, the process is a long one.

    This project was delayed. The sole responsibility of this delay lies with the editors, as we navigated multiple publishers, galleys and conflicting professional demands.
    We were never asked to delay its release, before or after any elections. The galleys were not finalised until early July this year.

    The book was to be released and launched after Raya, the earliest date after printing. No one asked us to delay the release of the book for any reason.

    In coordination with our publisher, we decided to make sure the book was available in bookstores before the launch. We were worried about sales, in part due to the delay of the collection.

    The first copies were released at a book fair in KL last week and arrangements were made to have the book in bookstores this week, for a launch initially scheduled for August 16.

    The media reports on the book come from the purchase of the book, and, sadly in some cases, reports from other reports in many cases involving erroneous reporting. Others wrote about the book without even seeing the book!

    Media outlets have mistakenly labeled the book "Pak Lah's book". This is not correct. It is a collection of multiple views, many of them quite critical of the period of his tenure. Others are less so.

    We have contributors from all sides of the political divide and academic observers. We worked to have a balanced collection and part of the balancing was to give space to Pak Lah himself to put himself on record on his tenure.

    We reached out to a wide variety of individuals in bringing together over 30 authors. This is a serious collection aiming for a reflective discussion of the premiership of Malaysia’s fourth prime minister.

    Throughout, our effort was always toward promoting understanding. If one reads the book itself, one will find diversity and a range of views on multiple issues.

    We are grateful to Tun Abdullah Badawi who was kind enough to grant us an extensive interview. We consider this an honor and an important part of understanding the history of this period. That he agreed to be part of a collection that included views critical of him speaks to his character and openness.

    We are also grateful to the other 33 contributors whose valuable insights help to make the collection a strong foundation for future analyses of this important period in Malaysia’s history.

    Given the politicisation of the collection in media reports and in an effort not to promote further misunderstandings, the official launch in Kuala Lumpur will be postponed.

    We hope to hold a panel discussion about the book, with multiple perspectives from different speakers, in Singapore and elsewhere after the official KL launch. The book has been released and should be available in bookstores.

    We call on the media and blogging community to act responsibly, to read the book before making assessments and to avoid erroneous speculation.

    Wishing you all the best during the Raya holiday. - August 10, 2013

    * Dr Bridget Welsh and Dr James Chin edited Awakening: The Abdullah Years in Malaysia.

    * This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.

  3. #3
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    Oct 2008
    The Awakening: A Critical Assessment of the Badawi Years


    August 12, 2012
    MY COMMENT: It is not unique to Malaysia that the influence of an authoritarian leader has a stranglehold on citizenry, long after he has left office. Look at Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia and Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore. In our case, it is Tun Dr. Mahathir. No one in our history except Tun Dr. Mahathir has held office for more than 2 decades and that feat may not be repeated any time soon. Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi held office from 2003 to April 2009 (nearly 6 years). Najib has completed 4 years without a mandate of his own until GE-13 in May, 2013. And how long will he last given the fact that UMNO has been hijacked by conservatives and pro-Mahathir supporters. But let us not speculate and second guess what UMNO delegates to the forthcoming General Assembly will decide.The Awakening has naturally attracted a lot of attention since Tun Abdullah is critical of Tun Dr. Mahathir. You can’t expect Mahathir’s supporters and hired hands to maintain elegant silence when their man is under fire. I may not agree with them because I feel that Tun Abdullah for all his failings did his best for our country. But his best was not good enough for most of us. That was why UMNO-BN under his leadership lost its two third majority in Parliament in 2008 and as a result, he had to step down as UMNO President and Prime Minister.Dr Bridget Welsh and Co-Editor Dr. James Chin have issued a statement about the book. They made it clear that The Awakening is a collection of essays written by political analysts and academics about the Badawi era. But they have not explained why the book should be launched in Singapore and why Nurul Izzah Anwar, MP for Lembah Pantai from Pakatan Rakyat is chosen to launch the book. Not just Mahathir’s supporters, I too would like to know. I would have thought that Tun Abdullah should have been invited to launch it here in Kuala Lumpur.–Din MericanThe Awakening: A Critical Assessment of the Badawi Years
    Only in Malaysia. Only in Malaysia, would there be an inquisition on a book assessing the performance of a former Prime Minister.Who is the publisher? Are the editors linked to the Opposition? Why is Nurul Izzah Anwar launching the book in Singapore? What is the motive behind the book?Such is the ferocity of speculation and politicisation that the co-editors, academics James Chin and Bridget Welsh, have had to issue a statement clarifying that, A) the book is not Abdullah Badawi’s memoirs; and, B) the book was not put together or sponsored by Abdullah Badawi.The irony is that the man who has had his five years in office dissected is not the one kicking up a fuss over the book titled “Awakening: The Abdullah Badawi Years in Malaysia”, even though there were some unkind remarks about him.Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, who eyed the top job in UMNO, wrote in the foreword that “perhaps it could be said, he fell into the same trap as many Third World leaders as he too succumbed to corrupting tendencies of power”.In a real tizzy over the book are politicians and bloggers linked to Tun DrMahathir Mohamad who would like to paint the book as a collaboration between Abdullah and the Opposition, and therefore worthy of vitriol and rejection by UMNO.Also in a spot of bother are Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s strategists – the same people who led him to believe that a two-thirds majority was in the bag. They too are wondering if there is a hidden hand behind the collection of essays and interviews on Abdullah’s years as Prime Minister.How about we assess the book for its content and nothing else? That is always a good starting point when reviewing a book.
    Without a doubt, the most interesting part of the book is from pages 3 to 38, where Abdullah is interviewed on a laundry list of subjects from the attacks by Dr Mahathir to the dynamics in UMNO, to worsening race relations in Malaysia.The rest of the book contains a couple of other interviews and essays on Abdullah’s performance in office by political commentators and academia.Malaysians should read the book to get a better sense of the man who promised so much when he took over from Dr Mahathir in October 2003 and why he ended up delivering so little.Unmistakable throughout the book is the sense that the man was completely overwhelmed by the expectations of the nation. It is akin to promising to win Malaysia’s first Olympic gold medal but only having the skill and stamina to go past round two.Also coming through crystal clear is the in-built resistance to change and reform offered by UMNO during the Abdullah years. This part is important for Malaysians to read and digest because it clearly shows a political elite unable and unwilling to do anything which would upset their place at the buffet line called Malaysia.No matter who leads the ruling party, and how many slogans he can muster, UMNO does not accept good governance, transparency, anti-corruption efforts, inter-faith dialogue.The party’s entrenched powers detest reform. Abdullah tried it, faced the blowback and walked away with a whimper. Najib Razak attempted it, got singed by UMNO and Perkasa and is still licking his wounds.So how can an obstinate political party that has become so detached from the aspirations of the majority of Malaysians bring light to this hope-starved country?Can any personality in UMNO’s current second echelon line-up of Ali Rustam, Zahid Hamidi, Hishammuddin Hussein succeed where Abdullah, Najib and even the great Dr Mahathir failed?These are valid questions to ponder as Malaysia celebrates its 50 years of existence (1963-2013). Also worth reflecting and debating is the influence of Dr Mahathir himself. There has been precious little critical thought given to his 22 years in office. Most of the books and articles about him are sycophantic and self-serving.The need for serious debate on Mahathirism is all the more important today, given the surge in nostalgia following GE13 among conservative forces in UMNO and PERKASA for a return to the days of strong-man rule, the days of the ends justifying the means.In this book, various commentators noted the fact that Abdullah or, for that matter, any leader post-Mahathir would have to clean up the mess left by the long-time Prime Minister. For example, Ooi Kee Beng wrote that Dr Mahathir had ambitions for Malaysia which were beyond any “dreamt by his opponents, or his followers”.“The projects he constructed in accordance to his grandiose imaginingswere not necessarily good for the country. Furthermore, needing to get things done fast, he would adopt whatever means were available.His authoritarian style thus came to define Malaysian politics for at least two decades and his excesses, made possible by increasing oil revenues, changed the country’s skylines and landscapes.Aside from extreme costs and corruption eating into the trajectory of national progress, the efficacy and reputation of major institutions – including the Police, the Judiciary, the mass media and the political parties – were damaged,”Ooi wrote.Abdullah with his softer image and more accommodating style initially gave UMNO and Barisan Nasional a boost. A sense of liberation swept through the country. But by 2007, dark clouds of despair started gathering when it became evident that Abdullah was unable to cut a new path for Malaysia, hemmed in by the conservative forces in UMNO.What followed was Barisan Nasional’s worst electoral performance since it took power.
    Ooi, the Deputy Director of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies wrote: “What he left unfinished is what his successor, Najib Abdul Razak, has to face. The mess that Mahathir left is still there, and what Abdullah learned was that there is no carpet big enough for that mess to be swept under.”It was also revealed in The Malaysian Insider last week that an authorised biography on Abdullah is expected to be released late next year. The book was commissioned early this year and will cover his life from before Merdeka until recent years.So instead of worrying about who wrote what and who published it, surely it is more important for the health of Malaysia if we have a serious discussion on why Abdullah failed and what truly is the political inheritance bestowed on Umno and Malaysia by Dr Mahathir . – August 11, 2013.

  4. #4
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    Oct 2008

    Najib's task - to bring the country back to safer waters

    COMMENT On Aug 7, 2013 I received an email announcement from the Malaysian publisher, GB Gerakbudaya, that the book, ‘Awakening: The Abdullah Badawi Years in Malaysia' was available for purchase.

    I immediately sent the communication to some friends with the comment that "I think this is a good book. I will buy one to read".

    The reason why I have a special interest in the book is because my own book, 'Malaysia: Road Map for Achieving Vision 2020' was also published by Gerakbudaya earlier in 2012.

    As my book covers both the Abdullah Badawi and Dr Mahathir Mohamad periods as prime ministers of our nation, I was intrigued to know whether my analysis of the poor quality of national leadership during the past 30 years was endorsed or repudiated by the 37 analysts, scholars and political figures who contributed to this new book.

    Since that initial announcement, it is disappointing to hear that the book launch has been postponed due to the flood of media articles focusing on the interview that Pak Lah provided to the two book editors.

    This interview, which appears as the first chapter of the book, is the first time that Pak Lah has gone on record to discuss his relationship with Mahathir.

    He details how his predecessor attempted to interfere with his running of the country, and the negative impact it would have had on the country's development if he had followed Mahathir's insistence on implementation of his pet mega projects.

    Much of the interview also focuses on the shortcomings and inability of Umno to reform, and of the damage done to the Malay agenda by Perkasa and Utusan Malaysia.

    Excerpts from this interview have predictably stirred up a huge political ruckus. Umno's cyber-troopers and supporters have gone to town in condemning the book - many of them without even reading it!
    Political ruckus

    Part of the political ruckus has come about due to the completely groundless speculation that Pak Lah had a hand in the book - both hands or more - according to the Abdullah Badawi haters in the Umno/Malay blogging world.

    We have seen how the game plan of Umno right wing and conservative forces is to impose ‘ketuanan Melayu' on the country.

    The announcement of the launch of the 'Awakening' book clearly provided them a good opportunity to lament the loss of the good old days of the authoritarian Mahathir era as well as to engage in bashing Pak Lah further.

    Hence, supporters of the triple M axis - the Mahathir-Muhyiddin-Mukhriz alliance - have gleefully seized on the book to promote their agenda. In this way, they intend to undermine Prime Minister Najib Razak's (right) position in the coming Umno elections and general assembly meeting, and check his efforts at reform.

    Regardless of the conclusions arrived at by the contributors to the book, Malaysians have long felt the direct impact of the defective policies pursued by the two prime ministers.

    As a result, no one today can escape from rising living costs, corruption, abuses in the market place, growing crime and insecurity, entrenched racism and religious bigotry in the civil service and other problems.

    Many Malaysians have made up their minds about the place of Mahathir and Pak Lah in the country's political history.
    They do not need a 620-page book to tell them about the achievements or shortcomings of the two previous administrations.

    As for me, I can share with readers the conclusions that I arrived at in my book on the two prime ministers.

    On Mahathir

    This was written in response to Mahathir's rejection of the World Bank report on Malaysia's brain drain in April 2011.

    Not surprisingly, the chief critic has been Mahathir who has derided the report as useless and politically motivated. As Mahathir has been the main architect of the socio-economic policies that have been responsible for the brain drain, his reaction is predictable.

    The country's leadership and citizenry should ignore his criticism as the ranting of a seriously flawed leader whose shelf life has expired and who has long lost his credibility to comment sensibly on any public policy subject - whether this relates to the New Economic Model or human capital development - and especially if it concerns governance issues of which the former prime minister has been fundamentally compromised and incorrigibly irresponsible.

    On Badawi

    As for Abdullah Badawi, although I did not write directly on his leadership qualities, this is what I had to say about the Islamic state concept which was endorsed and enlarged by Pak Lah to become Islam Hadhari.

    Although it is true that Islam is the religion of the state, for the prime minister to call the country an Islamic state went a lot further than has ever been done before by any leader of the country.

    In my opinion, it has lent greater significance and clout to conservative Muslim organisations and groups that want to take the country to a more Islamic oriented future in the country's road map - a direction which is not acceptable to the non-Muslim population and even to progressive Malay Muslims.

    Other commentators have challenged the prime minister's pronouncement and argued that Malaysia is in fact a secular state, since the federal constitution is unambiguously a-religious.

    The problem of religion in Malaysia can be linked directly to the Umno and PAS battle for the Islamic space and the hearts and minds - and votes - of Muslims.

    Both parties have competed to out-Islamise the other.

    Each has resorted to heightening religious rhetoric and endorsement of greater Islamic activity and acts of symbolism to demonstrate that they are more religious and worthy of Muslim votes.

    In the process they have created a monumental road block in the country's drive towards a liberal, progressive and inclusive future.

    Can Najib step back from the brink?

    The disastrous results of the political machinations of our two former prime ministers are the unfortunate legacy we have to live with. Vision 2020 is in tatters and Islam Hadhari has taken over the country.

    Many Malaysians now see the country as caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Can Najib Abdul Razak, the present prime minister, bring the country back to safer waters or will he push the country beyond the brink?

    Unfortunately nothing that Najib has done since the elections gives me confidence that he can resist the twin threats of Malay ultra-nationalism and Islamic religious fundamentalism to our country's future.

    KOON YEW YIN, a retired chartered engineer, is a philanthropist.

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