Tuesday, May 29, 2007

In Office But Not In Power

Not too long ago, political commentator BigGuyDotCom (a.k.a blogger Biggum Dogmannsteinberg) coined the phrase “Celebritum De Mediocratis” over on political forum MYKMU. I’m not sure about the soundness of Biggie’s latin (coz mine is probably infinitely worse) but the phrase was meant to convey the unfortunate yet obvious national trend of adulating leaders who were mediocre at best. .(Maybe it's even a WORLD trend:see Bush, Howard, Abe...even Bambang!.. All mediocre, all quite diappointing to their voters.)

Anyway, back to Biggie and his coining of the phrase....This was back about a year ago, if my memory hasn't failed me, right about the time when the great TDM decided that enough was enough and that he had to speak his mind. As a direct consequence of TDM’s lashing out against the outrageous rape, pillage and plunder of the country, and against the complete absence of leadership within UMNO and government, the hypocrisy of a bunch of UMNO leaders bubbled to the surface. The “Budaya Mengampu” scaled new heights, with accolades and praise showered on certain individuals, where it was clear that none was due. In an effort to ‘defend’ their boss against the onslaught of factually-sound attacks coming from a veritable giant of Malaysian politics, the bunch of UMNO clowns just gushed and spewed adulation bordering on worship, just to prove to their boss -in whose hands their own fates lay- just how loyal they are. Facts be damned, reality be damned, TDM be damned, and country be damned…all that matters is that my periuk nasi is safe and full.. runneth over, perhaps.

And so the “Celebritum De Mediocratis” culture that Biggie talked about became a reality in this land of ours. A leader so inherently weak, so obviously incompetent, absent, and inept, was continuously propped up and pushed as a capable captain, even though his narcoleptic tendencies and disdain for reading and learning is known to all and sundry.

This is of course all well documented and much discussed over the months since the leadership crisis became apparent.

But I’m writing on it again because I was reminded of the situation we were –and still find ourselves- in, as I read a column (India Diary ) in The Star today (28th May). I'm not writing anything new. I'm just re-expressing old fears. The heading of the article I read today just leapt out at me: "In Office But Not In Power".
Boy does that sound familiar.

The article was of course talking about India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who after three years in office is widely seen as weak and woefully lacking in political management abilities (again, familiar, huh?). This is in spite of a robust economy and burgeoning markets. Manmohan Singh “fails to assert Prime Ministerial authority “ and is more regarded as a seat warmer until Rahul Ghandi is ready to ascend the Premiership. (Read the full article here.)

The article borrows it’s title phrase from the scathing description of former British PM John Major by his Iron Lady predecessor Margaret Thatcher. Major, in the end, proved to be all that a disenchanted Baroness Thatcher felt him to be: weak, too conciliatory and lacking in vision. And so his inability to effectively govern, because of his inherent weaknesses and because of the rebellion arising thereof, makes him fit the bill of being ‘in office but not in power’.

Over here in our great nation, a certain dozing leader can also be labeled in office but not in power. However, unlike Manmohan Singh who came into his powerlessness by 'taking over' what is essentially Sonia Gandhi's victory and popular support, and different from John Major who inherited a problematic party and a beleaguered office, our sleeping leader came into office very well positioned, very strong and solid. He was anointed by the Great TDM, for one thing, but more importantly when TDM left office, the party was strong and united, the economy stable and the government had money. YDP came into office at a time when the office was almost unassailable. TDM had ensured that an enormous amount of power rested with the man who wears the captain's hat. Unfortunately, the man he appointed just gave away that power without the slightest inclination of what he was actually doing.
Our guy is In Office But Not In Power not JUST because he’s weak, incompetent, unfocused, clueless and lacks knowledge and vision. No. over here there are other factors that make the phrase all the more apt. He's not in power because the power was summarily surrendered to family and aides. Then again, when you know nothing, refuse to read anything, sign every piece of paper shoved your way and delegate every single thing except your bodily functions to your family and your arrogant young upstart staff members, what do you expect?? Of course the power will lie elsewhere. It will lie with the people around you!

For heaven’s sake, they decide everything for you except the colour of your underwear. (But rumour has it, even THAT someone else decides for you…. “Pengurus kediaman”, was it?...something like that. Who knows…). So in the case of our country, the leader is indeed in office but not in power, because the de facto leader is someone else. Maybe the de facto leader is not even just one person, but a group. The Four Ks for example. Or Son and SIL. Or SIL and the Fourth K together with the Plagiarist and friends. Or SIL and his band of bandits whose office is above the third floor. Or really any combination of the above. The point is, the power is likely in the hands of some or all of those people, but it DOES NOT lie where it should be: In the hands of the person in office.

Meanwhile, the sycophants and ‘pengampus’ caring only about their periuk nasi, inadvertently keep the power-deficient leader in office. They know and resent in their heart that the de facto leader is someone else, but their conscience is stifled by their own desire to stay on top. So they keep up the charade, and keep the leader in office, although they know he is not in power. The real power-grabber will come into office someday in the future… before he turns 40, if popular gossip is to be believed.

So perhaps the sleeping leader is very similar to Manmohan in one sense more than any other: He is a seat warmer. At least SIL would like to see him that way. A seat warmer / puppet who can be manipulated and used to great effect, until SIL himself rises high enough to take over. To be in Office AND In power. Now that's something interesting to anticipate. Is it not...? (sigh...).

1 comment:

BigDogDotCom said...


You got it there. Celebritum De Mediocritis means ppl who perform as mediocre but glorified as high end achiever.

PM YDP Abdullah is surrounded by so many CDMs, who will do nothing but ampu, ampu, ampu and of course achieve nothing, and yet they celebrate like they have achieved an exemplary level.

Some of the Ministers fall into this category. During Dr Mahathir's time, we thought these people are smart and high achievers but now we see their true colours.

People like Syed Hamid "Kodomo Lion" Al Bar, Azmi Khalid, Nazri Aziz, Azalina Othman Said, Chan Kong Choy even Mustapha Mohamad!