It is quite normal for anyone to ask this question: Where are we going and where is Najib taking us? Since Najib took over the reins of government in 2009, we are neither here nor there. Most people are baffled because Najib seems disconnected from reality while the country is facing innumerable critical problems which require urgent attention.
Even as these problems are left unattended, more problems are being added. Najib's words have no meaning whatsoever as his cabinet ministers have been acting to dismantle what he had promised the people before he was given the mandate to run the country.
His father was completely different. Tun Abdul Razak’s words were meant as instructions to all, ministers, civil servants and the people. No member of his cabinet would go against what he decided for the people.
The Tun was very prudent and would not spend people’s money unnecessarily. He limited his overseas travel to not more than twice a year. He would cut out all non-essential expenses. He did not believe in creating unwanted and expensive icons. He was interested in uplifting the economic situation of the whole nation, not just creating a few wealthy and self-centred individuals. He believed that he should not waste the rakyat’s money by bringing hangers-on his overseas trips. That was how astute and concerned Tun Razak was about the welfare of the people and the country.
Najib, on the other hand, is away from the country most of the time and it had been reported that so far his travels have cost the country RM44 million. That is a very huge amount even for a prime minister.
Tun Razak relied on advice from local experts, and placed trusted people in positions, in the knowledge that their contribution would see to the success of projects. He started MARA to take over the role carried out by RIDA (Rural and Industrial Development Authority) before and placed capable officers to man the various divisions in MARA. He had the late Mansor Osman (later Menteri Besar of Negeri Sembilan) placed in the training division to offer scholarships and aid to needy rural students.
He entrusted Tan Sri Arshad Ayub to steer the MARA College (now Universiti Teknologi MARA) towards developing more Bumiputera professionals. He placed people where he knew they would be able to assist his goal in uplifting the professional capabilities of those who had been neglected before.
Tun Razak appointed an able and dedicated civil servant Tan Sri Thong Yaw Hong in a position to assist him realise the objectives of his rural development programme.
He recognised and trusted those civil servants whom he knew personally and appointed them to positions of high trust, like Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam, Tan Sri Tunku Shahriman, Dr Agoes Salim, Raja Alias and Tan Sri Rama Iyer in planning and development units in the Prime Minister's Department.
To him, all were Malaysians and he overrode any racial or religious sentimentality. He was a man of the people of all shades and religious beliefs. The Tun had only one goal in mind and that was the welfare of the people and to him it would take all Malaysians to achieve this. He was also not distracted by petty and hollow sloganeering.
None would dare to approach him and shout “Ketuanan Melayu” or any such nonsense. The government would help all the people towards achieving a better life.
Government involvement in religion, to him, should also be on a minimum scale. Religion was a faith adhered to by individuals and that should be about all there was to it. He did not encourage the religious department to expand its jurisdiction whereby it could pose a threat to national harmony.
But unfortunately, at present, things seem to have gone out of hand. Ministers contradict what the Prime Minister had promised. Voices of disharmony were allowed free reign. Acts that harm the sensitivities of those not of the Muslim faith are on the rise.
And yet Najib champions 1Malaysia. It was there all along but subsequent leaders, especially those from UMNO Baru, had dismantled that by allowing anti-national elements from the cabinet itself to “flourish” uncontrollably.
Najib told the Sabah and Sarawak people of the freedom in practising their religion and then a ban was imposed on their newsletter. Sarawak and Sabah together with Malaya then had formed Malaysia, and there was no need to tell them that they are part of Malaysia. They definitely were and are part and parcel of Malaysia.
One very important factor was that Tun Razak walked the talk. The Malay paper Utusan Melayu with national calibre editors like Yusof Ishak (later President of Singapore) and Said Zahari had been vocal in fighting for the truth and even when it was taken over by UMNO, it still remained as a national paper that was very much respected.
But once UMNO Baru led by Dr. Mahathir Mohamad took over the country, Utusan has become the party’s organ and has been allowed to become a national trash. The TV channels have also become the mouthpiece of the party. They have miserably failed to play a positive role in fostering national unity.
Every single effort should be coordinated like during Tun Razak’s time to achieve the national goal of equality, prosperity and happiness for all. Pray! Tell us! Are you, Najib, taking us towards disaster!
Ahmad Mustapha Hassan is a former press secretary to second Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein and the author of the book, "The Unmaking of Malaysia".