Can any of our 4G do an 81 or 92?

Sense And Nonsense by Tan Bah Bah

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Now Barisan Nasional Gua Musang MP (Kelantan) Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, 81, wants to run for the presidency of Umno next month. The veteran Umno MP has had clashes in the past within and outside Umno, with current Malaysian PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad, now from the triumphant Pakatan Harapan coalition government. If Ku Li succeeds, he will have the chance to debate as Opposition leader with Mahathir (with the latter as PM perhaps for two years only) since Parti Keadilan Rakyat leader (main party in the PH coalition) Anwar Ibrahim will be taking over as PM from Mahathir by then, subject to his election.

Before we talk about other things, let’s look at the ages of some of the main political leaders on both sides of the Causeway and ask ourselves some questions.

Current Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad is 92. He has just trekked through the country in a gruelling campaign to unseat the formidable BN against all odds and gone on a trip to Tokyo, all in hardly more than month.

Anwar is 70. When he succeeds Mahathir, he will be only a sprightly 72. Anwar is  what the Hokien would describe as a pa si buay chau (hard to knock down). His family share his traits. You would be inspired by his spirited daughter, Nurul Izzah.

In Singapore, PM Lee Hsien Loong says he wishes to stand down by 2020, which means by around age 70/71.

There seems to be a difference in the way the politicians deal with age in the two countries.

We look at age as a hurdle – not as a welcomed asset – in Singapore. This is why we continue to have a problem changing the mindsets of our employers. This is why we are also stressing ourselves over the whole business of 3G or 4G leadership. It is as if the whole world will collapse if the wrong decision is made. Despite all the dire predictions, Singapore did not disappear when J.B. Jeyaretnam, Chiam See Tong and Low Thia Khiang got elected. Despite Aljunied GRC being in the hands of the Workers’ Party, the investors continued to pour in.

We are already not that big a country. Why is there necessity to test our leaders at the municipal level where problems ought to be handled by the appropriate agencies? Having the regular meet-the-people-sessions should be good enough to serve the heartlands. As a compromise, new MPs can deal with both – town council/maintenance in addition to constituents’ personal problems  – in their first two years.

In fact, with digitalisation and Singapore going smart, citizens will have to do their own applications and manage their accounts.

Governing and leading a country will be through personal experience. It is almost by intuition. This something no one can learn, whatever generation you are from. Do you have it or do you not?

If you had watched many of the Pakatan Harapan leaders on that May 9 night. they might have appeared worried earlier on. But by the time the results came in, they were in unison, ready to say their piece on behalf of themselves or the party which was still very new. Victory gave them their impetus or cause. However, I believe each and everyone had already shared a cause, a vision larger than themselves.

This is what everyone of our national leaders should always have. Something bigger than themselves.  I think they should work not just for themselves or their party but a national cause.

If you extend this further and embed it in our national psyche through appropriate personal example and not by blanket mainstream coverage, you should develop enough resilience to withstand any challenge.

Singapore should never be about Gardens By The Bay, however artificially beautiful. It should always be about all things emotional and personal. We can do without the Gardens but lose that emotion for the country, we would have lost it.

I have been watching lots of Mahathir videos. Age has nothing to do with what he has been doing. At 92, the Malaysian PM believes in a cause. Perhaps so does Ku Li. And surely Anwar Ibrahim.

3G or 4G, what difference does it make? Do you have it?

Sense And Nonsense is a weekly series. Tan Bah Bah is a former senior leader writer with The Straits Times. He was also managing editor of a local magazine publishing company.