Friday, February 11, 2011

Visionary betrayed by himself

Malaysiakini - Private varsity 'squanders' RM100 mil gov't grant

If you read the above MIKINI article you will see that the wannabe-premier postgraduate technical university of Malaysia, named by the exciting inspiring acronym of MUST (Malaysian University of Science and Technology) was a concept conceived by Dr Mahathir when he visited the world famed Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

As I have written before, Dr Mahathir as PM was a visionary. Certainly MUST like the Multimedia Super Corridor, etc were worthy projects. But alas, a visionary or strategist’s concept could only be realized if he had the correct and competent people or staff to put flesh to his idea.

Many had been the times Dr Mahathir was let down by his blue-eyed boys. Remember MAS, Sime Darby, BIMB? Hey, in fact, once Anwar Ibrahim too was one of his blue-eyed boys wakakaka.

Let me share with you a couple of other stories that I heard recently from my elders during the Chinese New Year celebrations. I have no idea whether they’re true, but hear me out anyway ;-)

Once upon a time wakakaka, it was said that Dr Mahathir, when he became PM, was downright pissed off with the way the development and beautification of Kuala Lumpur was going. He saw so many f*ups that his blood pressure must have shot up with such force it would have easily escaped Earth’s gravitational pull.

I bet he must have been grinding his teeth at the thought of LKY down south nyah-nyah-nyah-ing him. Obviously in those days, when one talked about the ‘greening’ of a modern city, Singapore would have been a prime model. And there was nothing that pissed Dr M off more than for KL to be upstaged by that (to him) f*ing lil’ red dot down south wakakaka.

Things came to such a frustrating stage for him that it was said he hired a bus (aircon, of course wakakaka) and ordered the top KL civil servants including the Datuk Bandar into it. He then went around KL with himself in the role of (let’s put it in simple terms) a ‘tour guide’. As he passed each place or item of f*up in the greening/beautification program he would lecture his public service ‘generals’ on where they had gone wrong and how they should have done it correctly.

One related incident I still remember from the recent CNY gossip was Dr M’s admonition to the person in charge of greening the city. Words to the effect, he said that if one wanted to plant a tree or plant in a city, one should have the commonsense to choose a tree or plant which didn’t continuously shed its leaves off as that would have required more cleaning up.

When I was a kid I hated the star fruit (belimbing) tree in my garden. That arboreal monster shed and shed and shed its leaves everyday to my utter frustration, disgust and despair, because as the only kid left in my household I had the responsibility of sweeping the leaves each and every evening, finally escaping the Sisyphean ordeal only after I left home for KL when I completed my schooling.

Thus, if the story is true, Dr M was very correct in his admonition of the civil servant. Why add on unnecessarily to the cleaning cost and the untidy look of KL, when a little thought in selecting the correct plant could have help? But it’s a reflection of the lack of competency in his officers. The man had to turun padang himself to provide detailed directions. How many Dr M's would we need to spoon feed his underlings?

Another story gleaned from the gossip – again, I’m not sure whether it’s true but let’s treat it just like a story for the moment.

One day (or, once upon a time wakakaka) when Dr M went to America (which part is not important) he saw something he thought interesting and possibly useful for Malaysia. It was a Grumman Albatross (designation HU-16), a seaplane, taking off and landing on a lake.

The story went that Dr M thought such a plane could be used to land on, say, the Ringlet lake, and take off from there. He was always thinking of new ways to expand on the mode of transportation. So I presume he must have mentioned this to a staff.

So the staff went about his or her way (could it be a young 'no-crucifix' HK? wakakaka – well, a clone then) into getting ('ordering' was more like it) the TUDM to operate a couple of seaplanes. But this is the stupid part - it was not any modern seaplanes (say, like the Donier Seastar) but the Grumman Albatross, yes, that HU-16.

Just ponder on that moronic buy, or robotic mindlessness of the staff, because the Grumman Albatross was developed and produced in 1949, with its production ending in 1961. The last flight by the Americans was made in 1976.

Our southern neighbour Indonesia who had a few in its air force (or navy) had by then consigned theirs to the scrap yard long before the two HU-16’s were ordered by our Wonder for the TUDM sometime after mid-1980, a quarter of a century after production of the plane had ended.

Did those Yanks sell us some leftovers from their war museum, or more likely, a scrap yard? So, imagine how successfully(?) the TUDM operated those WWII relics? My Unc heard one nearly sank at sea but was fortuitously rescued by a RMN vessel which came upon the HU-16 wannabe-submarine and towed it back to land, wakakaka. I bet the Indonesian Air Force must have had a good laugh at Malaysian stupidity.

All these stories, if true, tell us that while Dr Mahathir had great vision and good ideas he was severely let down in the implementation by his so-called ‘generals’.

The MUST debacle is merely another example of poor implementation to a great idea by Dr M.

But in the final analysis, Dr M must bear the greater responsibility because he failed in the 3 necessary steps to ensure his ideas brought forth the correct fruit, namely:

(a) have the correct and competent people to implement his ideas or vision,

(b) ensure they conduct their business in accordance with good practice, governance and ethics, and

(c) most important of all, hold the implementers totally accountable.

Had he ever? Just think Tajudin, former CEO of MAS!


  1. Oh, and don't forget Mahathir is a sicko of "just build it" hardware guy. He just ignore the "software" behind all those hardware.

    Whether old or new seaplanes, landing on sea are totally different landing technique. It is nice to watch the TV on how smooth the pilot land the plane on sea, well, how much training cost you going to pay for that, if not for commercial usage? Smart-alecks mahathir, USA doesn't build blackhawk for fun.

    So instead of saying Mahathir is a "visionary" but bad execution, perhaps "power corrupt absolutely" are more appropriate word.

    Unlike mahathir, LKY shoot out the idea, let his think tank do the thinking and solidify the idea.

  2. Great idea visionary dreams
    For a leader to cook it up
    He must have the ingredients
    And master chef to wok it up

    A leader should be color blind
    Find the best to get the work done
    It serves no purpose to get a kitchen helper
    Asking him to cook an 8 course dinner!

    The old man will live
    Feeling his utter frustrations
    Of the dreams slowly tumbling
    The incompetent leaders in the helm

    The old man can't blame others
    He shouldn't tell stories of what these were
    I learned it long ago
    In one color there is no creativity

    Our tax money
    All gone to waste or flight
    In one color who's checking?
    There is no blending...

    The wastage will drain our resources
    It doesn't need a whiz kid to tell
    The putting holes swallowing many balls
    Yet it is still hungry with golfers on the fields

  3. Great vision(arguable)poor implementation(definitely)!He gave himself short shrift by eliminating capable nons ending up with incompetent Melayus.That's poetic justice for his racist stance.And he's gotten even worse of late.Accountability and him?Look at how he's blaming the police for Ops Lallang!Sad sod,too bad he was born in the same era as LKY.He'll go to his grave a bitter man.

  4. LKY saw many of his bright ideas brought to successful fruition most likely because he did not allow himself to be strait-jacketed by narrow tunnel-vision, say, by insisting that only a certain race, for example that only a Chinese Singaporean, be allowed to manage a major project.

    Being a pragmatic person, it seems most likely that he would have chosen the most capable person to do the job without regard as to which ethnic group that person belongs to. If it is a chimpanzee that's deemed to be most competent for the job, I'm sure he would have no hesitation appointing the chimp to do it. The fact that most of his executives were Chinese is incidental. It's highly improbable that he set out with the insistence that they had to be from the Chinese race, unlike some blinkered people.

  5. But the Koreans too TDM's idea of MSC and applied it nation wide.