Friday, December 5, 2008


The writer was fetched from Kuala Terengganu airport normally by a regular driver in a Proton Perdana, but during the most recent trip to this State Capital, there was a new one and accompanied for the first time by a new lecturer. Both were complete strangers to the writer; but the question posed to the writer even before the fast moving car left the compound of the airport which was under busy construction was rather strange too:

“Dato’! What do you think of the politics nowadays?”
Responded the writer, “I am the last person you should be asking.”

“Surely, Dato’ has something to say”.
“Well, if you insist, let me say the following”:

“For a long time, we had only one “Barisan” that is “Barisan Nasional” (National Front), of course. Now we have another one, “Barisan Alternatif” (Alternative Front). But we can no longer call them by this name, as they are already in Government; it has been known even before the last General Election as “Barisan Pakatan Rakyat” (Citizen Partnership Front). As far as we should be concerned too, there should be a third Front!”

“What is that Dato’? What do you call it?

Barisan Lurus”(Straight Front), and not by “lurus barisan” that is simply not by forming a straight line only, or “terikut-ikut macam kambing biri-biri; seekor lompat, yang lain pun semuanya melompat. Samaada ada pagar atau pun tidak!” (Do not be a like a herd of sheep; if one of them at the front were to jump, the rest would jump irrespective of whether or not there is a fence before them.)

“If that is the case, Dato’, you should run for the presidency of the Third Front!”

“Well, if one were to do that, who would vote for him or for her? Most supporters were “bengkok” (not straight)!)

That was the end of a quick conversation, as the Perdana had already reached the writer’s regular destination. The writer was also pleased to seeing the regular driver in the same Perdana later in the day back to the airport, but had been wondering since then who was that new driver!

But here in New York during this time of the year, one could not help but to observe keenly a run up to the next Presidency of the United States of America by November 4, 2008. The issues have not been about “you and me! To be in power? But the about the people, the welfare and the well-being of the average households and families, the majority of the “Rakyat” (the citizens), and the local communities.

The key to a great nation is not really as to how the great wealth of the country ought to be distributed or spent on infrastructure which is at times can be so lopsided to the needs of the people, but it what way it would make a difference to the life of every citizen and resident with given equal access and opportunity to be useful, productive, innovative and creative. To do this, it would require greater investment not in the buildings but in the building of tertiary educational institutions and also in pre-school education and in attracting dedicated, committed and good quality teachers. The role of the head of every household or family can not be underestimated.

A closer look at every Olympian and every Olympic Medalist would reveal the immense power of his or her sheer commitment, strong will toward excellence, and total focus, with the support not only from the State or the community but more importantly from the parents and family member(s).

It would also take “a talent to identify other talents”. The success of Michael Phelps, for instance, the only 8 Gold Medalist with 7 World Records in swimming, stems from his talented coach-Manager who has spotted him at his very young age. Of course, there are equally revealing stories of every other Olympian and of other great winners and champions.

Back in Malaysia, one could be certain that there is no shortage of talents. But do we have enough talents to spot on these talents and to continue nurture them toward excellence: from sports to civil service, businesses, and political leadership. Yang Amat Berbahagia Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is such a talented and exemplary leader of Malaysia; but one wonders whether or not he has the talent to have identified his three but plus one Deputy being the eventual successor as Prime Minister of Malaysia.

As Muslims, whenever we are just about to begin performing our Friday and other jumaah (group) prayers, our Imam would remind one and all present not only to straighten our respective safs or “barisan” (rows) but also not to keep one next to another apart but rather “rapat-rapat” (almost touching each other). This is to reflect our continuous efforts of reminding ourselves to be “straight”, and together, to be united as a “team” in order to face all challenges ahead toward a sustainable future.

New York
1 September 2008

NOTE: Dato' Bakar Jaafar is a retired but “Recyclable” ex-Director-General of the Department of Environment, Malaysia, (1990-1995) who has been promoting since 2004 “Indifferent Consumers-pay (ICP)” Principle as a complementary enviro-economic policy instrument to solving the waste problem once for all.