It's been almost four weeks since flight MH370 disappeared, generating a crisis of sorts, with Malaysia coming under huge pressure. There is no doubt that any country faced with this unique situation would have encountered difficulties and made mistakes, considering the complexity of the whole saga.
A lot of credit should go to those who are directly involved in the SAR operations. It is really very difficult trying to find a missing plane in such a vast area far from the nearest land mass, with very little data.
However one aspect that I find disappointing is how the Prime Minister of Malaysia has handled the crisis. This is the time when leadership, empathy and bravery is required at the very top and I strongly feel that Dato' Seri Najib has decided to take the safe option, as he always does.
His two announcements, read from prepared texts, and not allowing questions from the media, just gives the impression (to me at least) that he is not ready to lead from the front and take the heat. We don't expect you to be there everyday, but at least when you do come out and face the press and the public, you need to address the issues at hand.
While I am neither a fan of Tun Dr Mahathir nor Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim, I cannot imagine that they would hide behind their prepared texts and not answer any questions.
This is in huge contrast to Dato' Seri Hishamuddin, who has (in my opinion) done very well and shown enormous courage. Maybe he had a few misteps, but who wouldn't in that situation, especially having to cover many mistakes made earlier when the DCA chief led the press briefings.
The way Dato' Seri Najib handled the situation is also far different from Tony Abbot, the Australian Prime Minister, who is actually looking every bit like a leader after his country was asked to lead the search and rescue operations. It's not Australia's plane that went down and he could have easily delegated the job to one of his subordinates but I've seen him speaking more about the plane then Dato' Seri Najib.
I've noticed that our PM usually avoids taking a stand in contentious issues when they crop up, afraid of saying things that may hurt his voter base. I've also not seen him address racial and religious issues decisively, sometimes they are not addressed at all.
To be fair, he has steered the country reasonably well on the economic front so far (again my personal opinion), and has finally started undertaking the politically difficult subsidy rationalization programme, even if it was delayed till after the election. However in many other aspects, such as press freedom and fight against corruption, I believe that he has not delivered.
His refusal to allow briefings for opposition MPs again shows the deep lack of understanding about what the people of Malaysia want. The opposition MPs had more votes collectively than what BN received. You are basically ignoring a group that effectively represent the majority in Malaysia.
If you were a foreigner observing the events in this country for the past few weeks, you might be inclined to ask who is actually leading the country right now.
The fact that the opposition is angry with Dato' Seri Hishamuddin for going to the Defence Ministers meeting in Hawaii instead of briefing them speaks volumes. To me, the right person to brief all MP's and answer questions is the Prime Minister, just like how the Prime Minister of Australia spoke to his parliament.
Hounding Dato' Seri Hishamuddin means that they think only he can answer their questions properly. Personally, I feel that he must go the meeting in Hawaii and is it Dato Seri Najib's responsibility to brief our MPs.
For Dato' Seri Hishamuddin, I hope that this incident has shaken him to the core, and that he realises how it feels like to be on the other side when you have the press hostile towards you and when you cannot control the narrative. There were a few things that he did in the past that many Malaysians did not like. I hope he seizes this chance to change and become a leader for all Malaysians.
As for Dato' Seri Najib, I think he should just ignore his advisors, consultants and PR handlers, throw away the prepared script, and show some courage and tackle issues head on. Unfortunately, I believe that this is just simply beyond him.
Note: I think the Deputy Prime Minister has also completely disappeared in the commotion but that would require another posting.