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Monday, June 29, 2009

Transcript of podcast: Evaluating the DPM

Here is the transcript of the podcast from The Edge featuring Onn Yeoh and Ong Kian Ming title "Evaluating the Deputy Prime Minister":

Oon Yeoh: I think it is about time maybe we have a look at Muhyiddin Yassin, how well he has performed as the Deputy Prime Minister and as the Education Minister.

Ong Kian Ming: Yeah, I think it is about time we evaluate his performance vis a vis the larger picture of what we expect a Deputy Prime Minister to be and to do you know. So we should talk about him in that light.

OY: Yeah, also we should touch on his role as Education Minister as well, with the English for Science and Maths controversy, he is still doing ....

OKM: Oh yeah, definitely, I mean you know that education is an issue that keep track of very closely. Right, we were all expecting some sort of announcement from the Government. But it seems that they some sort, like eh, delay it once again, because eh, you know, you have a new minister coming in and he doesn't want to sort of like step on any toes. And it seems that he is reevaluating the situation and perhaps even start from scratch, you know

OY: OK we'll talk about that later. But let's first look at him from the context of him as a Deputy Prime Minister. First start with the big picture. Overall has he been a good DPM for Najib for the first three months of his administration?

OKM: The word I would use is UNDERWHELMING.

OY: Ha ha ha ha

OKM: He has actually been underwhelming.

OY: Now why do you say

OKM: Well Muhyiddin is some sort like kept under the radar, perhaps all his career. And it is actually very surprising because he's always been seen as one of the top leaders in UMNO, but someone who doesn't really have a very distinct personality or style. So I didn't really know what to expect of him. But he basically came out I think a little bit ... if you will, you know

OY: Well he's been saying the wrong thing at the wrong time

OKM: Yeah and not only that. He said things, not only wrong things, but things which seems to go against, eh, what Najib was trying to say, you know. I think, if you recall, he came up to say something in regard to the 1Malaysia concept. He said he didn't really know what it meant. He wasn't sure what it meant...

OY: .... the same thing as well

OK: Yeah, exactly. So given the fact that, you know, it is, eh, you are supposed to back up your boss, your Prime Minister, you know, seems a little bit surprising. And of course, recently we have this, eh, there was this big U-turn about how he said, you know, there is no need to talk to PAS. And then he made a big U-turn and said we should have these talks immediately, something like that you know...

OY: But that's not the only U-turn, er, if you recall, remember in Terengganu when those 10 rebels decided to, er, boycott the state assembly. First he sort of indicated like, you know, that's OK, you know, they have a right not to attend. And then Najib ordered all of them to attend. And then he changed tack. But at first he seems to be, er, a little bit on the side of those 10 rebels. The other one which I recall very early on, which proved to be a bit of an embarassment for the Najib administration, was when, I think it was right after the Bukit Gantang by-election, where he said something like the Chinese... I think he didn't say the word ungrateful, but he said something like, they didn't appreciate the BN, and then it was translated as ungrateful. And then he scolded the Chinese press and eh, can you read Malay?

OKM: I guessed he felt a bit frustrated. But that was not a very politically savy way to express his frustration.

OY: Well, I don't see what he gained from hitting out at the Chinese, you know

OKM Yeah, exactly

OY: Well he sort of, you know, eh we gave you goodies and you didn't vote for us. Well that is (laughter) basically what .. ha ha

OKM Yeah, exactly

OY: In a way it is kind of er ironic that early on, he was seen as been hitting out at the Chinese. He really not had a record of being an ultra , you know, you can say Khairy was an ultra, you know, Mukhriz was and Mahathir had been an ultra before for many different phases of his career. Even Hishammudin you can say was an ultra, he insisted on waving the keris and all that. And Najib was, there are lots of speculation about how ultra he was in 1987 when he was an UMNO youth leader. But Muhyiddin he never really seen as an ultra kind of guy was he?

OKM: No, I think, given the statement about the Chinese being ungrateful, you know, I think that is a very very mild statement however you translate it. So I wouldn't think, so I don't think that he would be one that sort of eh stirr up the Malay ground

OY: No, no, that is not his style and neither is he a kind of er leader that people just hate, you know there are some leaders that some people cannot stand..

OKM: Oh Because they are arrogant

OY: Yeah exactly. You know, nobody invide the kind of scorn, from the non-Malay that, for example, Khairy

OKM: Yeah exactly, so I think there is both good and bad in the sense that he wouldn't stir the water and create controversy. But at the same he probably wouldn't be the sort of person to have the kind of charismatic leadership to stir the ground among the Malays for example. So you know, it is sort of like er a safe pair of hand perhaps a little bit like Pak Lah

OY: Not very dynamic. I would say although it is very very early days it doesn't look like he is the kind of guy that would clash with his boss in the way that Musa Hitam clashed with Mahathir or in the way that Anwar clash with Mahathir

OKM: I think it is going to be a good number 2 in the sense that he will follow what Najib tells him to do. If Najib tells him to do something, he will follow that. Whether he would, you know, do things that are politically savvy or strategic. On his own, you know, I think we have seen that that probably wouldn't be the case

OY: Let's turn his role as Education Minister. That is a very important portfolio and the hot potato right now is the English for teaching Science and Maths. He is new at the role but do you think he will be able handle this English for teaching Science and Maths well?

OKM: Well I have my reservation. Because this issue. No matter what the resolution is, you are going to anger people from er. one side or the other or how many different sides there are you know. My sense is that because he is new to this, because he has not met the different stakeholders in this process. Whenever he comes out with a decision it would anger some people and I think because he doesn't have the experience in handling this education issue, he wouldn't be able to handle it well

OY: What are your thoughts on it?

OKM: My sense is that, it's probably a policy that washes up like the net effect is actually neutral I would say

OY: So you think it should continue?

OKM: My sense, I think it should be continued because we haven't actually given it enough time. You need to give it a little more time. At least another 5 years or 6 years cycle. So that better teachers can be trained and the people can get used to it. And I think that once you sort of like institutionalize it within the system, it should be something that people will accept over time. But my sense is that the political reality would be such that there will be a policy change

OY: Why the political situation calls for a change

OKM: Because the people who are really against this policy are the ones that are very vocal, you know, either on non-Malay or Malay side. People who are for this policy. They are sort like a little bit luke warm. A lot of them are middle class parents whose kids actually speak decent English already so they don't really need this policy to continue. It is sort of like imbalance of resources as well as, savings if you will, on the side of those who really want this change

OY: You think the angry voices are getting too loud

OKM: Exactly, too loud and some of the silent majority who may prefer the policy to continue, they are not too worked up to make a big deal about this

OY: I mean that is quite true. A lot of middle class people who, the parents speak good English, don't think that they necessary want it to stop. They may not be crazy about it, they are not going to go to the streets and demonstrate, you know, in order for the policy to be retained. But if given the choice, I think they are fine with having Maths and Science in English

OKM: Yeah I think they will want it to continue

OY: So how do you think it is going to be resolved?

OKM: It will either discontinue the teaching of Science and Maths in English at the primary level. But when you start in the secondary level, or you only start in the primary 4 instead of primary 1. There will be some....

OY: You know it is still very early early days, but I think it will grow in the row

OKM: He has held various portfolio, he is a very experienced administrator. But the challenges in the Ministry of Education will definitely test his administrative capabilities to its full extend.

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