I was reading the week end papers when I came across an article about how ex Chairman and CEO of Petronas, Hassan Marican, had left the Malaysian shores …… to take up foreign directorships in companies like Singapore Power and ConocoPhillips.

It was quite obvious that there was a falling out of sorts between him and Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib over an appointment of an individual to the Board of Petronas.

Granted, the PM had the prerogative to make such appointment but the perceived ‘interference’ in the running of a multi-national that provides a substantial amount of the government’s annual revenue income …. does not make good reading for the foreign investing audience.

The fact that Hassan Marican is somewhat perceived as a persona-non-grata in his own country ….. only adds to this perception that ‘performers of the positive kind’ are not really welcome in the Malaysian corporate environment.

It adds further credence to this notion that critics of the establishment are not really welcome to be part of the set-up ……….. thus causing a culture of ‘keeping their mouths shut’ as it is ‘not safe to speak up’!

Most people in the corporate sector end up taking care of their immediate accountability with no desire whatsoever to ensure overall achievement of the organisation.

Why is this so ……. despite the clear encouragement of most, if not all organisations encouraging such openness and collaboration?

This is because this so-called openness is only perceived as a ‘SHOW’ and not truly encouraged by the establishment.

Behaviour of this open kind would be responded to in the ‘culling’ of the person concerned in the subtlest of fashion ……….. leaving in no doubt to the minds of others that ‘keeping their mouths shut’ is the safest option.

The stifling of criticism has had dire consequences across the board in that it also had the effect of stifling growth, innovation and human capital development.

But with the Little Napoleons faced with the over-riding choice factors of cowardice, political expediency, vanity and non-conscience in deciding which option to take, it doesn’t take a lot to conclude that the country, Malaysia and its people, have been and will continue to be the biggest losers under the current administration!

This does not necessarily need to be so in other countries, though!

The cultures of other countries have seen people standing firm against intimidation and subtle coercion aimed at forced subservience.

This reminds me of the predicament I read that was faced in 1990 by Sir Geoffrey Howe (GH), a brilliant senior member of the British cabinet then headed by Margaret Thatcher (MT).

GH was having differences with MT who then began to ostracise and belittle GH.

This was the same modus operandi she did to other ‘recalcitrants’ within her Conservative party ….. who later left the cabinet in disgrace.

But not Geoffrey Howe.

He decided to rebut the insinuations and subtle allegations against his competency …….. by responding in parliament i.e. informing the world his take of developments culminating in his decision to resign as Foreign Secretary which, at the end of his speech, also ended the Prime Ministerial career of Margaret Thatcher.

Such was the venom of his words, albeit subtle and disguised, that irreversibly catapulted the unhappiness and disgruntlement of the party seniors to the fore ….. that made Margaret Thatcher’s resignation as PM a foregone conclusion.

Geoffrey Howe’s speech should be a case study for every student of speech writing and articulation.

And with the recent debate by the two Malaysian political gentlemen, let’s hope that this is the start of many future better debates/discussions on important issues plaguing the country but ignored by the current administration. 

Geoffrey Howe’s speech can be down-loaded HERE whilst the substantive part of his speech can be seen below:


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