The Best Candidate For Our Next Prime Minister

The Best Candidate For Our Next Prime Minister

The 23rd of February, 2020 was one of the longest Sunday Malaysia had seen. Two days had gone by since the Pakatan Harapan Presidential Council had taken place and rumours of discord from behind the closed doors spread like wildfire. While the official statement declared that the members of the council had agreed to place their trust into Mahathir’s hands regarding the date of his resignation, speculations of dissatisfactions and demands unmet during the meeting were running rampant.

Sunday came, and with it rolled in a thousand and one explosions as the news dropped us bombshells after bombshells. Ministers are said to be cleaning up their desks, political parties are hosting impromptu meetings across the nation and before the dust could settle from the late, late night excitements, a short press statement dropped onto our laps on the very next day, announcing the prime minister’s resignation, effectively dissolving the Cabinet in one swoop. And as the crème de la crème, PPBM announced that they have decided to leave the Pakatan Harapan coalition, shattering the fledgling government as they lose their majority in the Parliament.

We were told that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong had appointed Mahathir as the interim prime minister while awaiting the appointment of the next one and naturally, the question that is now in everyone’s mind is: “Who will be the next prime minister?”.

From the snippets of news that I’ve gathered on the many ongoing interparty meetings, it seems highly likely that our new leader would hail from the new coalition, Perikatan Nasional (I am still not over the fact of how beautifully this name echoes another moment in our history when people from different groups set aside their differences for the future of our nation). And the three names which are gaining traction among the people are Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, Tan Sri Muhyidin Yassin and Dato’ Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.

In the days leading towards the 14th General Election, there were many voices proclaiming that they seek a veteran leader who have collected wisdom throughout the years with a wealth of experience under their belt. People are searching for someone who could help improve and expand Malaysia’s then booming economy to its best potential. Freelancers and the new wave of online entrepreneurs, who themselves are stepping into uncharted territory, and executives alike are looking for a capable financing expert who could lead the country into the much awaited year of 2020.

At the same time, the people are also setting their hearts on a leader who would place the people as their main priority. Among the speculations and accusations of corruption and a sense of worldwide social awakening, voters were careful in their search for someone who would not abandon nor exploit the everyday man but instead give them the opportunity, guidance and assistance so they too could serve the country in their respective fields. They want a prime minister who would make every Malaysian proud to say “This man is our leader and he cares for us”.

Judging from these concerns, my eyes are set on UMNO’s Gua Musang MP, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, affectionately known as Ku Li.

As the Father of Malaysia’s Economy, he was the mastermind behind the establishment and implementation of a number of key foundations and policies in our economy, many of which we are still relying heavily on to this day. Even before he served the country as a full minister, Ku Li had lead a number of economical initiatives including the building of Bank Bumiputra Malaysia Berhad, PERNAS and PETRONAS.

After receiving the post as the Minister of Finance and later Minister of Trade and Industry, he continued his focus on expanding the economy and improving the financial status of the people through the formation of PNB, which had brought many small local entrepreneurs and professionals to participate directly in the country’s economical growth, and many others. His efforts in the Malaysian and ASEAN Chamber of Commerce did not simply earn him the respect and affection of the people, but he also garnered international acknowledgement and recognition which earned him the title “Father of Malaysian Economic Development”.

Behind the limelight of national and international acclamation, Ku Li is a simple statesman who is well loved by the people of his constituency, where he had served for more than three decades. His popularity among the people had kept him as the longest serving member of our parliament. Despite his royal background, being the great-uncle of the current Sultan of Kelantan, he is known to be seen with the people who calls him “Ku Kita”, or The People’s Prince, titles well-earned.

It is true that the cloud of dust is still hanging in the air after the fall of the still green Pakatan Harapan government and there is no sure way of telling what would happen next. Nevertheless, it is my opinion that based on the character prerequisite given by the people, Ku Li is the man best fit for the role of our next prime minister based on his capability and experiences. It is also my hope to see someone as sure footed, strong of mind and with as good a presence of self as Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah leading our country back into the Tiger Economy.


My Grandfather, My Confidant

His ‘kain pelikat’ was soaked with my tears as I clung to his knees and wept. The hour had passed with me sharing with him all my woes. I told him about the silliest, insignificant word someone had called me that felt unjust. I talked about the people I love with all of my heart, yet couldn’t connect with. I cried for all that I yearn for, all just within my grasp but which were denied. I expressed my fear at the unknown, donning the mask of an examiner, eyes never leaving, ready to pounce at every mistake.

As I finally threw out all coherency and lost all sense of language but for the sobs that burst out of my chest, he placed his hand on my shoulder and gave it a soft squeeze.

“Don’t worry, you’ll find your cat again. She isn’t lost.”

And in spite of all of my anguish and anxiety, I laughed. I looked up and saw him smiling at me, pleased to see that he made me feel better.

He was my grandfather. A nonagenarian who didn’t remember that he had ever married or had children, most of the time. A man who woke up at a different time period each day, with a slightly different view on life. A man who would delightfully share with you tales of his youth, which he remembered in great detail, if you ask the right questions. A man who would listen to you empathically whenever you have a weight you need to lift off your chest; and even though he didn’t always understand all that you shared, he would try to cheer you up and give you words of advice and encouragement.

For a few years, my father had encouraged me to write about my experience caring for my grandfather, in hopes that it would help others who also have someone dear to care for. He wanted me to share how I felt and the struggles I had to face so others won’t feel like they were alone in this. And no matter how much I tried to convince him that this wasn’t a chore for me, he would insist on thanking me for my ‘sacrifice’.

I initially didn’t want to write about this, which is why it has taken me years to finally put this together. The days I spent with my grandfather and what I shared with him was something very close and personal to me, something I feel irrationally possessive about.

Because it had never been a sacrifice — it was one of the most fulfilling years of the latter half of my life. I felt loved, cherished and richer than I had been for so many years.

I cannot honestly say that every day was a walk in the park. There were days when he insisted that he wasn’t hungry and I had to wreck my brain in trying to find something which would coax his appetite. There were nights when I found him with the wardrobe door wide opened and all of his clothes piled high on his bed. He was fit for his age but he had accidents — he once fell asleep while having tea and fell to the floor — so I always had to keep a sharp eye. We even had days when he woke up and was only able to converse in Arabic (which my very rusty elementary Arabic couldn’t keep up with) and another in German. And I remember a day when he insisted that he had to leave the house because he needed to see a friend even though it was past midnight.

But at the same time, I enjoyed whipping up crazy ideas to make his food appealing to his eye. I was entertained when he suddenly went to my brother late at night and spent an hour teaching him the correct way to march. When we left the house, I liked to show him odd and fascinating things I could see that others may find silly. I shared the funny videos I found on the internet that I thought he would enjoy and we watched them together. I even spoke Trengganuspeak with him, something that I had been too anxious to try out with anyone else.

But the thing I never told my father was that, beyond all that, my grandfather was the one person I could share all of what I hid from the rest of the world without the fear of disappointment or prejudice. He was my source of comfort when the nights felt so dark and cold. He was my confidant and my friend; never expecting more of me than what I feel I could shoulder and always offering me his strength when I feel too tired to stand. Caring for someone like him had given me such a sense of purpose, acceptance, appreciation and validation that I hadn’t found elsewhere.

At no time had the days I spent with him felt like a sacrifice more than it was a gift.

I don’t know who I was to him, he only referred to me as ‘ganda-ganda kita’ (one of us), but to me, he had a life worthy to be painted in a series of books. He was a man who had walked on the Earth before me and tried his hands at something grand and amazing and was somewhat disappointed with the response he received. He was someone who had so much love in him that it had broke him several times over. He was one of the people I had to thank for the life I have and for being the person that I am.

He was the one person I spilled all of my heart to ever since my brother was old enough to understand the weight of the words I say. He was my sanctuary from scrutinising eyes and the solace that soothes my turbulence. He was the best of my friends and he was my dear, old grandfather.

Halal Consciousness

(Please play the video if you prefer to listen to this post instead)

I found my mother diving deep into the lists of JAKIM halal certified bakery products on the Halal Malaysia Official Portal ( and when I asked her what she was up to, she told me about a professional Muslim baker she found online who was showing off their preferred brand of butter. When asked if the butter was halal, the baker assured that it was, even though it was missing any sort of halal approval logo. Just to be sure, my mother searched through the directory of JAKIM certified halal bakery ingredients and even looked up other products that we had been using, which do display the approval logo, just for comparison and the butter that the baker was displaying was nowhere on the directory.

Just imagine the thousands of Muslims who watches their video and took them at their word that the butter is indeed halal and may buy them for their own personal consumption. Imagine hundreds more who have bought and consumed the baker’s products, sweet goods sold by a Muslim entrepreneur , who probably only consider halal to be anything that doesn’t say ‘pork’ on it. And this baker is not the only one.

I wrote about Halal labelling more than 10 years ago but I think in the new age of online entrepreneurship and social media, this topic deserves to be revisited from a different angle. While in the past, what you consume is probably only going to affect yourself, your family and your close social circle; with everyone sharing their food on Facebook and Instagram and the ease of setting up a business online, your decisions now could affect thousands, both directly and indirectly. Someone may be tempted by your recipe; buy your food; had their curiosity perked by a new, untried ingredient or simply share the post to someone else and extending the chain of influence to hundreds more.

Your careless decision could negatively affect a lot more people than you may realise.

I remember a man who sold spices and processed food at the pasar tani (farmer’s market) we used to go to every week, who would give my mother a long and detailed answer on each of his products whenever my mother asked him if something was halal. He told mom that as the middle man, he would thoroughly check if the product he sells is truly halal especially if they were prepared at small informal and unregistered home factories. He even visited their homes where they prepared the products before he would be satisfied enough to sell them. This is the kind of commendable attitude that all responsible Muslim sellers should strive to own.

However, the responsibility is not just limited to the provider. We, as the consumers, should also take the matter seriously and not to simply assume that something is halal because “A Muslim sold it”. We could check the labels to make sure that a trusted body is regulating and monitoring the halal status of a product and that they had given their approval. We could try talking and discussing with small sellers to see how conscious they are of using halal ingredients in their food. We could raise attention and concern by pointing out questionable halal status of food that is advertised or displayed online, in a proper and polite manner, to educate and warn each other.

It is important to remember that halal does not simply stop at ‘anything that isn’t pork’. Food additives, which are present in basically everything these days, could be derived from bones of various animals which are not slaughtered according to Islamic guidelines. Eggs could be coated with fecal material which are not properly washed off during food preparation. Plates and cooking utensils used to cook pork may not be properly cleaned before they are used to serve food for us. And a lot of these things are hard to be properly observed because they are done behind closed doors, which is why approval by a regulating body can be a blessing, but it doesn’t mean that we should trust anyone who just say ‘oh yes, my food is definitely halal’.

As Muslims, making sure that our food is permissible in Islam is such an important matter as we believe that what we eat could affect us in long lasting ways. It is crucial that we take responsibility in checking and monitoring, not just what we eat, but what we prepare for others to the best of our abilities so we would live under His guidance and blessing.