KUALA LUMPUR: Abah Muhyiddin. That title almost sums up the acceptance of the rakyat (people) on his leadership.
“Abah” is a deferential term for father in Malay.
Although just marking his 100 days in office as Malaysia’s eighth prime minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who always speaks in an easy style, besides being constantly up to date on issues viralling among the rakyat, is seen to have succeeded in bringing down the “wall” between the leaders and the rakyat.
In fact, the “Makcik Kiah” (Auntie Kiah) that he spoke about in his initial speeches on tackling the Covid-19 pandemic in the country has stuck in the minds and lips of the rakyat to this day.
“We see the reaction of the rakyat is that they feel more relaxed, calmer, and comfortable with the style of Tan Sri Muhyiddin as Prime Minister. His easy-going style and speeches that are easily explained to the people have gone down well with society,” political analyst Md Shukri Shuib told Bernama.
Nevertheless, the senior lecturer in Politics and International Affairs at Universiti Utara Malaysia was of the opinion that the laid back style was not without substance, saying that each step taken by Muhyiddin not only required immediate, bold and firm action but also wisdom in drawing up strategies so that the interests of all were looked after.
“If we look at it in terms of management of the administration in fighting Covid-19 as well as the methods used to tackle its impact on the economy of the rakyat, it shows his capability and concern as the head of the government. This has brought much relief to the people even though they have to contend with the Movement Control Order (MCO – practically a lockdown).
“Just look at it in terms as an unconventional step that was suddenly implemented and called on the banking industry to cooperate with the government to impose a blanket moratorium (on repayment of loans).
“It is a step that shows he understands the economic system to bring about a positive impact to the multi-dimensional socio-economy of the country,” said Md Shukri.
Muhyiddin, who is also the MP for Pagoh, stepped into the “hot seat” on March 1.
Just 16 days later, he took the drastic step of declaring the enforcement of the MCO to contain the spread of Covid-19 and 11 days after that, unveiled the Prihatin Rakyat Economic Stimulus Package (PRIHATIN) worth RM250 billion that offered various forms of aid to the rakyat and industries severely affected by the pandemic, which included the Bantuan Prihatin Rakyat (direct cash aid to the rakyat).
According to Md Shukri, it is neither wrong nor too early if the Pagoh MP is to be labelled as Bapa Kebajikan Rakyat (Father of the People’s Welfare), more so with the various assistance given to the people to help them weather the storm of a battered economy dealt by Covid-19.
Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) School of Social Sciences Senior Lecturer Assoc Prof Dr Sivamurugan Pandian concurs with Md Shukri, describing Muhyiddin as a pragmatic leader who resolves the rakyat’s problems in a practical manner, suited to the prevailing situation or the reality of the ecosystem of the land.
It must be remembered, he said, that Muhyiddin came on board at a time when the nation was beset with health, economic and political crisis, and as such, popular and unpopular decisions had to be made so that the country’s direction was not impaired.
“His much-deserved recognition was not only within the country. He was also recognised by the World Health Organisation and the world over Malaysia’s ability to face the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
For the record, Muhyiddin had also received calls from United States President and Donald J.Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to discuss bilateral relations and Covid-19.
Sivamurugan also drew attention to the nature of Muhyiddin who had no problems leading congregational prayers or reciting the Takbir Raya (verses to welcome the Eid), which according to him, adds value to the number one leader.
With a challenging political landscape in the background and several leaders gunning for power, he said the emergence of Muhyiddin, who is moderate, patient, wise, and bold, as prime minister was timely.
Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) Institute for Malaysian Political Analysis (MAPAN) director Dr Mashitah Mohd Udin is of the opinion that Muhyiddin’s success in leading the country shone through with his ability to continue administering well even though coming under attack from all sides by his political enemies.
“Although faced with political challenges, Muhyiddin has led his Perikatan Nasional government well and succeeded in maintaining peace in Malaysia which is made up of various races. No racial riots and bloodshed, but instead harmony in society, and political stability have been maintained,” she said.
Mashitah said that despite Muhyiddin inheriting the tradition and culture of Malay politics, his strength as the nation’s leader came through when his leadership was well-received by the various races.
Describing Muhyiddin as “a man of action”, she said the prime minister displayed a smart personality and worked more than offering empty talk which made the people be comfortable with him, what more him being seen as a fatherly figure.
In addition, Mashitah said Muhyiddin’s family is not seen dominating or interfering in his duties as prime minister and that this only underscored his capability as a leader of a very high calibre.
“For example, the role of Muhyiddin’s wife Puan Sri Noorainee Abdul Rahman in focusing more on family matters is very important in the career of Muhyiddin as prime minister,” she said.