The most important qualities leaders must have

Tomorrow is nomination day for the Johor state elections and now is a good time as any to suggest a few qualities I believe candidates standing for elections must have.

The first most important quality they must have is to maintain the sovereignty of the nation/state. They must fully understand the Constitution of Malaysia and that it upholds both parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy but that neither influences the other.

Elected political leaders must be acutely aware that their masters are the voters who give them the mandate to lead. They govern on the authority of the mandate of the people and guard that authority without compromising it by putting themselves in a situation where they become beholden to other institutions of authority.

In other words, in a crisis, should they find that they are at a loss as to how to handle it, they should not, in desperation, immediately run to a foreign power like Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates or China or the US or to the Agong and Sultans for help if by doing so they compromise the sovereignty of the nation/state. They can get help — but never at the expense of beholding themselves and the nation to these powerful nations and institutions.

Elected leaders must uphold the sovereignty of the country/state at all costs. They must understand that the federal or state government runs independently and must guard themselves against all interfering influences. The decisions they make must have Parliament’s or the state assembly’s approval first.

Since we are also a constitutional monarchy, elected leaders must understand that the government makes all decisions and the final decisions are presented to the Agong or Sultans who will perform their duties as defined by the constitution. They should not attempt to engage the royals to influence these decisions. Both do not influence the other.

We want leaders who will ensure that they are never held accountable to any authority other than the people. That is the most important characteristic candidates standing for election must have. Such leaders can be trusted to uphold the sovereignty of the state/nation and will not sell or compromise it for money or power.

The second most important quality they must have is knowledge. They must have the mental capacity to understand and learn very fast the modern concepts of governance, transparency and accountability. When issues are discussed in the public discourse, they must be able to quickly recognize the issues that are of concern to the people and respond immediately.

We don’t want leaders like the prime ministers we have had in the past two years who prefer to maintain silence rather than engage the people. Elected representatives must engage the citizens; that’s the only way we know what they are up to.

The third most important characteristic candidates standing for election must have is ability. They should first know what their jobs entail and have the skills to do them. We don’t need leaders who are clueless about what they are supposed to do despite the number of advisers at their disposal. And, we won’t need a bloated Cabinet to get the job done.

If we have able leaders, taxpayers’ money will be put to good use. Such leaders will also know how to make the Cabinet do its job and won’t be wasting time and taxpayers’ money on unnecessary overseas trips while the country is still not out of the woods with regard to the pandemic.

There are many other qualities people may want of our representatives. For me, these three are the most important. I hope those who are nominated tomorrow to stand for election will have the qualities the people want.

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