As the longest serving Inspector General of Police of Malaysia, it’s quite safe to say Tun Hanif Omar has seen it all.
In 1974, he took over the helm as national police chief after his predecessor Tan Sri Abdul Rahman was assassinated by the Malayan Communist Party (MCP). At age 35, he was the youngest person to be appointed to the position of Inspector-General of Police (IGP) in the Commonwealth at that time.
Malaysia today is slightly different than 20 years ago because the people have obtained more openness. So, the leadership has got to be more democratic
Over the next twenty years, Hanif `saw action’ presiding over major incidents that are etched in the nation’s history, during a time considered to be Malaysia’s most volatile years. This includes the the Memali incident and Ops Lalang. He was also responsible in the dismantling of the MCP, the amok shooting incident involving soldier Private Adam, the arrest of notorious criminal Botak Chin and the killing of Bentong Kali, to name just a few.
Hanif was the serving IGP when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad became Prime Minister the first time in 1981.
We asked his thoughts on the kind of leadership needed to steer Malaysia, under a new government, faced with increasing cyber-threats, cross-border terrorism, and simmering ideological and ethnic tensions.
“Malaysia today is slightly different than 20 years ago because the people have obtained more openness. So, the leadership has got to be more democratic,” says Hanif.
“But even so, they need to somebody stronger than the rest to lead the pact. Otherwise you’ll have a lot of cacophony and not much movement forward,” he adds. Hanif, who is the president of the Malaysian Institute of Management, was speaking on the launch of the Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s leadership series which will be held on December 19.
The New Leadership Cannot Be Dictatorial Like Before
Commenting on the new government coalition led by Pakatan Harapan, he says it is imperative that the different parties iron out their differences. Otherwise, the longevity of the coalition might come under threat.
“Today, we have the coming together of several parties with divergent ideologies, that managed to bring down the old government by coming together. But they are not one party. And they are not the long-term coalition that ironed out all the ideological differences like the Barisan Nasional.”
“So, they still have their core differences and that is challenging for the leader, Tun Mahathir, particularly when his party won the smallest (number of seats) in that group. So, one has got to understand and the fact that he has been able to get this thing going, speaks a lot about his leadership.”
Hanif says that while Tun Mahathir was known to be a firm, decisive leader, with a hands-on approach, the 93-year-old has taken a softer and consultative attitude now.
“He was not a man known for listening too much to other people. He has his ideas and he was firm with his ideas. Now, he has got to consult. So that is what’s happening and that’s the kind of leadership. For the (current) situation, I can’t see any other way,” says Hanif.
“But that takes time and can be quite frustrating to the people who want immediate answers. The public want results now but they are still trying to build up consensus whether they can go this way or that way,” he adds.
Here, the 79-year-old responds to a question on whether he thinks that the police force and civil servants had long been perceived to be aligned to political parties. In Malaysia Baharu, what is the way forward in managing this perception?
Be Loyal to the Government But Abide by the Law
Meanwhile, commenting on the threats arising from the internet such as cyber-terrorism and fake news, Hanif is of the view that the police force should be given the necessary tools to combat cyber-threats.
Managing Fake News, Cyber-threats