Monday, November 10, 2008

A lesson from Helen Clark

When I came face-to-face with Helen Clark during a 1-to-1 interview at the New Straits Times in late 1998, I knew by then that this 'tough' lady would one day become the new Prime Minister of New Zealand.

When she won it in the 1999 general elections which saw her Labour Party shot to power, the New Zealand's high commissioner in Kuala Lumpur sent me a note from Clark that reads 'Thank You for having strong confidence in my struggle for the people of New Zealand'.

I dont know where I kept that note as that was almost a decade ago. At that time, Clark was visiting Malaysia as the Opposition Leader. She was also against the detention of Anwar Ibrahim.

However late last week, she lost after three decades at the helm. National's election victory has led to a clean sweep of the Labour leadership with Clark and Michael Cullen both announcing they were stepping down from their respective jobs as leader and deputy leader.

When Clark swept to power in 1999, she described her aspirations at the time to be a social democrat that 'led New Zealand out of the cul de sac' of laisse faire government. The government reintroduced unions to the centre of industrial relations, renationalised some entities and introduced lower rents for state housing tenants.

On defence and foreign policy, Miss Clark sought a more independent stance and moved the military away from a strike capability. But it was Miss Clark's political and policy partnership with her deputy and finance minister Michael Cullen that built a legacy that is likely to stand the test of time.

The introduction of Working for Families, the New Zealand Superannuation Fund (also known as the Cullen Fund), Kiwibank, KiwiSaver and the renationalisation of the rail system all stand as a complete turn around of the policies of the 1990s.

It is a testament to the Clark/Cullen administration that the only way National leader John Key could win office was by promising to keep all of those institutions in place or tinkering with them at the edges.

The Clark/Cullen political agenda has also led National to occupy political ground it once would have considered as anathema -- such as support for a nuclear-free, independent foreign policy. Clark said as she stood down that she was proud of her record and had to take the bad times with the good.

After first coming to Parliament in 1981, Miss Clark went through many ups and down. When Labour swept to power in 1984 and was re-elected in 1987 she went into cabinet and held conservation, housing, labour and health.

She has described those years as fighting a rearguard action against the forces of Rogernomics. She was deputy prime minister from August 1989 to October 1990, when Labour lost power. Labour was smashed in that election, but Miss Clark rebuilt the party and took it back into office in 1999. Three terms later, she wanted a fourth, but it wasn't to be.

Over the weekend, Clark admitted defeat saying her greatest fear was the Clark/Cullen legacy would be placed on the political bonfire by National. The fact is that if John Key is true to his word it is a legacy that will last for some time to come.

I have lots of respect for this lady who really worked hard for the cause of the people. Even when she was the Opposition Leader, she was very constructive in assisting the government to correct whatever imbalances may there be.

John Howard, former Aussie premier used to describe her as a true leader of New Zealand, 'both as an opposition and also as the prime minister'.

All the best to you, Helen Clark...


kenanga, KL said...

interesting to know that you have met her in person.

during your interview with her, i was sitting for my final exam and one of the topics for international studies was new zealand.

i admire her then and now. unfortunately she failed to get her 4th term.

however, she was one of the best women in world politics.

nik hanafi said...

i like this posting. i am envious of your encounter with her and other leaders. pls write more about the world, forget about local politics.


adik, UM said...


betul ke dia single, tak pernah kawin?

saja tanya... kah kah

Anonymous said...

you described her very well, bujai. thank you. although she is no longer our prime minister, she will be remembered for some good changes she implemented to the country.

zrinka, christchurh

dannalli said...


Yang Den gomar baco tu tang ni...
" Even when she was the Opposition Leader, she was very constructive in assisting the government to correct whatever imbalances may there be."

Just see what's happening in our Parliament.How are they going to earn the respect? This line from MuBARACK Obama might give a clue ..." Those Americans whose support I have YET TO EARN, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices. I need your help. And I will be your president, too." Please behave yourselves. I do not want to comment further.

Thanks for the posting Jai.

bujai said...

tu yang den goma bona tu. sebagai pembangkang pun dio ok, jadi pm pun dio ok.

agak eh macam mano la pembangkang kito nak bontok kerajaan kalau kepalo dio pun tak boto.

yang di pihak kerajaan pun samo...

YUS, JB said...

what a leader she is. i like it when you quoted john howard's description of her.

can we get the same situation here in malaysia, where the opposition and the ruling parties work closely for the mutual interest of the nation?

nope, i guess it wont happen.

Anonymous said...

bolehkah anwar ibrahim menjadi seperti helen clark? mungkin boleh, mungkin tidak, bergantung kepada arah perjuangannya.

saya rasa sukar untuk mencapai apa yang dilakukan oleh clark. di malaysia, suasananya berlainan kerana kita terlalu banyak sentimen dan kepentingan diri.

kalau anwar mampu berbuat demikian, dia mampu menjadi tokoh yang disegani bukan saja dimalaysia malah di dunia.

tapi.... boleh ke dia tu?

Anonymous said...


Aku rasa memang lebih senang mantadbir negara yang ada banyak kambing dari manusia dari mentadbir negara yang banyak beruk dari manusia.


bujai said...

banyak kambing dari manusia - did you mean australia?

den memang suko australia atau australis tu, esc perth yang tak lamo lagi gamai la suku-sakat kau pindah ke sanun lopeh march 2009.

boto ko kau pun dah ado rancangan buek ladang kek sano?

den tak ke perth.... lisbon jo...

adamharris said...


I gather from what you describe, Datuk Azalina, perhaps has some resemblance of Helen Clark.(Setakat- Toughness ajele)

Well, if you read Hishamuddin Rais blogs-tukar tiub, Rais "praised" Azalina highly and call her "PUTAN".

So what do you think about Azalina chances of surviving Malaysian political scene? Kesian, orang Melaka....

Pity her since, she cant even get through the nomination for Deputy Wanita-post.

Look what she did to Malaysia Today? Her brother still manage the paper?

Since, I heard you have "close realtionship" with her, why not your whisper to her to quit politic and concentrate on Sukan bina badan for Putan @Wanita...keh...kah...

Anonymous said...


Kalau den nak bukak ladang, tak payah poi Australia. Blakang gumah den kek kampong pun banyak tanah kosong. Somo oghang melayu tak nak buek ladang dah. Somo dah jadi blogger.