Veteran Umno politician Tan Sri Zainuddin Maidin said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak could restore his power and influence if he makes his former boss, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, his mentor, the way Singapore statesman Lee Kuan Yew did for his successors.
The former information minister said Najib should emulate Dr Mahathir's firmness in handling economic, religious and inter-racial issues.
"Najib can lead but he needs moral support from Dr Mahathir to strengthen his position.
"This is so that he can continue to lead and succeed in restoring the people's confidence as well as handle current issues which could surface," Zainuddin told The Malaysian Insider this week.
Since the general election last year, Najib's administration has been faced with several critical issues, including restoring the economy as well as racial and religious harmony.
There has been a spike in controversies bordering on race and religion since Najib assumed the premiership, including the ongoing controversy over the use of the word "Allah" by Christians and the various demands by Malay pressure groups.
Zainuddin, the former chief editor of Utusan Malaysia popularly known as Zam, urged Putrajaya to take quick action on the issues raised in order to avoid them getting out of control.
"I think Najib should address the issues that people are not satisfied about with urgency, efficiently and with confidence.
"He should not let the pressure to prolong, especially from NGOs. But it is because the people don't see any action from the government that their confidence has waned," said Zam.
On the increase of prices which has infuriated the public, Zainuddin said he understood the people's sentiment, adding that Najib and his government should implement stringent monitoring of the situation rather than ignore it.
"Measures which hit the people's pockets will usually have reactions.
"But if the people can be assured through some courageous action, for instance, taking action against business owners who exploited and fiddled with the prices of goods, then people will appreciate the problem," he said, commenting on the increase in prices of goods which has had a huge impact on ordinary citizens.
The domino effect from the increase in the prices of fuel, electricity tariff, water and sugar has led to a series of price hikes for other goods.
Zainuddin also hit out at the Najib government's attitude when it came to non-governmental organisations of both divides, saying it was too fearful of these groups, revealing the government's weakness.
"In my opinion, these games by the NGOs, at times, I feel they show the government's weakness.
"These issues can be acted upon by the government without stirring up Malay sentiments," he said, referring to issues such as Shiism, Christianity and the use of the word "Allah".
Comparing with Dr Mahathir's rule, Zainuddin argued that ministers at that time were more efficient and were able to instil confidence in the people.
"As a newspaper man, I have seen many weaknesses.
"Some of them were afraid to talk to reporters. This you don't know, they were afraid... Contrast this with Dr Mahathir's time, he liked to speak to reporters and he was convincing," added Zainuddin, recalling Dr Mahathir's 22-year rule.
Zainuddin described Najib's administration and his cabinet members as too easy-going, and said there was no need to hire foreign consultants.
"Sometimes we see there is no sense of urgency (from Najib and his cabinet), then comes unconvincing answers.
"But I don't think the government needs million-dollar consultants to advise and promote the PM, because even during Dr Mahathir's time, such amounts were not paid," said Zainuddin, referring to Putrajaya's hiring of image consultants.
He urged the government to avoid extravagance and be moderate in its spending, while at the same time get closer to the people.
"One more thing is our attitude of not approaching the people, but do they (the government) understand or is Najib too elitist to understand this people's approach?
"The situation has changed, although to something which I myself could not agree, but that's the reality, the government must exercise moderation."
Najib was given his first electoral mandate last year since his 2009 appointment to replace Tun Abdullah Badawi as prime minister, although the mandate was not as strong as had expected.
Barisan Nasional's performance in the 13th general election is seen as the worst in the coalition's electoral history, surpassing its losses in 2008.
Since then, Najib's administration has been inundated with pressure and criticism from both Umno and the opposition.
Its parliamentary share was reduced from 140 to 133, while at the state level, BN's number of seats dropped from 306 to 274, although it managed to wrest back Kedah and maintain its hold on Perak. – January 23, 2014.