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LETTER | When growing up, I used to watch movies portraying third-world leaders holidaying and indulging in spending sprees in one of the fashion capitals of the world.

The extravagance they indulged in was mind-boggling. Sometimes, I thought it was an exaggeration and unreal.

Now, I think the movies were not only real, but they are also happening in our country. It is like a paradox; it is unbelievable and yet we must believe.

We, Malaysians, have often discussed how we can do better as a nation – a more united, developed, and prosperous Malaysia. We want to alleviate poverty, provide basic necessities and improve healthcare and education standards.

In the course of trying to achieve these goals, we talked about the challenges confronting us. These challenges are usually centred on development/economic models, inequality and exploitation, discrimination, unfair trade practices, currency manipulation, and our differences in religion and race.

We rarely talk about the leadership of our prime minister – his personality, his worldview, his private life, his qualifications, experience, and proven ability.

In fact, a PAS politician has even said it is easy to be the prime minister of Malaysia. It only shows that he doesn’t know the pivotal role of a prime minister in good governance.

Not focusing on the role of our leaders when discussing the problems facing us as a nation is essentially diverting our attention to red herrings. We give excuses why our country is having problems while the real cause, our hapless leadership, is swept under the carpet.

Today, we know all the shortcomings and malfeasance of our past prime ministers. But is this too late? Have we not wasted enough time on them and have they not caused enough damage to the country?

A nation’s top leader is paramount. If we have the wrong guy at the helm, we suffer not only a lack of development but also damage in many forms from high debts, wastages, to disunity.

Do we know how much it costs to investigate, prosecute, judge, and imprison former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak?

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.