Home 2007: 4 Leaks and dislikes of Malaysian politics

Leaks and dislikes of Malaysian politics

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Malaysians are paying taxes for the upkeep of  parliamentarians who, unfortunately, at times double up as court jesters, observes Mustafa Kamal Anuar.

Life will never be the same again for Malaysian politics in particular and Malaysians in general ever since the outbreak of leaks in government buildings and the sordid and sexist remarks by MPs Bung Mokhtar Radin and Mohd Said Yusof, which metaphorically brought the whole house down in Parliament recently.

For one thing, the bad structural design, shoddy work or other construction problems that resulted in leaking building in the country seemed to have led to certain minds, particularly those owned by male politicians, becoming more porous. These days even a venerable old building may not be spared the comparison – made by male politicians, of course – with an aged woman.

Perilous task

But of equal gravity is that the questionable remark sets back the clock in terms of the usage of the English language in the country. It makes it more difficult, if not uncomfortable, to teach and use the English language especially when it comes to using the term ‘leaks’ and its derivatives. Indeed, the attempt to use alternative terms or explanations, as shown by the examples below, can be an arduous, if not perilous, task.

For instance, how do you now talk of, say, leaks in certain confidential contract documents signed between a government agency and private contractors?  Would you, in a desperate endeavour to avoid the use of the term ‘leaks’, say that this is the kind of administrative problem that requires urgent plugging? Alternatively, when downright drained, would you just close one eye and forget about the whole affair?

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Or, for that matter, how would you explain the leakages in the delivery of development projects in the various constituencies in the country, without even using the ‘controversial’ terminology? Would it suffice and be safe enough, then, for you to say that certain development projects did not reach some geographical regions because certain personalities were stained with the mark of greed and had diverted funds elsewhere?

Serious implications 

Other serious implications arise from this notorious episode in the Parliament: One, some male parliamentarians are still insensitive to the sensibilities of women, let alone appreciative of their achievements – despite the advances achieved by feminists and women the world over. Women, if such politicians need reminding, have made outstanding contributions in education, politics, science, the arts and culture, and the professions. They have pushed for and succeeded in attaining equality through radical reforms in laws that were discriminatory against women. They have fought hard against social values, norms and practices that undermine the dignity of women.

Two, the ostentatious use of vulgarities by certain parliamentarians shows up the lack of political leaders who are adept at the use of finely crafted wit, sarcasm and satire to get their points across. Obscenity in verbal expression is no substitute for articulate observations that will stand the test of time. It is an utterly lame excuse to maintain that one unconsciously resorted to sexual remarks in the heat of the (debating) moment.

Witty responses require a fair amount of intelligence and general knowledge which our political arena may not necessarily have in abundance..

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If anything, verbal abuse, as illustrated clearly during the recent brouhaha inside and outside Parliament, can divert MPs’ attention away from the important issues of the day, such as the physical leaks in Parliament. Sexual remarks draw attention away from vital matters that may have far-reaching implications for the general welfare of the Malaysian people.

Three, at the risk of sounding a bit too harsh especially on the parliamentary duo – for after all, we’re told, they were punished enough ever since their verbal diarrhoea – such sexual innuendoes by certain male politicians make one wonder whether they are a  reflection of sexually repressed personalities. The repeated outbursts of sexually related remarks in Parliament merely reinforce the suspicion of carnal repression. Of course, it would be too outrageous to suggest, let alone decree, that a libidinal test be instituted on aspiring male politicians in Malaysia simply because of the verbal spurts of the famous duo.

The hardest word

Additionally, it makes us wonder whether shameful incidents such as the recent one in  Parliament are responsible for the downcast look among most Malaysian taxpayers  during the season when they are required to submit their BE Forms to the Inland Revenue. Perhaps they are acutely aware that a portion of their precious incomes not only goes towards the upkeep of the Parliament building, but also towards the upkeep of  politicians who, unfortunately, at times double up as court jesters.

The parliamentary duo might have eventually publicly apologised for their sexist outbursts, but their somewhat unremorseful appearance suggests that, to quote British singer-songwriter Elton John, ‘Sorry seems to be the hardest word’. But then, come to think of the apparent sexual proclivity of the honourable gentlemen, it would not be advisable to use such an otherwise innocent phrase.

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Dr Mustafa K Anuar, a longtime executive committee member and former honorary secretary of Aliran, is, co-editor of our newsletter. He obtained his PhD from City, University of London and is particularly interested in press freedom and freedom of expression issues. These days, he is a a senior journalist with an online media portal
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