Can we not hold those holding positions of power in the new Malaysia answerable to the same code of conduct we expect of people of all ranks abroad, wonders Mary Chin.
It all started with the game-over at 4.40am on 10 May 2018, when Pakatan Harapan won the 2018 general election.
Najib took the lead in the falling dominoes that followed:
- 14 May: MACC chief Dzulkifli Ahmad quits
- 5 June: Apandi Ali accepts termination as A-G
- 6 June: Bank Negara Governor has submitted resignation
- 11 June: Massive police clean up may see IGP replaced
- 13 June: Malaysia’s top two judges resign
- 13 June: EC chief’s tenure cut short
- 14 June: Former MACC chief Dzulkifli ordered to retire early
Malaysia is not alone. Elsewhere, many were terminated, suspended and fired all around the world:
- 12 June 2018: Missouri waitress fired after racist Snapchat.
- 29 May 2018: ABC cancels ‘Roseanne’ after star’s racist Twitter rant.
- 30 April 2018: Amber Rudd’s resignation: Fourth cabinet minister steps down. She had misled MPs over targets for removing illegal immigrants.
- 16 April 2018: Starbucks employee who called police on black men no longer works there. She had called the police when there were no threats and no disturbance.
- 15 March 2018: UPenn law professor removed for calling black students inferior. She said she had never seen a black student graduate in the top quarter.
- 4 Jan 2018: Sen Lynn Beyak booted from Conservative caucus over ’racist’ post. She had refused to remove the comment from her website.
- 25 Dec 2017: Dollarama employee fired after racist remark. She had uttered slurs towards customers.
- 1 October 2017: Massey College professor resigns. He had made a racially offensive remark during lunch. Massey College is University of Toronto’s. University of Toronto is like the Cambridge-cum-Oxford of Canada.
- 10 July 2017: Tory MP suspended. She used a racist term during a Brexit meeting.
- 24 Mar 2006: University suspends lecturer in racism row. He had insisted that black people and women are genetically inferior. Although this happened over a decade ago, I add to our list as it was a high-profile case.
The list shows how, regardless of their capacity (whether waitress or professor), no matter how great their contributions to their respective organisations were, they could lose their entire career by a single discriminatory remark.
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Operasi Lalang has always been too close to our hearts. It really depends what we saw as lalang, what we see as lalang, what we meant by lalang and what we mean by lalang. (Lalang is the Malay word for weeds.)
We have gone over two lists. The first covered local developments. The second covered incidents abroad – which some might find less sensational, less dramatic and less juicy.
Let us now move on to some famous quotes by Jagdeep Singh Deo, the Penang State Executive Council Member for Local Government, Housing, Town and City Planning (only one link will be provided as an example, as there are too many):
– (complaints about) foreign workers roaming around in their underwear: This was Jagdeep’s public comment, not even a casual or passing remark over lunch.
FMT published this without censoring (if that’s how Malaysians understand and fight for press freedom and free speech – oh well, oh well). FMT could have pointed out that the statement was unbecoming, that Jagdeep’s interjection was a sweeping generalisation, that such words reflect badly on himself rather than on his prey.
The social implications are worrying because readers tend to absorb such ideas as a matter of fact, as correct and proper – without thinking.
– biometric system to monitor the workers’ movements: Can we bio-tag somebody and monitor or restrict his/her movement when he/she is without a criminal, leprosy or psychiatric record? Should the migrant worker who scaled a building in Singapore like Spiderman to save a baby hanging from the balcony have been ‘monitored’?
– “workers … would be placed in the dormitories, there will be no more social problem”. So, Jagdeep, since you insist, take this then as your KPI (key performance indicator) criterion.
Back in 2016, the deputy police chief, Noor Rashid Ibrahim, had already offered you a tip-off: “Locals, not migrant workers, are major perpetrators of crime.”
In case social problems persist after segregating people from our communities, don’t forget to unlock all those gates and set everyone free before passing the baton to a successor. Pass it to someone who can fulfil the responsibility of the housing portfolio by providing housing for those who need it (not taint the portfolio by throwing families out of existing homes).
In a civilised society, the statement about undergarments alone could have been political suicide; the person uttering such a remark could have lost his or her entire career. But here is Jagdeep, ever powerful and arrogant, spared from any rebuke or would-be disciplinary investigation, fiercely flogging on. Ubah fans, claiming to be ever so correct and righteous, re-appointed him to power, not giving him even a gentle nudge or whisper that he was over-the-top with thoughts, deeds and words.
For four months, I stood watch over a construction site with over a hundred migrant workers, who sometimes work past midnight. I watched them starting out in the morning – breaking for coffee, lunch and tea as soon as the clock ticked – and then signing off work, cleaning up, managing laundry, sometimes nailing stray pieces of wood together to make simple pieces of furniture to answer the practical needs of their community. They wear long sleeves and long trousers whilst at work; off work, they change into sarong. What is Jagdeep seeing?
(Sarong is a one-piece cloth wrapped around the waist, extending all the way to the feet – a common tradition Malaysians and many migrant workers share.)
Dear people of our new Malaysia, can we not hold those in positions of power answerable to the same code of conduct we expect from the Missouri waitress, the Starbucks employee, the Dollarama cashier, TV star Roseanne, cabinet minister Amber Rudd, senator Lynn Beyak, backbencher Anne Marie Morris, and the academics from the University of Leeds, the University of Toronto and the University of Pennsylvania?