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Monkey see, monkey do

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In Malaysia, the underlings, the minions, the unfortunate wannabes also want their 15 minutes of fame. Sadly, more often it turns out to be 15 minutes of shame, observes Rom Nain.

Excessive tear gas was fired into the crowd during Bersih 3.0

As the 13th general election looms on the not-too-distant horizon, the incumbents seem to flinch at giving us all a date when it will be held.

Indeed, the coast seemed clear for them to set a date some months back. But three letters, N, F and C, some related cows, cars and condos – and the predictable disappearance of few million ringgit of our tax money – started to screw things up.

Of course, no sooner had the minister involved been chastised and then, of course, cleared and forgiven than the mainstream media got all that off our radar.

But, as the saying goes, when it rains, it pours.

So, despite the goodies increasingly being dished out from the taxes we pay, to soften most of us up – from one BR1M to the next, from one material promise to the next – truly ‘unfortunate’ official screw-ups still occur to further stall matters.

These screw-ups have really been too many to count. Very quickly, nonetheless, there was the brutality of the boys in dark blue on peaceful marchers, including news reporters, on 28 April 2012, the day of Bersih 3.0.

Such brutality, unfortunately for the perpetrators, was almost instantly broadcast on YouTube for all to see, complicating things further.

And in the aftermath of that worldwide event, the stupidity of the incumbents’ supporters in intimidating the woman lawyer who had helmed the rally in late April, certainly lost them even more potential friends (and voters).

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It is often said that unbridled arrogance will lead to our shooting our own feet. So, when the much-maligned Information, Communications and Culture Minister, Rais Yatim, declared condescendingly that only about 22,270 people attended the Bersih rally, many shook their heads in disbelief.

And then, when it was later officially, stated that 967 gas canisters and grenades were fired at these people, meaning that one gas canister or grenade was fired for every 23 people, going by Rais’ guesstimate, this same minister then had to explain (which he didn’t, of course) why the extravagance, why the excessive force.

Which, nonetheless, perhaps isn’t as bad as the truly moronic comment – by yet another federal minister, I’m afraid, this time the minister in the prime minister’s department – about the revolutionary potential of salt and water bottles.

Unbelievably, he was quoted as saying: “Don’t underrate salt and bottles. If supported by the public, it can topple governments.”

While he’s renowned for his frequent ‘foot-in-mouth’ disease, this latest attempt at depicting 28 April as an attempted coup was clearly his most pathetic effort to date.

Even if we move away from the truly inane comments made about Bersih 3.0, other unfortunate events have turned up to make some of the wannabe – though not necessarily ‘winnable’ – candidates look rather silly.

The recent ‘WWW’ number plate shambles was certainly one such event. It was truly ‘geli-fying’, as my 11-year old daughter, Elayna, would put it, the way that the (health) minister concerned tried to squirm his way out of explaining how and why he got the quite-expensive ‘WWW15′ registration number for his official car.

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And I’m sure all this didn’t endear him – or his party and coalition partners – to an increasingly fed-up Malaysian public.

15 minutes of fame – or shame

But, of course, this is the land of ‘monkey see, monkey do’. Or as my French-speaking expatriate friend, Dr Matthews, would put it, singe qui voit, singe qui fait.

And in such a land, deliberately or otherwise, the underlings, the minions, the unfortunate wannabes also want their 15 minutes of fame. Sadly, more often it turns out to be 15 minutes of shame.

Indeed, though uninvited, they nonetheless start crawling out of the woodwork making seemingly profound, but decidedly inane, statements.

Such was the case very recently when one wannabe state chief pledged ‘free port’ status for the island state of Penang, only to be contradicted by his ‘big boss’, PM Najib Abdul Razak, who categorically declared that “the concept of a free port no longer exists” and that “the issue of Penang becoming a free port does not arise”.

But, nonetheless, despite the crass missteps, despite the utter stupidity, in spite of the vacuous comments made by supposed leaders, we are heartened by the words and deeds of seemingly ordinary Malaysians.

In this regard, I think we should now – and for a long, long time – remember the name Paulino Miranda.

His is not a common Malaysian name. But, I believe, that is because he is an uncommon Malaysian.

Rev Father Paulino Miranda, according to one news report, is the parish priest of the ‘only Catholic church in Shah Alam’. He is on trial for taking part in a peaceful candlelight vigil against the Internal Security Act (ISA) four years ago.

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He could be fined RM10,000 or jailed for a year if found guilty. But he refuses to pay the fine and is willing to go to jail, if found guilty.

Amidst all the stupidity, selfishness and self-promotion, it is thus reassuring for us mere Malaysian mortals to have a true leader to look up to; someone who, according to the activist-lawyer-blogger Haris Ibrahim, “does not just attend to his flock from the pulpit, but also stands shoulder to shoulder with them when it counts most”.

Rom Nain is an Aliran member

This piece was first published in malaysiakini.com

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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najib manaukau
29 Jun 2012 8.57am

This minister Rais has to be sent back to primary school how to count, he is a … disgrace even to be considered a primary school if according to him the people who attended the Bersih rally is 22,270. Just show the picture with the people who were at the rally and even an idiot who do not know how to count will tell you he is either blind or is talking rubbish, as usual.
How can we have a minister with this kind of mentality and intelligence in the cabinet. or may be he is a typical representation of the cabinet.
I bet you he must be better in counting when it comes to money !

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