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Desperation in December

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From the top politician to the inconsequential, their actions indicate not only that the general election is (finally!) drawing near, but also that for the first time perhaps their fate is pretty much uncertain, observes Zaharom Nain.

Photo courtesy of aduntamanmedan.wordpress.com
Malaysians still remember Teoh Beng Hock and Ahmad Sarbaini

Desperation evidently does strange things to God’s creatures, including some already-anxious Malaysian politicians and their minions.

And nowhere has this been more obvious than during the recent month of December; a period often hyped as the season of cheer and plenty, but this time around coming across as the season of fear and stupidity.

At least for some.

If pushed for a time frame, I’d say it all began barely a week before Christmas. Perhaps inspired by a previously silent (though certainly not holy) night and the medically recommended seven hours of sleep, not one, but two prominent individuals came up in the mainstream media on 20 December 2012 with what they must have thought were brilliant suggestions.

The fact that they are both Malaysians linked to BN, however, made many doubt their brilliance. After all, the days of cemerlang, gemilang, terbilang went out the window with the ‘retirement’ of poor Pak Lah (Abdullah Ahmad Badawi) and has largely been replaced, since late 2008 at least, by years of temberang.

In any case, on 20 December, the media widely reported that Johan Jaafar, chairperson of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) Consultation and Corruption Prevention Panel (CCPP) had “proposed that all parties send their list of candidates contesting in the 13th general election for vetting by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC)”.

Many of us must have choked on our tosai or roti canai upon reading this report on the morning of the 20th. After all, the MACC has been mired in quite a number of controversial incidents over the short few years it had been developed from the original Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA).

And the memories are not really pleasant ones that, as it were, mengharumkan nama (enhances the reputation of the) MACC. Au contraire.

Concerned Malaysians – and there are now many – remember the death of DAP political aide Teoh Beng Hock in 2009 and that of Royal Malaysian Customs deputy director Ahmad Sarbaini Mohamed in 2011, both at the MACC headquarters.

Many of us remain unhappy with the coroner’s finding in both cases.

Beng Hock was deemed to have committed suicide, a finding many still find unbelievable, given that he was not being charged with anything then and that he was due to get married and was soon to be a father.

Ahmad Sarbaini’s death – his dead body was found lying on the MACC’s badminton court, having ‘fallen’ from the window of the third floor of the MACC building on to the court – was ruled an accident by the coroner’s court.

Remaining anybody’s guess

Why anyone would ‘accidentally’ fall out of a third floor window to his or her death at 10.20 in the morning remains anybody’s guess. Just as it remains the nagging question on the minds of many Malaysians, right-thinking and left.

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So, when the chairperson of one of the MACC’s panels who, since April 2009, let us not forget, has been executive chairperson of Media Prima Bhd, an organisation very closely linked to Umno, tells us that MACC should vet candidates for the 13th general election, there was much disbelief and, of course, objections.

Indeed, we also need to remember that from November 1992 to July 1998, Johan was the group chief editor and executive director of Utusan Melayu (M) Bhd. And while Utusan Malaysia perhaps wasn’t as despicable then as it is now, it was nonetheless widely seen as an Umno-controlled paper.

In any other country, aside from, perhaps, Zimbabwe, the dear datuk’s suggestion would have been seen as illustrating a probable conflict of interest.

But, of course, this is 1Malaysia Boleh… where, it would seem, anybody can make these mind-blowing suggestions with a straight face.

And, less mind-blowing perhaps, for a party like BN to then apparently take on this suggestion and just nine days later, on 29 December, declare through it’s secretary-general Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor that all BN “candidates for the 222 parliamentary and 505 state seats had undergone screening by the police, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and Department of Insolvency to ensure that they were ‘clean’ and did not have any problems”.

As far we all know, he too said that with a straight face.

So I guess we are being asked to believe that despite PFKZ, NFC, Scorpene, the RM40m that went to Sabah via Hong Kong and, more recently, Puspahanas – and this is just to skim the surface – the BN is now, somehow ‘transformed’.

Hallelujah. Indeed.

But it hasn’t stopped there, of course. No, the world may not have ended in 2012, but neither has the inanity. Certainly not in Malaysia.

On the same day that Johan Jaafar’s suggestion was reported, another more prominent Malaysian, the prime minister no less, was even more widely reported by the media.

His revelation/suggestion was equally disingenuous.

Speaking from New Delhi, having had a 30-minute tete-a-tete with Indian premier Manmohan Singh, Jibby announced to us all the latest, surely expensive, scam to improve Malaysians’ Inggeris – “to bring in teachers from India who are skilled in the English Language to teach our students in Malaysia”.

Many of us, I’m sure, have absolutely no objection to bringing in experts from Timbuktu to teach our kids English, let alone experts from India.

Why do we need to go outside?

But there are two perennial questions that are raised which these jerks in high office never seem to want to respond to.

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First, why do we need to go outside – to the USA, now to India – to look for these teachers when many of us keep suggesting that they try to recruit really good local experts – our ex-schoolteachers from the days before the ministry screwed up the teaching of English?

Granted, some may have gone on to that big classroom in the sky. But I know of others who are still more alert than many of our politicians and who would love to at least be asked if they would like to perform this national service.

Why indeed is the BN government quite carelessly using our money to pay for the services of these expatriates when their agencies evidently haven’t worked hard enough to source out local experts?

The second question constantly raised is why keep paying lip service to improving the use of the language through questionable means, yet not address the main reasons for the decline? Why indeed are expensive expatriates recruited, evidently as a key strategy, when the efficacy of the strategy has not been revealed?

At the same time, the wider environment at the root of the deteriorating standards is hardly addressed or seriously evaluated.

For instance, barely 10 years after the teaching of mathematics and science in English programme (PPSMI) was implemented in 2003, it was all but discontinued.

Also, no attention has seriously been paid to the suggestion that making English a compulsory subject to pass at SPM level may indeed make students – and parents – take it seriously. Or the idea of reintroducing the previously popular – and rather successful – English-medium national schools.

In all these cases, we really should ask ‘Why’?

Is it because the language nationalists continue to object to any attempt at raising fast-declining standards not only in English but also in Malaysian education overall? Because such strategies are deemed disadvantageous to the Malays? Or at least disadvantageous to one segment of the Malay community that for too long has been left by the wayside but remains a vital vote bank?

Subsequently, for all the PM’s – and his underlings’ – talk about recruiting foreigners to help improve language proficiency, we all know what all that amounts to – talk.

And cheap election talk at that.

Christmas Day election move

But, surely, the most desperate election tai chi move over the period must have come on Christmas Day.

Reportedly addressing our Christian brothers and sisters, Ah Jib Goh @ Bijan gave this spiel in the media about being a “PM for all Malaysians”.

And, yes, he evidently said that too with a straight face.

What he reportedly said at the annual Christian Federation Malaysia Christmas high tea was: “I do not want to be a prime minister for only a section of the community but for all Malaysians and I have said this repeatedly.”

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Maybe he should tell that to Malaysia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. They would have been heartened to hear that, given the attacks on Seksualiti Merdeka, and, of course the ongoing assaults on the rights of this community and the plainly stupid attempts by officials in the Education Ministry to foster hatred against these fellow Malaysians. Attacks which this ‘PM for all’ thus far has not spoken against.

Perhaps he should pass that message of his on to the Penan and other marginalised Malaysian ethnic and tribal communities living in Sabah and Sarawak and also here on the peninsula. The many allegedly raped and shattered Penan women will, I’m sure, now believe that the PM, who also happens to head the Women’s Ministry, will look into their plight.

Perhaps, indeed, he should also pass his Christmas message to Ibrahim Ali and his Perkasa goons and tell them off, if not condemn them, for being as racist as the white supremacists in the Ku Klux Klan and the Aryan Strike Force.

As Catholic Bishop Dr Paul Tan Chee Ing put it in response: “…if you shake down the PM’s rhetoric, what have you left – syrupy sentiment and clichés that have little or no connection with realities on the ground.”

And the good bishop surely must have spoken for many of us – even non-Christian – Malaysians when he asked: “If he had a broad view of his office, how come when Christians were accused over the last two years of not just being ‘pendatang’ but sinister fifth-columnists, there was not a word from official quarters to stem that patently false accusation which was aimed at creating suspicion and hatred for Christians on the part of the Muslim majority of this country?”

Desperation and daftness

Such then was the desperation and daftness shown at year-end. It didn’t stop there, of course.

To name just three, there was the Automated Enforcement System (AES) debacle, with questions raised about apparent cronyism; the flip-flop silliness surrounding the RM200 rebate for young smartphone buyers; and the RM100m Puspahanas land controversy that threatens to become another NFC.

Then, of course, many of us received inane, insincere, and downright annoying text greetings on our mobile phones from unknown politicians. And they will remain unknown at the rate they are going.

Really, from the top politician to the inconsequential, their actions indicate not only that the 13th general election is (finally!) drawing near, but also that for the first time perhaps their fate is pretty much uncertain.

But if they continue to annoy us with their inanity and bare-faced lies, it is quite likely that they’ll seal their fate in the most adverse way possible.

This piece was first published in Malaysiakini.

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.

AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
  1. Tegakkan maruah serta kualiti kehidupan rakyat
  2. Galakkan pembangunan saksama, lestari serta tangani krisis alam sekitar
  3. Raikan kerencaman dan keterangkuman
  4. Selamatkan demokrasi dan angkatkan keluhuran undang-undang
  5. Lawan rasuah dan kronisme
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