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Pricking Malaysian pride

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It’s become increasingly difficult these days to feel proud of some Malaysian politicians who could have been useful role models especially to the young, observes Mustafa K Anuar.

The antics of certain public figures, especially in the run-up to the forthcoming general election, suggest a growing chasm between them and the rest of us ordinary Malaysians particularly over what constitutes pride and dignity.

At times, the conflicting sense of pride harboured by these politicians (and also certain senior government officials) can be downright outrageous as to make you wonder, rather generously, whether they have been indulging in weed. Big time.

And you further wonder (and pray) if they will ever give you — and your intelligence — a well-earned break while they take their time to come to their often elusive senses?

In the meantime, don’t blame yourself if you feel like banging your head against the wall out of frustration because you simply cannot figure out how inviting the two French lawyers — as human rights NGO Suaram did — to brief our lawmakers in particular and the rakyat in general on the latest developments pertaining to the ongoing investigation into the Scorpene scandal will “lower our dignity”.

Somehow it unfortunately escaped the fragile mind of Deputy Defence Minister Abdul Latiff (who contended that the invite to these French lawyers would “lower our dignity”) that this issue is of utmost importance to concerned Malaysians and that it simply cannot be blown away — no pun intended.

Would the pride and dignity of the federal government be enhanced instead if it refuses the entry of the French lawyers into the country, thereby entertaining the festering suspicion that it has something to hide?

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Indeed, the pride of ordinary Malaysians would get a fillip if they know that the system of governance in the country is transparent enough that whoever spent their tax money in such a way would be eventually be made accountable for all and sundry to see.

While we’re still talking about Scorpene, we can’t forget the ‘gem’ that was handed out by that chief admiral of our navy who insisted that the purchase of the two Scorpene submarines was to prevent a recurrence of the 1511 Portuguese invasion of Melaka. While you try to submerge your disbelief in this remark, you may want to consider lobbying our leaders on the importance of buying two atomic bombs to prevent a repeat of the Japanese invasion of then Malaya.

Pride and dignity was again brought up when the BN MP for Sri Gading, Mohamad Aziz, castigated Pas MPs Mahfuz Omar (Pokok Sena) and Dzulkefly Ahmad (Kuala Selangor) for questioning the remuneration package enjoyed by Tabung Haji CEO Ismee Ismail.

Aziz’s scathing remarks implied that a Malay-Muslim person, like the two Pas MPs, should have been proud to have CEOs and senior management particularly in GLCs who manage to secure high salaries and bonuses simply because they’re Malay and Muslim. Never mind the fact that such a remuneration structure has carved a yawning gap between the higher echelon of the corporation and its lower-rung workers.

The BN MP may want to be reminded that such excess not only goes against the Islamic principle of moderation, but it is also especially unjust and unfair to those at the bottom of a corporate body such as Tabung Haji. It goes without saying that one can only derive pride out of a system that seriously attempts to reduce vulgar income inequality and social gaps in society. The concerns of the Pas MPs in this matter are well placed indeed.

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Furthermore, to be a Malay – and Muslim at that – is not and should not be a licence to ride roughshod over others, especially those (including Malays and Muslims) who are economically and politically weak. Besides, such an attitude and action can only be construed as one being stubbornly greedy and self-serving.

It’s become increasingly difficult these days to feel proud of some Malaysian politicians who could have been useful role models especially to the young. Your heart goes aflutter when you think of the things these politicians are capable of expressing and doing.

While some of them, as illustrated above, have no qualms about sharing their half-baked wisdom with the general public over particular issues, a few seem to have consciously claimed an infamy (and possibly acquired an obsession) that revolves around, er, the genitals.

These politicians unabashedly within and outside of the august chambers of the Malaysian Parliament, for example, poke fun at a woman’s private parts (read: “leakage”) in a manner that can also be deemed sexist at a time when the rakyat eagerly awaits some solutions to the financial leakages plaguing the country.

The recent obscene outburst by Kinabatangan MP Bung Mokhtar Radin on Twitter over a similarly vulgar remark made against him obviously doesn’t raise his stature as a national lawmaker nor does it instil pride among the rakyat.

If anything, this incident only hardens the perception (yeah, that buzzword of the moment) of a Bung that cannot envision anything beyond his loins.

Clearly, the ideological and intellectual cleavage that exists between this set of politicians (and also a few top government officials) and the general public does not enthral and instil pride in ordinary Malaysians.

This opinion piece first appeared on the Malaysian Insider.

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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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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Kaki Pulau
2 Dec 2012 5.24pm

As usual, the level of parliamentary debate, especially from BN MPs like Bung Mokh seem never to go above the waist. They love hitting below the belt, the main pre-occupation. Their degree of intelligence is also at a similar level, what can we do about those whose brains (if any) are in the rear end rather than in the head. We need to dump this un-educated lot of ‘samsengs’.

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