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When politicians shoot their mouths off in Johor

It was mind-boggling to see two experienced politicians using a foreign country’s rate of development to score brownie points

Singapore parliament: Would Singapore have been better off with Umno in charge? - Photograph: James Mason-Hudson. - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, commons.wikimedia.org

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The just-concluded Johor polls, where Barisan Nasional (BN) won a ‘supermajority’ of 40 seats, saw predictable verbal attacks waged between competing parties, a few of which reached amazing heights.

A case in point was the altercation between Johor caretaker Menteri Besar Hasni Mohammad and Pas vice president Nik Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah.

In their exchanges, neighbouring Singapore somehow came to the fore – so much so that the republic’s Parliament House was brought down, so to speak.

Well, at least that was what was implied in a parody that went viral soon after Hasni said that Singapore would have been better developed had Umno ruled the island state.

The posting mischievously read: “The Singapore parliamentary session had to be temporarily suspended today after all ministers couldn’t stop laughing after hearing the joke of the century that Singapore would be more developed if led by Umno.”

Hasni was rebutting Nik Mohd Amar, who argued that Singapore was more developed than Malaysia because there was no Umno in the island state.

To be sure, this was the kind of ‘friendly fire’ between the contending parties in the Johor election, which ironically are glued together for now by the collective desire to maintain federal power in Putrajaya.

It boggles the mind, though, to witness two experienced politicians using a foreign country’s rate of development to score brownie points instead of staying focused on how to revive the economy of Johor in particular and of Malaysia generally, amid an epidemic and political instability brought on by the shenanigans of certain politicians.

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What is puzzling is that Hasni, who was slated to be the next Johor menteri besar after BN’s big win in the polls, had frowned upon the achievements of Johor’s immediate neighbour, whose citizens’ quality of life is streets ahead of Malaysia’s. This is indicated by its higher living standards and better and accessible public transport.

And corruption, which adversely affects good governance, administrative efficiency and public coffers for national development, reportedly has been kept at a safe distance in the island republic.

In contrast, Malaysia would have achieved a lot more had it not been bedevilled by corruption, particularly in high places, the biggest example of which was the 1MDB scandal, which rocked the country.

Furthermore, the disparity between the rich and the poor in Malaysia has yawned over the years, while the education and healthcare systems need fixing.

In the meantime, Asean countries such as Indonesia and Vietnam are fast making great strides in many areas of development, to the point Malaysia may be left behind if its own political and economic problems are not sorted out quickly and effectively.

Hasni, in his haste to counter the arguments of his opponents, should not have said things in public that would give an impression that he is out of his depth on important things about our neighbouring countries, especially next-door Singapore.

As for Nik Mohd Amar, who is apparently in awe of Singapore’s success, it would be more fruitful for him and his colleagues to find ways and means to develop his Kelantan state, which is one of the poorest in the federation after six decades of the country’s independence.

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The Kelantan deputy minister may want to get tips on improving people’s living standards and on fixing the state’s perennial problem of water supply from the Singapore government, which, incidentally, consists of largely what his Islamist party would term as infidel ministers.

Doing such positive things would not only benefit the people but also help prevent our politicians from grabbing headlines for the wrong reasons, as a few tend to do. – The Malaysian Insight

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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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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