Patriots and idiots?


NOT a week seems to go by these days without some politician, senior official or another making utter ninnies of themselves. And often shaming Malaysia and Malaysians in the process.

So far, among our, ahem, educationists, we’ve had a couple of racist school heads and a senior assistant illustrating just why our education system appears to be in a mess.

More recently, we had our Tourism Minister seemingly unable to accurately account for the vast amount of the Malaysian people’s money, which she’s been spending these couple of years or so.

This past week, unfortunately, has been no different.

Just a couple of days ago, for starters, we had the sorry sight of a failed politician quitting an opposition party in record time. This was just after it seemed inevitable that he would lose the contest for the post of the party’s deputy president.

For some Malaysians, he quit because he’s an extremely sore loser with a massive ego to boot. His fan club, on the other hand, sees him as the paragon of virtue, who carries with him their hopes for reform in Malaysia.

BN politicians — with whom he served as a minister not that long ago — perhaps see him as a self-serving individual who, nonetheless, could be a perfect spoiler in the coming general elections.

For them, should he form his party of discontents and malcontents, possibly comprising enriched ‘friendly’, hopping independents and assorted wannabes, he will aid BN in its attempts to maintain its hegemony and to prevent the emergence of a two-party (or two-coalition) system in Malaysia after the next general elections.

Others have spoken about the emergence of a ‘Third Force’, with him leading it, but it really beggars belief that a Third Force could ever be led by a spent force.

Malaysian politics, we would hope, has moved forward considerably after March 2008 for those of us in civil society to believe in silly fairy tales and modern day — and certainly unholy — resurrections.

But I’m sure the mainstream Malaysian media, owned and controlled as they are by those seeking the maintenance of the status quo, will trip over each other, trying to make such individuals and a new ‘force’ look credible.

Or the same media will solicit comments from them to discredit the opposition. Indeed, judging from the mainstream media reports about this recent party betrayal, it’s already begun.

But this wasn’t the only story this week of a not-quite-hero becoming a zero.

Indeed, one minister — the one responsible for the defence of our country, no less — seemed determined to jump ahead of the queue of those dying to put both their feet in their mouths at the same time. This is the same minister who not so long ago pretty unconvincingly — and stroppily — dismissed the need to explain the expensive purchase of a brand new French submarine that couldn’t dive.

This time around, for no apparent reason, beyond, perhaps, the need to see his name up in lights for the wrong reasons again, this man who — I believe — has not served a single day in the armed forces, alleged that patriotism among non-Malays was “not strong enough”.

He came to this remarkably stupid conclusion because of the alleged “reluctance” of non-Malays to sign up with the armed forces. And, of course, he was rightly condemned for making such an inane, racially-tinged accusation.

Much decorated former chief of the Malaysian Navy, Admiral (Rtd) K Thanabalasingam, surely illustrated how a true leader — and an intelligent one — thinks when he responded: “If the conditions are correct, they will join. It has to be proven that they have a good future and prospects and there is no discrimination in promotions or selection for senior defence posts or special courses overseas.”

Retired airman, Brig Gen (Rtd) Goh Seng Toh, echoing the anger and disgust of many of us, didn’t mince his words. He reportedly dismissed the minister’s statement as “unfair, stupid and racist”.

Of course, this being 1Malaysia Boleh, not a word of apology was offered by the minister.

Indeed, I ask you, when was the last time any of our senior politicians offered us, the rakyat, an apology for making baseless accusations? For uttering words that are hurtful to Malaysians and are unbelievably stupid?

Notice instead how, after being caught spewing such inanities, they try to squirm their way out by insisting that they were misquoted or that their statements were taken out of context or misread? Or they do not bother responding at all, arrogantly ignoring the fact that they are the representatives of the rakyat?

And this despite the fact that the official government slogan is ‘People First, Performance Now’ (Rakyat Di Dahulukan and all that)?

So what gives, guys and gals? Another case of cakap tak serupa bikin (all talk and no action)?

But surely the most moronic actions this past week have been the high-handed ones of the Malaysian security forces at numerous eateries, like McDonalds, to prevent mainly young people from sharing cakes!

Yes, sharing cakes. Apparently, these Malaysians were doing this merely to peacefully register their protest against the proposed construction of the much-criticised 100-storey Mega Tower.

But, no, they had to be stopped. And what’s even worse – and truly inane — were the comments made by one private university vice-president to justify such actions and to prevent his students from having their cake.

While it was clearly a classic case of overreaction by the authorities, the assertion by the university administrator that a gathering of more than five in a public area ‘with a specific intention’ is illegal left many speechless.

Yeah, right. Now, let’s see — having a birthday dinner with a family of five plus, say, another five friends, at a restaurant, according to this interpretation, would be illegal, I guess?

Reading the reports on this silly and unfortunate episode, my English colleague commented how depressing it all was, meaning, I guess, how disturbing all this was to him — that a university could so-easily cave in and threaten its students not to exercise their fundamental rights in the most peaceful and law-abiding of ways.

My response was — and still is — that this is what happens when universities are directly owned by political parties (or their representatives), where the administrators of these universities are made up of apparatchiks. And, arguably, this is equally true these days of many private universities and public universities in Malaysia.

Nevertheless, though, it has been shown in even more repressive societies that control can never be total or complete — especially control of the younger members of society.

And, to be honest, as long as so-called leaders continue showing us — and the wider world out there — what absolute buffoons they are, they may very well control but they will never truly lead.

Contact the writer via [email protected].