There are problems, actions are taken and we move forward

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Those are the hot topics being discussed, as if they concern our entire existence and dignity. — Malay Mail photo

WHAT do socks, ‘bak kut teh’, Taylor Swift and school canteens have in common, you may ask?

They have been the viral trending subjects on social media over the past few weeks, attracting comments from all camps as to the respective controversies.

Even the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, on his return from a work visit to Germany on Tuesday, had brought up this matter and taken Malaysians to task when he expressed his disappointment to find us caught up with issues like bak kut teh and school canteens.

He had said: “While I was talking about investments (abroad), I came back to Malaysia to the ‘bak kut teh’-and-school-canteens-during-Ramadan issues!

Those are the hot topics being discussed, as if they concern our entire existence and dignity. I hope this won’t be the case anymore because we can do better!

“Malaysia needs strong economic growth instead of never-ending bickering!”

Before his reprimand to Malaysians was allowed to sink in, yet another issue had arisen – the sale of socks bearing the word ‘Allah’ was reported to be found in a chain of convenience stores.

While PM Anwar reminded all parties not to insult Islam (or any other religion), he had said that ‘immediate action, decisions should follow legal channels and proceed immediately, why should we be trapped in this prolonged issue’.

He concluded: “Let us not continue with this discussion as if it is a major catastrophe in the country. All parties need to be level-headed and continue to focus on areas which the country will explore.

“We can advise, but my advice is not to be hasty and not to be driven by narrow thinking. There are problems, actions are taken and we move forward.”

Meanwhile, it was reported on Thursday that Malaysia had, up to March this year, attracted potential foreign investments amounting to RM76.1 billion as a result of the country’s successful trade missions in Australia, Germany and France.

In terms of overall foreign direct investment (FDI) up till February, the Top 3 sources had been Singapore at 22.4 per cent, China’s Hong Kong SAR at 12.2 per cent, and the USA at 10.5 per cent.

Other important countries included Japan and the Netherlands. Total FDI, as at fourth quarter of 2023, was at US$194 billion.

Anyone who has been reading the newspapers, going on social media, listening to the radio or watching television, would know all the four issues that I mentioned at the start of this column, so I shall not dwell more on them.

The issues of ‘ba kut teh’ and schools canteen are very similar: such incidents always come to the fore like clockwork throughout the year. I remember similar school-canteen issues in past years during the Ramadan period as well.

One could probably forgive the bad interpretation of the word ‘bak kut’ as for many non-Chinese, the Hokkien word ‘bak’ may connote pork, when in actual fact it is just a common word for ‘meat’.

Probably what could have prevented that fiasco was to just use the word ‘chi ku teh’ (meaning chicken) but then, it would not be as authentic-sounding at all.

Anyway, that is such a trivial matter that it does not warrant even one more sentence!

The ‘Taylor Swift’ affair was just Malaysians being ‘kiasu’ or green with envy over the fact that Singapore had trumped them. Well, not just Malaysians – it would seem the other Asean nations too were up in arms.

The truth of the matter, however, was simply logistics and politics.

Singapore did have the best package deal to offer, incentivising the performer with a couple of million Singapore dollars per show to make it a ‘Singapore-only’ venue within the Asia-Pacific rim (Swift had only performed in Japan and Australia).

It also sends our Malaysian Tourism Board a very loud message – buck up!

I find it disturbing and disappointing that the typical Malaysian politician or leader is not capable or unwilling to come up with issues and discussions pertaining to more important and relevant matters like the state of our economy, our social welfare, our health and education, agricultural development, modernisation of our civil service and the future of IT, technology, and how it would affect us all.

Rather, they would be reactive only to issues like the four I have just mentioned – similarly, those who had voted them in.

Sure, there has been a Malaysian ‘exit brain drain’ to our nearest neighbour, to the north of us and to the west, but after all, we are still 33-million strong, and we are all Malaysians, regardless of race, religion and political affiliation.

It is time to put aside these issues, and get down to really working for our beloved nation – to make it rise once more, to get rid of the shackles of all the past corruptions, perceived racial inequalities and sporadic religious intolerances.

As PM Anwar so rightly said: “Let’s move forward!”