It would seem that when desperation plummets to really low levels, as it seems to be doing quite rapidly now, there can be no degree of decency in politics, observes Zaharom Nain.
“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3-5). Truly decent Malaysians, like Aliran president P Ramakrishnan, are becoming increasingly alarmed and certainly frustrated at current developments in the politics of race and religion in Malaysia.
In his latest missive to the media, published by the online media but, predictably, ignored by most of the mainstream press, Ramakrishnan hits out at the accusations hurled at the Penang Chief Minister by the Defence Minister and also a Malay national daily. Accusations, thus far rather baseless, that the Agong’s name was substituted with the CM’s in a Friday sermon, and accusations that the CM had personally directed his name to be mentioned in the sermon.
Ramakrishnan ends his letter with the plea that “there must be some degree of decency in politics.”
Elsewhere down south, a senior teacher — a headmistress, no less — reportedly utters some pretty hateful, racist remarks in a school gathering witnessed by hundreds of students. Ugly remarks urging some students to go ‘back’ to China (where many, if not all, being Malaysian-born and raised, have never ever been before … and quite likely have no intention of doing so). And equally hurtful remarks about the religious ornaments worn by her Hindu pupils.
After the initial public uproar, she personally apologises to the pupils she has wronged. To seemingly make light of a very serious issue, the DG of Education reassures us ignoramuses that it was all a ‘misunderstanding’.
Following which, the Education Minister, perhaps aware that ‘misunderstanding’ does not quite cut it as a valid explanation, decides to invest time, money and human-power on a ‘taskforce’ to ‘investigate’ the incident.
In the meantime, we hear that the headmistress has been transferred to another school when, perhaps, an enforced vacation pending the outcome of the investigation would have been a better option. After all, if indeed, she had uttered those remarks to impressionable children in her capacity as their headmistress, surely she ought to be kept away from others whose young minds she may also poison?
While all this is still going on, an apparently naive first-term woman MP steps into a surau in her constituency, addresses the people assembled there when invited, and finds herself on the front page of that same Malay national newspaper the next day, accused of ‘insulting the nation’ (where the paper not very cleverly or subtly conflates race and religion into ‘the nation’). She purportedly incurs the wrath of the Sultan to whom she now has to apologise.
What’s sad about this recent episode is that it paints a picture of the religion as being exclusive instead of inclusive, where certain officials jump the gun and make instant decisions without giving the accused a chance to respond, without stepping back and looking at the whole situation.
Indeed, compare the official — and press — reaction to this recent incident with the earlier incident involving the headmistress and we begin to see clear inconsistencies. Certainly inconsistencies that have become too apparent these days although those in power think the rakyat cannot fathom them.
Notice, for instance, how fast the official response has been with this surau incident and how they seem to be dragging their feet with the school incident.
In this latest instance, the MP is virtually tarred and feathered almost immediately, whereas the headmistress is initially excused for being ‘misunderstood’ and later transferred instead of being told to go on leave pending investigations.
These aside, fresh allegations of impropriety have now emerged about three state representatives in Penang purchasing houses worth RM600,000. Before we read too much into that, let us please take note that RM600,000 in Penang would get one a fairly decent intermediate double-storey link house and virtually nothing more.
And allegations of this nature against state officials in Penang are nothing new. Not long after the 2008 general elections, the new CM (yes, the same poor CM caught in the recent sermon incident) was accused of impropriety when he temporarily moved out of his termite-hit official residence to a bungalow. Yet, in the end, nothing came out of that.
At the same time, a former CM in another state builds a mansion purportedly at a cost of RM24 MILLION, asserts that he makes more than a decent living looking at people’s teeth, and the same officials and media — those who selectively pick their targets — evidently agree straight off, without any questioning let alone investigation, that there’s been no impropriety.
Indeed, many of these accusations often smack of desperation on the part of the accusers. The belief is that if you throw enough mud, some of it is bound to stick. It helps, of course, if you have a compliant media at the same time, plus particular rags which you own, to help publicise your accusations as if they were much more.
And while I sympathise totally with someone like Ramakrishnan, nonetheless it would seem that when such desperation plummets to really low levels, as it seems to be doing quite rapidly now, there can be no degree of decency in politics.
But, of course, these politicians do all this at the risk of losing touch with the increasing number of voters like Ramakrishnan, whose intelligence and decency they insult, yet whose votes they wish to have.