The Minister and his hype, hypocrisy, hysterics

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nazriAfter 50 years of Merdeka, Nazri is set to take us to greater heights in hype, hypocrisy, hysterics and histrionics in Parliament, observes Martin Jalleh.

The Minister in the Prime Minister’s (PM’s) Department, Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz, is apparently a living proof that it does not require much intelligence to be a Minister in Bolehland these days – a reason for an increase in the number of the young and unemployed aspiring to be in the Cabinet.

Of course, before one can be a Cabinet Minister, one has to be a Member of Parliament (MP) representing a component party of the Barisan Nasional (BN) – and this too is peanuts (nothing to do with monkeys, surely). One only needs to be spineless, silly, sexist and of course “stupid”.

In his latest theatrics in parliament, Nazri also showed why he deserves the role of the Minister overseeing parliamentary affairs. When intelligent debate and delivery were demanded of him, he chose to dish out a diatribe of great distinction.

Bodoh

On 21 June, in parliament, Nazri was responding to Wan Azizah Wan Ismail’s question on whether the PM was focused on fighting corruption. She had also asked about the measures taken by the government to curb corruption.

This was of great concern especially considering Bolehland’s slide in ranking in the Transparency International’s (TI’s) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) as compared to neighbours such as Indonesia, Vietnam and Singapore.

Nauseated by Nazri’s nonsensical justifications, Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang leapt to his feet and accused the government of inertia. He used the investigation of Deputy Internal Security Minister Johari Baharum by the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) as a case in point.

Johari was alleged to have received RM5.5 million in bribes to free several suspects held under the Emergency Ordinance. He denied this. An investigation was launched, ACA findings made, but no decision was taken by the Attorney-General (AG). (The latter cleared Johari of the allegations recently.)

Lim asked: “How can he (Johari) come clean when the ACA has not released its findings, and when the AG also keeps mum?”

Nazri turned nasty: “Malaysia will never develop as long as we have people like Lim. All these (corruption allegations) are lies. Why are you so stupid? Where are the allegations? You have no brains. Stupid, stupid, stupid!…”

Shouts of bodoh were hurled across the floor with the Speaker Tan Sri Ramli Ngah Talib making a significant contribution to the “stupid” scenario with his statement that he cannot cite Nazri for using unparliamentary language because “such language was used all the time”.

Grinning like a school bully having his last say, Nazri added to his string of ‘stupid’ salvos: “OK, tidak cerdik (not smart) then. It’s like stupid too.”

Buffoon

Two years ago, Nazri, had, with admirable honesty declared: “Compared to other parliaments in countries of equal development as Malaysia, our quality of debate is still relatively low.” (NST, 9 April, 2005)

Judging from his latest intellectual outburst, the citizens of Bolehland now know how instrumental the Minister is in lowering the quality of parliamentary debates to new depths as never seen before.

The man who called Lim Kit Siang “stupid” countless times recently is the very same man who had in 2005 also insisted that: “We want our MPs to get their facts right and debate in an objective, civil manner. Only then can we start talking about having a First World Parliament.” Alas, only Nazri can make calling an MP “stupid” synonymous with civility!

Two years ago also, a Minister had advised MPs to be ready to take a lot of stick. He said all MPs “should not be too thin-skinned and should accept criticism made against them… MPs, who cannot take criticism are old-fashioned…”

“Society is becoming smarter and critical, thus putting an MP under public scrutiny all the time…If they cannot stand such a situation, they should stay away from politics.” (The Star, 25 April 2005)

That Minister is none other than Nazri himself. Of course, we would be stupid if we were to believe that Nazri practices what he preaches – which explains why he is still in politics and why he gets into a caustic delirium when he is criticised.

Coming back to the Johari issue, it was quite apparent that Nazri could not take the heat even though he had apparently taken upon himself a few more hats –  that of the director of the ACA and the AG. He absolved Johari without a final ACA finding and an AG decision.

In his response to Wan Azizah, Nazri had also said that Malaysia must not be compared to countries like Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam. Then, with a touch of intellectual brilliance, he added: ‘Singapore is not a real country, it is a small island. Singapore’s population is just three to four million and there are no opportunities for corruption, unlike in our country.’

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Nazri’s inference of larger countries being more prone to corruption and smaller countries being less corrupt was wrong. The TI CPI reveals that several countries with a much larger population than Malaysia fared better than Malaysia in the ranking and several smaller countries were found to be more corrupt.

Nazri’s ignorance became even more glaring when he said that although the perception on corruption in Bolehland is considered to be unfavourable, “Malaysia is still included in the premier league comprising 50 countries with the least corruption” (Bernama, 21 June 2007). The ‘premier league’ is reserved only for the Top Ten countries regarded as least corrupt.

Still on the issue of corruption, Parliament would hear Nazri say that we should not question the PM’s commitment in combating corruption. The Minister would even declare that a lot has been done to fight corruption but what is needed is a public relations blitz…like in (not-a-real-country) Singapore!

Nazri once told Parliament that the government was satisfied with the ACA’s performance. But as Param Cumaraswamy, a former TI Malaysia president, once pointed out succinctly, “It is not the satisfaction of the government that the ACA is handling its responsibilities effectively that matters. It is the satisfaction of the public that matters most.’

Nazri has also said that the ACA is free to act on its own without orders from the government. Nazri should know that as long as the ACA is under the PM’s Department such ‘non-interference’ is hard to come by.

In 2003, during his war-of-words over the monopoly of some 6,000 taxi licences with the then ACA  Investigations Director, Nordin Ismail, Nazri (who was then Entrepreneur Development Minister) had said that he would advise the Cabinet to replace Nordin with someone “neutral and of high calibre”.

“Bloody racist”

Perhaps there is no better example of Nazri’s intelligence deserting him than when he shouted “racist” at opposition parliamentarian M Kula Segaran 41 times – in Malay and English. (Malaysiakini, 21 June 2005)

His trademark theatrics took place at the end of a debate over the opposition’s emergency motion to debate the government’s decision to withdraw recognition of the Ukraine-based Crimean State Medical University (CSMU). This decision affected about 1,400 Malaysian students, the majority of whom were Indian Malaysians.

Kula Segaran had contributed to the situation by quoting then education minister Musa Mohamed as allegedly saying on a visit to CSMU: “How (can) this be? Why are there so many Indians in this university?”

At one point, the Minister yelled “bloody racist, racist, racist… you are racist, you have got no place in this country” as he pointed to Kula Segaran. There was chaos in the House as a shouting match ensued.

Later Nazri confirmed that his blistering attack was also aimed at fellow front-bencher and Natural Resources and Environment Deputy Minister S Sothinathan who was subsequently suspended for arguing with Deputy Health Minister Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad over the de-recognition.

“We don’t work on (the basis of) racism and I really object to that (such claims). I don’t like racism… we are all Malaysians, so never ever say that we make certain decision because we hate certain ethnic groups. That’s unbecoming.”

Kula Segaran believed that Nazri’s repeated use of the word ‘racist’ was intended to divert attention from the dispute involving the two front-benchers – even though Nazri had later hugged him (Kula) outside the MPs’ lounge, saying that each of them had a job to do.

The heroic anti-racist image painted by Nazri of himself soon faded. He was rather subdued when he revealed recently that no Umno member has yet to be brought to court as a result of making racist speeches at the Umno general assembly last November.

Neither was he as vociferous against the racist remarks of Youth deputy chief Khairy Jamaluddin or those of Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Jamaludin Jarjis, nor of Hishamuddin Hussein’s racist keris-wielding antics at Umno general assemblies.

Brain dead?

In April this year, Lim Kit Siang had highlighted the alarming trend in the exodus of the bright and brilliant from Bolehland – which he estimated to be as high as one to two million over the past four decades.

Lim added that Malaysia used to be better than Japan and Singapore in terms of economic development, but now the country is lagging behind because of brain drain that is ‘due to discriminatory policies in the country’.

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He called on MPs to take heed of a speech by Perak Regent Raja Nazrin Shah wherein the latter had urged the government to instill “a sense of belonging” in all Malaysians to lower the rate of brain drain.

Nazri agreed with Nazrin but felt that the brain drain was not the result of a lack in a sense of belonging but of ‘money sense’. He likened the brain drain to “ants attracted to sugar” and added that Malaysians “leave to make money but they will return. You don’t have to press the panic button yet.”

Lim said Nazri’s response was “not only offensive to Malaysians forced to migrate due to unfair policies, but is proof of the stubborn continuance of the denial syndrome for an urgent reappraisal of the 50 years of BN nation-building policies.”

Was Pak Lah pressing the panic button when he had declared in 2004 that “Malaysia is offering a host of incentives, including better financial perks, favourable retirement age and terms of contract, to lure an estimated 30,000 of its graduates working overseas to return home”?

Was the PM seemingly ‘stupid’ in adding: “We must also show them that we have equal and quality opportunities for them to continue what they are doing.”

Nazri should follow his own advice which he had once given to MPs: “It is better that you keep quiet and let others assume you are stupid rather than talk nonsense and confirm that you are really stupid.”

Brain drain

That Nazri’s brain seemed strained and drained could also be seen in his profound ignorance in the “bocor” scandal – in spite of his insistence that the government acted correctly in handling it.

Nazri came to the defence of the two MPs who had made the sexist remarks following Fong Po Kuan’s (DAP – Batu Gajah) observations of leaks in the Parliament building. He said that they “should not apologise to Fong or the DAP for their remarks” (The Star, 17 May 2007).

‘To apologise to Fong is not on. I don’t agree…This is part of parliamentary debates. Both MPs uttered the words during the heat of their debate, and you cannot control people’s emotions.” Whatever happened to Nazri’s ‘civility’?

He made excuses for them:  “It is unfortunate that the press has played up the incident. It is part and parcel of parliamentary debates, and parliamentarians should not be easily offended by the heckling between one another…Such unguarded outbursts always happen during debates.”

The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) (a coalition of women’s groups) accused the two MPs and Nazri of showing that they clearly “have not fully understood what being gender sensitive is all about”.

By excusing the behaviour of the two MPs, Nazri “has effectively condoned the use of low-level coffee shop talk, including foul language and sexual innuendos, in the august Dewan Rakyat.”

Contrary to what Nazri had claimed, they saw in the defence of the sexist remarks a reflection of “an underlying, deeply entrenched patriarchal culture that thrives on gender discrimination. Such a culture, which upholds male domination in society, is systemic and ingrained in our social structures and institutions.”

“In this context, the sexist remarks that were made recently are not an isolated case. Such remarks have been tolerated with no disciplinary actions taken by the Parliament since 1995. In 2002, we met up with the Parliamentary Speaker to work towards ending sexism and discrimination in Parliament. As we can see, all these efforts have come to naught.”

In a letter to Malaysiakini, European Commission Ambassador to Malaysia, Thierry Rommel said that the sexist remarks “had an effect on Malaysia’s international reputation …they have a far greater and adverse impact than some people in position of power care to admit. Witnessing moreover the impunity that has accompanied such remarks, astonishment and disbelief prevail.”

Banal excuses

The independence and future of the judiciary in Bolehland depends very much on one man – the de facto – so might mistakenly think that it means ‘defective’ – Law Minister, Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz. He has even made it very clear that you have to ‘convince’ him first if things are to improve in the judiciary.

In June last year, Nazri told Parliament that there was no basis for the allegation of corruption in the judiciary as contained in a letter written by former High Court judge Datuk Syed Ahmad Idid. He added that the case had been investigated by the government, the ACA and the AG.

In an NST interview, Syed Idid revealed that the allegations were “never really investigated”. This was confirmed by a former AG, Abu Talib Othman (Mingguan Malaysia, 4 June 2006), who added that “on the other hand, the poor judge who wrote it was investigated”.

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In August 2006, the Bar Council renewed its call for a review of the 1988 judicial crisis, which led to the sacking of Salleh Abas as Lord President. Nazri dismissed such a call and said he would agree to a review of the crisis only “if there are new and important facts in the case”.

Nazri placed great reliance on the fact that the recommendations by both tribunals were also accepted by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. Yet, according to the Federal Constitution, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is not allowed to refuse advice tendered by the Cabinet or the Prime Minister.

Nazri justified the refusal by Hamid Omar (who was second in line after Salleh) to disqualify himself as a member of the tribunal set up  to remove Salleh Abas as LP by claiming that “as Lord President, there could not have been someone more senior than him (Salleh) to sit in the tribunal”.

Nazri was wrong again. There were two living and very renowned retired Lord Presidents (then) and several retired Supreme Court judges who would have been suitable to sit in the tribunal.

Nazri’s assertion that a review of the 1988 judicial crisis would open the floodgates of similar requests for other cases, thwarting efforts to put finality to past cases, was pooh-poohed by retired Federal Court judge Tan Sri Azmi Kamaruddin: “I think this finality principle is only applicable to ordinary court cases, where you have the right to appeal. But in this case, we are not dealing with a court as such, but a tribunal formed under the Constitution.” (theSun, 20 September 2006).

Nazri’s aura of openness came to a close with him declaring that the Cabinet had endorsed his statement and the case was closed (The Star, 28 September 2006). He had turned a deaf ear to Salleh’s five new points for a review. There would be no finality to the Minister’s ignorance and arrogance.

His next act took place in the Bar Council Auditorium in Kuala Lumpur in a debate with MP for Kota Bharu, lawyer Datuk Zaid Ibrahim. Here again he would portray himself as a Minister who is sincere and so very open to change. “I can be convinced” – he proudly declared.

Nazri managed to convince himself that he alone was right and everyone else (lawyers and several retired judges) in the hall were wrong – “there is no need for an independent judicial commission relating to the appointment and promotion of judges unless the judiciary made a request for it”.

Lawyer Malik Imtiaz who attended the debate wrote in his blog: “Nazri was a surprise, not so much for speaking like a politician but rather for assuming that members of the audience, comprising largely members of the Bar, were stupid enough to believe the line he was taking…”

Will the Chief Justice ask Nazri for an independent judicial commission?  The obvious answer came from Bar Council president Ambiga Sreenevasan: “It is highly unlikely that the judiciary will agree to the independent judicial commission as one with power will not give it up so willingly…”

Alas, there is no finality in Nazri’s naivety. Apart from the examples provided above, we see this in his comments on the Inter-Faith Commission (IFC), inter-faith dialogue, race relations, the Election Commission, Suhakam, the media, etc.

Nazri represents the high calibre MP that Bolehland has succeeded in producing after 49 years of Independence. As the country celebrates her 50th birthday, surely the Minister in the PM’s Department will take us to greater heights in hype, hypocrisy and of course, hysterics and histrionics in Parliament!

With the Cabinet contributing its fair share of soiled reputations, spent characters and senior ministers calling others stupid, surely Parliament will will be perceived as a solid rubberstamp, a symbol shorn of substance, stripped of essence, sidelined and side-stepped by the Executive. Malaysia Boleh!

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This arrogant law minister should be investigated for his (alleged) involvement with Michael Chia and his clever son extravagence….