Just a storm in a Timah cup! Or was it?

Can we now turn our attention to the Pandora Papers, the deaths in custody, and the many other issues that plague Malaysian society?

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Now can we get on with more important business?

That seemed to be the general reaction of many upon learning that the cabinet has allowed a whisky maker to continue using the name Timah for its product.

Yes, Timah just means tin, as anyone could have told the tinpot bigots. And no, Timah is not short for the name of the Prophet’s daughter, Fatimah.

It is amazing what a couple of state elections – in Malacca and Sarawak – and a looming general election can do to get rid of this non-issue. After all, how was the government going to explain this ridiculous controversy to voters?

In one sense, this was just a storm in a Timah cup – a controversy over nothing. Many suspect it was aimed at diverting attention from the Pandora Papers – and the way elite politicians store their wealth abroad, raising all kinds of questions about how they earned that wealth.

But, in another sense, this was huge: it seemed like the last straw for many ordinary people and investors alike. Many from minority ethnic groups appeared to have all but given up hope in the country. Most parents I know with children studying abroad or planning to send them there, were telling them not to return home after their studies.

This is sad – not only at an individual family level but also for the nation. Imagine the brain drain when hundreds of thousands of young people give up on the nation. And the wrenched apart family ties.

But was this Timah brouhaha another attempt at language facism or control borne out of ignorance? Or a sense of entitlement? A holier-than-thou attitude? Or was it just sheer stupidity? Perhaps it will resurface in other ways in the future when we least expect it.

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Allowing Timah to continue using its name is the easiest thing to do in the “keluarga Malaysia” (Malaysian family) spirit (no, not that kind of spirit!). The wine maker will just include a small explanation on the whisky label to say Timah means tin (just to appease or ‘give face’ to the bigots) – as if we did not know that.

Much harder for this government to rectify in the same Malaysian spirit is the vastly lopsided ethnic-based Budget 2022 allocations in favour of the majority community compared to the minorities. Such blatant discrimination, more than anything else, rankles many and grates against the Malaysian family spirit.

Now that the Timah sideshow is over, can we turn our attention to the Pandora Papers, the deaths in custody, and many other issues that plague Malaysian society?

For a start, look into the serious structural problems in the Malaysian economy – the higher expenditure, the insufficient government revenue, the struggling masses, not to mention the 20% – 30% lost on government projects through corruption and other ‘leakages’.

Imagine if that money could be used for better schools, improved internet connection in rural areas, expanded public healthcare services and more genuinely affordable homes for the low-income group. These are the serious issues that should matter.

Now, pass me a coney dog and a root beer, please.

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