Durian treat gone thorny for Deputy Speaker

Prominent personalities' flouting of rules has sparked outrage from the public, who feel they have provided a good example instead.

Photograph: Wikipedia

In the midst of the people’s #BenderaPutih movement scurrying to detect and help the vulnerable with food and other essentials, Dewan Rakyat Deputy Speaker Rashid Hasnon found himself entangled in a prickly controversy of a durian feast.

Social media users accused him of flouting the standard operating procedure of the movement control order because he was discovered in a video clip as having appeared in a gathering of durian eaters, which is prohibited by the very government he represents.

The Batu Pahat MP initially tried to convince the public that the video that caught him eating durian was an old one. The event that was recorded, he insisted, happened before the movement control order last year.

However, social media users’ relentless scrutiny of the controversial event proved that truth was on their side. They got all the evidence to make their allegations stick.

This eventually compelled the Bersatu politician to admit that the durian get-together was indeed recent and to offer an apology for his apparent confusion over the status of the video clip.

For the uninitiated, the durian incident involving Rashid came on the heels of a violation of the standard operating procedure committed by no less than Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mustapa Mohamed, who dined at a cafe in his Jeli constituency in Kelantan. His ministerial misconduct was exposed from a picture that made its rounds on social media. The police are said to be investigating these cases.

As in the past, such flouting of the rules predictably courted public outrage, especially when it involved senior politicians of the ruling pact, who should have provided a good example instead.

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It would be unsurprising if these recent incidents also spark public anger, especially given the present dire situation we are in.

To be sure, a lot of ordinary people suffer from shuttered businesses, job losses, pay cuts, induced poverty, delinquent loans, domestic violence, low self-esteem and despair, largely as a result of complying with the standard operating procedure and lockdowns imposed by the authorities.

Daily wage earners or petty traders have been deprived of their livelihoods under such circumstances. Hence, they have not been able to pay rent and housing and car loans, let alone put food on the table.

Pushed to the limit, some among the vulnerable buckled and resorted to ending their own lives, which is indeed unfortunate and horrifying.

The sudden emergence of the people’s initiative of #BenderaPutih is indicative of the despair of the vulnerable who have to face the adverse consequences of prolonged lockdowns. A craving for durians is obviously the least of their concerns.

It would, therefore, make the authorities appear insensitive to the pain and difficulties endured by ordinary Malaysians, who religiously adhere to the standard operating procedure, if politicians who found violating the rules are let off lightly. The public expectation is that the standard operating procedure must be applied equally to all, irrespective of social status.

Certain quarters, however, insist on a heavier penalty for offending politicians of high profile, such as in the controversial cases of Rashid, who holds an important position in the legislature, and Mustapa, who has a ministerial post to boot. They want such politicians to do the honourable thing, which is to resign from their positions on their own volition.

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Although it is a normal practice in other thriving democracies, such as the UK, New Zealand and Ireland, for prominent politicians to resign by choice, some other Malaysians as they consider it an extreme or harsh action to take.

That said, ordinary Malaysians may not want to go down this path at all because they may run the risk of incurring unnecessary frustration and disappointment – for resignations of this nature demand a character with strong moral fibre. We sorely lack this in our political culture. – The Malaysian Insight

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