Why MPs shouldn’t be petty

Responsible politicians should stem anything that borders on absurdity and not turn it into political capital

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Climate change is looming - ANIL NETTO/ALIRAN

The primary concern raised by Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman about the government and some MPs’ misplaced priorities will resonate with many concerned Malaysians.

The Muar MP, when debating the 2022 Supply Bill in Parliament recently, said the bizarre obsession over the Timah whisky has overshadowed many important issues, such as Auditor General Nik Azman Nik Abdul Majid’s latest report that reveals massive public fund leakages to the tune of RM620m.

We should also be mindful of former auditor general Ambrin Buang’s prediction that up to 30% of public project value is lost due to corruption and mismanagement.

Such mismanagement should have taken centre stage and been hotly debated in the Dewan Rakyat as it involves public funds and suggests poor governance.

Instead, four federal ministers felt it more important to hold a meeting with representatives of Winepak Corporation, the maker of Timah whisky.

Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Alexander Nanta Linggi chaired the meeting, which discussed matters that MPs in an enlightened society would consider mind-boggling, to put it mildly.

Environment and Water Minister Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, after the meeting, found it necessary to announce that in future, the government would ban brand names that could cause racial and religious offence.

One fails to understand why a minister tasked to deal with environment and water issues would make a public statement regarding intoxicating spirits or product branding.

His portfolio is most suited for a minister to attend the important 2021 UN Climate Change Conference taking place in Glasgow, Scotland. And yet, he skipped it. [Note: In the end, Tuan Ibrahim did go from 9 November, but missed the first week of the conference.]

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The Kubang Kerian MP’s absence from the meet opens up a couple of speculations.

Firstly, he has misplaced his priority by flirting with the Timah controversy and thus, committed a dereliction of duty, as pointed out by DAP deputy secretary general Teresa Kok.

Secondly, a cynic may insist that his apparent lack of English proficiency is a possible reason but then may argue that this should not be an excuse for him to miss the international meet as he can seek the help of an interpreter.

Climate change and its devastating impact defy age, ethnic, gender, linguistic, national and religious barriers. In other words, Malaysia will be exposed to the calamitous climatic consequences even if it tries to ignore them.

It is also disheartening that there has been no reported attempt by the Pakatan Harapan leadership, particularly Amanah and PKR, to rein in their MPs who were inclined to join the heated protest against Timah.

The comical performance of PKR’s Tangga Batu MP Rusnah Aluai should serve as a grim reminder to political leaders that elected representatives who make a fool of themselves are not what the electorate want and need, especially at a time when human energy and other resources should be mobilised to help resuscitate the ailing economy and improve governance.

Pengerang MP Azalina Othman Said rightly pointed out that society needs to be educated to think in a more logical way, following the Timah controversy in which the Malay term for tin has been interpreted in many imaginable ways.

Responsible politicians should stem anything that borders on absurdity and not make political capital out of it nor encourage it.

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There are a variety of other issues that deserve the unwavering attention and action of MPs in our country – like poverty, which spiked to 8.4% last year, compared with 5.6% in 2019, according to Economic Affairs Minister Mustapa Mohamed, owing to the pandemic.

Extreme poverty can worsen the conditions of the vulnerable – including the problem of period poverty, where young girls from poor backgrounds cannot afford to buy sanitary pads. This is no petty problem because it has health and hygiene implications.

It is commendable that the government has already planned to provide free personal hygiene kits every month to about 130,000 teenage girls from low-income families to tackle period poverty.

Some may dismiss this as a non-issue, but concerned and discerning MPs – as well as other Malaysians – will surely disagree.

Of course, talking about, say, a change of official cars in the midst of all this will not only be inappropriate but also morally reprehensible. It should not be difficult for MPs to separate the significant from the petty for the sake of the ordinary people and the country. – The Malaysian Insight

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