Editorial: No Place for Clowns

By Fathol Zaman Bukhari

Pakatan Harapan ministers, of late, have been making and issuing all kinds of statements relating to their ministries and offices. Their off-the-cuff remarks caught Malaysians by surprise prompting many to ask whether these leaders are really up to the mark or are simply copies of the old regime. Their antics have caught the attention of the Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir who advised them to “think twice before opening their mouths and to look before leaping”.

In his popular blog “Che Det” the prime minister queried what difference would it make if a school kid wore black or white shoes? Smoking caused cancer, he said but how would the smokers know whether they are three metres away from a restaurant unless they carry a measuring tape.

And in jest, Mahathir remarked, “Flying cars would not translate into votes”.

Kadir Jasin veteran newsman and special media and communications adviser to the Prime Minister wrote that it was time to weed out “clowns and comic characters” from ruining the government as the ruling coalition party approached its first year of governance.

Mahathir agreed with Kadir that his cabinet is filled with many rookie ministers. Their naivety and amateurism become apparent when they speak to the press. Here are some anecdotal incidents that highlight their lack of wisdom or, perhaps, experience:

“Homosexuality? I don’t think we have such a thing in our country,” said Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi when asked for his comments by a German newspaper during a tourism fair in Berlin recently. He was asked whether it was safe for homosexuals to travel to Malaysia.

His mind-boggling remark was picked by international media. CNN ran a story with this headline, “There are no gay people in Malaysia”. And all this happened while the minister in charge of religious affairs, Datuk Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa, was meeting transgender advocate Nisha Ayub. Netizens took to social media to highlight the Tourism Minister’s lack of knowledge. I feel ignorance is a better word.

Mujahid upped the ante with his own “leap without looking” moment. After meeting controversial Muslim preacher Zakir Naik at the Federal Territories Islamic Department (Jawi) office in Kuala Lumpur on March 13 he was quoted as saying that the tele-evangelist was “very inspirational”.

Surely he must know that the guy is wanted in his home country, India, for money laundering and terrorism. The majority of Malaysians, less the holier-than-thou group, want Zakir deported post haste but he is being protected by the high and mighty here in Malaysia.

Primary Industries Minister, Teresa Kok, was soundly whacked for saying “Forget palm oil, plant bamboo, instead.” She claimed her statement was taken “out of context”. This is the standard excuse whenever ministers are caught with their sarong down.

We see this happening often during the past regime. Whenever Najib’s ministers said something odd opposition politicians would whack them good and proper. Take clownish Ahmad Maslan, the former Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry. He got smacked for suggesting that Malaysians facing financial problems due to rising costs should take a second job.

Now compare him to the “clowns and jesters” in Pakatan Harapan, Ahmad Maslan is definitely much smarter.

The one-year period is fast approaching, Pakatan Harapan’s performance will be subjected to greater scrutiny by the people, the media and investors.

And topping all this is the issue of fake degrees or non-degrees. Even Perak MB Ahmad Faizal is complicit. He claimed to have graduated from an Australian university. But a check with the university’s registry drew a blank. Fake degrees, fake titles and bogus ranks are common these days. This goes to show how hard-up Malaysians are when it comes to titles, degrees and ranks to prop up their deflated egos.

Kadir suggested that Pakatan consider “rearranging or even firing some of its cast members. The cast must be respected by the people. There is no place for clowns,” he insisted.

Ministers, menteri besars and chief ministers, said Kadir, need to indulge in self-examination and self-criticism. “Don’t blame the media and the people if the flying car flew past their heads and the government is seen as inept, arrogant and aloof,” he retorted.

And while we are at this, Malaysia has plunged 45 notches in the World Happiness Index rating from 35th in 2018 to 80th in 2019. In South East Asia we are ranked fourth after Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines. The Index is a survey of the state of global happiness of 156 countries worldwide.

The transition from BN to PH following General Election 14 on May 9, 2018, could be the underlying reason for the downward trend.


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