On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Avoid protocol and keep it simple

The following day, Chief Secretary to the  Government Tan Sri Abdul Halim Ali said  that from now on protocol would be set
aside  at functions to enable leaders and
government officials to get to know the public better.

He said the people should be allowed to sit 
with the leaders, even with the Prime Minister himself.

The directive, he said, had been conveyed 
to the heads of department so that leaders  could interact with the people and get
to  know their problems directly.

The decision is long overdue. Organisers 
of public functions, involving government  leaders, often waste valuable time on
elaborate and tedious welcoming ceremonies.

These time-consuming ceremonies are not  just expensive and unproductive but
trivial  at times.

More often that not, school children have 
to take part in these ceremonies. Dressed up  in the various costumes representing the  country's ethnic groups, they sometimes  have to wait for hours for the VIP to turn

I recall being at a function a few years 
back in Limbang, Sarawak, where a Lun 
Bawang schoolgirl stood barefeet in the hot  sun waiting for a VIP to arrive.

Standing on the tarred road, the blistering 
heat was too much for her. I urged her to put  on her shoes or wait in the shade.

But like all students who fear offending 
their teachers, she refused, preferring to  suffer quietly.

The VIP, when he finally arrived, hardly 
noticed her, quickening his pace to make up  for lost time.

In all fairness, the VIP should not be 
blamed. The fault lies with the organisers  who, in trying to please the
powers-that-be,  often spare little
thought for people like the 

That aside, the rakyat should not be subjected to boring and long-winded
speeches.  The stage should be left to
the key speaker.

It should not be an occasion of extravagant 
adulation; leaders should get to the point.

It would help if the speakers do away with 
the tiresome practice of making references  to all the Tan Sris, Datuks, Datins and
Yang  Berhormats present as a prelude to
the  speech.

Is it any wonder that we often see Malaysians falling asleep when a VIP is

As with most Malaysian functions, the 
VIPs and the guests usually end up having a  meal.

Reporters are familiar with scenes of 
VIPs attempting to sit nearest to their party  boss, presumably to show that they are
the  favoured ones. Others assume that by
sitting  next to the big shot, the
chances of appearing in the news would be better.

Unfortunately, the ones who really matter  
the common folk  are unable to
mingle  with the leaders. Often, they are
relegated to  forming queues outside the
hall where they  jostle to shake the
VIP's hand.

Ironically, these are the people who usually treasure the little gesture by the

Fellow VIPs need not be seated together 
since they meet most of the time.

If the Umno supreme council meeting in 
Ipoh is to be a precedent, each council members should be assigned to a
table so that the  leaders can hear for
themselves what the  grassroots have to

Organisers of public events should also refrain from subjecting their guests to
performing ridiculous tasks for the sake of photo opportunities which most
Malaysians are  no longer impressed

At the end of the day, our leaders should 
realise that the simple things in life are often the best.