On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Time to drop the jesters


CREDIBLE candidates – that’s the key phrase in the coming general election. That means those whose names have been tainted should be dropped as contenders.

We know who they are with their off-colour and controversial statements, often racist and sexist, but they would probably believe it is their right to be retained.

Their disregard for parliamentary decorum in the Dewan Rakyat and inability to be civil has shamed their party and surely their constituents. To put it bluntly – they have no class.

Then, there are one or two who have made news headlines for the wrong reasons, simply by flouting their wealth.

Their outrageous behaviour, including those of their supporters, have made many Malaysians question if they have any right to keep their Yang Berhormat (Right Honourable) titles.

In short, Malaysians would like to see them retired off in the coming polls. If not all, at least most of them, and it would not be wrong to suggest that it would be the wish list of many Malaysians.

There is no reason why the likes of Port Klang assemblyman Datuk Zakaria Deros, Datuk Bung Moktar Radin (BN-Kinabatangan) and Datuk Mohd Said Yusuf (BN-Jasin) should still be retained.

Their constant appearance in the Roll of Shame for 2007 is sufficient reason to have them removed; surely Umno has enough talent to fill their places.

Some Umno officials have admitted their dilemma – some of these jesters have political clout at the division level in their parliamentary constituencies.

Given the rural or semi-rural set-up of their areas, they have performed well for their voters but the urban voters, who read the newspapers, on the other hand, are not amused.

Given the structure of Umno, where division chiefs are powerful figures who can decide the fate of party leaders, these culprits have often escaped with a slap on the wrist.

Take Datuk Badruddin Amiruldin (BN-Jerai). He had to retract his remarks at the Dewan Rakyat twice last year, including attacking Karpal Singh (DAP-Bukit Glugor) who is on a wheelchair “as a punishment from God” and for using a vulgar word.

He provoked a woman MP by asking “what type of a woman would last with someone like the MP from Batu Gajah” but he holds a powerful position in Umno as the deputy permanent chairman of the annual Umno general assembly. A deputy speaker, that is.

Last year at the party conference, he irked Malaysians again with his “tunnel” joke about the tight skirts of Air Asia stewardesses,

Like others, his supporters have defended his record and, in all fairness to Badruddin, he is essentially a very nice person whose sense of humour sometimes goes off tangent. He speaks a smattering of Hokkien and his popularity with his Chinese voters is well known.

He is unlikely to be dropped but he has to be more cautious of his statements in Parliament. Still, he is palatable to most, even his critics.

But there are some who owe their voters plenty of explanation.

Syed Hood Syed Edros (BN-Parit Sulong) suggested that all crosses in missionary schools should be removed and church influence in these schools be stopped – it must rank as one of the most unacceptable remarks.

He later backtracked, realising his mistake, but he has lost plenty of goodwill and respect.

During the debate, he was supported by Datuk Mohd Aziz (BN-Sri Gading), where it was alleged that some schools were open during Hari Raya.

Surely they must be aware that Hari Raya is a gazetted holiday and that the claim has no basis.

The Opposition, too, has its share of controversial elected representatives. Lawyer Karpal Singh has a record of name calling, shouting at his fellow MPs as lembu (cows) and bodoh (stupid).

His detractors say he is politically shrewd and ensures he makes the news with these political fights.

The colourful DAP veteran, who is actually a soft-spoken and polite person, has been blasted in the past for poor constituency work but given the anti-establishment sentiment in Penang, he is likely to be fielded and re-elected.

Then, there is Abdul Fatah Harun (PAS-Rantau Panjang), who described divorcees as gatal (randy), saying that based on his observations at gatherings and parties, he noticed that single mothers were not sad about their divorces.

If he is picked again to contest, it would be a non-issue in his conservative constituency and his voters probably do not even know of this controversy, which was debated mostly in the English newspapers.

The fact that he is from PAS would be sufficient enough for his backers.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has sent an early message – he wants only credible candidates in the elections.

Over the coming weeks, those who put the Barisan in a tight spot last year can be assured that they won’t be asked to join in the campaigning, let alone contest.