On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Cut out the political antics



MALAYSIANS are going through extraordinary times, certainly not the best, as we grapple with global economic and local political uncertainties.

With the general election already concluded, we expect our politicians, whether they are federal or state leaders, to steer us through these rough times. We have a right to demand that they set their priorities right.

To put it bluntly, while these political controversies make good reading in the newspapers, many Malaysians are genuinely concerned with the direction we are heading with our excessive, never ending kind of politicking.

Certainly, issues like justice, democracy and human rights are important, but for many wage earners struggling to put food on the table with countless bills to pay, the antics of some of our politicians are becoming distasteful.

Political gimmick? One of the six road signs in Chinese put up by Gerakan in Penang recently.

More than six months after the polls, the perception is that the country is still trapped in a fierce political campaign. Not only are foreign investors confused, so also are many Malaysians who find the on-going political developments disturbing.

Just glance through the newspapers and you can see that they are not creating a pro-business climate in the country that will prepare Malaysians to face the effects of a global economic recession or addressing how we should adopt cost-cutting measures without impeding growth and remaining competitive in the region.

Instead of Malaysian unity, we hear of Malay and Muslim unity. In Penang, we read of attempts to put up Chinese language road signs, which has never been an issue in the state.

For years, Gerakan, which has been the dominant Barisan Nasional party in the state, did not find it a necessity to put up such signs; but now that they are in the opposition, they resort to such gimmicks to gain popularity.

If Gerakan’s attempt was to score points, it has ended up shooting itself in the foot. It did not affect DAP’s position but stirred up a hornet’s nest with Umno expressing its unhappiness. In the end, the municipal council took down the illegal road signs.

But Gerakan leaders in Penang said it wanted to remind the DAP that the party did the same thing a few years back. Now that it is running the state government, it would appreciate the problems facing Gerakan then.

The only place in Malaysia where road signs and signboards in government offices are in Bahasa Malaysia and Chinese is Kuching.

But it makes sense to put signboards in various languages such as English, Arabic and Chinese in heritage areas in Penang to explain the historical background of these places for tourists.

In Terengganu, Mentri Besar Datuk Ahmad Said has found himself in a controversy over the purchase of 14 Mercedes Benz cars at RM3.43mil, putting the BN in an embarrassing situation.

He may have good reasons for his preferences over the Proton Perdana, but the timing is certainly not right for the purchase of foreign cars. In short, he was not being very clever.

At the Federal level, Umno and PAS leaders are persuading their members – as well as non-Muslims – on the need for talks on Muslim unity.

PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang himself has said in Harakah, the party’s newspaper, that he was disturbed at the increasing representation of non-Muslim legislators and parliamentary seats in Sabah and Sarawak.

Non-Muslims reading his comments must be wondering why this should be an issue – has Hadi forgotten that many non-Muslims voted for PAS in the March 8 elections, despite the party’s consistent Islamic state agenda?

Then, we have PKR adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim who is determined to continue the political fight with an attempt to force a by-election in the Kulim-Bandar Baharu parliamentary seat soon.

He has also reiterated that his Sept 16 deadline of toppling the Federal Government with defections from Sabah and Sarawak BN MPs is not a bluff.

In the midst of all these, Anwar remains in a precarious position with the police still not telling us the results of the sodomy investigations. Will the case be dropped or would Anwar be formally charged, which would certainly shoot up the political temperature.

We can expect another eventful week or two.