On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Silly season far from over

On The Beat

By : Wong Chun Wai

IT has to be the most sensible statement of the week by a politician as Malaysians cringed with embarrassment at the ludicrous remarks made by our legislators.

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak told Malaysians there was no time for politicking but to focus on overcoming the economic challenges ahead and to create opportunities for the people.

The Deputy Prime Minister said the general election was over and “this is the time when we, as a nation, must come together and unite to face the grave external economic challenges”.

Opening the Malaysian Capital Market Summit organised by the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (Asli) last week, he echoed what most Malaysians are saying but we hope the politicians got his message. The impression among the people, and by that we mean the man on the street, is that ambitious and selfish politicians are too busy playing communal heroes ahead of the party polls.

Unfortunately, the perception is that some of these politicians belong to his own party – Umno. Ordinary people are too busy trying to feed their families and pay off their household bills.

We don’t have time to indulge in politicking because we have work to do, unlike politicians who can find time and afford to criss-cross the country to garner votes.

They are shooting themselves in the foot and losing more votes for the Barisan Nasional with their sometimes ill-conceived statements, and we are worried that this silly season will drag on until March.

This does not come as a surprise. It is the job of politicians to be involved in politicking although many claim they want to serve the rakyat and are not politicking. But the Pakatan Rakyat politicians are just as guilty. Changing road signs should hardly be a priority for a state government that’s hardly eight months old.

With factories cutting production and retrenchments in the pipeline, the last thing on the Penang state government’s mind should be changing these signs, which won’t help increase tourist arrivals for sure.

But it did create a storm in a tea cup, which is a good political distraction. Whatever the merits of putting additional languages, which is actually a harmless exercise, the point still remains if it would help us solve our economic problems. Investors in the region are concerned, if not alarmed, at our seeming lack of concern in dealing with the global economic issues, which would be felt even more in months to come.

The perception is that except for a few senior leaders like Najib, there is a lack of interest among our MPs. How many of them have taken the trouble to speak about it? Instead, they grab media headlines by acting dumb and dumber. It has come to a point where some have to be offensive and foul-mouthed in the Dewan Rakyat to get national attention.

Now, that’s serious politicking – and a complete waste of taxpayers’ money. Najib is right in saying that Malaysians must unite. Politi­cians and vernacular newspapers, especially, should not be raising issues that disunite the nation.

While some of the Rulers have become more progressive in their statements, some politicians, on the other hand, have become more insular and backward, unable to grasp the changing political landscape.

They have become political dinosaurs, whipping up racial issues when there is none and creating insecurity among the people. Najib, as the Prime Minister-in-waiting, has pressed the right buttons so far. He has come out as a fair-minded person who speaks for all Malaysians and has handled a few recent controversies by dousing the fire quickly.

He has been careful in dealing with the perception of people supposedly close to him, as the media speculates on the membership of his inner circle. Names like Rohana Mahmood and Omar Mustapha Ong have cropped up but these talented people have actually moved on.

Mustapha was a special officer to Najib and remains in touch with the office, helping out in certain areas, while Rohana has more interest in the corporate sector now. In short, she is not a member of the elite club.

Najib has kept tight his choice of advisers around him, preferring not to favour anyone and is certainly upset, if not angry, with people who use his name as well as that of his family members.

There will be businessmen and political analysts who claim to be close to Najib or are perceived to be so but they need not necessarily be beneficiaries of his administration.

Malaysians will back him if he can lead us through the rough economic challenges ahead. But please crack your whip on recalcitrant politicians who do not give second thoughts to using the race card to advance their political careers.