On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Blame it on the heat and haze

The comedy court started off pretty innocently with Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng implying that there was an element of sabotage after the state-run funicular train broke down just eight days after it reopened following a RM73mil upgrade and a 14-month hiatus.

The prime suspect was a dog. The train driver swore he saw a dog trying to cross the high-voltage railway track and that there was a collision with an object. It was never stated what the object was, however.

Penang Hill Corporation general manager Datuk Lee Kah Choon was quoted as saying that he has ordered the Penang Municipal Council to round up stray dogs in the area.

Although his boss wasn’t convinced that a dog was responsible, Lee seemed to believe it and we can presume that the council workers have been busy dog hunting since then.

Well, at least Lee was not asked to hunt for stray politicians, bloggers or newsmen.

Lee has also said that “monkeys, wild boars and snakes” may also cause disruption to the service. This must be the most creative excuse Malaysians have heard for a long time. Yes, blame the animals.

Luckily, Lim did not call for a Royal Com­mission of Inquiry to investigate the cause of the fiasco. After all, he is now in government and it is no longer fashionable to issue statements calling for RCI to be set up. That’s the work of opposition politicians.

Still, it may not be as bad as the Malacca monorail episode in October last year.

The RM15.9mil monorail there came to an embarrassing halt just hours after a grand launch by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam to mark Malacca as a developed state, 10 years ahead of the national target of Vision 2020.

A skylift eventually had to be used to rescue 20 passengers stranded in the train. Since then, the monorail has yet to be put back on track but test runs are being conducted.

It was certainly a big blow to the hot air launch, and Malaysians in other states have been trying to figure out what the “developed state status” is about since then.

It was a black eye for Rustam but he did not claim sabotage behind the unfortunate episode. No one blamed a bird or a kancil either.

Back to Penang. We are not sure if Lee did manage to catch any stray dog but prominent blogger Mohamad Zakhir @ BigDog declared war on the Chief Minister and a group of pastors, claiming that they were trying to change the official religion of the federation from Islam to Christianity. The blogger’s post was picked up by Utusan Malaysia and developed as front-page news.

This caused an uproar with police reports being lodged by right-wing Malay groups and counter reports of denials by Christian groups. Leading the herd for the Malay rights’ group was Datuk Ibrahim Ali, whose antics are already well known, while Bigdog doggedly continued to insist that his claim was real.

The conspiracy claim was surely the hottest news last week, so much so that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had to ask everyone to “cool it”.

But just when we thought the dog fight was coming to an end, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim joined towards the tail end of the political silliness by purportedly labelling the Prime Minister a “piglet” in Tamil. Overnight, pandikutti became the most spoken Tamil word in Malaysia.

Anwar has of course denied it despite some pro-Umno bloggers insisting there was video recording to show Anwar uttering the word in connection with Najib.

But we are used to politicians blaming the press for purportedly misquoting them. When confronted with voice or visual recordings, they would then retort that they may have said it but it was not what they meant in the context they had spoken.

Yes, we believe them.

Thank God Parliament is currently not in session, otherwise we can expect our MPs to continue calling each other “animals” during the debates.

It has been a hugely embarrassing week as far as political news is concerned. Malaysians deserve better quality political discourse than the low level of politicking which we have sunk into.

Sadly, we are unable to articulate our political points, even in disagreement, in measured tones. We seem to prefer to shout, threaten, ridicule or run down someone. This, unfortunately, seems to be most prevalent in the social media, especially in comments or twitter postings.

The political divide is so great with supporters adopting almost blind loyalty, ignoring or refusing to believe the weaknesses or shortcomings of their leaders.

The middle-of-the-road political approach seems to be increasingly sidelined. Certainly, this is unhealthy for Malaysia as our political maturity needs to grow. Political ideas are merely state of the mind.

I think it’s fair to say that Malaysians want to look forward to a politically less exciting, or exhaustive, week. The political temperature has to come down.

Most of us have more productive things to do and bigger concerns to worry about. Surely it isn’t too much for us to expect our politicians to do better than to grab newspaper headlines with bird-brained utterances.

Yes, we can blame it on the haze too because some of our politicians seem to have become increasingly hazy in their thoughts and are seemingly unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Let the wind blow it away soon, please.