On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Return of the silly season

Unsure of whether they will get re-elected, or worse, dropped as candidates, many are understandably jittery and overly-sensitive as the pressure builds up. After all, much is at stake.

Wanting to get the attention of their party bosses, they start bombarding media offices with tons of press releases, many of which are hardly newsworthy.

The political minnows are unlikely to get their news across and that’s when news organisations are accused of sidelining them for purported political motives.

Then there are rural-based politicians who wonder why they do not get any coverage at all. They insist on the presence of the press even when most of the newspapers do not reach their constituencies, let alone read by the voters there.

There are politicians who blame everyone for their failings except themselves. Again, their critics and the media get the blame.

There’s another group of has-been politicians. They have held positions including Cabinet posts for what feels like forever but never seem to be able to fade away. They still refuse to find time to play with their grandchildren.

So, come election time, they will find a way to get some publicity, including trying to seek a seat to contest or to quit their party.

Retirement age, it would seem, is only for the ordinary citizens, not for politicians. We have got two generations contesting in polls. We have father-son teams, a husband-wife-daughter team, and with Malaysians increasingly living longer, we may end up having their grandchildren as fellow candidates too.

By now, Malaysians are used to the saying that there are no permanent friends and enemies in politics. So, last week, former Selangor PAS leader Datuk Dr Hasan Ali was accused of spending lavishly during his tenure in the state government, including “wasting” RM300,000 to renovate his office.

The allegation was made by PKR’s Azmin Ali, the Gombak Setia assemblyman, who also said more than RM500,000 was spent on a conference organised by the Selangor Malay Customs and Heritage Corporation.

Barisan Nasional rightly asked why Azmin was only making this revelation after Dr Hasan had left PAS and Pakatan Rakyat.

But politicians always have an answer for every question, no matter how illogical it sounds. Azmin replied that he only received the evidence recently and had asked PAS to probe the matter even before Dr Hasan was sacked.

The state executive councillors are located on the same floor at the state government’s office and no one is going to believe that no one knew renovations were being carried out in Dr Hasan’s office. It’s the same with the purported expensive conference.

Surely, there must have been meetings on the budget allocated for the conference and it is difficult to accept that no one knew about the allocated sum.

Barisan state assemblymen have rightly asked whether these would be exposed if Dr Hasan had remained in PAS and had not rebelled against the state government.

Dr Hasan, in any case, was supported and campaigned for by the same Pakatan leaders in the 2008 elections. The same people who criticised him now are the same people who had heaped praises on him then, persuading people to vote for him.

It’s never a dull day in Malaysian politics – on some days it is amazingly incredible – but at the same time, Malaysians are not getting surprised any more.