Comment | By Wong Chun Wai

Dear YB: Enough with the photo ops, walk the MCO talk

I AM not sure if our Malaysian leaders, especially politicians, are aware that their pictures posted on social media are being watched closely – or rather, scrutinised.

Besides their opponents, who are spending much of their free time finding fault and ways to ridicule them, ordinary Malaysians are also following closely what their elected representatives are doing.

You can tell from the Facebook and Instagram posts whether they have been uploaded by their media assistants or by they themselves. If they are deadpan and serious, in an “officialdom” manner, we know it’s the work of the media handlers.

It’s not that they are not creative, but no one wants to run foul, so they rather stick to the same, safe formula. After all, as with most bosses, they know that they won’t be credited when their work is good but are the immediate fall guy with just one mistake.

The more candid posts, with a few grammar mistakes thrown in, are the real ones that come direct from the person crafting these posts.

Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin probably has the best posts with a good mix, as he shares pictures of his personal life, work and even his current fashion choice, with his followers.

He is a natural, and that is perhaps because he was briefly a journalist and TV commentator, with a trained eye for newsworthiness.

So, it’s not just pictures of him at seemingly boring meetings, poring through documents with equally boring looking officials, or sitting around with constituents in villages.

After a while, these pictures become a blind spot, an advertising term which basically means that the audience doesn’t really bother anymore. In short, who cares?

But in the present movement control order (MCO) period, Malaysians are putting our ministers and Members of Parliament under the microscope.

Well, most of us are bored and restless, and are glued to our handphones or computers. We have too much time.

Many of us have noticed that some leaders are obviously not practising what they are supposed to be doing.

They have actually set bad examples, as they continue with what they have always been doing, unwittingly, as a habit. Their officials are not alerting them to this, or are too subservient to tell their bosses off.

One minister has practically ignored social distancing, with most of his officials still seated closely next to each other in pictures.

Members of the media are no better – they are seen huddling around him, putting their microphones up close to him, and exposing themselves to him – remember, droplet transmission is a factor in the Covid-19 outbreak. What social distancing?

It is also obvious that this minister doesn’t like wearing masks, as evident from the many pictures with him “unmasked”.

There is one minister who posed for a photograph after a meeting with others. Some were wearing masks and some weren’t, and at least one person shouldn’t even have been there.

Sure, taking the picture may have merely took a minute, but this is still unacceptable simply because the minister’s job includes promoting social distancing.

Then there are one or two others who have this inane habit of still wanting an entourage of officials to greet them, in a feudalistic manner, at functions and, of course, at their press conferences.

There has been a backlash recently against ministers for arranging unnecessary events merely to show they are working or just for the media attention – all at the expense of the frontliners who rather be working then being mere photo props.

The reality is this – they don’t need any of these functions. The “stay at home” call also covers ministers.

The only one who should talking to the media at conferences are Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, and Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

The rest can get to the media through Zoom, FaceTime or just via a social media post.

At a time when most of us are discouraged from physically collecting documents or food from deliverers, we still see pictures of MPs in the standard food handover functions.

If in the days before Covid-19, we kept seeing our Yang Berhormat riding their kapcai in villages without their helmets, we hope that in the post-MCO period, especially during the Hari Raya period, they at least put on face masks.

The reality is that wearing face masks will be the “new normal” from now in Malaysia, and so will the “Salam Malaysia” greeting (as opposed to handshakes).

The last thing we need is to let our guard down after all our MCO efforts.