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Food for thought for Ku Nan

 | April 26, 2017

Malaysian authorities have a problem accepting responsibility for the problems they create.

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da21ecee-943d-49b5-8392-ca3b2a2a5c2dBefore Anwar Ibrahim was sent to jail, it seemed that he was responsible for everything that went wrong in Malaysia.

Traffic jams? Blame Anwar. His ceramah caused misery on the roads. Lack of buses for the balik kampung crowd? Anwar. People flocking to his talks hired private buses and caused a shortage of coaches. Blackouts? Anwar. His lectures were so popular that the authorities had to cut the power supply to stop people from attending.

Currency fluctuations? Anwar. He was once the Finance Minister.

It is no secret that Malaysian authorities have a problem accepting responsibility for the problems they create.

In the very distant past, the communists were a useful scapegoat. Let’s say that rubber prices plummeted in the 1970s because diseased rubber trees gave poor latex yields. The government of the day would likely have blamed Chin Peng and the Malayan Communist Party (MCP), saying they attacked rubber tappers in the estates. As the majority of MCP members were Chinese, the Chinese and Communists were responsible for nearly every disaster or disruption to everyday life.

Today, it would be unthinkable to blame the communists since we enjoy warm relations with China.

After Anwar fell from grace, he became a favourite punching bag for the authorities. He and the faceless Jews were blamed for most things that went wrong in Malaysia, from currency fluctuations to the emergence of video clips exposing alleged corrupt dealings between Sarawakian lawyers and family members of the state’s governor.

Now that Anwar is in jail, the authorities know that it would be too silly to blame him for things that go wrong. So they turn to the opposition parties.

As we head towards GE-14, politicians from both sides of the divide may wish to butter up the electorate. This is their prerogative, but they do not have to end up looking like fools.

With Malaysians complaining about the rising cost of living, including the high cost of food, Federal Territories Minister Tengku Adnan Mansor, also known as Ku Nan, has wasted no time in blaming the opposition.

He has claimed that members of the opposition who had joined food traders associations had conspired to raise the cost of food.

Ku Nan has conveniently ignored the impact of the GST on the cost of goods, including food. Every link in the supply chain from farmers, fishermen, to the retailers is taxable. The aggregate cost is passed on to us, the consumers.

Malaysia imports most of its food. Our food security is at a critical stage, meaning that if there were a severe drought or if war were to break out, we would face serious problems.

Ku Nan cannot ignore the role of BN cronies in fixing the prices of essential food items like rice and sugar.

The falling ringgit has affected the cost of food, as has rampant inflation.

When the price of petrol rose a few weeks ago, the government blamed the American bombing of Syria. The bombing was over in a few hours, but Malaysians still suffer from high petrol costs.

If the government had blamed an attack on one of the major oil producers of the world, such as Saudi Arabia, then it may have sounded more credible. Moreover, a problem like this usually takes around six weeks to affect prices at the petrol pump.

If Ku Nan had addressed a group of kindergarten children, he may have succeeded in convincing them that the opposition was to blame for the price hike. But he is addressing adults and insulting their intelligence.

Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist

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