Only in Malaysia do absurdities like a CNY ‘barking’ rooster thrive

rooster-cny-bark-1Our institutions are either gripped by a tide of Islamic conservatism, or are paralysed by supervisors who are lazy, and do not believe in proofreading.

The latest public show of incompetence occurred when a ministry decided to omit the dog from the Chinese New Year (CNY) advertisement, which they published in a Chinese daily. Such glaring mistakes are simply unacceptable.

For those who are unaware, this Lunar New Year waves goodbye to the Year of the Rooster, and ushers in the Year of the Dog.

As the dog is considered “haram” in some Islamic circles, it is possible that a decision had been made to air-brush all photos and references to the animal, in the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry (KPDNKK) adverts. The ministry published a picture of a rooster, barking “Wang! Wang!”

There is much symbolism in the CNY rituals. The oranges which you receive from your host, when you visit his home, are symbolic of wealth. The word “wang” signifies prosperity; however to feature a barking cockerel is simply daft.

The ministry may have issued a “million apologies” for its mistake, but the damage has been done. We have become a laughing stock, and prompted CNN to feature our barking rooster in their news bulletins.

When Malaysians ridiculed the ministry for its error, its spokesman blamed technical issues. What technical issues? This was no technical error. Someone made a bad judgment.

In the weeks leading up to CNY, some shops and shopping malls decided not to offend their Muslim customers by omitting pictures, and structures, that depict dogs.

One Muslim mother said, “This is stupid. I want my children to know that dogs are also God’s creatures. Last month, one hypermarket sold a ‘faulty’ Chinese New Year T-shirt. The cartoon caricatures of the dog and pig were missing from the Chinese zodiac. A few years ago, hot dogs had to be renamed. Only in Malaysia, do absurdities like these thrive.

“Will Malay and Muslim children grow up not knowing what dogs look like or even know what sounds they make?”

A few days ago, Umno’s Bukti Gantang chief, Syed Abu Hussin Hafiz Syed Abd Fasal, who is also a special officer to Perak Menteri Besar Zambry Abdul Kadir, published a CNY banner which read “Selamat Tahun Baru Cina 2018” (Happy Chinese New Year 2018) and included the greeting “Sheng Ri Kuai Le” (Happy Birthday).

The banner also displayed Syed Abu Hussin’s portrait, the 1Malaysia logo, the BN logo, the Umno logo and Perak state emblem.

When Syed Abu Hussin was mocked for his birthday greetings, he blamed it on his media team. Why is it always someone else”s fault but never the fault of the boss?

Last December, a Christmas bunting, in the Sultan Ismail Petra Airport, bearing the Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB) logo, read, “Wishing you a Mary Christmas & Happy New Years”.

The festive greeting at the Kelantan airport may have brought a smile to our lips but the blame culture, which is endemic in our work places, went into overdrive. The management of MAHB blamed a junior employee.

A few days ago, Petronas committed the most unforgiveable act, and displayed white ang pows, in its CNY greeting, whilst the MACC claimed that giving mandarin oranges could be seen as offering a bribe. Why are they so happy to tread on Chinese cultural sensitivities?

When mistakes are made, the lowly staff are blamed. When things go well, the manager takes the credit. Why is our culture of accountability and giving credit where it is due, so poor?

This glaring mistake makes one wonder about the quality of the supervisory and managerial staff. Incompetence should not be blamed on Islamic conservatism. Our managers are poorly trained, probably give poor instructions, fail to accept responsibility, and reject any sense of accountability.

We do not pride ourselves on the quality of work. Mistakes are costly but money does not seem to be a problem for these irresponsible bosses.

Gong Xi Fa Cai

Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist.

The views expressed by the writer are her own and do not necessarily reflect that of FMT.