The Sandakan by-election, to be held on May 11, pits DAP’s Vivian Wong against four other candidates with Linda Tsen of PBS expected to be her main challenger. Tsen was a two-term MP for Batu Sapi prior to GE14.
While there are, and will be, various ways in which hopeful candidates project themselves as caring people during the campaign period, Wong’s decision to clean up the Muslim cemetery under the glare of cameras in Sim-Sim has raised some eyebrows. It has also generated some interesting points for all aspiring politicians to ponder.
For instance, why did Wong choose to do this exercise only after nomination day? Why not before, when she was yet to be named as the DAP candidate? Since it is indeed a worthy project as cemeteries in Sabah are generally poorly maintained, would DAP then go on to clean and clear the Chinese cemetery at Labuk Road and the Christian cemetery nearer to town? Such general maintenance is usually reserved for Cheng Beng and All Souls Day as people pay respects to their dearly departed and honour their memory. It would be nice if such activities were to be carried out more frequently by everyone and not just aspiring politicians.
If a family member were to spruce up the grave of a loved one, it would be done quietly and in private. That is a fact. But when people with an agenda do it, with cameras trained on them, it is mainly for the publicity. That is also a fact.
I look forward to the day when politicians and political parties make this part of their activities throughout the year. It would show that they are not only helping the local councils and religious organisations keep cemeteries clean and beautify them, but more importantly, that they are giving the dearly departed some dignity and respect.
But if it is only for the purposes of camera, lights and action for politicians and political parties, it would be meaningless because elections and by-elections are few and far in between.
It is the same when it comes to other calamities affecting the people. You find politicians and political parties all trying to outdo one another in rendering assistance to the people. It is always a good thing to do because those that are affected are in need of such assistance. But it should never be a game of one-upmanship or to generate publicity for yourself.
If you are serious about the good you want to do for the community, just go about doing it silently and diligently. There is no need to shout about it.
Especially so at a cemetery where the silence can be, quite simply, deafening.
Clement Stanley is an FMT reader.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.