In Kelantan, people come last

Kelantan is a land of disturbing contrasts. It is among the poorest states in Malaysia, but while its people scream “poverty”, its leaders drive around in the latest Mercedes-Benz cars.

They say their official Proton cars are unsafe and too expensive to maintain.

The state bought 14 Mercedes cars for the menteri besar, his deputy, the state secretary and members of the state executive council.

The MB’s car is a black S450L AMG, bearing the number plate, “DV 1”, estimated to be worth close to RM700,000, after discount.

Kelantan is land of gentle and friendly people and beautiful countrysides. Mist-covered mountains slope gently to sandy beaches, washed by the turquoise waters of the South China Sea.

But one notices the countryside is covered in litter. In Kota Bharu, plastic bottles and styrofoam block the drains, and public toilets are best avoided.

Meanwhile, the people live under the religious dominated state administration. Women and men are separated in supermarkets. Cinemas are banned.

Women are discouraged from riding pillion with men, and a dress code is enforced.

Meanwhile, it is an open secret that men would cross the border to sample the delights of the flesh pots of southern Thailand.

Racial and religious undertones often colour the comments of nationalist Malay leaders. Example: “Only Umno-Baru and PAS will defend the Malays and protect Islam”, or “The Chinese-led DAP will remove Malay rights, install a Christian government, get rid of the royal institution and make the country more like Singapore.”

So, who will defend the poor in Kelantan?

The MB is the proud owner of a top-range Mercedes model. But why does he need a car, with a top speed of 300 km/h?

Many roads in Kelantan are a far cry from the autobahns of Germany. They are narrow, badly lit, and littered with pot holes. Of course, when you drive in Kelantan, there’s the risk of hitting a stray bull, goat and in some cases, wild elephants which cross the highway, to get to the other side of the jungle.

Owning a high performance car in Kelantan, is like buying a fridge for a house upriver, where there is no electricity supply. The fridge will probably be used as a cupboard.

Kelantan’s leaders should be less materialistic and more pragmatic. They should have opted for more robust vehicles, which would be more suitable for visiting constituencies in some of the remote and rugged areas in the state.

Contrast the information about the Mercedes cars, with the announcement made in the Dewan Rakyat in 2018, that Kelantan was short of funds and unable to pay the salaries of its civil servants.

This revelation was made by Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, and he subsequently approved a request for a RM100 million loan from the federal government.

Lim was not certain that the state had applied for a tax exemption for the Mercedes-Benz cars, nor was he aware that the cars had been assessed by the Customs.

Can the Kelantan state government shed some light on this matter?

As if to rub salt into the wound, following the Mercedes-Benz announcement, it was alleged that the Kelantan MB and 13 of his executive councillors had received a RM50,000 payment in the second week of January.

At one time, civil servants were in danger of not being paid. What did the MB and his councillors do, that was exemplary?

One thing is certain. “People first” is not applicable to Kelantan.

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.