Judging by social media postings, most Malaysians seem to be in adoration of Indonesian President Joko Widodo, more familiarly known as Jokowi.
People admire his humility, grace and leadership of the 270 million people he represents. There are so many positive postings, showing how close he is to his people and the heartbeat of the nation.
His stature has grown so much on the international stage that the foreign ministry has announced that Jokowi will meet leaders of Ukraine and Russia next week to advocate for peace and try to help ease a global food crisis, the first such trip by an Asian leader.
In Malaysia, we are running on empty. Running out of ideas, and with their backs to the wall, our leaders are putting forward incomprehensible proposals.
Daft ideas and proposals
Former minister for tourism, arts and culture, Nazri Aziz, suggested there is a potential for the annual floods in the country to become a “tourism attraction”. You can see cars floating by, people at wits end on rooftops waiting to be rescued, houses and property destroyed. Sure, why not.
Defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein is looking at setting up vegetable gardens in army camps throughout the country amid rising prices and to ensure food sustainability. The defence ministry’s national security role now includes food security which is highly admirable. The sprawling army base in each state can now grow food to feed the army.
With the army going to take care of the nation’s food security, who will protect the nation from its enemies?
The minister for Sabah and Sarawak affairs has gone to the London Archives to scour documents related to the Malaysia Agreement 1963. Critics have panned his trip as a holiday at taxpayers expense. Any findings would be useful only if Sabah plans to exit from Malaysia.
Otherwise get back to the negotiating table over Sabah’s oil rights, tax revenue, and autonomy.
Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin suggests that Putrajaya “create another ministry” for former party member Zuraida Kamaruddin. Critics say Muhyiddin is only interested in “creating a new ministry” as a shortcut in handling the power struggle between Umno and the Bersatu-led Perikatan Nasional coalition.
Malaysia already has a bloated number of ministries and civil servants: the suggestion of a new ministry will add to the increasing cost of running a government. Political appeasement is the Malaysian way of buying loyalty or to keep someone’s trap shut.
Carrot and stick over use of Malay
The Malay language has not been spared by the “brains” in the government. Fresh from failing to make Malay the lingua franca of the Asean nations, the chief secretary to the government, Zuki Ali, taking up where Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob left off, has urged the Public Service Department to consider corrective and punitive action to enforce the use of Malay in the civil service and even government companies.
Now Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) wants to implement stricter laws to enforce the use of the Malay language. Its chairman, Awang Sariyan, said enforcement is important to preserve and strengthen Malay as the national language as it is closely related to the country’s identity.
Awang Sariyan said the enculturation of the national language simply using the “dakwah” approach through the reprimand and advice as provided under the law must be changed in order for the DBP to have a source of power against those who did not respect the language.
Restoring ethnic honour
The mention of Malay dignity and identity is interesting. We should not forget that a controversial Malay dignity congress was held in October 2019 to lift and protect Malay pride, but which has now been turned into shambles.
The daily parade of Malay leaders being convicted or being charged in court with corruption has dented Malay pride. We read about bags of money delivered to politicians’ houses in the late hours of the night and claims of money being shared among senior political leaders.
A sultan’s command over a festival is being challenged by a Muslim political party (PAS). The Kongres Maruah Melayu was supposed to protect the sanctity of the rulers.
Dignity of the rulers
Any fuss about the erosion of Malay dignity should revolve around corruption and the dignity of the sultans they were supposed to protect. Corruption has no language barrier and has dented the Maruah Melayu.
Enforcement through higher punishment will not deter crimes. That was PAS’ resolution through RUU355. Religion and the fear of god is never a deterrent. There is no science to say that there will be zero crimes, even when punishments are increased.
Capital punishment will no longer be mandatory for some offences in Malaysia, consistent with Malaysia becoming a humane society. Senior civil servants encouraging heavier punishment are out of sync with the advancement of a humane society.
Malaysia is close to becoming a pariah country, shunned by investors and world leaders. Once an Asian tiger economy, we are in the lower rungs of the pecking order. The Malay language has now become our priority for asserting Malay supremacy, while we let all else fail.
Malaysia is sorely in need of a Jokowi of our own.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.