Over the past few days social media has been flooded with a new concern on election candidates. Are they really who they claim to be? This has especially become a ‘hot’ area when it comes to doctors.
What has happened? From the social media landscape so far, two different candidates, from opposing parties and standing in different constituencies, have been called out for identifying themselves as doctors. Netizens claim that both of them cannot do so, since they are not fully registered medical practitioners.
As is the norm these days, the backgrounds of these candidates have quickly been flagged up and put up on social media, and subsequently the duo have also been taking flak due to their ‘overclaim’ that they are doctors.
Looking at the data being put out on social media, it looks like these individuals are medical graduates, but not fully-registered medical practitioners who are able to practise in the country.
In Malaysia, medical graduates need to undergo a credentialling process via a compulsory housemanship process as well as a subsequent mandatory service period as a medical officer overseen by the Ministry of Health.
Fully registered medical officers are able to practice medicine and there is even a national medical register available for the public to view at www.mmc.gov.my to determine whether the person they may be consulting or undergoing treatment with is, indeed, a trained and fully registered medical practitioner.
Problem is, medical graduates are technically able to call themselves ‘doctors’ too, and so do PhD holders who are also able to designate themselves as such.
Question is: why is the claim of being a doctor so important, and more importantly, why is it that when candidates identify themselves as ‘doctors’, it creates such an uproar?
Well, historically, we come from the background of a nation that has had a doctor as one of our longest serving prime ministers. In addition, we have a strong tradition of service from both doctors, be they in public service or from individual GPs who have stellar reputations in the communities they serve.
It is not unintentional that many parties pick doctors as their candidates; and there continues to be a significant number of practising doctors in Parliament and the state assemblies as representatives of the people.
Fact is, Malaysians trust doctors – be it due to their ability to make critical decisions, ensure that the common good is served, and the social capital that they have as a whole in society.
So, when you claim yourself to be a doctor, you are drawing on that wellspring of social trust that the community has and leverage on that to draw support for yourself.
This is why the ‘right’ to claim yourself as a doctor is so contentious and why the community is being seen to guard it very carefully.
For many of us, it is often difficult to make a choice of who to choose as our representative, especially when the person is ‘new’ to the community – as is the case in many constituencies this time around.
The growing maturity of Malaysians is now making us evaluate individual candidates, rather than blindly vote for a party symbol as used to happen in years past.
When we do so, we look at the candidates’ individual profiles; as well as assess whether he or she is capable of truly taking on the mantle of a representative of the people.
We want to see whether the candidate is able to understand big picture issues; and whether he or she is able to make structured decisions as well as to lead in a conscientious manner while keeping the community’s interests in mind.
All this we can only roughly assess based on what the candidate has done before i.e. through their documented CVs; or if he or she is a greenhorn who is just banking on the party’s reputation.
When a candidate cannot truly represent themselves and has to rely on misdirection and overclaims, can we truly believe in them to deliver as our representative?
These are questions each of us must ask ourselves before we make a choice and vote.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.