FEB 13 — Today is the day Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin should learn former US president, Ronald Reagan’s favourite phrase: “Trust, but Verify”.
If he had learnt the phrase before today, the deputy prime minister would not look silly for castigating the Penang government which he alleged had cancelled the annual Maulidur Rasul procession.
He accused the Pakatan Rakyat government led by Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng of not supporting the aspirations of Muslims.
All this based on a report by the Umno-owned newspaper Utusan Malaysia.
In other words, Muhyiddin appeared irresponsible for stoking racial and religious tension when talking about the apparent cancellation of the Maulidur Rasul procession in Penang, where Malays have been complaining about being sidelined.
The responsible thing to do would have been to double check with the Penang state government and not rely on what is reported by Utusan Malaysia, which has stretched its credibility in the past when reporting about Umno’s political foes.
To paraphrase Reagan, trust, but verify.
It is no good to parrot what Utusan said without checking. Then it becomes a game of Chinese whispers, which has been an ongoing past-time in Penang where even the lawful enforcement against illegal hawkers is turned into a racial issue.
After all, Muhyiddin is a national leader, not a petty politician trying to break into the big time by grabbing attention where possible. Even former prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, a Penang son himself, weighed in on the matter based on the erroneous Utusan report.
National leaders have to be statesmen and above the fray. They have to carefully consider what they say or do because even an involuntary nod of the head or the wave of hand could signify something to their followers. All the more so when it comes to matters of faith in a country treading gingerly over the ‘Allah’ ruling.
Someone who wants to lead Malaysia one day must avoid the temptation of playing the race or religious card, be it behind closed doors or out in the open, especially in issues which Umno leaders have always deemed ‘sensitive’.
Muhyiddin must know this.
His words and actions, even when slamming his political foes based on an unverified Utusan Malaysia report, will add credence to cynics who wonder if Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s 1 Malaysia has the full support of his own administration.
Trust, but verify. Reagan practised it well and was a popular US president. Muhyiddin would be wise to follow the dictum.