by Mariam Mokhtar
Jul 23, 2012
You’re on holiday, you’re curious about the government in the country you are visiting, but the travel guides say very little. Why not try the following unscientific survey?
First, look around to see if there are posters of the prime minister or president and second, check the condition of the public toilets.
A vain head of government would have posters of his image littering the country. The third world mentality is reflected in a profusion of his images in public spaces.
As if to reflect the oppressive nature of the government, the state of public toilets tends to mirror the decline of the nation. In a way, the overall condition of the public toilet could also be a metaphor for the governance of the country.
Those who have travelled widely (both internally and abroad) may have noticed that in some countries, they are charged for using public toilets, only to find that there is no toilet paper and the facilities are a disgrace.
Sometimes, all that greets them is a stinking hole in the ground. On occasion, they are supplied with only two sheets of toilet paper, at the entrance.
The toilet user feels much like the citizen who has paid his taxes but finds an inefficient public service. There is no one to complain to, the attendant (metaphor for the MPs and civil service) is indifferent, and the suggestion box only leads to the cesspit.
The visitor to America is not bombarded with pictures of President Barack Obama, on every street corner. Nor are those who visit England, repulsed by posters of Prime Minister David Cameron.
Last week, when members of the Free Syrian Army captured a border post on the boundary with Turkey, they vented their frustrations by decimating posters of President Abas Assad with machinegun fire. During the Tahrir Square demonstrations, angry Egyptians tore down posters and stomped on the face of then-president Hosni Mubarak.
Unless Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak is trapped in his ivory tower and has no way of gauging the mood on the ground, why was he persuaded to plaster his face all over the doors, walls and pillars of the KTM Komuter trains and stations?
It has been alleged, by an insider, that only the new trains from China had Najib’s image painted on them.
What is not widely known, is that Najib’s image has allegedly been defaced several times and even pelted with bricks.
The management is understandably concerned. When the brickbats missed their target, the windows were smashed, and at RM20,000 per window, KTM is counting the cost of having Najib’s portrait on its new trains.
Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd chairperson Mohd Zin Mohamed is the Selangor BN coordinator. He would do well to read the alternative media occasionally. Was he not aware of the debacle with the 100-Plus isotonic drink?
The gimmick disgusted the Malaysian public and they boycotted 100-Plus. The company which markets the drink offered an explanation, but to no avail. The damage was done. Sales have suffered.
So was Mohd Zin acting in Najib’s interests? Does he dare tell Najib that his image is costing KTM several thousands of ringgit in repair and replacement costs?
If that was not bad enough, Najib’s presence at the Hari Koperasi Negara on July 14 was another embarrassment. The organisers had allegedly been ordered to produce 100,000 people to attend the event at Stadium Bukit Jalil.
It is alleged that there are only 4,000 cooperatives in the nation and the organisers were hard pressed to find 100,000 for the function.
In the end, homemakers and school children were ‘enticed’ to attend, but despite their presence, many seats remained empty. Those who went alleged that many in the audience did not know why they had been asked to come nor were they told the nature of the event.
After the time-consuming opening ceremony, it was Najib’s turn to speak.
The problem was that people started to walk out. They had been there since the early afternoon, and were tired.
To make matters worse, the bored school children then blew on their vuvuzelas, and drowned Najib’s speeches.
Poor Najib! First he was interrupted at the London’s O2 Arena in May, by calls of “Bersih, Bersih!” Now, that he was on home ground, schoolboys with their vuvuzelas were his latest irritant.
He had to tell the school children to keep quiet, much like he had to tell the Bersih supporters in London to allow him to speak and to meet him after the event, a promise which he never intended to fulfil.
When will Najib learn that he should stop play-acting and start assuming his role as the leader of a nation? Crime is frightening ordinary Malaysians. The cost of living is rising. The educational standards are dropping. The gap between the rich and the poor is widening.
It is easy to use smear tactics, sex videos and thugs to attack the opposition. It is an irresponsible government which accuses the opposition of being communist and of harbouring terrorists in their midst.
The only reason Najib’s administration does this is because Umno has no original ideas. If Najib wants to be taken seriously as PM, he should stop putting his images everywhere (they will end up as targets) and have the courage to push through the reforms, which he has promised.
If he is still at a loss as to where to start, how about addressing the fury which is caused by the children of ministers, their cronies and VVIPs ‘winning’ contracts for highly lucrative multi-million ringgit projects?
These ‘lucky’ children dominate the air (air-traffic control), water (dam projects in Sarawak), land (cows and transport) and it appears, even alternative sources of energy (solar).
MARIAM MOKHTAR is a non-conformist traditionalist from Perak, a bucket chemist and an armchair eco-warrior. In ‘real-speak’, this translates into that she comes from Ipoh, values change but respects culture, is a petroleum chemist and also an environmental pollution-control scientist.