Six months ago, it was reported that the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak had directed mandatory media training for his ministers to speak sensibly and to prevent missteps that have made his administration the laughing stock among Malaysians.
At that time, the country had periodically been rocked by “foolish” remarks by Ministers which spawned Internet memes and jokes detrimental to Putrajaya’s image, like:
• Minister for Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism Datuk Seri Hasan Malek who wanted the people to be thankful for having “sincere” leaders who “prioritise people’s needs above all else” in response to the people’s unhappiness at subsidy cuts and price hikes;
• Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor who made insensitive responses to the complaints of property owners in Kuala Lumpur to the hike in assessment rate;
• Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Abdul Wahid Omar offering advice to the people to stop eating chicken if the prices were too high and to use alternative roads if they did not want to pay toll on highways, when he spoke of impending hike in toll rates;
• Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Tan Sri Muyiddin Yassin telling the Education World Forum 2014 in London that education should produce a “global citizen” mentality after his infamous and never retracted announcement that he was “Malay first, Malaysian second”;
• Even the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak himself with his “kangkung” and “RM1 chicken” gaffes.
I do not know whether such mandatory media training had been conducted for the Malaysian Cabinet Ministers and who conducted them, but if held, these media training did not seem to have any marked improvement on the public conduct of Ministers, who seem to be partaking in a Cabinet competition as to who could make the most foolish statements and decisions.
The most recent Ministerial “folly” was the latest outburst by the Home Minister, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi who disgraced his ministerial office with his callous remark condoning the severed cow’s head dumped in front of DAP Penang Assemblyman R.S. N. Rayer’s house, saying it was the result of Rayer’s “big mouth” with regard to his “Umno celaka” remark at the Penang State Assembly last month.
But Zahid’s folly and callousness is being challenged by the Federal Territories Minister, Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, who warned today that soup kitchens in Kuala Lumpur have until Monday to relocate out of the city centre if they do not want to be fined by City Hall – a day after he warned that his ministry would impose fines and other penalties on the givers of alms and beggars.
Did Adnan get his inspiration to criminalise begging from Norway, one of the world’s richest countries which is flushed with oil wealth, with a gross domestic product per capita at about US$100,000?
There was before the Norwegian Parliament last month legislative proposals to allow the local municipalities in introduce immediate bans on begging.
If Adnan is emulating the Norwegian example, he should first seek parliamentary approval for his callous ban on soup kitchens and beggars in the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur.
In one fell swoop, Adnan is proving to be the most callous and heartless Minister in the Cabinet – what a start for the expanded Cabinet with the inclusion of two MCA Ministers and one Gerakan Minister appointed last week.
Adnan should suspend all proposed punitive actions on soup kitchens and beggars and should instead have discussions and consultations with the Federal Territory Members of Parliament and relevant NGOs on the best way, to address the problem, bearing in mind the socio-economic ramifications of poverty involved.
If Adnan is stubborn, callous and heartless in wanting to act against the soup kitchens and beggars on Monday itself, then the Prime Minister should intervene and override him so as not to make Malaysia a laughing-stock in the world.