Books and politicians

By Hafidz Baharom
[email protected]
The Nut Graph

WHAT’S the difference between a book and a politician?

This was a question posed to me recently by a close friend after having one too many beers. Somehow, the mind gets more creative when it’s intoxicated.

Well, I said the first major difference was that I find books interesting to read. From Bill Maher’s New Rules to Lewis Black’s Nothing’s Sacred, political satire is definitely alive in Western comedy. Heck, these books are even selling well.

On the other hand, I view the Malaysian politician as someone with minimum knowledge and memory, but who can outspew a rabid spitting camel.

Take the former Member of Parliament (MP) for Jerai, Datuk Paduka Badruddin Amiruldin. Recall the 2007 Umno general assembly, during which delegate Zaleha Hussin implied that the uniforms for Air Asia’s women flight attendants were a tad skimpy.

I’m not sure if it was plain idiocy or whether he was merely gatal, but our dear Badruddin agreed: “Yes, we can see a tunnel under her skirt.” Perhaps if he was at a bar after a few shots of vodka, I’d understand. But to be sober at the Umno general assembly and say this in front of the media?

But then, this was not the first time Badruddin, who is Umno deputy permanent chair, had done something stupid. If in doubt, watch the video below and wait for the moment — slightly after the first minute — when he utters his now immortal lines: “Malaysia ini negara Islam.You tidak suka, you keluar dari Malaysia!”

So I guess the first major difference between books and politicians is that books also can be loud, abrasive and vulgar. But at least all of it is hidden behind a cover.

The second difference

Now when a book has factual errors, there are usually people out there, like myself, who will simply write to the publisher. We point out the error, and usually the publisher apologises and promises it will be fixed in the next printed edition.

Politicians, however, won’t even allow people to correct them, and simply try to run away from the situation at hand. A case in point would be Kinabatangan MP Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin and his rude hand gesture:

Even though enough numbers of Malaysians tune in to the parliamentary debates, now aired live every morning, they were all apparently wrong, according to Bung. He was quoted in theSun as saying: “No, I don’t know what is their interpretation, but it was nothing for me, I [just gestured] like that (hand gesture).”

So that’s probably the second major difference between a book and a politician. A book can be corrected, but obviously a Malaysian politician would rather die than admit he has done something wrong.

The third difference

Books have printed words. Once something appears in print, it’s harder to twist it. But our politicians will readily twist their words to try and save themselves, or use them against others.

Let’s take Ipoh Timur MP Lim Kit Siang. There are many tales about the DAP supremo, but most endearing would be his continuous calls for salary cuts. In December 2007, he asked for former (thank God) Minister of Information Datuk Seri Zainuddin Maidin’s salary to be cut by RM10 for not upholding media freedom. (I wonder why some people still say “press freedom” instead of “media freedom”. There’s a big difference. Writer Alliance for Media Independence, take note.)

Anyways, Kit Siang went through his motion, and somewhere along the way, the words “go blog” and “goblok” got mixed up. And then of course, pandemonium erupted.

I won’t judge what the heck was said until I’ve read the Hansard records, which are basically verbatim transcripts of parliamentary proceedings. Unfortunately, I’ve been reading the Hansard documents for 3, 4 and 6 Dec 2007, and have yet to find a record of this whole argument. Also surprising is that there is no Hansard record for 5 Dec. Not quite sure why.

This is definitely another great difference between books and politicians. At least in books, you can see how a word is spelt and thus have more assurance about its specific usage. Well, except law books. Those could spin the head of any layperson.

So after mentioning all of this to my friend, he maintained that there was still one major difference between a book and a politician. By this point I was getting irritated because I thought I had raised some grand points. Plus, we had missed last call and I was getting sober real fast.

The clincher

So finally he looks at me and says: “A book has something that any normal human being has, but never a politician. Do you know what it is?”


“A spine.”

We have politicians who constantly make empty promises. From the promise of anti-corruption and the continuous promotion of Islam Hadhari, to the failure to improve our public transport system and even the continuous raising of prices and tariffs — this administration has broken all its promises made before the 2004 elections, and also pre-March 2008. It is no wonder that the ruling coalition lost its two-thirds majority in the Dewan Rakyat.

We have had some very insulting remarks being hurled at third-generation (or more) Chinese Malaysians. We have an education minister who thought that raising an unsheathed keris, a declaration of war in the ancient Malay sultanates, is a sign to protect Malays (he later mentioned it could protect non-Malays, too). And we have, on a constant basis, ministers and deputy ministers blaming the bad press they get from their actions on bloggers.

The worst part is that none of them have the backbone to admit that they are wrong.


No one from Umno stood up to tell Prime Minister and Umno president Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi that perhaps they shouldn’t have supported mat rempits over those whose car windows had been smashed by them.

No component party from the Barisan Nasional — except Gerakan — protested when a Sin Chew Daily reporter was detained under the ISA “for her own protection”.

Not a single one of them complained about our lockups allegedly serving Alpo until Teresa Kok brought it up during her detention.

None of them supported Datuk Zaid Ibrahim when he said that the judiciary needed to be cleansed to restore its integrity.

None of them stood with Datuk Sharir Abdul Samad when he supported the motion to refer former Jasin MP Datuk Mohd Said Yusof to the disciplinary board for his “close one eye” comment.

We don’t even see Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim apologising to the people now that he hasn’t formed government by his self-imposed deadline. Nor do we see anyone from the Public Relations — sorry, Pakatan Rakyat — coming up any more to say that they are taking over the government. Why is that?

With the obvious absence of a backbone, one has to wonder who exactly these people would stand up for. Obviously, it’s not for us, the voters who got them there in the first place.

  1. #1 by dawsheng on Thursday, 23 October 2008 - 6:49 pm

    “Somehow, the mind gets more creative when it’s intoxicated.”


  2. #2 by baoqingtian on Thursday, 23 October 2008 - 7:54 pm

    They are like sex books!

  3. #3 by One4All4One on Thursday, 23 October 2008 - 8:16 pm

    I think there should not be too much expectation for PR to take over the Federal Govt at this juncture. Everybody knows that that is quite an impossible task, understanding the caliber and guts of lawmakers other than that from PR and those whose conscience is now “imprisoned” by forces without them.

    It is because of the overwhelming wish and desire of the large number people who want that to happen that disappointment and disillusionment set in after the “failure” of Sept 16 and the subsequent non-event of the “vote of no confidence” on the PM.

    All is not lost, though.

    At least the country now knows the true power of the rakyat’s vote. That the BN government could be toppled is a reality within reach; that the BN government could be shaken by the rakyat’s will; that Malaysia stands a chance of being rid of “supremacist tendencies”, of bigots, of racists, of parochial and communal politics and politicians.

    The day when Malaysia would be truly freed from the shackles of self-inflicted limitations and opportunistic politics and administration will be a reality if the people willed so.

    Everyone should be fairly treated and be given equal opportunities to progress and develop in this land of plenty and abundance.

    There should not be two sets of rules governing the people. There should not be any prejudice and discrimination along religious and racial lines. Open inquiries and the search for truth should be the individual’s personal and private prerogative. No “big brother” should be watching over our every moves. I think that should be the Malaysia we desire for.

    Good luck Malaysia!

  4. #4 by bennylohstocks on Thursday, 23 October 2008 - 10:09 pm

  5. #5 by bennylohstocks on Thursday, 23 October 2008 - 10:13 pm

  6. #6 by hadi on Thursday, 23 October 2008 - 10:16 pm

    “50,000 contract civil servants will face the axe” Good la…more unemployed, the government already extended the retirement age to 58 and now Pak Lah and his BN goons can extend the retirement age to 70 la….. hahahahhahhahahahahhah stupid government, care to comment YB Kit, if this is to happen, we will have more social problems and more will be out of jobs for those working in SIngapore.

  7. #7 by bennylohstocks on Thursday, 23 October 2008 - 10:20 pm

  8. #8 by rubini on Thursday, 23 October 2008 - 11:07 pm

    Dear Hafidz Baharom,

    A fine anecdote to explain the comical situation in which our politicians have become! Jesters of Malaysia politics. Keep it bro!

  9. #9 by cemerlang on Friday, 24 October 2008 - 12:29 am

    Many politicians think that Malaysians do not know how to think. And there are some Malaysians who think that the government is god. But many books are about the ordinary people and the politicians too. So therefore read more but more importantly read the different books, even books which you do not like. This is so that you will learn to judge more fairly.

  10. #10 by justice6 on Friday, 24 October 2008 - 12:35 am

    the problem is, our country don’t have a check and balance … bn ppl think they are the king of this country .. our pm is elected by a group of warlords and not by the rakyat…

  11. #11 by bclee on Friday, 24 October 2008 - 1:23 am

    I think one of the problem we face here was too many Yang berhormat, look at the way they speak how to hormat them.

    shame of them lah.

  12. #12 by just a moment on Friday, 24 October 2008 - 5:24 am

    MP Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin hand gesture. I remember when I watched it the first time, I just couldn’t believed what I saw. An appalling lack of manners indeed. How can an adult, much less a politician behave in such low down degrading behaviour in Parliment? If you just watch without the volume on, this Bunk idiot typify an animal in dark ages. Never felt so shameful and embarrass, wonder what his childrens thinks of him. You sure he went to school before? Much later I found out, this is his standard!

    A book, regardless of its make up or content has values of some kind. This character – zero, nil, zip!

  13. #13 by Godfather on Friday, 24 October 2008 - 6:33 am

    Why would politicians require a spine ? Just look at the clown Badruddin Amiruldin. He wasn’t asked to contest at the recent GE, but UMNO gave him a reward as the Chairman of a federal entity, Felcra. He has a car, a driver, a secretary, a couple of PAs, an entertainment allowance, and a fat salary.

    Who says that there is light at the end of the tunnel ?

  14. #14 by monsterball on Friday, 24 October 2008 - 6:59 am

    A book may say the same thing as a politician…but book.. is lifeless…and readers can treat it as thrash..just chuck book one side…no harm done…but for a politician to speak same thing.. hurting Malaysia’s image.. Malaysians must voiced them out… loudly..that they know…we are no fools…to be played by politicians.
    Just look at the recent arrest of that… Hindraf 11 year old girl..who try to flowers to PM
    Is that not showing the true colour of Dollah….or is he sleeping…others doing it…to tarnish his reputation further?
    Whatever so… is showing Dollah is good for nothing… real liar and a lover of race and religion politics.

  15. #15 by chengho on Friday, 24 October 2008 - 7:29 am

    the same goes for opposition ruling states ,they start behaving like one . only living in past ,talk about past BN administration , no clear agenda for the next 3 or 4 years before pru 13.

  16. #16 by monsterball on Friday, 24 October 2008 - 7:36 am

    Karpal Singh have been suspended by Mr.Speaker…in Parliament….right now.
    Only UMNO and BN can say what they like… suspensions.
    Looks like…Mr.Speaker is speaking and favoring BN.
    But with the loud voices of brave opposition parliamentarians….that so call Mr.Speaker..can earn his living….who cares.

  17. #17 by monsterball on Friday, 24 October 2008 - 8:19 am

    It’s not a 11 year old girl.
    It’s a 6 year old girl……police arrested!!

  18. #18 by Lim Koo on Friday, 24 October 2008 - 9:01 am

    Another long serving politikus, past MCA President Tun Dr. LLS has voiced out in support of Dr. CSL’s “naughty” behavior caught in a video having sex with a woman.

    With due respect, will Dr. LLS please enlighten us what would he say if the woman happened to be his wife, sister, or daughter?

    I don’t mean to insult anybody. But since Dr. LLS has been a leader in the Chinese community and is still a public figure, I and many others expect him not to apply double standards as far as extramarital affairs is concerned.

    I also call upon all female MCA members to boycott Dr CSL. As for male MCA members who support Dr. CSL, please ensure that your wives, sisters, or daughters are not in company with the likes of Dr. LLS and Dr. CSL.

  19. #19 by Lim Koo on Friday, 24 October 2008 - 9:05 am

    Opps, sorry Whisky LHL. I’m just joking!

  20. #20 by 318 on Friday, 24 October 2008 - 9:48 am

    if lls or his dogs happen to read this pls not open his bloody big mouth something smelly come out from his mouth … your useles mca

  21. #21 by megaman on Friday, 24 October 2008 - 10:07 am

    We have nobody to blame but ourselves …

    For electing a bunch of goons into the government …

    For not censuring their acts of idiocy …

    For doing nothing while our so-called “elected” leaders make a mockery of us !!! …

    We have nobody to blame but ourselves !!!

  22. #22 by TheWrathOfGrapes on Friday, 24 October 2008 - 10:19 am

    A book cannot be bribed, but you can book a politician…

  23. #23 by Lim Koo on Friday, 24 October 2008 - 10:54 am

    Dr WYY also once openly said that she presented her son with a couple of condoms when he came of age. Obviously she did not expect her son to have sex with prostitutes. MCA members with daughters please beware.

    How come we have these mentally corrupted people (Tun Dr. LLS, Dr. CSL, Dr WYY), who are doctors by training, being elected as leaders of Malaysian Chinese Association?

    Dr. WYY is a staunch advocate of Di Zhi Gui. She owes us an explanation.

  24. #24 by Thinking Two on Friday, 24 October 2008 - 11:50 am

    Thank to MIC and Semi Value for the so-called good works in BN with the un-released ISA detainees.

  25. #25 by Thinking Two on Friday, 24 October 2008 - 11:53 am

    Another big “zakaria Palace in Ipoh” for the former dewan speaker at Jalan Watson.

  26. #26 by yyh on Friday, 24 October 2008 - 12:35 pm

    i read this somewhere but i cant remember where and therefore cant give credit to the person due. it goes like this.
    about survival of the fittest. herd of buffalos are running away from lions. the weakest lot will be left behind and more often than not end up as meal for the lions.
    you know, alcohol kills brain cells. and by the same logic of the survival of the fittest, alcohol kills the stupid cells first. whats left are smart brain cells. still wonder why after a few drinks, we talk as if we are the one and only genius in the world?

  27. #27 by richmom on Friday, 24 October 2008 - 1:21 pm

    Dear Hafidz,
    Thank you for writing such inspiring and hilarious stuff with video—really entertaining too.
    Actually one need not be drunk to mistaken the kris with the tongkat because a baby will be easily eased by a pacifier which it mistaken it for it’s mother nibble

  28. #28 by richmom on Friday, 24 October 2008 - 1:47 pm

    Lim Koo,
    I agree and fully support your view on the fish head LLS.But he must be taken over by an evil spirit when he spit those stupid and cunning words or else,he is drunk!

  29. #29 by Tonberry on Friday, 24 October 2008 - 3:13 pm

    Godfather Says
    Why would politicians require a spine ? Just look at the clown Badruddin Amiruldin. He wasn’t asked to contest at the recent GE

    He actually lost. Rakyat rejected him.

    P012 JERAI
    Badruddin Amirudin (BN-UMNO) 24211
    Mohd Firdaus Jaafar (PAS) 26510
    Maj: 2299

  30. #30 by Justitia on Friday, 24 October 2008 - 4:34 pm

    Politicians do not need a spine. They have evolved to a stage where the THICK SKIN plays the structural integrity of the spine. Look at the public utterances of our Home Minister, Syed Hamid Albar. It never amazes me that this chap still dares to show his face in public and give interviews. I guess after a while the skin is so thick and calloused it is not sensitive to shame anymore!

  31. #31 by Godfather on Friday, 24 October 2008 - 5:42 pm


    You’re right. He was supposed to be a senior member of the UMNO team, and he did contest. The consolation of losing was the chairmanship of FELCRA, which had perks better than that of a politician.

  32. #32 by lopez on Friday, 24 October 2008 - 7:32 pm

    it was in the 1900 when women were allowed to vote and have their say in the world around them, and this happens in the west. Well yes the west is more mature than certain people in the east, even japan has made very impressive change in this respect.

    All this while some people are still impressed by nkp and so pleased were them that they vote him to the parlimen.

    So who are these people , NKP of course vote by nkp .

    And what was puzzling is that their women always score better academically than the men.

    I think when these buggers go home they get the ear twist quietly and when on the outside start to take revenge on others of the opposite kind.

    What made weaklings can come out of the hole.

  33. #33 by zak_hammaad on Friday, 24 October 2008 - 10:44 pm

    WHAT’S the difference between a book and a politician? Politicians do not have the luxury of reviewing what they say.

  34. #34 by charlesbronsonjr on Saturday, 25 October 2008 - 3:04 am

    to lim koo,as for ur information the lady in the vcd did it willingly with DrCSL,u cant stop ur wife or daughters if they themselve willing to do it with DrCSL! by voting back DrCSL means that almost all MCA members including female MCA members have the same idea with DrCSL who quote “what does my personal life got to do with politics?”let PM islam hadhari decided about DrCSL morality.

  35. #35 by undergrad2 on Saturday, 25 October 2008 - 11:19 pm

    “WHAT’S the difference between a book and a politician?”

    One burns and the other gets burnt??

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