Should Government Scholars Be Grateful?

By Kee Thuan Chye
Malaysian Digest

Should recipients of government scholarships be grateful? Grateful to whom?

I’m asking this because former minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil mentioned recently that PKR strategy director Rafizi Ramli was a Petronas scholar and yet he appeared to be going against the people who had given him the scholarship. As the Petronas scholarship is a government scholarship, she implied he was being “ungrateful”.

She even suggested that other young people of Rafizi’s generation might also be “ungrateful”.

But should Rafizi – and other Petronas scholars, indeed all government scholars, including those awarded the Jabatan Perkhidmatan Awam (JPA) scholarships – be beholden to the Government and eternally grateful to it?

First of all, what is “the Government”?

It is the entity that rules and administers the country. And in our democracy, it is made up of the party or parties that won the most number of parliamentary seats in the last general election to gain the right to rule the country.

This party or parties can lose the next general election and cease to be “the Government”. In other words, it is only the government of the day.

Governments come and go, as people say, which means no party or parties can claim ownership of the title “Government” forever.

Barisan Nasional (BN) is the coalition of parties that makes up the current government of the day. In years to come, it may no longer be that. In fact, it may cease to be that sooner if it loses the upcoming 13th general election.

So if “the Government” is something that is subject to change, how can anyone be beholden to “the Government”? How can anyone be eternally grateful to “the Government”?

To supposedly back up her call, Shahrizat said, “I come from a generation that is grateful for things happening to you and we are taught not to bite that hand that feeds you. And somebody who is seen as biting the hand that feeds you would be deemed as derhaka (betrayal).”

But whose is “the hand that feeds” all recipients of government scholarships?

Where does the money to fund the scholarships come from?

Does it all come from the pockets of the ruling elite that helms the government of the day?

Of course not. The money comes from the rakyat. The money from the taxes they pay goes into the coffers of the government of the day. Of course there’s also Petronas money, but that is also the rakyat’s money. And part of this collective money goes into funding scholarships.

By this simple reasoning, “the hand that feeds” all government scholars is the hand of the rakyat.

So if government scholars need to be grateful, they should be grateful to the rakyat. Not the government of the day.

They can show their gratitude by serving the rakyat, by looking after its interests.

Rafizi chose to do this by joining an Opposition party.

Since looking after the rakyat’s interests is what political parties – ruling or Opposition – should do, his opting for that should not be an issue.

After all, the ruling party is supposed to ensure that the rakyat’s welfare is served through the policies it formulates and implements while the Opposition parties are supposed to point out lapses in the implementation and expose the shortcomings. Simplistically put, they should both serve the same cause.

By that token, Rafizi – as well as other government scholarship recipients – should be free to join whichever party they choose. It is their democratic right. Besides, our Federal Constitution itself grants every citizen the right to free association.

Indeed, by exposing the National Feedlot Centre (NFC) scandal, Rafizi was actually serving the rakyat’s interests. He showed us that our money which was given to the National Feedlot Corporation was allegedly not being used to serve its avowed purpose.

How then could Shahrizat suggest the contrary – that Rafizi was being ungrateful to the provider of his scholarship and was committing derhaka?

What derhaka? He should instead be commended for what he did. In fact, he should deserve the rakyat’s gratitude.

Speaking of gratitude, there is one thing more – something basic which I think needs to be examined.

Why should Rafizi or any young person be grateful at all to anyone for getting a government scholarship?

I think they need not be. Because it is the responsibility of the State to see that our young get proper education. If we the rakyat pay taxes that go into giving the young scholarships, we should accept it because we are helping to fulfil that responsibility. It is money correctly spent. It’s like what we would do for our own children.

Besides, as citizens, these young people are entitled to such help – provided they deserve it. And if they are entitled to it, why should they need to be grateful?

From what we can see of Rafizi’s track record and the things he has done in the public sphere, he appears to be a brilliant man. He must have deserved his Petronas scholarship. If, as a taxpayer, I were to have had a hand in funding his education, I would have been more than happy for having done that.

I would not expect him to be grateful – although he has nonetheless performed his duty to society by exposing the NFC scandal.

And by extension, I would not expect any deserving government scholarship recipient to be grateful.

They needed it, we helped. That’s the end of the matter.

* Kee Thuan Chye is the author of the bestselling book No More Bullshit, Please, We’re All Malaysians, available in bookstores together with its Malay translation, Jangan Kelentong Lagi, Kita Semua Orang Malaysia.

  1. #1 by Bigjoe on Monday, 22 October 2012 - 5:21 pm

    Actually its even the wrong question to ask. Shahrizat is looking at her ‘Rafizi’ problem wrongly. Someone like Rafizi was inevitable – who has benefitted from govt programs and then turn on that govt.

    The truth is studies of affirmative action has shown that recipient of affirmative actions have a much higher propensity to be idealistic and hence contribute back to society in some ways. Given the many recipient of real affirmative actions because of the breadth and depth of the NEP programs, there are always going to be someone like Rafizi (likely there are more just have not received the publicity).

    Given that affirmative actions recipients are more idealistic and given that govt inevitably fail in some ways, it was always going happen that someone like Rafizi was going to oppose the govt in some ways. The spectacular fashion of which Rafizi has risen just an indication of the spectacular failure of govt, not the unnatural behaviour of Rafizi. In fact Rafizi fame and phenomenon, while he possess remarkable character, is likely more an natural inevitable result because of the spectacular failure of the UMNO/BN govt..

  2. #2 by undertaker888 on Monday, 22 October 2012 - 5:57 pm

    Yes we should if the money comes from their own pocket. Damn. Even that is stolen from us.

  3. #3 by cemerlang on Monday, 22 October 2012 - 8:33 pm

    When will the rakyat realize that they are the ones who are cooking with their woks and that they are the ones who can add in the spices or tastes to the food that they are cooking ? The rakyat should come up with a new menu and a wok is very handy because with a wok, the rakyat can cook anything from fried foods to soups to whatever they love to eat. The rakyat can transform the ordinary nasi lemak to something that is more exciting to make it an extraordinary nasi lemak. To be grateful to the rakyat’s money would mean to serve the rakyat sincerely, ever ready.

  4. #4 by sheriff singh on Monday, 22 October 2012 - 9:14 pm

    Would you consult or appoint such a lawyer?

  5. #5 by monsterball on Monday, 22 October 2012 - 10:32 pm

    You keep on reading that whatever Umno B provides to the people are money belonging to them.
    They do not behave as elected politicians at all.
    Calling all to be grateful to Umno B…for what they are doing good with People’s money is full baloney.
    They talk and act as if…Malaysia belongs to their grandfathers…and they are the present rulers with so many ungrateful subjects.
    What a bunch of cow sheeet talk.

  6. #6 by bumiborn on Monday, 22 October 2012 - 10:42 pm

    Government Scholars should feel very proud that their abilities have earned them the scholarship they deserved. They should be grateful for the rakyat that have paid taxes so that the government of the day can spend wisely on them to nurture them.

    Government is just the administrative body elected by the rakyat to run Malaysia. You don’t owe anything to a worker (government) that’s ‘hired’ (elected & paid) to hand you the scholarship. Be grateful to the boss (rakyat) and serve the country well! You only owed it to your country.

  7. #7 by Cinapek on Tuesday, 23 October 2012 - 1:52 am

    Sharizat’s line of reasoning in calling Rafizi ungrateful has betrayed the kind of twisted thinking that exists in the UMNO elites. In their warped interpretations, they see Malaysia as their private property and all its assets to use as they please. That is why you see the abuse of the NFC funds which were treated like their own money. In fact, one of her sons even went so far as to publicly declare that they are entitled to spend the NFC money as they fit.

    This kind of thinking also explains Najib’s massive handouts and those obscene commissions paid out to cronies in the Scorpene scandals.

  8. #8 by SENGLANG on Tuesday, 23 October 2012 - 7:02 am

    Should you grateful to someone/thing that have keep robbing many many people money, simply he has given you back something that is really are belong to you or your parents?

  9. #9 by waterfrontcoolie on Tuesday, 23 October 2012 - 12:11 pm

    In fact, the tax payers are happy that we have given scholarship to people like Rafizi, who has been educated to think and not to be led like a COW! The Minister has nothing to reason out and by that argument they wanted all scholars to be beholden to them forgetting that while they give some to the younger generation, they sapu 99% of the national coffer! Anyway, this has been their slogan to the poor to ‘enslave’ them to the current system of Gomen!

  10. #10 by dagen wanna "ABU" on Tuesday, 23 October 2012 - 12:28 pm

    Grateful to umno? Come on!

    Grateful to the king and country. That is more like it.

    Trouble is having entrenched itself in the position of “gobermen” for far too long (and milking it nice and good for a long time), now umno sees itself as the country – the ultimate owner of the nation. So much so that umno forgets that it is but a mere servant of the king and country.

    Grateful to umno?

    Gimme money I ambik. After that I will tell you to pooordah!

  11. #11 by dagen wanna "ABU" on Tuesday, 23 October 2012 - 12:37 pm

    And one more thing. Sure, if I am grateful to umno (which unfortunately for umno, I am not) it does not mean that I ipso facto can never disagree with umno or vote the opposition.

    I would rather throw my nambekai into the river than to give it to umno. That is for sure.

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