The hardest word

– Mariam Mokhtar
Rakyat Times
21 December 2014

The day Malaysia makes history will be the day our leaders apologise for their shortcomings, say ‘sorry’ for the failures of their staff, and express regret for the abuses of power by their children. Malaysians have much to learn from South Korea, and our leaders should learn the lesson from the ‘Nut Rage’ scandal.

Cho Hyun-ah, daughter of the chairman of Korean Air, apologised for losing her temper with a First-Class air steward at New York’s John F. Kennedy (JFK) airport on Dec 5. Cho, who was a senior vice-president and head of cabin service for Korean Air, had been served nuts in a bag and not on a plate. The plane had been waiting to take off when she ordered the captain to return and drop off the offending cabin crew member.

The contrast in her behaviour, a few days later, could not have been more stark. Cho was brought back down to earth with a bump. Her arrogance, that of someone with the power to overrule the pilot, was gone. In a faint, trembling voice, Cho issued her grovelling public an apology. Dressed in black from head to toe, with her hair shielding her face from the cameras and onlookers, she avoided eye contact and bowed her head in shame.

Hours earlier, her father Cho Yang-ho, also the chairman of Korean Air, had apologised and bowed before journalists at the airline’s head office. He expressed regret for his daughter’s actions and said, “It’s my fault. As chairman and father, I ask for the public’s generous forgiveness.”

News agencies like Reuters and Associated Press had reported that the South Koreans had been outraged by the behaviour of the children and grandchildren of the founders of big business empires. Cho was dubbed a “princess” for shaming the nation.

Malaysia has many such princes and princesses, most of whom are the sons and daughters of powerful Umno-Baru cronies, although some are the offspring of politicians. Many are crass and spoilt; they behave as if they own Malaysia.

Two years ago, Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Aziz’s son Nedim caused public outrage when he and his bodyguard allegedly assaulted the security guard of a luxury condominium at Mont Kiara in Kuala Lumpur.

Nedim had driven his Porsche into the condominium grounds but had refused to register his details at the guard house. Nedim’s bodyguard claimed that his master was a member of royalty. When the Bangladeshi guard refused to break the strict rules of the management, both Nedim and his minder, a former policeman, punched the security guard.

If you or I had claimed to be a member of royalty, we would have been charged with impersonation or fraudulent misrepresentation. Nedim tarnished not only the reputation of all Malaysian royalty but also that of his family and Malaysians. However, this is not Nedim’s first brush with the law; neither is it the first assault allegation made against him.

In 2004, Nedim was allegedly implicated in the death of a law student from Sheffield University. Despite witness statements from the victim’s girlfriend and other professionals, confirming Nedim’s involvement, the charge of manslaughter was made instead against five innocent Thai immigrant labourers. Cover-ups are the norm in Malaysia.

In April this year, South Korea’s Prime Minister Chung Hong-won offered his resignation for his government’s poor handling of the rescue operations in the Sewol ferry disaster. Over 300 students and teachers had died when their boat capsized.

At an emergency press conference, Chung refused to be a “burden to the administration” and said that he would take responsibility for the tragedy by tendering his resignation. He apologised for being “unable to prevent this accident from happening and unable to properly respond to it afterwards”.

He said that many irregularities and malpractices in society had been in existence for many years. He hoped that these would be corrected, to prevent repeats like the Sewol ferry disaster.

Contrast this statement with the intransigence of our ministers, heads of department and CEO of MAS in the aftermath of the MH370 tragedy. The Chief of the Armed Forces defended the incompetence of his radar control operators. To this date, the cargo manifest is missing. The head of the Civil Defence Aviation and his army counterpart appear not to communicate with one another. Attempts were made to blame the pilots of MH370. The Prime Minister, the Transport Minister and the IGP gave conflicting statements.

To this day, none of our leaders has issued an apology for the poor handling of MH370’s Search and Rescue operations. If we look back in time, no apology has been issued for any other national disasters and incursions – tragedies like the Highland Towers disaster, the Memali massacre and the Lahad Datu invasion.

Unlike the South Koreans, our leaders lack accountability and have no sense of remorse. They prefer to blame others and that is why history will be made on the day one of them says “sorry”.

  1. #1 by bruno on Sunday, 21 December 2014 - 10:53 pm

    It will be the day when the cows finally decided to come home and have great great grandbabies.

    • #2 by cemerlang on Monday, 22 December 2014 - 7:51 pm

      Humans decided for the cows that they go into our stomach instead.

  2. #3 by bruno on Sunday, 21 December 2014 - 10:57 pm

    Why Umnoputras,their off springs and cronies are able to thumped their noses at the public is because the opposition is always squabbling among themselves and always in disarray.

    • #4 by cemerlang on Monday, 22 December 2014 - 7:54 pm

      With power comes whatever you wish

  3. #5 by good coolie on Sunday, 21 December 2014 - 11:31 pm

    Would we describe Lim guan Eng as an “offspring” of Lim Kit Siang? If not, why the double standards? Mariam, usually sedate and polite, has overstretched herself.

    • #6 by cemerlang on Monday, 22 December 2014 - 7:58 pm

      didn’t know Korean air is a budget airline

  4. #7 by lbn on Monday, 22 December 2014 - 4:35 am

    A lady who speaks her mind. My respect to you!

  5. #8 by waterfrontcoolie on Wednesday, 24 December 2014 - 10:05 pm

    In an environment where truth and reality can be hidden through blaming others we will never see any action of self destruction even with words. After all the aim of all the rhetoric is to mislead the majority of the voters and as long as this can be accomplished it is business as usual. We have sunken so deep maybe it will take us more than a while to recover. When “under-counter exchanges” are openly known there is no shame left. With such mind-set, can we expect remorse?

You must be logged in to post a comment.