Agri minister or propaganda minister?

By Mariam Mokhtar
Feb 16, 2015

For decades, we were conned into thinking that the job of the agriculture and agro-based industries minister was to manage Malaysian agriculture. It is not! The job of the so-called agriculture minister is to spread government propaganda. Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak should rename Ismail Sabri Yaakob as the propaganda minister, and not the agriculture minister.

Ismail’s ministerial task is to manage the massive vote bank provided by the rural people of Malaysia. Rural Malaysians make up the final piece in the ‘4-Rs’, the pillars of Umno Baru which comprises race, religion, royalty and rural folk.

When Ismail made his racist remarks about boycotting Chinese traders, Najib refused to punish him, because Ismail was doing a good job, alienating the rural people from the urban population as well as making Malays suspicious of their Chinese neighbours.

Most people imagine that the agriculture minister is not an attractive post, as the portfolio conjures up images of dirt-streaked farmers wading in muddy fields, and sun-baked, weather-beaten fishermen struggling to land their catch.

Previous experience showed us that the tourism minister was good at projecting an image of a jet-setter, criss-crossing the globe in first class and enjoying herself at choice tourist locations abroad.

A former women, family and community development minister had been an expert in acquiring luxury condominiums.

The defence minister could buy submarines, accompanied by attractive models. Most of us have to make do with shopping in the local pasar, hounded by scruffy, toothless immigrants begging for money.

More important than trade or defence

The Malaysian cabinet secretly views the agriculture portfolio as one which is more important than trade or defence. The post is critical, although its primary objective is not to promote agriculture.

The object of the portfolio is to manage information and inject just enough money to please the rural masses. The effect is made complete when mainstream media, like TV3, lull the housewives into a stupor, interspersing propaganda programmes with soap operas to further dull their minds and fill the void in their lives.

In truth, Umno Baru ministers have convinced themselves that agriculture is a dead duck. Agriculture took a back seat during Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s (left) era. This former prime minister dragged Malaysians, kicking and screaming, to embrace heavy industries like steel and car-making, at the expense of agriculture.

We are now a nation which is heavily dependent on food imports. Our food security is non-existent and we do not produce enough to feed ourselves. The once-thriving “rice bowl of Malaya” has become a begging bowl. One rice crony shows his allegiance to his political masters at the expense of Malaysian farmers and the rakyat.

So, here are more questions for the propaganda minister:

First, there is much idle land among the Malay community. Why can’t Ismail gather the great minds in the syariah legal fraternity and other departments, to address the issue of Muslim inheritance laws, where many people own one (small) plot of land?

One person may be prepared to till the land, but all his relatives will want a say in the land use, and a share in the profits. With several owners staking a claim, who wants to farm the land and make it productive again?

Second, Ismail is not doing anything to address the lack of young farmers. The 2004 Agriculture Ministry statistics stated that 70 percent of farmers were over 45 years old, and 45 percent were over 55 years old.

What do current statistics show? What steps have Ismail taken to halt the exodus of the young to the towns? What measures are there to make farming and agriculture attractive career options?

If anecdotal evidence is to be believed, many teenagers in the Felda settlements do badly in their studies, have a high incidence of drug-taking and other immoral activities, and feel that life holds little promise for them. They gravitate to the cities, only to become Mat Rempits, and remain disillusioned.

‘Jihad’ used to see Chinese as the enemy

Third, Ismail is not ashamed of being racist and divisive. He uses choice words to alienate the Malays. For example, he used the word “jihad” among the rural people, to work up sentiment against the non-Malays.

One agricultural expert said, “Many people believe that the use of the word ‘jihad’ is to make the Malays see the Chinese as the enemy.

“At agriculture exhibitions in Serdang, it is alleged that rural folk are transported, in specially laid on coaches, with the slogan ‘Jihad potong orang tengah’, painted beside images of Najib and Ismail. This propaganda is to remind the rural people that the middlemen were the Chinese.”

Fourth, PAS’ Kuala Terengganu MP Raja Kamarul Bahrin Shah Raja Ahmad (left) recently questioned Ismail’s statement about reducing the role of middlemen in the fishing industry, when the main emphasis should have been to increase the fishermen’s incomes.

He mentioned 23 cases in Dungun, where contractors had failed to distribute RM500,000 of state aid to the fishermen.

He criticised Ismail’s cruel joke of wanting to increase the income of the fishermen from five to 20 percent, and asked if he was aware of a study on Terengganu fishermen by the Khazanah group – which said that after 10 years, the income of the fishermen had only increased from RM400 to RM414.

Raja Kamarul blasted Ismail for failing to help the local fishermen, whose biggest problem was the encroachment of Vietnamese fishermen into Malaysian fishing grounds.

It appears that Ismail Sabri is a better propaganda minister than he is an agriculture minister, and thus should be sacked immediately.

MARIAM MOKHTAR is a defender of the truth, the admiral-general of the Green Bean Army and president of the Perak Liberation Organisation (PLO).

  1. #1 by Justice Ipsofacto on Tuesday, 17 February 2015 - 9:19 am

    Minister of Cow dung.

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