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Trying another flavour
Published on: Sunday, December 03, 2017

By Datuk Dr Johan Arriffin
In his blog posting on November 22, Communication and Multimedia Minister Salleh Keruak said there are people who believe that changing the government is the panacea for all maladies.

He said while blaming the government for all wrong is convenient, changing the guard is not the solution.

People have also asked me similar questions – would the opposition do better in governing the country if they came into power? My short answer – there is no such thing as bad government, but there are bad people in government. A government is just a system of administration; it’s the people who run the administration.

They could be “good” or they could be “bad”.

Salleh said changing the government would not solve the problems of racism and religious intolerance.

“It is people who create racial and religious problems” said Salleh. Unless Malaysians are prepared to seek peace and harmony it’s never going to happen even if you change the government,” he added.

I am not quite sure who are the “people” the Minister had in mind. Was he referring to the likes of Zamihan Mat Zin employed by Jakim who disparaged the Chinese toilet practice, criticised the Sultan of Johore on the “Muslim only” laundry, and who said Prime Minister Najib Razak was “unintelligent” for giving a 16ha piece of land to Saudi Arabia to set up an Institute to combat terrorism. Was he referring to Malaysian permanent resident Zakir Naik, a wanted fugitive from India banned in several countries. Was he referring to Ibrahim Ali of the Perkasa ultra-Malay rights group who was allowed into Sabah in October to sow words of discontent against the Chinese minorities.

Despite public outcry, the government has not distanced itself from these “misfits”.

It shows the government is out of touch with the people. Our DPM Zahid Hamidi says Zamihan’s expertise is still needed, and Zakir Naik has not committed any crime. With these kind of lame excuses from the government, it’s no wonder that people view Malaysia as a rudderless country, going with the tide of the hour or day.

People expect strong leadership to combat extremism and wonky ideas, not stony silence.

Salleh continued to say, unless Malaysians are prepared to seek peace and harmony it is never going to happen even if you change the government. Malaysians in general are accommodating and are conscious of their racial space in a plural society. I have never met any Malaysians who do not want peace and harmony.

They may have a different worldview of what is going on based on their unique circumstances and life experience, but ultimately everybody wants to live in peace and harmony.

The agitators are the politicians, extremists and bigots who use religion and racial overtones to carry out their agenda. These disruptive groups savour their short-term gain while destroying the fabric of nation.

Unless the government condemns these groups and take proactive actions, the situation will continue on a negative trajectory and will spiral out of control.

It’s no good shouting to the world that we are a moderate Muslim nation, a nation that promotes human rights and the law when you are not proving it. The proof is in the pudding and not more rhetoric.

Setting the right examples, using the right words and tone will go a long way.

Salleh said the same rule applied to issues related to the economy. Again, I am not sure what rules Salleh is referring to. My guess is his inference that a change in government won’t solve any issues.

Have the critics ever explained how changing the government can make all Malaysians rich?” Salleh asked.

Who is talking about getting rich?

With the implementation of GST, the knock-on effect leading to rising cost, high inflation rate of 4.3pc in September, its no wonder the ordinary people are struggling to make ends meet.

The consecutive petrol hike in November has got many people riled up. People have lost patience with the government amid rising costs.

Reports of leakages through corruption, mismanagement and government excesses makes them angrier.

Has Salleh forgotten the story in May this year about a family of six who had been staying under a flyover in Pandan Perdana with just a tent, a stove and some basic personal possessions for many months until their plight was highlighted in the press. People are realistic about their lives and ever grateful if they can hold their heads above water. Being rich is far from their mind.

In a recent Merdeka Center Survey report, some 15pc of Malaysians skip meals to make ends meet and about 27pc do not have RM500 for an emergency. Despite the glowing economic report from several sources, the situation on the ground is different from the one portrayed by the government. The trickle down economy is running on empty.

The government talks about being a high-income nation, but in reality real wages has not risen in tandem with the world economy over the years and the gap between the rich and the poor is widening.

According to the Employees’ Provident Fund’s (EPF) statement last year, 89pc of the working population earned less than RM5k, which is a worrying figure.

Those under “political patronage” continue to enrich themselves while the “ordinary” folks have fallen further behind.

It’s good to ponder if a new government led by opposition will be different. What we know, if they come to power they will be put under the microscope like they are now in the opposition held states of Penang and Selangor.

There is less room to be “bad” and more chances to do “good” if they want to continue their term.

Whatever it is, change is inevitable. People get tired of eating the same cake forever; they will only know the difference if they try a different flavour.

-Datuk Dr Johan Arriffin is a member of G25 and is a columnist with The Malaysian Insight.

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