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Columnists :: Down 2 Earth – Terence Fernandez ( Every Tuesday & Friday )

Rags to riches at public expense
At a high-powered discussion with top civil servants not too long ago, Citizen Nades and I handed over a list of names to these officials. These are the no ordinary names. In fact they belong to extraordinary men and women, most of whom have come up from humble beginnings such as railway gate-keeper, teacher, clerk and even a bored housewife, to become powerful political figures in their localities.

Unfortunately, instead of what could have been a first-rate rags-to-riches story, or a tale of transformation from obscurity to prominence, the owners of these names have muddied the legacy of their forefathers and have forgotten their roots.

These people, we told the officials, are the ones hampering the prime minister’s efforts to improve the delivery system by exerting their influence on the local councils and state officers for their own personal agenda.

These politicians are responsible for, to name a few issues, suspicious billboard deals, endorsing the operations of illegal workshops, taking over children’s playgrounds to set up offices of political parties, developing green lungs and pushing through development projects by throwing the rule books out the window.

Without proof I cannot name these people, although the one who can be mentioned is of course that infamous assemblyman from Selangor who, I am made to understand, is being proposed yet again to be fielded for the coming general election.

I have opted out from mentioning his name as I think like me you too have got nauseous from the constant reference to this person over the last two years.

Anyway, this brings me to events last July at the Malaysian Press Institute (MPI) awards night, where Citizen Nades and I were receiving an award from the deputy prime minister for our expose on the assemblyman.

Several of us journalists received alerts from our sources: “All 37 charges against the assemblyman and his companies brought by the Companies Commission of Malaysia (CCM) are being dropped.”

Our sources claim that a “deal” was struck with politicians whose purview the CCM comes under: “Make the charges go away and we will ensure you get the Selangor delegates’ votes.”

I rubbished this theory and warned my sources not to come up with outlandish tales that can result in a law suit for defamation and slander. I hung up the phone and happily went up on stage to collect my prize.

However, two months later, the nation woke up to these headlines: All charges withdrawn.

The assemblyman’s lawyers were reported as saying that the charges were withdrawn because “outstanding problems had been settled.”

Now what is the man in the street to make of this? Even with the inside information that allows one to discern a rationale, I cannot fathom such a decision – especially since it came about after the “tip-off”.

It would be unfair to the assemblyman to comment on this any further, but a quote from English writer Aldous Huxley I found on the internet helps me deal with what I have learnt from this episode: “There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.” Read it in a political vein.

However, the officials whom we submitted the names to attempted to add some optimism to our glum outlook on the current crop of leaders, few of whom have tarnished the image of their party and the government.

“The PM is aware of this,” they say.

“He knows who has been performing and who has not. Who have been looking out for the rakyat and who have been looking out for themselves.”

And as the prime minister pores over the candidates list for the impending polls, one is confident that the nation’s chief executive will bear in mind that there are those on that list who have tried to sabotage the implementation of his promise of serving the rakyat and improving the public delivery system.

Terence is deputy news editor (special reports & investigations) and can be reached at terence@thesundaily.com

This has been the “semua-nya OK” story – a story that is obnoxious, that is known of UMNO and its leaders. How can the Prime Minister give advise at random when he closes one eye to the rot that is happening around, especially in his own back-yard. When will the day come when he goes to the press immeditely to condemn such heinous crimes, to confirm that he is still the head, and not close his own eye as well. Are the people being led by a “One Eyed Jack” or someone blessed with good vision. How often have the people known the leader to react quickly to voice out his disappointment when some rot is found. He is more comfortable not commenting on any issue and waits till it gets too hot to handle, and thereafter comes a weathered down weak reply by which time the perpetuator has taken remedial action to cover his steps. This delayed reaction by the Prime Minister is one reason why comments like auto pilot, by remote control, come into play.

Yes it is political ploy to keep divisional and state heads of UMNO happy. They deliver the votes. But by making them happy the Prime Minister, should remember, he is letting down the image of the country, the population, including the members of the political party he leads. It is treacherous and the earlier the Prime Minister realises this, the better it will be for the country. Only when effective action is taken will the people appreciate the sincerity of the Prime Minister who repeatedly says he is the leader for the people. As it is, sincerity is at doubt now. With negative thoughts like these prevailing can the Prime Minister really think the voters will give him a hugh mandate. His win will be equivalent to just passing the post, nothing more.

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