When politicians say the darndest things; 1Malaysia or confused1?

Haresh Says, as published in Malay Mail today.

IT was mid-August 2007. 

The auditorium at the National Sports Council was packed with reporters, all armed with questions pertaining to an incident that took place in Negri Sembilan days earlier.

Indonesian karate referee Donald Peter Luther Kolopita, who was in the country for the Asian Karate Championships at the Nilai Indoor Stadium, alleged he was attacked by plainclothes police officers.
The Indonesian team pulled out from the tournament as a sign of protest over the episode while the republic’s government demanded a thorough investigation by the authorities.

When the incident was raised, the then Youth and Sports Minister coolly said: “The only Indonesian I know is my maid.”

There was pin-drop silence. 

In recent days there were comments made by two rather senior ministers which raised eyebrows during the press conferences. The quotes were captured by journalists on their recording devices and documented in their notebooks. 

When asked why he would think some students may not find a particular discount card beneficial, the concerned minister said: “I believe such people are stupid and should not even be in higher learning institutions. You can use the discount card to buy a RM100 book, get 50 per cent discount and pay RM50.”

We understand what the minister was trying to say but to call students “bodoh” (stupid) — now that’s asking for trouble.

Another minister, had during an event, called a particular country a “pariah state in the 70s”. 

Whoa! 

It is of no surprise some ‘leaders’ won the main awards at the third annual Aiyoh ... Wat Lah?! Awards held on Sunday.

Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor was named winner of the ‘Foot in the mouth’ category over his statement: “I did not mean that women are property. What I meant was, if we build a house and want it to appear nice, it needs to have made up, like women.”

He was apologising for an earlier statement which he said could have offended women.
The women’s wing of Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma), meanwhile, nailed the ‘Insulting Intelligence’ award.
The group said: “The Syariah flogging requires that the female offender is in sitting position as opposed to the opposite sex who needs to stand. This is a proof that Islam gives great respect to females without abandoning its principle that every crime must be punished, regardless of gender.”

The statement was made in response to the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality which expressed concern that the Johor Religious Department had whipped women and men for allegedly committing incest and having sex outside of wedlock.

It is important for politicians to express themselves with the right words. Many tend to blame the media for spinning their quotes, claiming they were taken out of context but it does not help if they had used words like “bodoh” and “pariah” and expect to get away scot-free.

Here’s a gentle reminder, let’s be mindful with our words.

1Malaysia or Confused1
The problem with us West Malaysians is that we think we know everything about Malaysia. We are so wrong.

Here are two greetings that I bet many of us have not heard:
• Gayu guru gerai nyamai 
• Kotobian tadau tagazo do Kaamatan
The first means long life, health and prosperity in the Iban language. 

The second, when loosely translated, means happy harvest festival. It is a greeting often uttered by our Kadazandusun and Murut brothers and sisters who mainly live in Sabah.
The harvest festival, celebrated over the weekend, is big annual affair among the communities in Sabah and Sarawak — with cultural performances, rituals and plenty of tuak (rice wine). 

Most in Peninsular Malaysia are only familiar with Selamat Hari Raya, Gong Xi Fa Cai, Deepavali Valtukal and Merry Christmas.
In fact, not many know even know what the Sikh celebration of Vaisakhi is all about. “No holiday mah, so no need to know lah”, as some would say.

We often say Malaysia is a melting pot of cultures, a nation with different races, religion and beliefs. We hype about respect and unity and shout about being 1Malaysia.
We debate about equality, being fair and transparent. We claim to see beyond colours.

But we also speak about the preference of working or staying among a particular race and get upset when our children return home with a partner of a different religion. In reality, we do not fully understand each other.

As a friend recently said: “Ah Singh, Malaysians are very the confused one leh.”
HARESH is editor (investigations and special projects) of Malay Mail. Banter with him at haresh@mmail.com.my or on Twitter @HareshDeol

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