Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has one advice to Pakatan Harapan leaders and minister – think harder before talking, look before leaping.
The special media and communications adviser to the Prime Minister, Datuk A. Kadir Jasin, writing in his blog The Scribe, gave an insight into what Dr Mahathir thought of politicians who did not think hard before talking.
He wrote that Dr Mahathir asked what difference did it make whether schoolchildren wore black or white shoes.
He agreed that smoking caused cancer. But he asked: “… how do we know whether the smokers are three metres away from the restaurants?”
The Prime Minister, according to the veteran newsman, jested that “flying cars would not generate too many votes”.
“And what is Malaysia Baru? Is it exclusively about the election manifesto?” Dr Mahathir asked.
Kadir also wrote that it was time for Pakatan to weed out “clowns and comic characters” as its first year in governance approached.
It didn’t take long for the Prime Minister to respond to Kadir’s blog post. When asked, Dr Mahathir said he admitted that there were many rookie ministers.
“Well, I must admit that many of us here are very new. Sometimes, we say things that may reflect badly on us,” said the Pakatan chairman.
In the 10 months of Malaysia Baru, here are some of the moments where a minister or Pakatan leader talked before thinking hard and leapt without looking.
“Homosexuality? I don’t think we have such a thing in our country,” said Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi, as reported by Berlin daily Berliner Morgenpost.
The Lahad Datu MP, who was at the ITB Berlin travel fair, was answering a question from a reporter if Malaysia was a safe destination for homosexuals.
His mind-boggling remark was picked up by the international media including CNN which ran a story with the headline “There are no gay people in Malaysia, says tourism minister”.
Mohamaddin’s reply launched a thousand memes.
And as if to prove that Mohamaddin was wrong, many on social media shared a photograph of Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of religious affairs Datuk Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa meeting transgender advocate Nisha Ayub.
After thinking hard about the issue, the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry issued a statement saying that what the minister meant was Malaysia did not have a tourism campaign focused towards the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) community.
Mohammad’s Cabinet colleague, Mujahid also had his “leap without looking” moment.
On Wednesday, after meeting controversial Muslim preacher Dr Zakir Naik at the Federal Territories Islamic Department (Jawi) office in Kuala Lumpur, Mujahid described Zakir as inspiring.
Surely Mujahid is aware that the preacher is wanted in his home country, India, for alleged money-laundering and terrorism.
He has been living in Malaysia where he has permanent residency.
“Keep it up Mr Minister @mujahidrawa – at this rate, you can join back PAS soon! How can this divisive and offensive character be an inspiration to (you)?” tweeted Lawyers for Liberty executive director Latheefa Koya.
Some armchair political pundits on Twitter remarked that Mujahid’s meeting with Zakir might cost Pakatan the Indian votes in the Rantau state by-election in Negri Sembilan next month.
Sometimes a minister’s remark can look silly when it is taken out of context.
For example, Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok kena bambu (a Malay slang for getting whacked) for a newspaper headline quoting her as saying “Forget oil palm, plant bamboo”.
Kok clarified that bamboo was only one of several crops she had suggested as alternatives and should not be taken to mean replacing oil palm as a commodity entirely.
“Bamboo, pineapple and coconut as I mentioned are alternative suggestions to smallholders who have all this while relied solely on palm oil as the source of their income,” she said on March 3.
It is unfair when a minister’s statement is taken out of context.
I’ve seen this happen to Barisan Nasional ministers. The then opposition politicians would “bambu” them for mistakes.
Take the former deputy minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan. He got whacked for his suggestion that Malaysians, facing the rising cost of living, should take two jobs.
Now, compared to – to use Kadir’s phrase – the Pakatan clowns and comic characters, Ahmad looks cleverer.
Going back to Kadir’s blog, he wrote: “As the one-year milestone approaches, the PH will be subjected to greater scrutiny by the people, the press and investors.”
He suggested that Pakatan must even consider “rearranging or even firing some cast members”.
“The plot and narrative must be understood and believed by the people and the cast must be respected. There is no role for clowns and comic characters,” he said.
Sounds like a Cabinet reshuffle is imminent?
Ministers, mentris besar and chief ministers, according to Kadir, must engage in self-examination and, where necessary, self-criticism.
“Don’t rush to blame the press and the people if the flying car story flew past their heads and the government is seen as inept, arrogant and aloof,” he said.
Think harder before you talk. Sometimes a minister’s statement can cause the stock market to plummet.