Thursday 28 April 2011

"No knee-jerk policies, please" written by Marina Mahathir

Wednesday April 27, 2011

Unnecessary negative publicity and ridicule can be avoided if wider consultations are held before the implementation of any plan.

I DON’T know what is more annoying, a government that doesn’t think things through or one that doesn’t and then expects us not to notice.

This past week there have been two unforgivably annoying announ­cements that are clear examples of a government or its officials who live in a world so isolated that they are incapable of anticipating anything but praise for their ideas.

The first was the bizarre idea that everyone should have the same e-mail address.
Taking it in their stride: Participants at the boot camp in Besut, Terengganu, doing a march. The purpose of the camp has drawn flak from many quarters.
Either whoever okayed this idea has no clue about what the Internet is all about or they were genuinely naïve enough to think that people would actually fall for this scheme.

When privacy issues are hot talking points among everyone who uses the Internet, how could the instigators of this scheme not have thought that people would immediately become suspicious about its intentions?
Would we all be suddenly subjected to government-issued spam, including those that tell us who to vote for? Worse still, would our e-mail be spied on?

All these concerns are perfectly natural if you operated like normal people and if you took the trouble to think them through.

But from the immediate backtracking that occurred, it became clear that someone had either the wool pulled over their eyes or been so dazzled by the idea that Malaysians, babies and old people included, would be inescapably connected to the government — as if with our identity cards we weren’t already trapped into the system enough.
I won’t say anything about the company that had been given the contract to do this scheme, except that they must be revising their business plan downwards every single day ever since the news broke.
There may still be people who think this is a nice idea but I doubt it’ll turn anyone into a billionaire. No, we don’t yet have a Malaysian Zuckerberg.
The next half-baked scheme was of course the “boot camp” for effeminate boys in Terengganu which has managed to offend just about anyone who read about it.
Firstly, there were questions about how and why schoolboys should be singled out just for showing outwardly “feminine” traits and sent off to camp to have these ironed out of them.
Then some confused psychology lecturer managed to anger mothers by blaming them for supposedly turning their sons soft by making them do housework. It’s interesting that nobody blames fathers for not being there to teach their progeny to use drills and chainsaws. Soon the back-pedalling began in earnest.
First they claimed that the camps were in fact to instil patriotism, not change the limp-wristed into tougher souls.
It begs the question of why the gentler ones should be seen as less patriotic. But given the types of politicians we have these days, I suppose extreme machismo is equated to greater patriotism.

Then it was not about patriotism but about instilling confidence. It seems that our gentler sons have less confidence than the more hard-boiled ones, perhaps because they are less inclined to try and break their heads on Friday nights screaming down city streets on their motorbikes.

I would, however, argue that it takes great confidence to pluck one’s eyebrows and take an interest in fashion in a boys’ school, so these boys hardly seem in need of confidence topping-up.
Still, they came out of it gushing over what fun the camp was. Which I’m sure it was.
The latest news contained that standard line about the media having totally misquoted the original announcement about the boot camps. How amazing that a reporter would have plucked the word “effeminate” out of thin air!

Where do they get silly ideas like that? And how is it that the denial about the sexuality selection should take a whole week to come out?

Meanwhile, of course, the news has gone round the world and once again other earthlings are laughing at us.
We did get some kudos because one minister had the temerity to condemn the entire scheme as violating the Child Act.  

But generally the rest of the world thinks rightly that we’re a bunch of idiots, thanks to some state bureaucrat who forgot that news like this doesn’t stay under the coconut shell, nor that people are likely to passively nod their heads and applaud its brilliance.

Is it too much to ask that we have no knee-jerk policies but more carefully considered ones? Wouldn’t all this unnecessary negative publicity be avoided if only wider consultations had been held?

If I had been consulted, I might have laughed hysterically at first but eventually I would have given wise counsel: save the money and just encourage our kids, all of them, to be who they are. They’ll love us in return.

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