Monday 3 September 2012

Confessions of a stoic - Mariam Mokhtar

  • Mariam Mokhtar
  • 12:08PM Sep 3, 2012
Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, like previous prime ministers, revels in keeping the rakyat guessing when GE-13 will be held, and in the sense of power this gives him. Companies and individuals despise him for sending them to perdition.

Many are reluctant to plan overseas holidays, hold important company events, go on the pilgrimage or even announce crucial company strategies.

There is talk about a general election in November because Najib's favourite number is 11. November is the 11th month. Umno is 66 years old this year. Malaysia celebrates 55 years of independence and Sabah Umno is 22 years old.

One CEO conceded that if Najib had to consult an oracle before announcing the date, then so be it: "Despite warnings from the religious authorities, many Malaysians can never release their fascination with the occult, superstitious mumbo-jumbo and the paranormal."

After much persuading, a Malaysian who claims to be a ‘typical member of the rakyat' has agreed to be interviewed, about the state of the country, on condition of anonymity. He is in his early forties, lives in Kuala Lumpur, has three children and a wife who works in the civil service.

Question: Are you concerned about developments in the country?

Answer (the stoic): What's up? Have I missed something?

Q: The cost of living has gone up and many families are struggling. Are you not experiencing the same hardship as everyone else?

A: Definitely! My normal breakfast of roti canai and kopi tarik costs more. Household bills have shot up. The toll charges are killing me but if I drive on untolled roads, the journey is just as bad, if not worse. I spend more on petrol. The route is longer. The roads are more clogged and I must allow extra time for travelling.

The children complain about their pocket money. I am forced to do more DIY repairs on the car and house, and Raya was celebrated on a smaller scale. When I received my RM500 BR1M (Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia), it didn't last long. I hope my second BR1M comes soon.

NONEQ: Not every family qualifies for the RM500 BR1M aid. Is it a fair handout?

A: I don't care about other families, as long as I get it. If the government can afford another BR1M, then why not?

Najib is doing this is in the interest of the people, although my son says it is a form of bribery.

He (my son) is too young to understand. All this Internet stuff is not good for him. He tells me things about the government - bad things - but the papers don't even mention them. So how can my son be right?

Q: A few months ago, the papers warned about communist elements and pro-Christian sympathisers in the Opposition. What are your views about this?

A: The whole thing is confusing. Najib also blamed the opposition for wanting to turn Malaysia into a republic and wanting to replace the flag.

Sometimes, when I hear about VVIPs spending billions of taxpayers' money, perhaps, a republic might not be such a bad idea.

When I was working and living in Perak a few years ago, we were ordered to fly the Malaysian flag outside our premises as a sign of our patriotism, or else we would have problems with our business licences. I spent a fortune on flags. My wife said I was a fool. If the opposition wins GE-13 and changes the flag, I will have wasted my investment!

Q: Are you worried by the increase in crime?

A: If the opposition wasn't causing so much trouble by having marches and road shows, then police time could be freed, to concentrate on preventing crime.

Perhaps, the police withdrew from the Shah Alam Merdeka parade to get back to work, although it does seem unpatriotic.

Q: Are you concerned about your children's future?

A: My son spends too much time on the Internet and is always talking about the alternative media. Too much information is bad for him. The government should stop young people from accessing these sites. Remember how those MACC officers spent their day watching pornographic sites? Young men should not be offered such temptations.

On the whole, I am not at all worried about my children. I have a relative in the education department who tells me he can always help me. He is doing really well. Even though he is a junior staff, he drives a Mercedes and his wife and daughters, all have expensive cars, jewellery and take holidays abroad.

Q: Are you looking forward to your retirement?

A: I have been approached by several businessmen because of my contacts in the government. In a way, I look forward to my retirement - an office of my own, business cards... but it is worrying.
If the opposition wins, then my dreams might vapourise. That is why I am friendly to friends who are members of both parties. It is not fair to call me an opportunist. My interests come first.

azlanQ: Are you concerned about the recent news about two men who were let off for the rape of a minor?

A: Yes. That is disturbing. I have two daughters and I have forbidden them from going out at night.

My wife and older daughter were asked by our neighbour to join a protest against the judgment, but I forbade them from attending. We mustn't draw attention to ourselves. Let others do the protesting.

Q: There is talk about a hung Parliament with various ministers warning that Umno must fight for its survival. It does not look good for Umno if talk such as this is being reported. Do you think the opposition will win GE-13?

A: I have trouble making ends meet and sometimes I think a change for the country would be good.

I know we are being taken advantage of and when I hear something bad, like innocent people being killed or ministers running off with taxpayers' money when I am struggling to put food on the table, I tell myself, "Let it be". I cannot get involved. I do not want to jeopardise my wife's position in the civil service or the perks we get. What will my relatives and friends think?

When I see that our leaders lack any ethics, have no integrity or responsibility, but that they are still in power, then I think that there is nothing I can possibly do to make a difference. They always win.

My son tells me otherwise. He says it is a question of attitude and of education. He tells me that our people must have principles, the will to follow them and the patience to teach them to the younger generation.

I think he spends too much time on the Internet.

Q: How will you vote in GE-13?

A: I normally don't bother but my son has persuaded me to do so. He tells me not to waste my vote and to search my conscience, to cast a vote that will help me and the country.

In the past, I have borne my suffering in silence, but now, I will vote.

MARIAM MOKHTAR is a non-conformist traditionalist from Perak, a bucket chemist and an armchair eco-warrior. In ‘real-speak', this translates into that she comes from Ipoh, values change but respects culture, is a petroleum chemist and also an environmental pollution-control scientist.

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