MPs put to the test

  • Nation
  • Sunday, 07 Jul 2013

The Star surprised MPs with a game of 20 Questions at the sidelines of the opening of the 13th Parliament recently. But they came up with their own surprises in their answers.

> How much does 1kg of sugar and a box of 10 Grade A eggs cost?

Answer: RM2.50 to RM2.60 / RM3.50 to RM4.50

DO our Members of Parliament know the actual cost of living?

Only 12% of the MPs who took part in the survey could answer the question above correctly. The finding suggests that many, from both sides of the political divide, are comfortable enough financially to “not need to know” about these nitty-gritty items of a household budget. Give or take a few sen, many got close to the price of sugar, but how much people fork out to buy eggs, the most affordable source of protein for some households, was lost on many. Some gave their lack of time to shop as a reason: “I haven’t gone to the shops for some time” or “My husband/wife does the shopping.” And most looked sheepish for their ignorance, like PAS Kuala Terengganu MP Raja Kamarul Bahrin who apologetically added – after saying, “I’m not into groceries” – that it is important for MPs to be aware of the rakyat’s bread and butter issues and “know the prices of the basic essentials like cooking oil, rice ...”

> What is the significance of Sept 16 in Malaysia?

Answer: Malaysia Day. This is the date which commemorates the joining of Malaya, North Borneo (Sabah), Sarawak, and Singapore to form the Federation of Malaysia in 1963.

The shocking result here is that some MPs (9%) got it “wrong”. Still, it must be noted that their mistake is not because they were ignorant but rather clouded by the political hullabaloo in 2008 when Pakatan Rakyat’s Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had said they could take over Putrajaya on Sept 16.

PKR Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar gave the right answer but took the chance to highlight that it was Pakatan who first mooted that the day be celebrated as a national holiday.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department and MP for Batang Sadong, Sarawak, Nancy Shukri, rightfully pointed out that the date has always been important to Sabah and Sarawak, and that it is good the whole country is becoming aware of its significance.

> What is Bharatanatyam?

Answer: A classical Indian dance.

Bharatanatyam may not be famous enough as an Indian classical dance among our MPs – only 38% accurately identified it. But Ramli Ibrahim, one of its most famous exponents here, was named by two of our lawmakers.

Some came up with creative answers from “Indian festival” to “Indian word”. The most creative response was from Bukit Bendera MP Zairil Khir Johari who, after being told that his answer “a story” was wrong, quipped, “but the dance tells a story, right?”

While it is tempting to harp on our MPs’ lack of awareness of “other cultures”, it may also reflect the generally limited access and exposure of Malaysians to cultural performances.

>What changes do women’s groups want to make to the current rape law?

For this, 22% of MPs had a good idea of the topic. (See Fuzzy on rape.)

> How long is the bus journey from Sibu to Kapit?

Answer: There is NO road and thus no bus from Sibu to Kapit. People have to take an express boat on the Rejang River.

“Your question is wrong!” Batang Sadong MP Nancy Shukri immediately reprimanded The Star’s dogged pollsters.

Yes, this was a trick question but 73% racked their brains for an answer (or pretended to) or simply said they have never been to Sarawak.

Still, the riverboat tragedy in Belaga, along the Rejang River, was all over the news recently and it highlighted the lack of roads in Sarawak which forces many to hop onto overloaded boats to return home for the Gawai celebrations.

Several Semenanjung MPs were also aware of this. Tony Pua, DAP MP for PJ Utara, saw through us and promptly said, “it’s a trick question” and Umno veteran, Johor Baru MP Shahrir Abdul Samad, wryly remarked, “Maybe seven hours if you put the bus on the boat.”

> Which countries are claiming the Spratley Islands? Name three.

Answer: Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Philippines and Brunei.

Some 69% of MPs gave the required answers. However, a few got it wrong because they added Japan and South Korea to the mix.

> Which country is singer Yuna from?

Answer: Malaysia

One of the hottest singer-songwriters in Malaysia, Yuna is also breaking into the international music scene. Renowned producer Pharrell Williams produced her single Live Your Life in April last year, and in August Yuna went on to share the stage with the likes of Florence + the Machine and Jack White at the Lollapalooza music festival. She still needs to work on her popularity among our lawmakers as only 54% recognised her as a Malaysian daughter.

> Who is the prime minister of Turkey?

Answer: Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Maybe it is because of all the recent protests in Turkey that the charismatic Recep Tayyip Erdogan is currently a household name worldwide – up to 81% of the MPs asked could identify him as the PM of Turkey. A few, including Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad and Ranau MP Datuk Ewon Ebin, even jokingly claimed to be the Malaysian Erdogan.

Deputy Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Halimah Mohammad Saddique from Tenggara, Johor, laughed after glancing at the questions. “What questions are these? ‘Who is the PM of Turkey?’ I know my PM. Tak dapat (I can’t get it)... You SMS me…”.

> What is Qing Ming?

Answer: Annual Chinese cultural event to revere one’s ancestors.

Sixty-nine percent got this question right. However, some MPs, like BN Kinabatangan’s Bung Mokhtar Radin, said that Qing Ming was “the Chinese emperor who built the Great Wall!”

Like many ordinary Malaysians, our MPs have to work harder at learning about the different religious and cultural festivals of the various races in the country.

> What does it mean if someone tells you that he or she has just been photo-bombed?

Answer: It means a total stranger has jumped into the picture frame as his or her photo was being snapped.

Many MPs thought it meant “someone had his or her nude picture uploaded onto the Internet without permission”, and Kuala Krai MP Dr Mohd Hatta Ramli even apologetically affirmed his choice with “that seems like an (in)sensitive response, seeing as someone’s nude picture has been uploaded.”

Overall, 34% got this question right, despite the multiple choice options given for this question, which suggests that many are not keyed in into current Internet/youth culture. However, younger and social media savvy MPs like Serdang MP Ong Kian Ming knew the answer immediately.

> Who is the CEO of Apple, Google and Microsoft? Name one.

Answer: Tim Cook (Apple), Larry Page (Google) and Steve Ballmer (Microsoft)

Only 19% of MPs seemed to follow the latest news on the ICT industry. Many MPs had an inkling of who heads Apple and Microsoft but few gave the answer for Google. Furthermore, in their minds, Bill Gates is still captain of Microsoft while Steve Jobs remains very much “alive” as head of Apple.

Rompin MP and former Science, Technology and Innovation Minister (Mosti) Datuk Seri Jamaluddin Jarjis admitted he could not recall the names of the new CEOs as many things have changed since he was minister.

Current Mosti minister, Datuk Ewon Ebin, got one CEO right after thinking for a moment but his colleague, Setiawangsa MP Datuk Ahmad Fauzi Zahari, managed to name all three. Jelebu MP Zainuddin Haji Ismail said: “Microsoft for Microsoft lah!”

> What is the Muslim New Year called?

Answer: Awal Muharram or Maal Hijrah.

Sixty-eight percent of the MPs answered correctly. While all of the Muslim MPs got this right, we received answers like Ramadan and Hari Raya from non-Muslim MPs. Kelantan MP Ahmad Baihaki Atiqullah answered the Malay questionnaire and wrote his reply in Arabic.

> Is the leatherback turtle extinct locally?

Answer: Yes.

Out of four primary nesting populations known for leatherbacks throughout the past century, Malaysia’s used to be the largest. However, our taste for turtle eggs combined with management blunders in the 1960s have rendered nesting populations of this living dinosaur “effectively extinct” locally.

Less than half – 41% of the MPs surveyed – were aware of this. Many thought it was “almost extinct”, and a couple mentioned that leatherbacks had recently been spotted in Sipadan.

Checks with a local turtle expert confirmed that even if a nesting turtle was found in Sipadan, it is likely to be only an individual straggler from another population, and that leatherbacks are “effectively extinct” in Malaysia.

News reports of one-off events, such as the return of the “Rantau Abang Princess” in 2010, may also have confused the MPs. Unfortunately, the hard truth is that no known nestings have resulted in fertile eggs since the year 2000.

> Nasi dagang and nasi kerabu are signature dishes from which state?

Answer: Nasi Dagang: Terengganu / Nasi Kerabu: Kelantan

While issues on cultural dances and rites boggled many MPs, they fared far better on questions about food! A whopping 80% knew that nasi dagang and nasi kerabu are signature dishes of Terengganu and Kelantan respectively. Nasi dagang is a Malay-Thai dish of rice steamed in coconut milk, served with fish curry (gulai ikan tongkol) and pickled vegetables (acar). It is widely known that if you are in Terengganu, nasi dagang is a must-have.

Though Kelantan has its own take of nasi dagang where the rice is red in colour, the state is better known for nasi kerabu.

> What is the minimum wage in Peninsular Malaysia? And in Sabah and Sarawak?

Answer: RM900/RM800

Another core question that deals with the cost of living and survival of many Malaysians.

Last year, the minimum wage policy was implemented and workers in Peninsular Malaysia are to be paid a minimum of RM900 and those in Sabah and Sarawak are to be paid RM800. However, only 61% of MPs answered this question correctly.

A few MPs upped the range as they felt that the minimum wage should be between RM1,000 and RM1,500.

Subang MP, Sivarasa Rasiah, answered correctly but stressed that Pakatan wants the minimum wage to be a standard figure applied across the country, “We believe it should be set at RM1,500.”

Tuaran MP Madius Tangau, who also answered correctly, took the opportunity to rebut the Opposition’s proposal: “I don’t think the small time day-care operators, for example, can afford an amount more than the official.”

> The Wayang Kulit of Kelantan is based on which Hindu story?

Answer: The Ramayana

A total of 66% got the right answer with a few adding Hindu epic Mahabharata to the list. Rompin MP Datuk Seri Jamaluddin Jarjis of Barisan even named the Hindu epic’s central character, Hanuman.

With wayang kulit an issue in Kelantan, it was only expected that the state’s MPs would have this question in the bag, and they did not disappoint. Pasir Mas MP

Nik Mohamad Abduh Nik Abdul Aziz, who answered “don’t know” for most of the questions, got Ramayana right.

> Name one of the three greatest threats to our local small-scale fishermen.

Answer: Large scale trawling (overfishing), fish bombing in Sabah and Sarawak, and foreign fishing vessels intruding into our waters.

This question was to gauge how finely tuned our MPs are to the biggest threats to small-scale fisheries in this country. Altogether, 57% of the MPs surveyed agreed with us that at least one of the three greatest threats included either indiscriminate fishing via use of large-scale trawlers and fish bombing, or the intrusion of large commercial foreign vessels. On the whole, though, few MPs seemed to be particularly well-versed on the issues.

The most common answers were “trawling” and encroachment by foreign vessels. But generalised terms like “pollution” and “pirates” kept popping up and a few individuals mentioned the “price of diesel”, “low income” and “plastic pollution”. One even answered tsunami!

> Which one of these isn’t social media: Bing, Twitter, Facebook?

Answer: Bing

One would consider this question as a freebie not only because it was so simple but because it even had multiple choice answers.

Up to 93% were able to tell for sure that Facebook and Twitter are social media and guessed the odd one out had to be the answer. (Even then, some of them made wild guesses.)

One of the ministers even offered an explanation as to what Bing really is. One thing’s for sure, it’s clear that all our ministers are Internet savvy, old or young. Now, had Google been on the list of choices, perhaps we would have confused them a bit as Google-plus (Google+) is considered a social media!

> Angelina Jolie was in the news recently. What did she do?

Answer: She had a double mastectomy.

As Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad aptly put it, “What hasn’t she been in the news for?”

Jolie breaks news for everything from her looks to her globe-trotting multi-racial family, and 61% of the surveyed MPs answered the question correctly. Despite her constant presence in the limelight, Ipoh Barat MP M. Kulasegaran admitted that he doesn’t even know who Jolie is!

Nevertheless, those who answered correctly knew she had a cancer-related medical procedure, although most assumed that she was already suffering from the illness. And those who didn’t know what the procedure was called, like Batu MP Tian Chua who said “Something tectomy”, simply waved at their chest area to get the point across.

> Can you name one movie by the late Yasmin Ahmad?

Answer: Sepet, Gubra, Mukhsin, Muallaf or Talentime

The most amusing answer provided was: “The Petronas advertisements”. Well, while advertisements can be considered as very tiny movies, we were looking for full-length feature films. Half of the MPs surveyed got this question right. Although a number of them couldn’t give us actual movie titles, they took the time to provide us with a lengthy synopsis of the movie Sepet.

To quote one of them, “Oh, remember that story about the young boy who fell in love with the Malay girl? What’s it called?”

Another said: “That boy who died in the end because of a failed romance.”

But there were also some glaring misses, such as Kota Kinabalu MP Jimmy Wong who answered Tanda Putera, the controversial movie about May 13.

Datuk Madius Tangau from Tuaran made up for his lack of information with a touching remark: “I can’t remember any movies in particular but she was a great film director who managed to capture the real lives of Malaysians.”

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