HOW we all wish that some of our leaders, including Cabinet Ministers, would think before they speak. If there is an occasional slip, we can let it pass, but a few are simply serial offenders.
The days of playing communal heroes, using a different line to speak to different ethnic audiences and actually believing that they can get away with it, are over.
Even if the press is not there to record their stupidity, you can be sure that their distasteful remarks will make its way into the social media. These are the analogue age politicians who forget that the rest of Malaysia has gone digital. The moment they open their mouth, someone in the audience would have the smartphone ready.
Some of our leaders appear to be still caught up in a time warp and remain disconnected with Malaysians, especially the young.
Last week, Rural and Regional Development Minister Datuk Ismail Sabri Yaakob called for an alternative digital mall solely for Malay traders.
Most Malaysians, judging from the response in social media, found Ismail’s proposal outrageous. More so, when he said it could be a second Low Yat Plaza, which just reminds everyone about what happened there recently.
It was strange, however, when he said that while these traders should be Malays, he was not sure if the suppliers would be Malays.
Earlier in the year, Ismail Sabri posted on Facebook allegedly urging Malays to boycott Chinese businesses that refused to reduce their prices despite a drop in fuel costs.
The Prime Minister’s Office later issued a statement saying Ismail’s comment was targeted at unscrupulous traders and not at any particular race.
Those who know Ismail Sabri can vouch that he is really a nice bloke and ever helpful but they can’t understand why he keeps shooting himself in the foot.
In the last general election, the Bera MP beat his PKR opponent and an independent candidate with a majority of 2,143 votes.
The seat has 50,997 voters of which 16,319 are Chinese, 30,088 Malay with the rest under the “others” category.
Ismail Sabri was apparently upset over why he failed to secure the Chinese votes in his constituency despite the huge amount of financial assistance given to the Chinese electorate.
The Pahang leader also got into hot water when he singled out the Old Town White Coffee chain, claiming that it was owned by a Perak DAP leader. He had to wriggle himself out of the situation when he could not back his allegation.
Ismail Sabri must understand that he cannot continue to sulk over the loss of Chinese votes. And he shouldn’t give up on his electorate. If they had backed him previously, but rejected him in 2013, he has to try harder to win them over.
As an MP, he should never turn away his constituents, whether they voted for him or not. If the constituent is upset, he has to find out why and do the necessary to win back his support.
A good businessman, for example, will listen to his customers and improve his products to meet their expectations.
If you look at Malaysian electoral history, you will know that the Chinese vote can swing one way or the other.
The Chinese voters have even kicked out DAP veterans like the late Karpal Singh and party adviser Lim Kit Siang before.
On his proposal for the alternative digital mall, even if his intention was to encourage Malay youths to be entrepreneurs in this lucrative business, he could have said it better without sounding communal, more so, when many rational and moderate leaders are trying to play down the racial elements.
As Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, who heads the Global Movement of Moderates, said: “If you promote the idea of a second Low Yat, you are not helping but further polarising the communities. I don’t think this Low Yat 2 for bumiputras is a good idea.”
MCA publicity bureau chairman Datuk Chai Kim Sen meanwhile called Ismail Sabri regressive for making the proposal.
Newly-minted Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid also found himself in the news for the wrong reasons after he claimed the corruption allegations made by whistleblower portal Sarawak Report was an attempt by Christians and Jews to split the Muslims. The Wall Street Journal has also been labelled as a Jewish product.
Mahdzir, who is an Umno supreme council member, had made the controversial remarks at the opening of the Hulu Langat Umno division meeting last Sunday.
If we really want to use the Jewish conspiracy line, then we should just stop using Facebook and stop watching Hollywood movies as many are financed by the Jews.
And if you do a Google search for anything connected to this community, then you will have to stop using the cardiac pacemaker, forget about undergoing chemotherapy treatment, throw away the TV remote control and give up a long list of medicines.
Blaming the Jews, the Christians and the Chinese for all the ills, or more precisely, fiascos, in Malaysia has become terribly tiring. It’s not working anymore, really.
With just two weeks to go before the National Day, Malaysians would prefer our politicians to focus on Malaysian commonalities. The moderation campaign, after all, is championed by no less than the Prime Minister himself.
We should talk about our common values, how people of different races can come together and pull our talents and strengths together to make Malaysia strong. We should stop dividing the nation with racist remarks.
No leader or government can be legitimate if the support comes only from one race. Malaysia is a multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-cultural country. That’s the reality, accept it.
> The views expressed are entirely the writer's own.